Emily Barker

Health & Nutrition Coach

Boost Your Mood with Food

Posted on December 29, 2011

eggs_4.jpgThe Food and Mood Connection - Foods to Boost Serotonin Levels

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for our emotional state or mood. Serotonin levels also affect appetite, sleep, and sexuality. Depressed serotonin levels are caused by stress, lack of exposure to the sun, and deficiencies in niacin, vitamins and minerals and calcium.

Your body’s level of serotonin is highly influenced by your diet. The key to raising serotonin levels includes increasing tryptophan and folic acid intake to make the most of your food's value. Here are some foods which will naturally raise the levels of the feel-good hormone in your brain.

1) Turkey

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and 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. Turkey is one of your best protein foods that increase serotonin levels.

2) Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds raise serotonin levels because they contain both tryptophan and high levels of omega 3 fatty acids. The brain is made up of 60% structural fat and omega 3 fatty acids make up a large proportion of brain nerve cells. Research shows that omega 3 fatty acids can treat depression, violent behavior and other psychological problems.

3) Buckwheat

This whole grain is particularly rich in many B vitamins and contains much more tryptophan than most starchy carbs. B vitamins are important for boosting energy levels,  mood and banishing depression.

It is very important to maintain stable blood sugar levels if you want to remain emotionally even and to sleep well. Out of all foods that increase serotonin, buckwheat is an excellent carb choice because it effectively lowers blood glucose and insulin levels.

4) Fish and Seafood (Wild Caught)

Fatty fish like wild salmon, sardines and herring are rich in oils containing the essential fats EPA and DHA. Both of these long chain fats have been shown in trials both to smooth the mood swings of bipolar disorder and to ease regular depression.

If you eat fatty fish a few times a week you will be getting fish oil that provides ample EPA and DHA to raise your mood and these fish are rich in tryptophan which we know is the amino acid needed to build serotonin.


5) Bananas

Bananas are one of the highest foods in tryptophan. As they are also high in natural sugar, it is best to consume them with some protein and fiber to slow down the release of blood sugar into your body.


6) Pastured or Omega 3 Eggs

High quality eggs rank highly among foods that increase serotonin levels because they're a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA. These fats can help to improve your mood because they increase serotonin levels in the brain. They are also an excellent source of cholesterol which your body uses to make hormones.

7) Folic Acid Rich Foods

Folic acid, like tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin and can cross the blood brain barrier. Eating foods with more folic acid increases serotonin levels in the brain. The best sources of folic acid or folate are chicken liver, lentils, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, oranges, melons, strawberries, leafy greens, broccoli, spinach, and asparagus.

In order to maintain a level mood it is important to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and fiber-rich whole grains which will keep your blood sugar levels even throughout the day. High glycemic foods that boost serotonin like breads, pasta, and potatoes cause spikes and drops in insulin and blood sugar levels. For some, the result is almost like a roller coaster of ups and downs in energy and mood.

Other ways to naturally boost your serotonin levels are to include 15-30 minutes of exercise per day and to spend a few minutes each day in the natural sunlight.

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