Northside Health Library



Tryptophan is an amino acid needed for normal growth in infants and for nitrogen balance in adults. It is an essential amino acid, which means your body cannot produce it -- you must get it from your diet.


The body uses tryptophan to help make niacin and serotonin. Serotonin is thought to produce healthy sleep and a stable mood.

In order for tryptophan in the diet to be changed into niacin, the body needs to have enough:

Tryptophan can be found in:

  • Cheese
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Peanuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soy
  • Tofu
  • Turkey


Dietary Guidelines for Americans - 2005. Washington, DC. US Dept of Health and Human Services and US Dept of Agriculture: 2005.

Review Date: 2/7/2010
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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