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Tryptophan – the sleepy turkey drug?

Eat Turkey, take a nap, right?  Blame it on the tryptophan in the turkey and stick your hand in your pants and fall asleep in front of the TV while the wife cleans the house and does the dishes.  No problem, except she ate the turkey too, didn’t she?

What is Tryptophan?

Trp or W is one of the 20 essential amino acids in the human diet.  That means by definition tryptophan can not be synthesized by the body and must be obtained as part of the diet.  Amino acids are the building blocks of protein biosynthesis.  Most protein based foods contain Trp and Turkey is about the same as most other poultry.

Other Sources

If you really like Trp, you can get it in pill form at your local health food store.  People use this supplement to treat low serotonin levels, depression and as a sleep aid.  But, isn’t there always a BUT.  Read this from Wikipedia

A metabolite of tryptophan, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), has been suggested as a treatment for epilepsy and depression, although clinical trials are regarded inconclusive and lacking. Since 5-HTP readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and in addition is rapidly decarboxylated to serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT).  However, serotonin has a relatively short half-life since it is rapidly metabolized by monoamine oxidase.

Due to the conversion of 5-HTP into serotonin by the liver, there may be a significant risk of heart valve disease from serotonin’s effect on the heart.

There was a large tryptophan-related outbreak of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) in 1989, which caused 1,500 cases of permanent disability and at least thirty-seven deaths. Some epidemiological studies traced the outbreak to L-tryptophan supplied by a Japanese manufacturer, Showa Denko KK.  It was further hypothesized that one or more trace impurities produced during the manufacture of tryptophan may have been responsible for the EMS outbreak.  The fact that the Showa Denko facility used genetically engineered bacteria to produce L-tryptophan gave rise to speculation that genetic engineering was responsible for such impurities. However, the methodology used in the initial epidemiological studies has been criticized.  An alternative explanation for the 1989 EMS outbreak is that large doses of tryptophan produce metabolites that inhibit the normal degradation of histamine, and excess histamine in turn has been proposed to cause EMS

Turkey and drowsiness

Long story short, your drowsiness after a big Turkey meal is more likely a result of eating too many carbohydrates and not the turkey.  The consumption of large amounts of carbs that are high on the Glycemic index cause the bodies blood sugar to elevate and then the pancreas kicks in to off set the amount of sugar in the blood by producing insulin.  Insulin then stimulates the uptake of the large branch-chain amino acids, but not tryptophan into the muscles.  That increases the ratio of tryptophan to Branched-chain amino acids in the blood stream.  That increased ratio makes it possible for the tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier and then to be converted to serotonin.  Serotonin is later converted to melatonin by the pineal gland which then causes drowsiness.  The same thing happens when you drink or eat a lot of sweets in the morning then later “crash”.

Conclusions

Now that we understand that it is simple carbs and sugar that cause our sleepiness after a big meal, we need to fess up to the fact that either our wives don’t eat the same meal as we do or we are just a touch lazy.  Just my opinion, your results may vary.  – jughandle

 

Best Foods to Eat in January

This is an article I am copying for your reading pleasure directly from Organic Gardening.com, written by Emily Main.  This article is well written and  is good advice.  It should be passed on to you in its complete unadultrated form.  Emily also included some great recipes in the original, so click the link and check it out.  These are her pictures too.  I’m off to a slow start this year. – jughandle

The 9 Best Foods to Eat in January

Boost your brainpower and ward off a cold—and still stick to your seasonal diet.

By Emily Main

You resolved to eat more healthfully in 2013, so you head to the grocery store to load up on healthy foods—and you’re greeted with sickly looking tomatoes, limp greens, sprouting potatoes, and strawberries that look like the wiser choice would be leaving them suffocating in their plastic clamshells, not actually eating them. Don’t let a lackluster selection of fresh foods keep you from your healthy-eating goals! It is possible to find seasonal, good-for-you produce this time of year, picked at the peak of flavor and filled with nutrients specifically suited to keep you healthy during the long, cold winter.

