What are serotonin foods? It’s a question often asked by people trying to treat depression or overcome bad moods. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, sleep, and appetite. It’s known as the “happy hormone” because it plays an important role in feeling good.
But what other foods might help boost our serotonin levels? These are listed below, with some lifestyle tips to help support optimal serotonin levels for overall health and well-being.
Foods that Boost Serotonin Levels
The best way to boost serotonin levels is by eating foods rich in certain amino acids (protein-building blocks) that help produce serotonin naturally in your brain, such as tryptophan, an essential amino acid that plays a critical role in the production of serotonin.
When we consume foods rich in tryptophan, our body uses it to produce serotonin. Therefore, including foods high in tryptophan in our diet can help boost serotonin levels. Here are some of the top foods to boost your mood naturally and contain tryptophan:
|Item||Tryptophan (per 100 grams)|
|Pine Nuts||0.147 gram|
|Peanut Butter||0.229 gram|
|Oat Milk||0.009 gram|
*Data as per FoodData Cental
In addition to foods rich in tryptophan, carbohydrates can help boost serotonin levels.
Carbohydrates cause insulin release, which helps clear other amino acids from the bloodstream, allowing tryptophan to enter the brain more easily. This is why many people crave carbohydrates when feeling down or stressed.
Image Source: Frontiers in Nutrition
Some examples of carbohydrate-rich foods that can help boost serotonin levels are below.
|Grains||Bread, pasta, rice, cereal, crackers, tortillas|
|Fruits||Bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, berries|
|Vegetables||Potatoes, corn, peas, carrots, squash|
|Dairy Products||Milk, yogurt, cheese|
|Sweets||Candy, cookies, cakes, ice cream|
|Others||Beans, lentils, nuts, seeds|
Combining tryptophan-rich foods and carbohydrates into meals can help promote optimal serotonin production and support overall health and well-being.
Foods to Avoid for Optimal Serotonin Levels
There are a variety of foods that can help boost serotonin levels. However, certain foods can cause your serotonin levels to plummet.
To ensure you’re getting the right nutrients to support your body, it’s important to know which foods to avoid for optimal serotonin levels. Here are five foods you should avoid.
The absorption of tryptophan, an essential amino acid for serotonin production, can be impeded by alcohol. The levels of tyramine, another amino acid, may increase in the bloodstream due to alcohol consumption, leading to competition with tryptophan for absorption.
Alcohol interferes with the absorption of tryptophan and disrupts sleep patterns necessary for serotonin production. As a result, when alcohol disrupts sleep, it can further reduce serotonin levels.
The absorption of tryptophan may be hindered by caffeine, which can also affect serotonin levels by disrupting sleep. Caffeine obstructs the function of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that induces sleepiness, causing heightened alertness and energy.
However, this can make it challenging to fall and remain asleep. Insufficient sleep leads to decreased serotonin production, resulting in symptoms like irritability, depression, and anxiety.
Consuming sugary foods can result in mood swings and anxiety due to spikes in blood sugar levels. The body breaks down sugary foods into glucose, a type of sugar that serves as the body’s primary energy source.
But glucose can cause blood sugar levels to surge, prompting the body to release insulin, a hormone that helps the body either use glucose for energy or store it for later use. If you consume excessive amounts of sugar, your body may be unable to maintain insulin production, leading to a sudden drop in blood sugar levels.
Trans fats are unhealthy fats that can increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems. Trans fats can also interfere with the production of serotonin. Here’s how.
- Increasing the inflammation in the body
- Increasing bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and decreasing good cholesterol (HDL) levels.
It’s not mandatory to completely remove these foods from your diet, but consuming them in moderation is crucial. Prioritizing whole and nutrient-rich foods can aid in maintaining ideal serotonin levels and promote overall well-being.
Many such foods produce this reaction in the brain. The best source of serotonin is tryptophan.
Though most of us don’t get enough tryptophan, you can raise your serotonin levels to help reduce depression and anxiety by eating plenty of high-tryptophan foods, which include cheese, milk, eggs, and other dairy products, turkey and chicken breast without skin (all great choices for protein), as well as chickpeas.
While choosing your serotonin-boosting foods, it’s best to incorporate a little of everything. Some foods may contain high levels of this neurotransmitter, but they may not give you the maximum effect you want. And avoid eating large amounts of caffeine and sugar — these will only worsen your mood by reducing serotonin production.