Stress busters: tryptophan (turkey?) and l-theanine (tea)!
By now, you’ve probably forgotten about the post -thanksgiving stupor characterized (if you can recall) by glassy eyes, protruding tummy, and overwhelming urge to (yawn!) take a nice nap.
You may have heard over the years that turkey’s soporific effect is caused by tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Since the body can’t make tryptophan, it must be provided by diet. Tryptophan is used to produce niacin and seratonin, a brain chemical that enhances mood and well-being. Sadly, the amount of trytophan in turkey is slightly less than found in chicken. The turkey/tryptophan connection probably has more to do with the amount of carbs than that the turkey effect.
But did you know that l-thenine, an amino acid found in tea – but not coffee – really does have the chillax factor without any guilt-inducing carbs? This is why you can drink tea and not have the hype you feel with coffee. While L-theanine is known to reduce stress by relaxing the mind without causing drowsiness, animal studies also indicate that l-theanine reduces high blood pressure and increases the effectiveness of some cancer drugs.
Back to chillax factors: A recent overview by Nutrition Review put it like this: “The studies reviewed suggest that caffeinated tea, when ingested at regular intervals, may maintain alertness, focused attention, and accuracy and may modulate the more acute effects of higher doses of caffeine.” In another article that reviewed research on the effects of l-theanine and caffeine in tea on attention and mood, the vaulted American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted that studies ” showed the validity of laboratory findings by supporting the idea that tea consumption has acute benefits on both mood and performance in real-life situations.”