It’s fall… AGAIN! While I’m already counting down the months until next summer and that summer weather, it can feel nice to cozy up in a big sweatshirt and drink some hot apple cider. And there’s one more thing that makes the anticipatory season to winter that much better: Thanksgiving.

To be honest, leading up to Thanksgiving, I celebrate a slew of Jewish holidays. These are basically just days on end of family and friends getting together and celebrating with a lot of food. It’s basically a food marathon where you try to get in all your favourite foods that we only get to enjoy once a year! So, by the time Thanksgiving comes along, I’ve become pretty good at knowing which foods, and in what amounts, will make me feel tired and sluggish.

It probably doesn’t surprise you to know that eating a big meal, especially if it has lots of meat like, oh, say, an entire turkey, can make you feel awfully tired. It’s a common belief that turkey is the culprit to feeling this way after a big meal. And I hate to tell you this, but you actually can’t blame the turkey 100% for this one.

First, let’s talk about why so many people think turkey causes sleepiness. Turkey has an amino acid (ONE OF the building blocks of protein) called tryptophan. The body uses it to make the B-vitamin, niacin, and serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that plays a major role in mood. The higher the serotonin, the more relaxed and tired you will feel.

But here’s the thing. There are many other food sources that contain tryptophan but don’t have the same effect. Fish, chicken, eggs, and milk just to name a few. And I doubt you’d say eating all of these things would make you feel the way you feel after a big turkey dinner. So, what’s the difference?

The key word I said in the last paragraph is dinner. It’s actually not the turkey itself that causes sleepiness, but what you’re eating with that turkey. Carbohydrates (a small amount will do) in combination with the tryptophan is what allows it to stand out from the other amino acids and actually provide our body with the serotonin to relax and give us that sleepy feeling. If you were to eat another source of tryptophan with the right amount of carbohydrate, it should give you that same effect.

We can also take into account Thanksgiving usually means an overload of food, especially high-carbohydrate, high-sugar foods. Those can actually further contribute to that feeling of fatigue because it can cause our blood sugar to go up and down in a way we’re not used to. The easiest way to help with this is to eat small meals throughout the day, rather than “saving up” for your dinner. This will allow you to still enjoy the foods you love but without overeating.

Happy Thanksgiving, and happy eating!