Benefits And Best Sources Of Tyrosine: Your Brain’s BFF!

Medically reviewed by Dr. Timothy M. Marshall, PhD Dr. Timothy M. Marshall Dr. Timothy M. MarshallPhD facebook_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), Professional Certificate In Food, Nutrition & Health Swathi Handoo MSc (Biotechnology), Professional Certificate In Food, Nutrition & Health Experience: 4 years

Each one of us does different and weird things to uplift our mood on a bad day. Some of us shop, play a game, or listen to music while others play an instrument, read, or eat their favorite food. We all have a friend that can eat a whole cow on such days.

Blame your brain for all this! Your brain – because it is a classic chemical mess – produces certain chemicals that make you crave specific objects or activities. And do you know what kickstarts the production of these neurochemicals? Tyrosine.

Tyrosine is an amino acid that does a number of things, from uplifting your mood to maintaining your skin tone. Scroll down for some science!

Table Of Contents

What Is Tyrosine?

Tyrosine is an amino acid that is synthesized from phenylalanine (an essential amino acid). It is the precursor or the starting substance for few of the most important chemicals in your body ¬ like epinephrine, norepinephrine (or adrenaline), dopamine, and the thyroid hormones (1).

These neurotransmitters and hormones are produced by your brain to perform several critical functions in your body.

Therefore, incorporating tyrosine or tyrosine-rich foods into your diet can fix your mood swings, Monday blues, ADHD, insomnia, fatigue, and…

Read on to find out!

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7 Unique Benefits Of Tyrosine

1. Is Essential for the Production of Thyroid Hormones

Tyrosine is the precursor for thyroid hormones – thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid hormones are formed when iodine molecules get added to tyrosine residues.

Changes in tyrosine levels in plasma or the iodination of tyrosine directly affect thyroid levels. Therefore, tyrosine levels can cause hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism in an individual (2).

2. Energizes Your Mornings

Including ample amounts of tyrosine and phenylalanine in your meals, particularly in breakfast, energizes you and prevents depression. It increases your appetite and suppresses hedonic hunger.

Tyrosine has a positive effect on the sleep cycle of children. In combination with complex proteins rich in tryptophan, tyrosine can regularize their circadian rhythm and battle severe stress (3).

3. Helps Attention Deficit Disorder

Manages Attention Deficit Disorder
Image: IStock

Tyrosine is the precursor of key neurotransmitters like epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and other catecholamines. These hormones control the oxygen consumption in your brain and maintain blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Indirectly, these catecholamines control the way your body responds to stress and anxiety. Any changes in the levels of these neurotransmitters (especially dopamine) lead to ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other setbacks in your mental health.

Since tyrosine can cross the blood-brain barrier and is also one of the starting elements for several catecholamines, it can be used to manage ADD (4).

4. Reduces Hair Graying And Gives You A Healthy Tan

Reduces Hair Graying And Gives You A Healthy Tan
Image: Shutterstock

Gray hair (canities) is a feature associated with aging, which is dependent on the presence or absence of a pigment called melanin. The designated cells, melanocytes, produce this pigment in their cytoplasm.

The percentage availability of this melanin pigment is responsible for your natural skin and hair color. Tyrosine gets converted into melanin by a tightly controlled process in the melanocytes.

Tyrosine deficiency can lead to premature or accelerated hair graying and skin pigmentation, though a healthy diet with a variety of protein sources (from nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, etc.) can help delay or prevent these effects. This could also indicate a breach in your immune system and resistance that can lead to cancers (5),(6),(7).

5. Enhances Libido And Boosts Sexual Performance

Enhances Libido And Boosts Sexual Performance
Image: Shutterstock

Five major neurotransmitters work together to increase sexual arousal – norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and histamine. Out of these, serotonin and dopamine are involved in the neurochemical control of sexual behavior, with serotonin playing an inhibitory role, and dopamine playing an excitatory role.

You already know that tyrosine is needed to make dopamine. Increase in the activity of central dopaminergic systems correlates with sexual activity. So, an imbalance in tyrosine levels directly affects your sexual performance and libido (8).

