Can L - Tryptophan Help Your Depression ?

Can L - Tryptophan Help Your Depression ?
Recently, one of the regular visitors to the Depression Forum on suggested that we make some hummus to help alleviate our symptoms of depression. I was curious about what component(s) in hummus might be effective against depression, and why.

In researching this topic, I found an article called “Is L-Tryptophan Better than Antidepressants?” by Dave Turo-Shields of, in which he states, “Tryptophan is the only substance that can be converted into serotonin.” Garbanzo beans (chick peas), which are the main ingredient in hummus, are high in L-tryptophan. So if your depression is caused by low serotonin levels, eating foods that are high in L-tryptophan could theoretically increase the serotonin levels, thereby decreasing your depression.

According to Turo-Shields, serotonin levels in sufferers of depression and insomnia are deficient. Other conditions associated with low levels of serotonin are anxiety, pain intolerance and difficulty in losing weight. L-tryptophan has been used to treat these conditions with some success, though no definitive conclusions have been made on its efficacy.

The body doesn’t produce the amino acid L-tryptophan, so it must be obtained through diet or supplementation. In an article by Traci Vandermark entitled “What Foods Have L-Tryptophan in Them?” on, the following foods are listed as high in L-tryptophan: Turkey, shrimp, chicken, salmon, leafy greens such as spinach and collard greens, and vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower. Most beans are good sources, with soybeans being the best. Nuts are good sources, with peanuts being the best. Seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower have even more L-tryptophan than nuts. Dairy foods are also good sources.

Turo-Shields also gives the following tips to help your body absorb and be able to use the L-tryptophan: Take with B-Complex and Vitamin C, with fruit juice, on an empty stomach.

If you’d like to try making some hummus, it’s really simple. I use a can of garbanzo beans (chick peas), garlic powder, olive oil, salt and lemon juice. Most recipes call for a fresh clove of garlic to each can of beans, if that gives you an idea of how much powder to use—-maybe a tablespoon. (I never measure anything.) I’d say about a tablespoon of lemon. Just combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender, add a little water to give it the consistency you like, and it’s ready. Serve with pita bread, crackers or chips.

Some hummus recipes call for tahini, which is a sesame seed paste, but it’s not necessary. The beauty of hummus is that you can add whatever you like, as much as you like, and make it all your own. It might not be a cure for depression, but it could help, and it sure tastes good!

Dave Turo-Shields, “Is L-Tryptophan Better Than Antidepressants?”

Traci Vandermark, “What Foods Have L-Tryptophan in Them?”, 2010.

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