Have you ever heard of the word tryptophan? No, it’s not an animal or plant, but it is a word you should know. It’s directly connected to your health and can increase your happiness by helping the brain produce healthy levels of serotonin. By eating 12 foods that boost serotonin, you’ll go from having a blah day to a wonderful day, even in this pandemic.
What Is Serotonin?
To an extent, you are what you eat. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in our bodily functions by sending signals between nerve cells. It stabilizes your mood, calms the mind, and promotes smooth digestion.
Tryptophan hydroxylase, an amino acid, helps the brain to produce serotonin and maintain our happiness levels. If our tryptophan is low, it creates a serotonin deficiency – they are directly linked to one another. Without proper serotonin production, our psychological and physiological functioning can suffer, leading to stress, irritability, and anxiety. To live a happier and stress-free life, we need to follow a tryptophan-rich diet. Thankfully, several delicious foods provide mood-boosting benefits and maintain your serotonin production.
15 Signs of Low Serotonin
A lack of serotonin is associated with various mental health disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Psychological and physical signs and symptoms to watch out for include:
- Depressed mood
- Emotional sensitivity
- Cognitive impairment
- Low self-esteem
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Suicidal thoughts
- Digestive problems
6 Causes of Low Serotonin
Scientists and researchers can’t pinpoint an exact cause. But some potential causes include:
- Exposure to high levels of stress
- A lack of sunlight
- Certain drugs
- Hormone changes and imbalances
- Your metabolism and digestive tract can impair the absorption of nutrients required to build serotonin
- Poor diet. Your body needs a healthy balance of protein, vitamins, and minerals to build neurotransmitters necessary to produce serotonin
By prioritizing healthy habits such as exercising regularly, spending time outdoors, reducing stress levels, and eating foods that boost serotonin, you can lead a happier life.
12 Foods that Boost Serotonin
There’s a reason why chocolate is a popular pick-me-up for many; It increases serotonin naturally! For your next chocolate fix, use pure raw cacao powder. It is antioxidant-rich and obviously one of the yummiest foods that boost serotonin. Indulge and enjoy the feel-good vibes you deserve without the guilt.
Greens are always one of the top choices to enhance your health. But spinach, in particular, provides a great source of both iron and tryptophan. Add spinach to a pineapple smoothie, steam it as a side dish, or fill your salads with its vibrant color to make you smile ear to ear.
Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flaxseeds provide a vegan and environmentally-friendly alternative to fish oil. All three seeds are high in Omega 3 fatty acids and amino acids – a powerful combination for happy hormones. Sprinkle a superseed mix on a salad, enjoy a chia seed pudding, or add some to your oatmeal before a workout.
4. Green tea
Green tea delivers a powerhouse of benefits. It makes your skin glow, strengthens your heart, and boosts your mental health. L-theanine, an amino acid that increases neurotransmitter activity, is the special ingredient in green tea that manages anxiety, increases dopamine, decreases stress, and reduces depression.
5. Fermented food
You know the saying, “Your gut is your second brain?” Fermented goodies like kimchi, sauerkraut, or pickles support your microbiome and mood. They provide probiotics and prebiotics that support the gut/brain connection and provide micro and macronutrients. Start incorporating fermented foods in your meals to make your mind and gut happy.
Whether almonds, cashews, walnuts, or even Brazil nuts are your go-to’s, each nut contains a healthy source of feel-good nutrients. Omega 3 fatty acids, tryptophan, protein, and folate, to name a few, are linked to enhanced moods and lower rates of depression.
Polyphenols put the blue in blueberries and make this antioxidant-rich fruit a natural mood enhancer. Thanks to brain-boosting anthocyanin, a type of polyphenol, blueberries decrease stress, promote brain health, and produce serotonin. Grab a handful for a quick snack, or add them to your morning smoothie.
8. Tofu or soy products
Tofu, a fan-favorite, provides a trifecta of goodies; protein, serotonin, and calcium. You can transform this versatile food into any meat substitute. You only need an open mind and a willingness to get creative.
Similar to chia or flax seeds, salmon provides an abundant source of omega 3 fatty acids. When combined with vitamin D, omega 3 increases serotonin, leading to mood-boosting benefits. Healthy ways to prepare your salmon is to grill, poach or bake it.
Like salmon, anchovies are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are more sustainable, which is better for our environment, and they provide a source of vitamin D – double win. Add them to your pizza or as a snack and enjoy the mood and brain-boosting effects.
11. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin C, which produces dopamine and serotonin. And with the added mood-boosting benefit of vitamin B6, you can incorporate this yummy starch into your diet. But be careful. The glycemic index is high.
Healthy carbohydrates like oats before bedtime will boost your mood, soothe your state of mind, and prevent any next-day worries from disrupting your sleep. For a stronger effect, add almonds and pumpkin seeds. Both are high in protein and tryptophan.
Incorporate these delicious foods that boost serotonin into your diet and enjoy the benefits. After a few difficult years with the pandemic, you deserve a happier, more vibrant year. Your diet, exercise, and connecting to nature are a few ways to build your self-care and uplift your wellbeing. Prioritize what makes you feel good!
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