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Does Turkey Really Make You Sleepy? This and Other Turkey Myths Revealed

Does Turkey Really Make You Sleepy? This and Other Turkey Myths Revealed

Turkey is one of those foods that has had its share of misinformation circulating for years. We separate fact from fiction on all things turkey.

Turkey makes you sleepy: FICTION

For years, turkey has been blamed as the culprit for post-Thanksgiving dinner drowsiness, with its high tryptophan levels often cited as the reason for turkey's sleep-inducing properties. 

It's true that turkey is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid needed for the body to produce serotonin. And serotonin is used to make melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles. But simply eating foods that are high in tryptophan won't maximize our brain levels of tryptophan and serotonin. We also need carbohydrates to enhance our body's levels of serotonin, and therefore melatonin.

Also, plenty of foods are higher in tryptophan than turkey. Ounce for ounce, pork loin, roasted pumpkin seeds, part-skim mozzarella and chicken breast have more tryptophan than turkey. And let's be honest: How many of us have ever blamed a grilled chicken breast or pumpkin seeds for making us sleepy?

The most likely connection as to why you may get sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal is because you are eating a large, rich meal and often drinking wine or alcohol on top of it.

Turkey is a source of lean protein:  FACT

With zero carbs, eight grams of protein, and less than a gram of saturated fat per ounce, skinless turkey is one of the top sources of lean protein.

Skinless turkey breast is healthier than dark meat turkey:  NOT NECESSARILY

Dark meat turkey does have more saturated fat, but it's still not super-high. A 6-ounce serving of dark meat turkey, no skin, has 2.4 grams of saturated fat, compared to less than a gram of saturated fat for the same amount of skinless turkey breast.

Dark meat has more than twice as much zinc and iron as turkey breast, and more than 40 percent more of the antioxidant selenium, compared to turkey breast.

Turkey has more potassium than a banana:  FACT

In addition to being an excellent source of protein, a 6-ounce serving of turkey — white or dark meat — does have more potassium than a single banana. Turkey is also rich in niacin, which helps convert food into energy and plays a key role in our digestive system, healthy skin and nerve functioning. It's an excellent source of vitamin B6, which helps to keep blood sugar levels stable and helps our bodies make antibodies to fight disease.

For more details on this topic, read Molly’s full article on nola.com.

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