The Legend of Tryptophan – An Excuse to Snooze

Legend has it that the tryptophan-rich turkey is the reason behind those snoozers sprawled out in your living room after the leftovers are put away.

Tryptophan is one of 20 amino acids found in foods and can be converted in your brain to the neurotransmitters, serotonin and melatonin.  Since both of these compounds play an important role in regulating sleep, it seems logical that tryptophan has always been blamed as the culprit behind the Thanksgiving Day lethargy.

But turkey isn’t the only potent source of tryptophan in the diet.  In fact, a roasted chicken breast actually contains more tryptophan than turkey.  Do your guests fall asleep after you serve them a chicken dinner?

Thanksgiving Day drowsiness is more likely caused by another culprit or a combination of circumstances that are part of this holiday’s festivities.  According to the experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research, when you eat a very large meal, such as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, and pumpkin pie, your gastrointestinal tract has to work harder to digest all that food.  In order for your body to do this extra work, some of your body’s blood supply is redirected away from your brain to the gut.  This shifting of energy-rich blood from the brain to your GI tract can cause you to feel, well, sluggish.

Your beverage of choice at dinner may also play a role.  Alcohol has sedating properties, so if you are enjoying your dinner with a bottle of Pinot Noir, there is a good chance that some of your guests will be snoring before dessert is served.

Lastly, daytime naps are a product of opportunity, so Thanksgiving Day ends up being a popular day to nap, because the opportunity presents itself.   After the football games are over, what else is there to do?

And if you plan to head out at midnight to power shop on Black Friday, it may make sense to take an afternoon nap on Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Your Turkey Plan – Tips for Success

Yep, Thanksgiving is closer than you think. I have been having Thanksgiving at my house for a few years now, and I love it. We are really lucky in our family. We all get along and never have any crazy holiday drama. It is one of the best days of the year to visit with all my favorite relatives, and spend time with family that I only get to see once a year.  The food is pretty awesome too — especially my aunt’s chocolate pecan pie. Hint, hint, Auntie Vel, if you are reading this.

Enough about me… if you’re thinking about having a traditional turkey dinner, now is the time to begin planning the big meal. Planning ahead can help ensure that the special meal is successful, safe, and stress-free.

Thanksgiving Planning Checklist

•Select the guests: Decide how many people will be eating, plan your menu, and gather your recipes.
•Clear the fridge: Start using foods that are taking up space in your refrigerator and freezer to make sure you have plenty of room for your turkey, ham, or roast and other dishes.
•Start shopping now: Check your pantry to see what you already have and make a shopping list of needed ingredients. Shopping early for pantry items will reduce stress later.
•Get the thermometers ready: Buy a food thermometer if you don’t already have one. A cooked whole turkey is safe at a minimum internal temperature of 165 F throughout the bird and stuffing. If you’re thawing the turkey in the refrigerator, we also recommend using a refrigerator thermometer to make sure the temperature is no higher than 40 F.

Here are some of the top turkey questions that we answer at the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline:

Q. I have a turkey in the freezer from last year. Can I still use it?
A. Yes, go ahead and use it! Because food poisoning bacteria cannot grow in the freezer, so your frozen turkey will be safe to eat. A turkey will keep its top quality a full year in the freezer.
Q. What size bird should I buy?
A. Estimate one pound of turkey for each person. That’s enough for ample portions and leftovers. If you’re having a large party, don’t worry: larger turkeys (over 16 pounds) have more meat per pound. A larger turkey will feed two people per pound.
Q. How far in advance can I buy a fresh turkey?
A. If you want to buy a fresh turkey, wait until the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Some grocery stores will let you ‘reserve’ a fresh turkey.
Q. How long does it take to thaw a frozen turkey?
A. The safest way to thaw a turkey is to put it in the refrigerator at a safe temperature (40 F) during thawing. Allow one day for each 5 lbs of weight to thaw the turkey, plus an extra day or two. A twenty pound turkey will take about 4 days to thaw. After it has thawed, it is safe for another two days.

For more information on turkeys, check out these resources on FoodSafety.gov:
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