For a simple amino acid, tyrosine wears many hats, doesn’t it?

When I read about this wonder building block, the first question that popped into my mind was, “How can I consume a sufficient amount of tyrosine?”

The answer turned out to be super simple – food! There’s no other source as abundant and as safe as the food we eat daily. So, take a look at the section below.

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What Are The Best Sources Of Tyrosine?

What Are The Best Sources Of Tyrosine
Image: Shutterstock

This image should tell you quite a bit. Following is a list of foods rich in tyrosine I’ve curated for you (9). Pick your favorite!

1. Spirulina

Image: Shutterstock

This fab seaweed is our chart-topper with 2046 mg of tyrosine per ounce. You can have dried spirulina too as it has 1782 mg of tyrosine per ounce.

Along with tyrosine, spirulina (in either form) contains vitamin K, pantothenic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. It is also abundant in minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese.

2. Soybeans And Soy Foods

Soybeans And Soy Foods
Image: Shutterstock

Organic soybeans, soy protein, soy meal, soy milk, tofu, and other soy derivatives are high in tyrosine. They have about 1900-2000 mg of tyrosine per ounce!

Soy products are low in sodium and cholesterol. They are also excellent sources of folate, potassium, iron, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. Just make sure you get organic soy because it’s simply healthier.

3. Eggs

Image: Shutterstock

Eggs, particularly egg whites, are another source of tyrosine, with about 1904 mgper serving. Egg white is also rich in vitamins A and E, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, sodium, selenium, and other globular proteins.

Other varieties like egg white dried flakes, frozen egg white, and dried egg white also have plenty of tyrosine in them.

4. Cheese

Image: Shutterstock

Who can say no to cheese? This delicious dairy product and its variants have about 1800 mg of tyrosine per serving. Take a look at the amount of tyrosine present in each variety:

Cheese VarietyTyrosine (in mg)
Cottage cheese1833
Cream cheese1558

5. Salmon

Image: Shutterstock

With 1774 mg of tyrosine per ounce, the all-time favorite salmon fish gains a spot on the top tyrosine-rich food chart too.

Salmon is also a good source of riboflavin, phosphorus, and selenium. It has abundant vitamin A, folate, and niacin.

6. Turkey

Image: Shutterstock

There’s a reason this bird gets into the oven on Christmas and Thanksgiving! Turkey meat has about 1760 mg of tyrosine along with vitamin B6, B12, and folate.

Raw turkey meat is also rich in minerals like selenium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and potassium, apart from omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

7. Pumpkin Leaves

Pumpkin Leaves
Image: Shutterstock

Raw pumpkin leaves have about 1642 mg of tyrosine. Apart from having almost no cholesterol, these leaves are also an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese.

Pumpkin leaves also have high amounts of vitamins A and C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and folate.

8. Mustard Greens

Mustard Greens
Image: Shutterstock

Along with 8853 IU of vitamin A per 200-calorie serving, fresh and raw mustard greens contain 1587 mg of tyrosine.

These bright greens have very low cholesterol and high levels of vitamin K, vitamin C, and folate.

These leaves are also abundant in minerals like manganese, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and copper.

9. Pork

Image: Shutterstock

One of the most delicious meats you can ever eat is pork. Whether it’s the loin, ribs, ham, bacon, or leg, pork meat has about 1450-1500 mg of tyrosine.

Pork also has omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, cobalamin, and choline. It also contains minerals like phosphorus, potassium, sodium, selenium, and magnesium.

After all, bacon is life!

10. Chicken

Image: Shutterstock

This versatile and nutritious poultry ingredient not only contains choline, vitamin A, niacin in fair amounts but also has 1300-1500 mg of tyrosine.

Broiler chicken is also abundant in minerals like phosphorus, calcium, sodium, selenium, and potassium, along with other amino acids like glutamic acid, aspartic acid, lysine, leucine, and arginine.

That could be a lot of tyrosine-rich food on one’s plate! It is clear that tyrosine is abundantly found in most of our staple foods. You don’t have to go to the imported foods section in the supermarket and spend a lot of money.

