Let's face it, the Thanksgiving meal has a reputation as a gorge fest—a day to let go of all pretenses of diet and nutrition as we binge on unhealthy foods. Yes, Aunt Myrna's yams with marshmallows were probably made with a pound each of butter and sugar, but turkey—on the other hand—is a healthy eater’s dream. The Thanksgiving bird is low in calories and fat and high in protein. It can be full of flavor, too, if you focus on the dark meat.
Turkey contains tryptophan
, which gets a lot of conflicting press. “Tryptophan is one of the nine essential amino acids,” explains Dallas-based registered dietitian Jennifer Neily
. “All animal proteins contain these amino acids; chicken is actually higher in tryptophan than turkey, but you don’t hear about people needing a nap after eating a chicken breast.” The most likely culprit for the post-Thanksgiving stupor
is overeating and drinking and not any one pesky nutrient.
The dietary supplement L-tryptophan
has also been in the news lately: It is used to treat insomnia, depression, PMS and other ailments. Says Jennifer, “Studies show possible effectiveness for smoking cessation and PMS, but insufficient research for anything else.” And as with sleepiness, the amount of tryptophan you get from turkey is not enough to alter your mood.
So eat turkey for its lean protein and good taste, and keep the holiday snooze and blues at bay with a brisk walk after dinner instead.
Emily Wise Miller is the web editor at Live Happy.