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Top 10 Foods Highest in Tryptophan

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN
Top 10 Foods Highest in Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid needed for general growth and development, producing niacin, and creating serotonin in the body. Serotonin is thought to produce healthy sleep and a stable mood which is why tryptophan in turkey is sometimes attributed to making people sleepy. The truth, however, is that lots of other foods contain more tryptophan than turkey and do not cause drowsiness.

High tryptophan foods include nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs. The recommended daily intake for tryptophan is 4mg per kilogram of body weight or 1.8mg per pound. So 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.


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List of Foods High in Tryptophan

#1: Seeds & Nuts (Pumpkin & Squash Seeds)
Tryptophan 100g Per cup (129g)Per ounce (28g)
576mg (206% RDI)743mg (265% RDI)161mg (58% RDI)
Other Seeds & Nuts High in Tryptophan (%RDI per ounce): Chia Seeds (44%), Sesame Seeds (39%), Sunflower Seeds (35%), Flaxseeds (30%), Pistachio Nuts (29%), Cashew Nuts (24%), Almonds (21%), and Hazelnuts (Filberts) (19%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.



#2: Soya Foods (Soybeans, roasted)
Tryptophan 100g Per cup (93g)Per ounce (28g)
575mg (205% RDI)535mg (191% RDI)161mg (57% RDI)
Other Soya Foods High in Tryptophan (%RDI per ounce): Koyadofu (Dried-frozen Tofu) (75%), Sprouted Soybeans, stir-fried (30%), Tofu, fried (27%), Soybeans, boiled (24%), and Tempeh (19%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.



#3: Cheese (Reduced Fat Mozzarella)
Tryptophan 100g Per cup, diced (132g)Per ounce (28g)
571mg (204% RDI)754mg (269% RDI)160mg (57% RDI)
Other Cheeses High in Tryptophan (%RDI per ounce): Parmesan & Cheddar (56%), Mozzarella (51%), Romano (43%), Gruyere (42%), Swiss (40%), Fontina (36%), Edam, Gouda, and Tilsit (35%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.


#4: Lamb, Beef, Pork & Game (Lamb Shoulder, cooked)
Tryptophan 100g Per 3oz (85g)Per chop (55g)
415mg (148% RDI)353mg (126% RDI)228mg (81% RDI)
Other Meats High in Tryptophan (%RDI per 3oz, cooked): Rabbit (133%), Lean Roast Beef & Ground Pork (124%), Goat (123%), Beef Steak (121%), Pork Tenderloin (117)%, Wild Boar (115%), and Veal (113%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.



#5: Chicken & Turkey (Chicken Breast, cooked)
Tryptophan 100g Per piece (181g)Per 3oz (85g)
404mg (144% RDI)731mg (261% RDI)343mg (123% RDI)
Other Chicken & Turkey Meats High in Tryptophan (%RDI per 3oz, cooked): Chicken Stewing Meat (117%), Turkey Wing (113%), Turkey breast (110%), Chicken Wing (108%), Chicken Drumstick (102%), Fat-Free Ground Turkey (99%), Turkey Drumstick (98%), and Ground Turkey (94%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.



#6: Fish (Tuna, cooked)
Tryptophan 100g Per 3oz (85g)Per ounce (28g)
335mg (120% RDI)285mg (102% RDI)95mg (34% RDI)
Other Fish High in Tryptophan (%RDI per 3oz, cooked): Halibut (102%), Salmon (98%), Rockfish & Trout (90%), Snapper (89%), Mackerel (88%), Haddock (79%), and Cod (70%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.


#7: Shellfish (Crab, cooked)
Tryptophan 100g Per 3oz (85g)Per ounce (28g)
330mg (118% RDI)281mg (100% RDI)94mg (33% RDI)
Other Shellfish High in Tryptophan (%RDI per 3oz, cooked): Spiny Lobster (112%), Octopus (101%), Clams (87%), Prawns (Shrimp) (79%), Lobster (75%), Crayfish (71%), Oysters (64%), and Scallops (53%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.



