Monday, December 1, 2014
The notion that eating turkey will make you sleepy has been around for a long time, but it’s not true.
This myth started because turkey contains tryptophan, which human bodies use to make serotonin - a brain chemical that helps make melatonin, a hormone that can control sleep/wake cycles. So it makes some sense to blame the turkey for sleepiness after a Thanksgiving dinner.
However, turkey doesn’t contain much tryptophan. Pork and cheddar cheese contain more, as do eggs, fish, milk, nuts, peanuts, peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, soy and tofu.
And unless the tryptophan is consumed in high doses and on an empty stomach, its unlikely to have much affect on the brain.
So what's causing that after-dinner drowsiness? Most scientists believe its the heavy portions of carbohydrates in the typical Thanksgiving meal: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, rolls, cranberry sauce — and pumpkin pie to top it off. Those food items alone provide more carbohydrates — and calories — than most people eat in an average day. That kind of over-indulgence diverts the body’s blood supply to the digestive system and away from the brain and other parts of the body.
Source: Science 360 News, National Science Foundation and the American Chemical Society.
Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences
Artwork: Smoked Whole Turkey