Does Turkey on Thanksgiving Really Make Me Tired?

Every Thanksgiving family and friends gather together and celebrate their blessings with a hearty meal that usually revolves around the Thanksgiving bird. After the big meal, my uncle drifts off to the living room for his traditional post-turkey snooze. As if on cue, we all start feeling a little drowsy and it’s not until my sister pulls out Apples-to-Apples that we all start waking up again. My aunt once commented that if a doctor ever told her she needed sleeping pills she would tell him to forget about it, she would just make a Thanksgiving dinner!

So what is it about the Thanksgiving meal that always makes people so drowsy? The answer: it’s not the bird! The turkey is not the culprit for your post-gluttony grogginess. I have read countless articles and heard numerous diatribes railing at the tryptophan content in turkey for making us tired after a heavy meal. If it’s not the turkey, what is it?

While it is true that tryptophan is a precursor to the mood and sleep hormones serotonin and melatonin, it is NOT true that turkey is uncommonly high in this nutrient. Actually, there are a lot of common foods like milk that are notably higher! But milk doesn’t make you drowsy, so can it really be the tryptophan?

Actually, the answer is a lot less academic. The standard American Thanksgiving meal is not only heavy in turkey, but it’s heavy in everything! From mashed potatoes and gravy, to oven fresh rolls, cranberry sauce and pecan pie (I see you drooling there!), the Thanksgiving meal is a smorgasbord of heavy foods that are slow to digest. Digesting such dense food takes a TON of energy. The reason you get tired isn’t the turkey, it’s the whole meal! Top that with the fact that we all turn into petty gluttons for one Thursday a year and you have the perfect recipe for that twice-baked, double-stuffed couch potato feeling.

Want to feel a little less drowsy this Thanksgiving? My suggestion: eat smaller portions. You don’t have to avoid the turkey, just take in a little less of everything when you sit down this Thanksgiving. The best part about eating a little lighter? More leftovers to enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving from Fresh and Natural Foods!

Author: Dr. Chris Knutson, ND

Dr. Chris Knutson, ND, entered the natural health field after being cured of chronic Lyme Disease by an Australian Naturopath. He holds degrees as a Doctor of Naturopathy, Master Herbalist and Certified Nutritional Counselor. He currently works as a Nutrition and Wellness Coordinator with Fresh and Natural Foods.