Best Foods for January: GrapefruitGrapefruit

Good for your nose and your ticker, this fruit usually gets passed up in favor of its more popular relatives (oranges, tangerines, and clementines) or consumed via sugary “juice cocktails” that contain more sugar and food dye than actual grapefruit juice. But its hefty vitamin C content can reduce cold symptoms by 23 percent, studies have found, and a single grapefruit was found in one Israeli study to lower cholesterol. Opt for ruby red varieties, which are sweeter than white and more palatable and reach their height of flavor in early winter.

Best Foods for January: BeetsBeets

These hearty root vegetables store well and will likely pop up at your farmers’ market until summer. Eat them and save your brain. Beets are high in nitrates, naturally occurring minerals that help transport oxygen to your brain. A study from Wake Forest University recently found that older adults with high dietary levels of nitrates (the naturally occurring nitrates found in whole foods, rather than the synthetic versions used in processed meats) showed greater activity in their frontal lobes, suggesting they were better able to ward off dementia, compared to when they were on low-nitrate diets.

 

Best Foods for January: Brussels SproutsBrussels Sprouts

They’re full of belly-filling fiber, which will help you stick to those New Year’s resolutions, and you may still be able to find them at your local farmers’ market. Another benefit to Brussels sprouts: They contain high levels of folate, a B vitamin best known for warding off birth defects of the brain and spine when consumed by pregnant women. And surveys suggest there’s a whole lotta baby-making going on in January, which falls nine months before September 16, the most common birthday in the United States, according to Harvard research.

Best Foods for January: turkeyTurkey

Eating a healthier diet means moving beyond the produce aisles. There’s a reason you should include more turkey and poultry in your diet during the winter: The tryptophan in turkey can help ward off the winter blues or its more severe form, seasonal affective disorder, because it gets converted to mood-boosting serotonin in your body. This same amino acid exists in seafood, grass-fed beef, and healthy fats, such as coconut oil and butter from grass-fed cows.

Best Foods for January: cauliflowerCauliflower

Cauliflower reaches its peak from December through March. It’s one of the few vegetables you’ll find at year-round farmers’ markets in January, depending on the climate of your hometown. Like turkey, this cruciferous vegetable has tryptophan, and some of the highest levels of any vegetable. Use it in place of white potatoes to make a waistline-friendly, low-carb version of mashed potatoes.

Best Foods for January: Pumpkin SeedsPumpkin Seeds

Pumpkinseeds are rich in magnesium, which helps your body convert tryptophan into serotonin, and they’re basically free, every time you cook a pumpkin, which you may still be able to find locally this time of year.

Best Foods for January: avacodosAvocados

In addition to being rich in tryptophan and magnesium, avocados contain healthy monounsaturated fats, which provide a more sustained form of energy than the quick-burning carbs people tend to crave in winter. Having sustained energy levels will keep your mood elevated, too.

 

Best Foods for January: eggsEggs (vitamin D)

Eggs, particularly those from pasture-raised hens, are rich in vitamin D, a disease-fighting nutrient that comes primarily from sunlight. Since it’s not always practical to head outside, half-naked, to soak up some D in the winter, load up on eggs, which are also filled with mood-promoting omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, B vitamins, and iodide.

Best Foods for January: yogurtYogurt

Yogurt contains a bacterium calledLactobacillus reuteri that has been found to block the replication of viruses that invade your body when you get sick. Not all brands contain that particular strain of beneficial bacteria, so look for a brand that does. We recommend going organic with yogurt from Stonyfield Farm, which does contain L. reuteri.

 

Notes from Thanksgiving – a few successes

Notes to self:

Self- in the future try to have fewer than 55 items on the menu for the week, 40 of which were new recipes I’ve never tried before.

Self- Don’t renovate the kitchen two days before a major holiday when 6 guests are coming to Thanksgiving dinner.

Attempted and the Result

My eyes are always bigger than my stomach and I seem to always be thinking about what I can accomplish with energy and dexterity I had 15 years ago.  The following are the dishes I scheduled to cook for the holiday week.  Some were good, some bad, and some were memorable.  Click on the links for the recipes:

Spinach Balls –  These looked great and weren’t too hard to make.  I substituted Panko bread crumbs for the All Brand Buds – the buds looked too much like kibble.  I sauteed fresh spinach instead of using frozen and  I also made my own croutons instead of using stuffing mix.  I screwed up by cooking them too long and some were burned and some were ok.  The mustard dip was great if you make your own ranch dressing.  I’d do these again and not cook them to death.  They did hold together well.  I made the balls with a small scoop and they were easy.

