How to increase your serotonin levels with strategic eating

Your mood can either make or break your day, which is why it’s important that your body produces sufficient amounts of the “happy molecule” serotonin.

Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough serotonin, causing them to develop mental health conditions like depression. According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people suffer from depression. This extremely high number is alarming and presents the need for natural methods that can be utilized to improve serotonin production.

Foods are commonly used as natural remedies for many health conditions, including depression. By following a strategic eating method, people can effectively increase their serotonin levels.

Raising serotonin levels through food can get a bit complicated, but once an effective strategy has been determined, it becomes so much easier. Unlike other nutrients that can be found in a wide variety of foods, serotonin has few natural sources. These include walnuts, hickory nuts, pineapple, bananas, kiwis, plums, and tomatoes.

However, increasing the intake of these foods doesn’t guarantee mood improvement since serotonin doesn’t always reach the brain. This is because of the presence of a blood-brain barrier that acts as a gatekeeper against foreign substances. To counter this, there are serotonin-rich foods you can eat that can effectively raise serotonin levels even with the blood-brain barrier:

  • Cold-water fatty fish — Low serotonin levels have been associated with insufficient docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) concentrations. This omega-3 fatty acid is important for maintaining brain structure. By eating cold-water fatty fish that are rich in DHA, serotonin levels will also increase.
  • Dark chocolate — Majority of serotonin is actually found in the gut and not the brain, but eating dark chocolate can increase serotonin in both organs. Cacao nibs are a healthier alternative to candy bars since they are less processed and contain less sugar.
  • Fermented foods — Both good and bad bacteria are present in the gut. It’s important to keep the population of harmful bacteria at a minimum since they produce lipopolysaccharides that lower serotonin levels. Eating fermented foods, like yogurt and kefir, will replenish the good bacteria in the gut so that they can boost the immune system and eliminate harmful substances.
  • Green tea — Drinking green tea supplements the body with more than 700 bioactive compounds. The amino acid L-theanine, which promotes serotonin, dopamine, and GABA production, is among these.
  • Turmeric — Turmeric contains a bioactive compound known as curcumin that effectively crosses the blood-brain barrier to increase both serotonin and dopamine levels.

Foods that are rich in tryptophan are also highly recommended since this amino acid serves as a precursor for serotonin. Some foods that are rich in tryptophan are eggs, seafood, cheese, meat, poultry, nuts, and soy. Unfortunately, the majority of these foods are also rich in proteins that can inhibit serotonin production so the tryptophan in food is not necessarily converted to serotonin.

Although carbs are generally painted as the bad guy, they are actually beneficial when it comes to boosting mood. To fully enjoy the benefits of carbohydrates on serotonin levels, health professionals recommend an eating strategy wherein carbohydrates are consumed in the absence of protein. This strategy prevents proteins from interfering with the synthesis of the happy molecule.  People who have tried strategic eating claim that it doesn’t just improve mood, it also helped them get rid of excess weight and cravings. The following is an example of a meal plan that follows strategic carbohydrate eating:

  • Breakfast — Toast with fruit spread
  • Lunch — Green salad or grilled vegetables
  • Snacks — Fresh or dried fruits
  • Dinner — Pasta

To maintain healthy serotonin levels, it’s also important to avoid beverages with aspartame since this artificial sweetener interferes with the absorption and conversion of tryptophan. People should also avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee, energy drinks, and sodas since these can desensitize the brain to serotonin.

Food is an effective way of increasing serotonin levels but the wrong foods can also be bad for a person’s mental health. With the proper knowledge of appropriate dietary habits, people can experience improved mood without the need for harmful medications.

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