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30 Vegan Foods High In Tryptophan: The Most Efficient Sources

By reading this article you will find out what the best tryptophan sources are for vegans and people who stick to a plant-based diet, as well as tryptophan health benefits, backed by science.
Jyothi Shenoy, MD, MBA

Written by Jyothi Shenoy, MD, MBA. Updated on January 17, 2023.

Tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids needed by the body for the synthesis of proteins.

It plays a vital role in several bodily functions. It can help relieve the symptoms of several active and chronic conditions including PMS (premenstrual syndrome), depression, and insomnia.

However, tryptophan is not produced in the body, and hence, must be obtained from the diet.

Here is a brief discussion about the health benefits of tryptophan and why you must not ignore the body’s needs for this nutrient.

Vegan Tryptophan Food Sources

Although non-vegan products such as eggs, fish, meat, and dairy are best known for their high lysine content, fortunately, there are plenty of plant-based sources as well.

Vegan foods that provide a high amount of tryptophan include:

  • Seaweeds: Spirulina, laver, wakame, etc
  • Seeds: Chia, sesame, hemp, pumpkin, flaxseed
  • Nuts: Pistachio, cashew, almonds, hazelnut
  • Grains: Oats, buckwheat groats, rye
  • Soy and soy products: Soy, edamame, tofu, tempeh
  • Legumes: Lentils, beans, chickpeas, peanuts, etc

We’ve ranked high-tryptophan food sources in two ways:

  • Tryptophan content per 100 grams
  • Tryptophan content pre 100 kcal

Plant-Based Tryptophan Food Sources per 100 g

In the following table, you can find the 30 foods with the highest amount of tryptophan per 100 grams.

FoodTryptophan (g) per 100 grams
Seaweed (dried)0.93
Chia seeds0.44
Sesame seeds0.39
Hemp seeds0.37
Pumpkin seeds0.33
Pistachio nuts0.25
Buckwheat groats0.17
Brazil nut0.14
Rye grain0.11
Pine nuts0.11
Black beans0.11
Kidney beans0.1
Navy beans0.1
Lima beans0.09
Mung bean0.08
Adzuki beans0.07
Fava bean0.07
Macadamia nut0.07

Plant-Based Tryptophan Food Sources per 100 kcal

Some people might prefer a list ranked by the energy foods provide, and find these lists more actionable and useful.

That’s why we created a list of 30 tryptophan-rich foods, ranked by 100 calories.

FoodTryptophan (g) per 100 calories
Seaweed (dried)0.33
Chia seeds0.09
Sesame seeds0.07
Hemp seeds0.07
Pumpkin seeds0.07
Pistachio nuts0.04
Buckwheat groats0.05
Brazil nut0.02
Rye grain0.03
Pine nuts0.02
Black beans0.08
Kidney beans0.08
Navy beans0.07
Lima beans0.07
Mung bean0.07
Adzuki beans0.06
Fava bean0.07
Macadamia nut0.01

What is Tryptophan?

Tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids found commonly in foods containing protein.

Amino acids like tryptophan are used by the body to make proteins and perform several functions. It is also necessary for the production of molecules, which help to transmit nerve signals.

Once consumed, tryptophan gets converted into a compound called 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) that is used by the body to create hormones such as serotonin and melatonin.

Serotonin is a hormone, which transmits impulses between nerve cells. The changes in the levels of serotonin in the brain could affect mood and trigger anxiety and stress-related issues such as depression.

Melatonin, on the other hand, is a hormone most notably involved in regulating our sleep-wake cycle.

It is called the sleep hormone as the adequate secretion of this hormone is essential for promoting sound sleep.

Overall, tryptophan and the compounds produced from it are essential for the optimal functioning of the body. Here are some of the scientifically-proven health benefits of tryptophan.

Besides tryptophan, other essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and valine.

Tryptophan Health Benefits

Here are some impressive benefits of tryptophan that are backed by scientific studies.

Improves Mental Health

The impact of tryptophan on mental health is particularly notable. Studies have revealed that the lower supply of tryptophan could result in mood swings.

It may also trigger stress and anxiety and worsen the symptoms of mental health issues such as depression.

This effect could be attributed to the decline in the production of serotonin due to the inadequate supply of tryptophan.

Since tryptophan is needed for the secretion of serotonin, the lack of enough supply of this amino acid results in a reduction in the serotonin levels in the body.

Serotonin is a feel-good hormone that promotes a happier state of mind. It can also improve the body’s response to stressful situations and enable us to take rational decisions.

The lack of adequate tryptophan in the diet can hamper serotonin production in the brain thus worsening mental health.

Eating a diet rich in tryptophan, on the other hand, can reduce anxiety, tension, restlessness, and nervousness.

It may also help to control aggression and impulsiveness in patients with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome).

Moreover, tryptophan can also promote rational thinking skills and improve social behaviors. This marks the need to ensure your diet is not deficient in foods containing tryptophan.

Increases Memory and Learning Skills

The decline in the levels of tryptophan can create a negative influence on several aspects of cognition including memory and learning.

Ensuring your diet comprises foods rich in tryptophan can enhance your long-term memory performance and improve your ability to think logically and rationally.

It can also promote decision-making skills and enable faster learning by supporting memory retention and recall.

This is why students and working professionals specifically need to pay attention to the dietary intake of this nutrient.

Including foods rich in tryptophan in your regular diet can enhance your memory linked to learning and recalling experiences and events thus improving your performance in academics as well as your career.

It can also improve your productivity and efficiency at school, home, and workplace as well as in social settings thus enabling you to succeed in all spheres of life.

Regulates Sleep-Wake Cycle

Tryptophan can produce a major positive impact on the secretion of the sleep hormone called melatonin in the brain.

Melatonin is also called the darkness hormone as its secretion tends to rise when the body is exposed to darkness after evening hours.

An adequate secretion of melatonin in the pineal gland of the brain is essential for creating a suitable internal environment in the body needed for promoting sleep.

Once consumed, some amount of tryptophan gets converted into melatonin thus playing a role in improving your sleep pattern.

It would help you get a sound sleep every night and reduce the risk of diseases linked to a poor sleep pattern such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, and so on.

The higher levels of melatonin can correct the sleep-wake cycle of the body known as the circadian rhythm.

This can produce a positive effect on several other functions, including the activities of the immune system and the metabolism of nutrients.

Sound sleep promoted by tryptophan can also reduce inflammation and stimulate the natural healing processes in the body.

This is a critical aspect of tryptophan benefits because, by promoting sleep, this nutrient can allow the body to heal and regenerate more efficiently thus reducing the risk of diseases linked to inflammation and age-related wear and tear.

This again emphasizes the importance of ensuring you are not deprived of tryptophan so that you can sleep well and are able to protect yourself against the dangers linked to insomnia.


Tryptophan offers many benefits primarily by regulating the production of hormones in the nervous system.

The benefits of this nutrient include improved mental health, enhanced memory, and better sleep.

Ensuring your body is getting an adequate supply of tryptophan will allow you to derive these benefits and make it easier for you to avoid diseases associated with the lack of sleep, poor mental health, inflammation, and degenerative changes.

How we ensure this article is accurate?
  1. It's written and or reviewed by an expert.
  2. We cite relevant studies and trusted sources.
  3. It's regularly updated.

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