 

 

 Mario Batali’s Stuffed Cabbage –  This is a killer, must do and remember type of recipe.  The instructions include a “how to” on how to make the leaves soft enough to fold easily and was perfect and easy.  The recipe is vegetarian, but you could leave out the cheese and make it vegan pretty easily, or add meat and have a great dish too.  I substituted grated white cheddar cheese for the ricotta and Pecorino and it was very nice.  I didn’t have to use tooth picks to hold the packets together.  I just rolled them up and turned them seam down on the cooking sheet.  I did drizzle a little olive oil on the outside before baking and sprinkled that with Panko bread crumbs for a little crunch.  I’m using some sesame seeds next time. Every one loved this dish with the freshly made tomato sauce.

 

 Upside Down Potato and Onion Tart –   This may have been the best dish of the week.  It was gone in 60 sec, just like the movie.  I made this one exactly like the recipe called for, cutting my onions and potatoes on a mandolin slicer, which made it faster but wasn’t necessary.  I used a 9 inch, deep-sided, cast-iron skillet and everything fit nicely.  This can be cooked this a little in advance, which I did and when it came time to flip it onto a serving plate I had to warm the bottom and run a knife around the side of the skillet to release it from the pan, but that worked perfectly.  The tart cut cleanly using a pizza wheel and everyone wondered why I didn’t make two.  My only recommendation is to make sure you have another pan under the skillet when you put it into the oven to catch spill over and avoid filling the kitchen with smoke.

 

 Turkey number 1 – the rotisserie turkey is always a winner.  We have a Ronco standard rotisserie oven that gets used 3, sometimes 4 or 5 times a week.  I use it for everything from meat to vegetables.  The turkey gets brined with a 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of salt to every 2 gals of water, over night.  You don’t really have to do the brine with the rotisserie as it distributes the juices and always leaves a juicy result.  I dry the bird and rub it with olive oil, then sprinkle liberally with McCormick’s lemon-pepper.  That’s it.  This bird was a 13 pounder so I cooked it for 3 hours and 15 mins, then rotated without heat to redistribute the juices for 20 mins.  Easy. It pulls apart.

 

 

Turkey number 2, the de-boned stuffed turkey – My first de-boning of a turkey, went as well as could be expected.  No skin tears or bone fragments.  I cheated a little and left the wing and leg bones intact to better represent a whole turkey.  The stuffing was my own mix of rice, whole hard cooked eggs, spinach, arugula, mushrooms, dried fruit and nuts. The eggs were mostly for presentation when the bird was sliced, but I should have added 2 or 3 raw eggs to the mix to bind the stuffing more.  When it was cut the stuffing kind of fell out. The second picture shows the sliced bird.  I was able to eat the stuffing which was great.  Nice and moist.  Everyone loved the turkey and it would have been a star if it hadn’t been for the rotisserie turkey.

 

 This is the sliced bird with the egg reveal.

 

 

 

 

 The winner is!!  Pretzel rolls – this recipe got the most raves of all.  We had these with a nice potato soup that I made last week and Darlene doctored.  Chopped turkey was optional to add to the soup.  These rolls were easy to make.  They only have to rise about an hour and they you poach them in a salt/soda bath to make a pretzel like crust before baking them for 20 mins.  Crust on outside, doughy on the inside.  Great with butter or dipped in the soup.  I’ll be making these once a month at least.

 

 

 Thought I’d show you one of the desserts.  This is a double layer cheese cake with pistachio nuts on the outside and dried cherries and fresh blackberries on top.  Mine isn’t as pretty as the recipe, which was only one layer, but it was good.  I didn’t chop the nuts, so mine didn’t cover as well as the recipe’s and I changed the berries too.  My mother and I jointly made this cake using an old standard Philadelphia cheese cake recipe that is a never fail recipe.  It is so rich that only a small piece with satisfy even the sweetest of tooths.

 

 

 

More successes and failures on my next post – jughandle