#8: Uncooked Oat Bran & Oats (Oat Bran)
Tryptophan 100g Per cup (94g)Per ounce (28g)
335mg (120% RDI)315mg (113% RDI)94mg (34% RDI)
Other Uncooked Brans and Wholegrains High in Tryptophan (%RDI per cup): Wheat Germ & Whole Oats (130%), Buckwheat (116%), Wheat Bran (59%), Oat Cereal, regular and quick cook (53%).Click to see complete nutrition facts.



#9: Beans & Lentils (White Beans, cooked)
Tryptophan 100g Per cup (179g)Per tablespoon (11g)
115mg (41% RDI)206mg (74% RDI)13mg (5% RDI)
Other Beans & Lentils High in Tryptophan (%RDI per cup, cooked): Cranberry (Roman) Beans (70%), Yellow Beans & Small White Beans (68%), Pinto Beans & Kidney Beans (66%), Pink Beans, Navy Beans & Black Beans (65%), and Lentils (57%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.



#10: Eggs (Whole)
Tryptophan 100g Per 2 eggs (100g)Per egg (50g)
167mg (60% RDI)168mg (60% RDI)84mg (30% RDI)
Also High in Tryptophan (%RDI per egg): Poached eggs, Omelette, Fried Eggs & Scrambled Eggs (30%), and Hard Boiled Eggs (28%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.



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

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Click each heading below for more information from MyFoodData.com

Extended list of Tryptophan Rich Foods
Spirulina929mg (332% RDI) per 100 gram serving1040mg (371% RDI) per cup (112 grams)65mg (23% RDI) per tablespoon (7 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Spirulina
Goose (Cooked)403mg (144% RDI) per 100 gram serving2382mg (851% RDI) per 1/2 Goose (591 grams)576mg (206% RDI) per 3oz (85 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Goose
Duck (Cooked)380mg (136% RDI) per 100 gram serving361mg (129% RDI) per breast (95 grams)323mg (115% RDI) per 3oz (85 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Duck
Canned Fish326mg (116% RDI) per 100 gram serving557mg (199% RDI) per can (171 grams)277mg (99% RDI) per 3oz (85 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Canned Fish
Caviar323mg (115% RDI) per 100 gram serving90mg (32% RDI) per ounce (28 grams)52mg (19% RDI) per tablespoon (16 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Caviar
Dried Herbs (Spearmint)306mg (109% RDI) per 100 gram serving6mg (2% RDI) per tablespoon (2 grams)3mg (1% RDI) per teaspoon (1 gram)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Dried Herbs
Cocoa Powder293mg (105% RDI) per 100 gram serving252mg (90% RDI) per cup (86 grams)15mg (5% RDI) per tablespoon (5 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Cocoa Powder
Peanuts & Peanut Butter (Smooth Peanut Butter)231mg (83% RDI) per 100 gram serving596mg (213% RDI) per cup (258 grams)74mg (26% RDI) per 2 tablespoons (32 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Peanuts &Peanut Butter
Whey (Sweet)205mg (73% RDI) per 100 gram serving297mg (106% RDI) per cup (145 grams)16mg (6% RDI) per tablespoon (8 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Whey
Soy Sauce (Tamari)181mg (65% RDI) per 100 gram serving33mg (12% RDI) per tablespoon (18 grams)11mg (4% RDI) per teaspoon (6 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Soy Sauce
Bacon & Ham (Bacon, cooked)464mg (166% RDI) per 100 gram serving42mg (15% RDI) per slice (9 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Bacon & Ham
Soy Chips 376mg (134% RDI) per 100 gram serving105mg (38% RDI) per ounce (28 grams)Click to see complete nutrition facts for Soy Chips
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 cysteine, 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.

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Data Sources and References

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27.
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