Top 10 Foods Highest in Tryptophan

Top 10 Foods Highest in Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid needed for general growth and development, the production of niacin (vitamin B3), and the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is believed to play an important role in regulating sleep and mood, which is why turkey is sometimes attributed to making people sleepy. The truth, however, is that many other foods contain as much tryptophan as turkey and do not cause drowsiness.

High tryptophan foods include chicken, turkey, red meat, pork, tofu, fish, beans, milk, nuts, seeds, oatmeal, and eggs. The reference dietary intake (RDI) for tryptophan is 4mg per kilogram of body weight or 1.8mg per pound. Therefore, a person weighing 70kg (~154 pounds) should consume around 280mg of tryptophan per day.

Below is a list of the top 10 foods highest in tryptophan with the %RDI calculated for someone weighting 70kg (154lbs). For more high tryptophan foods see the extended list of tryptophan rich foods.

List of High Tryptophan Foods

A roast chicken1 Lean Chicken & Turkey
in a 6oz Chicken Breast
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(245% RDI)
(144% RDI)
(184% RDI)

More Poultry High in Tryptophan

  • 219% RDI (612mg) per 6oz of ground turkey
  • 181% RDI (507mg) per cup of roast chicken
  • 174% RDI (488mg) per 6oz roast turkey breast
  • 164% RDI (458mg) per cup of chopped roast duck
  • 97% RDI (273mg) in 3oz of turkey drumstick
  • 94% RDI (264mg) in a single chicken leg (drumstick)

See all meats high in tryptophan.

A steak on a plate2 Beef (Skirt Steak)
per 6oz Steak
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(227% RDI)
(134% RDI)
(100% RDI)

More Lean Red Meat High in Tryptophan

  • 126% RDI (353mg) per 3oz serving of roast lamb
  • 113% RDI (316mg) per 3oz of beef stew (chuck)
  • 64% RDI (180mg) per 3oz buffalo sirloin steak
  • 41% RDI (114mg) per 3oz hamburger patty (97% lean)

See all meats high in tryptophan.

A pork chop3 Lean Pork Chops
in a 6oz Chop
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(224% RDI)
(132% RDI)
(135% RDI)

More Pork Products High in Tryptophan

  • 180% RDI (507mg) per cup of diced roast ham
  • 136% RDI (380mg) per rack of pork ribs
  • 115% RDI (323mg) per 3oz of roast boar
  • 105%RDI (295mg) per bratwurst sausage
  • 52%RDI (147mg) in 3 slices of bacon

See all meats high in tryptophan.

A block of tofu4 Firm Tofu
per Cup
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(212% RDI)
(84% RDI)
(117% RDI)

More Soy Foods High in Tryptophan

  • 66% RDI (184mg) per 16oz glass of soy milk
  • 40% RDI (111mg) per cup of sprouted soybeans
  • 115% RDI (322mg) per cup of tempeh
Salmon5 Fish (Salmon)
per 6oz Fillet
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(203% RDI)
(120% RDI)
(153% RDI)

More Fish High in Tryptophan

  • 203% RDI (570mg) per 6oz tuna fillet
  • 179% RDI (500mg) per 6oz snapper fillet
  • 165% RDI (461mg) per 6oz cod fillet
  • 161% RDI (451mg) per 6oz tilapia fillet
  • 151% RDI (423mg) per 6oz mahi mahi fillet

See all fish high in tryptophan.

Soy Beans6 Boiled Soybeans (Edamame)
per Cup
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(149% RDI)
(86% RDI)
(100% RDI)

More Cooked Legumes High in Tryptophan

  • 74% RDI (206mg) per cup of large white beans
  • 71% RDI (198mg) per cup of red kidney beans
  • 66% RDI (185mg) per cup of pinto beans
  • 65% RDI (181mg) per cup of black beans
  • 57% RDI (160mg) per cup of lentils

See all beans high in tryptophan.

A glass of milk7 Milk
per 16oz Glass
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(75% RDI)
(15% RDI)
(90% RDI)

More Dairy Products High in Tryptophan

  • 59% RDI (166mg) in 1/4cup of Cottage Cheese
  • 56% RDI (156mg) per oz of hard mozzarella
  • 55% RDI (155mg) per oz of cheddar cheese
  • 49% RDI (137mg) per oz of parmesan
  • 43% RDI (120mg) per oz of gruyere
  • 26% RDI (74mg) per 8oz cup of yogurt

See all dairy products high in tryptophan.

