Let’s talk turkey: The truth about tryptophan

An oldie but a goodie: this post was originally published on November 26, 2015.

This Thursday after digging into your delicious Thanksgiving meal, you might find yourself slouching on your sofa, pants feeling a little snug, and you might find yourself feeling a dozy. Your first inclination will likely be to blame that delectable turkey and all of that tryptophan. Because turkey has tryptophan, and tryptophan makes us sleepy, right?

Well… This may likely be a myth that we have all been telling ourselves. The science behind tryptophan is pretty clear: tryptophan is an essential amino acid that our bodies need to help make niacin and serotonin. Our bodies do not produce tryptophan, so we must get it from our diet. Serotonin is believed to help us sleep better and stabilize our moods. It would appear, then, if tryptophan helps us make serotonin, and serotonin helps us sleep, that consuming tryptophan would make us sleepy, right?

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Spotlight on Health: Let’s Talk Turkey…and Holiday Food Safety

Turkey

Mmm….Turkey….

Today is Thanksgiving and turkey is on everyone’s mind. But there is one other thing we should all be mindful of as we get ready for the day’s big meal: food safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Clostridium perfringens is the second most common cause of food poisoning from bacteria. Most outbreaks (92%) are caused by meat and poultry.

Here are few tips from the CDC on safely preparing, cooking, and storing your Thanksgiving feast for a happy, healthy holiday:

  • Always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces immediately after handling raw poultry.
  • If using a frozen turkey, be sure to thaw your bird at a safe temperature. Bacteria thrives between 40 and 140°F.
  • The three safest ways to thaw your turkey (and any other frozen food) are (1) in the refrigerator; (2) in cold water; and (3) in the microwave. See the USDA’s “Safe Methods for Thawing” website to learn more.
  • To stuff in or out of the bird? The CDC’s answer to this debate is “for optimal safety and uniform doneness,” cook your stuffing outside the turkey in a separate casserole dish.
  • Always use a meat thermometer when cooking your turkey and be sure your turkey reaches a safe minimal internal temperature of 165°F. Stick the thermometer into the meatiest portions of the turkey breast, thing, and wing.
  • Refrigerate your Thanksgiving leftovers as soon as possible, ideally within 2 hours of preparation. This can prevent food poisoning. Be sure to keep your leftovers at 40°F or below.

For more information on having a safe food holiday, check out the CDC’s “It’s Turkey Time” website.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library!