Kaylee Seo Portola HS 12th Grade
Thick slices of turkey, creamy mashed potato, sweet corn, tangy cranberry sauce, and good old gravy are just some of the delicious foods that goes into your stomach on Thanksgiving day. However, after about an hour or two of digesting the meal, your eyes slowly start to get droopy and the thought of a nap sounds like a perfect way to end the holiday. This symptom or what most people call as having a “food coma” is known as postprandial somnolence.
Tryptophan is an amino acid found in turkey, spanish, soy, eggs, cheese, tofu, fish, and it produces a neurotransmitter called serotonin which regulates sleep activity. As a result, most people associate Thanksgiving meals with having a food coma afterwards. Although many people believe that turkey is known to make you sleepy, the USDA states that turkey only contains between 0.19 to 0.29 grams of tryptophan which is lower than other common foods such as cheddar cheese which contains 0.55 g of tryptophan. The drowsiness that occurs after a Thanksgiving meal is most likely due to the large amount of food such as carbohydrates or alcohol consumed.
In order to avoid a food coma on a daily basis, here are some tips: first, exercising and drinking water can help you stay alert as well as staying in shape. Reducing the amount of sugar intake is useful as well. According to CNN, eating smaller meals at an earlier time such as 11:45 is more beneficial than consuming food at 1 p.m. which is when the decrease in arousal occurs from circadian rhythms. Furthermore, choosing foods that contain more liquid consistency (i.e. a smoothie or salad) than solids help prevent sleepiness. Dark chocolate, pistachios, and string cheese are just a few of the foods to avoid becoming sleepy. Dark chocolate relaxes the body and mind due to the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Pistachios are filled with nutrients such as proteins, vitamin B-6, and magnesium that are related to sleep. Finally, string cheese or any dairy products contains a large amount of tryptophan, an amino acid, makes you sleepy. On the other hand, surprisingly, foods like chicken tenders, burgers, and processed or smoked meats keep you awake. Chicken tenders and burgers contain high fats which takes longer to digest, and as a result, your sleeping schedule can change. Also, processed or smoked meats keep you awake due to having a high amount of sodium. To answer all in all, yes, food comas are real, but they are not dangerous or a sign of improving health; they are just a natural process occurring in the body.
<Kaylee Seo Portola HS 12th Grade