Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner

The Truth about Tryptophan

It’s Thanksgiving again and you can’t wait to dive head first into the turkey, candied yams, stuffing and pumpkin pie. Within 15 minutes you’ve managed to inhale over 2,500 calories and find yourself too tired to enjoy the football game with Uncle Bob and Grandpa Harold. They both attempt to give you their scientific explanation that you’re groggy because you’ve ingested too much tryptophan from the two helpings of turkey you just ate. Sure, blame it on the turkey. Can it really be all the poor bird’s fault that you’re snoring on the couch every year after the Thanksgiving meal? Read on to find out.

What is L-Tryptophan anyway?
L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. Because our bodies can’t produce it, we have to get it from our diet.

Why is L-Tryptophan important?
Our bodies convert L-Tryptophan to 5-HTP and then finally to serotonin. When there are high levels of serotonin, we can feel happier, tolerate more pain and – yep you guessed it—sleep better.

Is it all the turkey’s fault?
Believe it or not, turkey doesn’t contain any more tryptophan than other poultry. In fact, chicken contains more. Furthermore, L-Tryptophan makes people drowsy only when consumed on an empty stomach (this is highly unlikely the case during Thanksgiving dinner).

So why am I always exhausted after the Thanksgiving meal?
No, it’s not because of your family’s incessant political arguments. Blame your sleepinduced haze on the amount of calories you’re consuming. (The average American’s Thanksgiving meal contains approximately 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat!) Your body is on overdrive trying to digest the calorie – and mostly carbohydrate – laden meal you’ve ingested over a short period of time.

But I don’t want to pass up the feast just so I don’t fall into a food coma!
So don’t. Eat breakfast and lunch so you’re not famished for the heavy Thanksgiving meal and overdo it. Secondly, enjoy a small portion of each dish and eat slowly so your brain has enough time to process that you’re full. Lastly, do your best to fill your plate with low carbohydrate foods, focusing on vegetables and fruit. Not only will this avoid post meal lethargy but it will finally give you an excuse to pass up Aunt Millie’s 1,000-calorie potato gratin.

Crazy for Cranberries!

The majority of Americans enjoy cranberry sauce as part of their Thanksgiving meal. Unfortunately, however, canned varieties are weighed down with loads of sugar. As if that’s not bad enough, you can almost guarantee that store-bought cranberry sauce contains genetically modified high fructose corn syrup and genetically modified sugar beets. Don’t fret! There’s a way to serve your guests some cranberry goodness without wreaking havoc on your health.

Are there health benefits to eating cranberry sauce?
Half a cup of cranberry sauce offers four percent of your daily vitamin C requirement. Vitamin C is important for wound healing and keeps the immune system functioning properly. It also contains fiber which aids in digestion. Lastly, antioxidants – plant compounds that protect our bodies from free radical damage – are found in cranberry sauce. It is thought that antioxidants can aid in the protection of developing cancers and heart disease.

How do I serve cranberry sauce to my guests without all of the added sugar it’s so notorious for?
While canned cranberry sauce can still offer an array of health benefits as described above, the typical serving is high in sodium, corn syrup and 21 grams of sugar. Scoop a ladle-full of that substance onto your plate and you can kiss those skinny jeans goodbye. Opt for a homemade version where not only can you control the amount of sugar you add but you can count on it being richer in vitamin C.

Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce Recipe

  • 2.5 bags cranberries
  • ½ cup water
  • juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp rosemary


  1. Add water and cranberries to a pot. Bring to a boil until cranberries pop (approximately 7 minutes).
  2. Reduce to a simmer and add orange, honey and zest. Simmer approximately 3 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and add rosemary.
  4. Store in refrigerator overnight.

Serves 10
Nutritional Information per Serving:
Calories: 53
Carbohydrates: 15 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sugar: 9 g

Recipe as seen on

November 15, 2016 Living Fitness