Serotonin levels are the amount of powerful neurotransmitters produced by the amino acid called tryptophan (trip-toe-fan). It bridges signals throughout the body’s 40 million brain cells, either directly or indirectly. Think of it as an electrical surge firing millions of times per second to transport wattage needed to light your bulb.
Serotonin (ser-oh-tone-in) is a major player in mood, appetite, sexual desire, temperature regulation, sleep and memory to name a few. Low levels have been linked to certain forms of depression and are somewhat remedied with prescribed synthetic versions. What many people do not realize is that there are foods that can enhance serotonin production.
If there is a ever a Thanksgiving quarrel, it rarely happens after the meal. As mentioned, tryptophan, found in high doses in turkey meat, produces seratonin which often calms guests into a holiday slumber. Chicken meat is a close second. Other foods like cottage cheese, soy, peanuts, almonds, eggs and wheat germ contain tryptophan, but poultry has the most.
2. Rice and Beans
A dose of this dish (brown rice is best across the board), and you will not only feel satiated, but you will probably be in a better mood. This is a double dose of easily digestible carbs and proteins that produce sustained energy and substantial serotonin levels, thanks mainly to the b vitamins it carries. B vitamins are an essential part of serotonin production, as well as many other bodily functions.
Calcium is another key player in serotonin production, therefore, green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, plus sesame seeds and tofu are excellent sources that will not tax the digestion system like dairy does.
4. Omega 3’s
Derived from seafood such as salmon, sardines, tuna and shrimp, omega 3’s are a real brain booster. For those that do not eat
seafood, omega 3’s are abundant in flaxseed as well. Consuming these sources should be adhered to at least three or more times per week. Supplements are available, but a natural food source is always a better choice.
Although it is a short term fix, especially if one is feeling blue, carbohydrates will often spike serotonin production. Consuming carbohydrates has always been a dietary staple for feeling good. Terms like ‘comfort food’ or ‘food for the soul’ are most likely a result of serotonin release. However, carbs can be tricky as there are many that are not the best choice including potato chips, french fries and white rice. Too many carbs are a sure way to gain weight, especially if you give up smoking. Nicotine raises serotonin levels and when smoking stops, most people reach for any carb available to avoid picking up another cigarette. Be mindful of your carb intake. Stick to nutritious carbs such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
It goes hand in hand with love, holidays and overall happiness. That is because chocolate has unique properties (especially dark chocolate) that is another fast serotonin booster, especially for women. It has been theorized that high levels of estrogen create more receptors in the brain which requires more serotonin. Women beware. Because of your estrogen production, it is easy to reach for chocolate without even realizing it.