We’ve all had that week where we’re running on fumes and it’s been one sleepless night after another. You know you need a hard reset in the form of a solid snooze, but you just can’t seem to get in those 8 hours. Whether it’s your to-do list running through your head or that coffee you had just a little too late in the day, what we eat for dinner can sometimes help us get the sleep we need. The key is picking the right sleep-inducing foods — and, surprisingly, meat may be one of them, specifically elk meat.
If you’re one of many Americans who slip into a turkey-induced coma on Thanksgiving Day, you likely have tryptophan to thank for that. This essential amino acid plays a role in memory, appetite, pain perception, mood, and more, explains WebMD. It is also instrumental in the production of sleep-related hormones, including melatonin and serotonin. In 100 grams of cooked turkey breast without the skin, you’ll find 0.287 grams of tryptophan, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). If you look at the same-size serving of cooked elk meat, however, you’ll find even more.
The tryptophan in elk meat may help you fall asleep faster
In 100 grams of cooked elk meat, you get 0.545 grams of tryptophan, reports the USDA. According to Fox News, the gamier the meat, the greater the amount of tryptophan. For this reason, elk meat is regularly consumed in certain countries such as Sweden to help promote sleep (via Healthline).
Early 1982 research published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research outlines a link between tryptophan intake and increases in feelings of sleepiness as well as decreases in the time it takes to fall asleep. Over the years, many more studies have been conducted on the relationship between tryptophan and sleep. A 2022 systematic review published in Nutrition Reviews found that 1 gram or more of tryptophan supplementation boosted participant sleep quality. That being said, some research has yielded opposite results. In a recent study published in the Journal of King Saud University – Science, researchers found no connection between tryptophan intake and sleep quality in students in Saudi Arabia.
The importance of cooking elk meat properly
Although research has produced mixed results, it doesn’t mean that incorporating elk meat into your next dinner meal may not be worth a try. In addition to potentially promoting sleep, elk meat is also rich in protein and low in fat, and it contains essential vitamins and minerals, including iron, phosphorus, magnesium, B vitamins, and more (via WebMD).
While not always easy to find, if you can manage to get your hands on some elk meat, consider making a flavorful soup or stew. However, it’s important that the meat from these wild animals is cooked to a proper temperature. Eating undercooked elk meat poses a risk for certain infections, including brucellosis, a disease characterized by joint pain, arthritis, flu-like symptoms, and fever that may come and go in waves. While elk meat sold in stores is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), people who hunt and cook elk for their own personal consumption are advised to wear latex gloves and thoroughly sanitize all tools used for preparing the meat. While elk meat can be broiled, stir-fried, and more, to make elk meat the tastiest it can be, cook it in a slow oven at a temperature of 275 degrees Fahrenheit.