Squash and Pumpkin Seeds8 Squash and Pumpkin Seeds
per 1oz Handful
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(58% RDI)
(206% RDI)
(74% RDI)

More Nuts and Seeds High in Tryptophan

  • 44% RDI (124mg) per oz of chia seeds
  • 30% RDI (84mg) per oz of flax seeds
  • 27% RDI (75mg) per oz of cashews
  • 27% RDI (74mg) per oz of pistachios
  • 23% RDI (65mg) per oz of peanuts

See all nuts and seeds high in tryptophan.

A bowl of oatmeal with blueberries9 Oatmeal
per Cup
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(33% RDI)
(14% RDI)
(40% RDI)

More Cooked Whole Grains High in Tryptophan

  • 37% RDI (103mg) per cup of teff
  • 34% RDI (96mg) per cup of quinoa
  • 32% RDI (90mg) per cup of whole wheat pasta
  • 21% RDI (59mg) per cup of brown rice
  • 8% RDI (23mg) per cup of corn meal

See all grains high in tryptophan.

Eggs10 Eggs
in 1 Large Egg
per 100g
per 200 Calories
(27% RDI)
(55% RDI)
(71% RDI)
  • 109% RDI (306mg) per cup of scrambled eggs
  • 15% RDI (41mg) in an egg white

Printable One Page Sheet

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List of high tryptophan foods in a one page printable list.

Extended list of Tryptophan Rich Foods

1 Canned Sardinesper cup147% RDI
2 Lobsterper 3oz112% RDI
3 Snow Crab (Queen Crab)per 3oz100% RDI
4 Oystersper 3oz64% RDI
5 Sweet Italian Sausageper 3oz link33% RDI
6 Sweet Potatoesper cup mashed33% RDI
7 Bulgurper cup cooked31% RDI
8 Mamey Sapoteper cup pieces31% RDI
9 Liverwurst Spreadper 1/4 cup30% RDI
10 Soba Noodles (Buckwheat)per cup cooked29% RDI
11 Couscousper cup cooked27% RDI
12 Smooth Peanut Butterin 2 tblsp26% RDI
13 Spinachper cup cooked26% RDI
14 Green Peasper cup cooked21% RDI
15 Portobellosper cup sliced20% RDI
16 Broccoliper cup cooked (chopped)19% RDI
17 Avocadosper avocado18% RDI
18 Guavasper cup13% RDI
19 Turnip Greensper cup cooked10% RDI
20 Cocoa Powderper tblsp6% RDI

Tryptophan and Thyroid Function

Does tryptophan inhibit thyroid function? This preliminary study concludes: "...our findings indicate that the inhibition of the in vitro peroxidase activity of some amino acids may be produced by their interaction with the oxidized form of iodide and/or with the iodide site on the TPO molecule. Further studies are needed to define a possible physiological role for amino acids in thyroid gland regulation."

The study particularly notes that cystine, methionine, and tryptophan may affect thyroid function. That said, this study was done in vitro with tissue samples and did not measure the effect of amino acids on thyroid function in living animals or people. This means there is a long way to go to establish more of a link between amino acids and thyroid function.

If you are looking to restrict tryptophan in your diet, you can use the nutrient ranking tool to see a list of foods low in tryptophan.

You can also use the amino acid calculator to see the total amino acids in any meal.

About the Data

Data for the curated food lists comes from the USDA Food Data Central Repository.

You can check our data against the USDA by clicking the (Source) link at the bottom of each food listing.

Note: When checking data please be sure the serving sizes are the same. In the rare case you find any difference, please contact us and we will fix it right away.

About Nutrient Targets

Setting targets can provide a guide to healthy eating.

Some of the most popular targets include:
  • Daily Value (%DV) - The %DV is a general guideline for everyone and accounts for absorption factors. It is the most common target in the U.S. and is the target on the nutrition labels of most products. It is set by the U.S. FDA.
  • Reference Dietary Intake (%RDI) - The Reference Dietary Intake (RDI) is a customized target accounting for age and gender. It is set by the U.S. Institute of Medicine. The RDI for amino acids is set by the U.N. World Health Organization. The daily value (%DV) builds on the reference dietary intake to create a number for everyone.
  • Adequate Intake (%AI) - Sets a target for Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. The Adequate Intake is also set by the U.S. Institute of Medicine. It represents a number to ensure adequacy but lacks the same level of evidence as the Reference Dietary Intake. In short, the number is less accurate than the RDI.
  • See the Guide to Recommended Daily Intakes for more information.

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Data Sources and References

  1. U.S. Agricultural Research Service Food Data Central