Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that is involved in many vital body functions and is very important in the regulation of mood and sleep. Serotonin has come under a lot of attention recently because research has shown that low levels of this neurotransmitter can lead to increased incidences of aggressive behavior and increased symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Depressed serotonin levels is the likely reason why the vast majority of people cannot stay on a very low carbohydrate diet for the long term without feeling an unavoidable need to binge.
Here are some foods that increase serotonin levels.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is present, in different amounts, in all protein foods. This amino acid is the building block for the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Eating a diet containing adequate amounts of dietary protein is crucial to maintaining a positive mental outlook because without enough tryptophan your brain serotonin levels will fall.
When you eat a protein source containing tryptophan, along with a small amount of carbohydrate, all of the amino acids except for tryptophan are cleared from the bloodstream leaving tryptophan free to cross the blood brain barrier and form serotonin.
Flaxseeds/ Flax oil:
As well as being great for fat loss, flaxseeds are great foods that raise serotonin levels because they contain both tryptophan and high levels of omega 3 fatty acids. 60 percent of the brain is made of structural fats, and omega 3 fatty acids make up a large proportion of brain nerve cells.
Bearing this in mind, it’s not that surprising that omega 3 fatty acids have been used to treat depression, post partum depression, violent behavior and other psychological problems.
Despite there being no absolute requirement for the polyunsaturated fat alpha linolenic acid, many people find that taking 1 to 4 tablespoons of flaxseeds or 1 or 2 tablespoons of flax seed oil a day dramatically improves their mood.
This natural starch food is particularly rich in many b vitamins and contains much more tryptophan than most starchy carbs. The B vitamins have been recommended for a while now as a means of improving energy levels and mood and of banishing depression.
Oats are also a great way to start of the day with a serotonin boost.
Recent research has shown that certain b vitamins, particularly vitamin b6, are involved in proper serotonin synthesis in the brain.
Most people need to include at least some starchy carb foods that increase serotonin in their diets to feel their best. Natural starch foods create a small insulin spike when ingested that is necessary for the clearance of other amino acids from the bloodstream, leaving tryptophan able to cross the blood-brain barrier where it is converted into serotonin.
Remember these starch foods stimulate the production of serotonin but you need tryptophan from protein foods as fuel for the creation of serotonin. Use starchy carbs wisely, if you eat too many carbs at once you will unbalance your blood sugar levels and cause serotonin levels to drop. Consider eating slightly more of your carbs later in the day, along with other foods that increase serotonin, to facilitate a deeper, more restful sleep.
Bananas are actually surprisingly high in tryptophan while also containing carbohydrates, making them one of my favorite foods that increase serotonin levels.
High Quality Eggs
Whole egg protein contains the essential fatty acid DHA and naturally occurring, healthy cholesterol, which both help to boost peoples’ moods.
High quality eggs rank highly among foods that increase serotonin levels because they’re a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, including the essential long chain fats E.P.A. and D.H.A. We’ve already seen that these fats can help to improve your mood and that some research shows that this is because they increase serotonin levels in the brain.
As well as this, eggs are a great source of natural cholesterol. A diet that includes cholesterol rich foods raises testosterone levels which improves mood and also raises serotonin levels! Healthy testosterone levels also support improved muscle gain and fat loss.
Despite the bad things you may have heard about cholesterol, numerous studies have shown that depressed people have lower levels of blood cholesterol.
Garcinia Cambogia is perhaps one of the best sources of serotonin on the planet. In powder form it goes great into a smoothie.
Tart/ Sour Cherries
When darkness hits our eyes at night, we begin to produce the hormone melatonin. This hormone is crucial as it tells your adrenal glands to produce DHEA, one of the master hormones of the body. Melatonin is crucial to sleeping well at night – a lack of melatonin is why you can’t sleep deeply when your bedroom light is on. Melatonin supplements are sold as sleep aids to insomniacs and are very safe.
Everyone knows that a rough night’s sleep ruins your mood the next day – part of the reason for this is that feel good neurotransmitters like serotonin are replenished during restful sleep, and if you miss out your brain serotonin levels will be depressed the next day. You should do everything possible to get a good night’s sleep if you want to get your serotonin levels, and your mood, up.
Sour cherries actually contain melatonin! Mark Konlee, author of The Immune Restoration Handbook, writes, ‘Drinking a glass of sour cherry juice, or eating about 20 red tart cherries before retiring at night, may assist in inducing a deeper state of sleep and supporting adrenal glandular function’.
Raw Cacao (no sugar or processing)
Raw Cacao is rich in agents that enhance the production of various feel-good chemicals in the brain, notably serotonin and dopamine.
“The beverage of the gods was Ambrosia; that of man is chocolate. Both increase the length of life in a prodigious manner.” - in Phantastica, Lewis Lewin
Cacao, that mysterious and exotic rainforest food from the ancient Maya, provokes a luxurious, content mood, a serene sense of sumptuous delight. Cacao is a Trojan horse, carrying into the body many hundreds of natural compounds, some ordinary and some exotic, which work busily to modify mood in subtle yet undeniable ways. For a growing body of scientific investigation has revealed to some modest extent how and why cocoa promotes reverie and makes us feel so good.
Nuts and Seeds
Walnuts are especially beneficial for serotonin production. Flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, pecans, almonds and cashews can increase serotonin in the body.
A few more foods that increase serotonin levels:
Kiwi, pineapple, plums, grapefruit, mango, honeydew and cantaloupe have a high serum concentration, which makes them very useful in serotonin production. Tomatoes, asparagus, eggplant, an avocado are also rich in nutrients necessary for serotonin to develop and reach optimal levels in the brain.
Corn, broccoli, cauliflower and green leafy vegetables such as spinach are serotonin-rich, as are baked potatoes with skin, mustard greens and mushrooms.
Sea vegetables include kelp, seaweed and spirulina -- a blue-green algae -- contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is necessary for creating serotonin in the brain.
Legumes and Beans
Lentils, mung beans, chickpeas, peas, cooked beans -- kidney, black, lima, navy and pinto -- are good sources of serotonin, as are foods such as hummus and lentil soup, which are made with these products.
A great hot drink that will raise your serotonin levels is nettle tea – this refreshing hot drink is full of minerals, vitamin c, flavanoids and malic acid and is reported to improve the complexion.
A cup of nettle tea noticeably lifts the spirits and can be helpful if trying to reduce caffeine consumption. Nettle has also been shown to be a powerful anti-estrogen – anti-estrogens are important to athletes because they keep testosterone up allowing you to build more muscle and burn more fat.
There are other factors than simply eating foods that increase serotonin involved in getting your mood up – exercising, getting natural sunlight each day, getting enough vitamin d, laughing, getting enough sleep etc. are all very important to raising your mood. Including these foods that increase serotonin levels in your diet will certainly help though!