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Tryptophan is an amino acid needed for normal growth in infants and for nitrogen balance in adults. It is an essential amino acid, which means your body cannot produce it -- you must get it from your diet.


The body uses tryptophan to help make niacin and serotonin. Serotonin is thought to produce healthy sleep and a stable mood.

In order for tryptophan in the diet to be changed into niacin, the body needs to have enough:

  • Iron
  • Riboflavin
  • Vitamin B6

Food Sources

Tryptophan can be found in:

  • Cheese
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Peanuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soy
  • Tofu
  • Turkey


Parker G, Brotchie H. Mood effects of the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine: 'Food for Thought' III. Acta Psychiatr Scand

. 7th edition. Washington, DC. US Dept. of Health and Human Services and US Dept. of Agriculture: 2010.Dietary Guidelines for Americans - 2010

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Update Date 5/9/2014