Despite the fact that we consume so much tyrosine in our diet, some people end up having tyrosine deficiency. The reasons could be genetic, epigenetic, or environmental. But the question remains – how do you detect tyrosine deficiency?

Even worse, how can we detect accumulation of tyrosine or tyrosine overdose?

Keep reading for the answers.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Tyrosine Deficiency?

What happens when you have little or no tyrosine in your body?

A disorder called tyrosinemia can arise. This is a genetic disorder that leads to the breakdown of the cellular machinery that makes tyrosine.

You can observe these symptoms in the first few months in infants and young children:

  • Low growth rate
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Yellowing skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Kidney and liver failure
  • Rickets
  • Liver cancer
  • Mental retardation
  • Photophobia
  • Thick and aching soles and palms
  • Loss of control and coordination

If the cause is genetic, the infants cannot survive. If it is not genetic but severe, intensive care in the early childhood, protein-less diets, and liver transplantation can provide solace to affected children (10).

You might be wondering about the fate of broken down tyrosine derivatives. What happens when you consume too much tyrosine? Here’s what you need to know.

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What Are The Potential Side Effects (If Any) Of Taking Tyrosine?

When you have too much tyrosine, its derivatives get accumulated in your body and cause a ruckus. Same is the fate of intact tyrosine molecules when you have an overdose.

The side effects include:

  • Nitrogen imbalance in the body
  • Stunted growth in children
  • Kidney troubles
  • Liver failure
  • Hypersensitivity towards high-protein diet

Generally, we consume enough tyrosine from our diet. Only if you have one or more of the following conditions will you face the side effects.

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Who Should Not Take Tyrosine Foods Or Supplements

People with or who are:

  • Phenylketonuria
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women (without medical consent)
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • On monoamine oxidase inhibitors medication

These individuals should avoid taking tyrosine supplement and see their doctor or qualified health professional regarding their intake of tyrosine-rich foods.

Final Thoughts…

Most things taken in moderate quantity work the best, and the same holds true for tyrosine.

Just because it is an amino acid that plays multiple roles in your body, it does not mean that you pop random pills in the name of supplements without seeking medical advice or supervision.

Additionally, unless you are suffering from liver damage or in case of premature children, you don’t need to pop tyrosine supplements to get what your body needs to function properly and be healthy.

Moreover, our body makes enough tyrosine, and we also consume more than enough tyrosine in our diet (11). If you are curious to know the level of tyrosine in your body, you can get your blood tested by a trustworthy diagnostic lab.

If you experience the symptoms listed in this article, consult a specialist and make small but steady changes in your diet and lifestyle.

Incorporate the veggies and meat of your choice into your diet to make a balanced meal and enjoy the goodness of tyrosine.

Let us know what you think about this article. Please write your feedback, suggestions, queries, and experiences in the comments section below.

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  1. Tyrosine” PubChem Open Chemistry database, US National Library of Medicine
  2. Reductions in tyrosine levels are associated…” Intensive Care Medicine Experimental, US National Library of Medicine
  3. The relationship between consumption of tyrosine…” Journal of Physiological Anthropology, US National Library of Medicine
  4. Catecholamine metabolism in the attention deficit…” Medical hypotheses, US National Library of Medicine
  5. Pharmacologic interventions in aging hair” Clinical Interventions in Aging, US National Library of Medicine
  6. Hair follicle pigmentation” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine
  7. A Review of common tanning methods” The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine
  8. A Review on Plants Used for Improvement…” Biomedical Research International, US National Library of Medicine
  9. Foods highest in Tyrosine” SELFNutritionData
  10. Tyrosinemia” Genetics Home Reference, US National Library of Medicine
  11. Protein and Amino acids” Recommended Dietary Allowances:10th Edition, NCBI Bookshelf, US National Library of Medicine

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Dr. Timothy M. Marshall is a Neuropharmacologist and Nutritional Biochemist with over 25 years of experience and a passion for natural approaches to healing and nutrient therapeutics. He is on the board of Healing Arizona Veterans and is the author of the landmark publications, "The Next Generation in Brain Recovery and Neuroregeneration" (2017), and "Lithium as a Nutrient" (2015) in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons
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