Serotonin is one of the many hormones in the body that directly influences your mood. It influences how easily you fall asleep, how you handle stress, and how positive of an outlook you have on life.
Serotonin-deficiency is one of the leading causes of depression today, but prescription drugs can cause a number of issues that put the body out of balance. and how calm and peaceful we feel throughout the day. Serotonin is directly produced by
Thankfully, it’s very easy to help your body produce serotonin on its own naturally; you just need to know a few tips on how to do so and a list of foods to help you get there.
The Science Behind the Production of Serotonin: Unlocking the Key to Happiness With Tryptophan
Serotonin is directly produced by the influence of the neurotransmitter tryptophan, an amino acid found in many foods—not just turkey like you might have heard of. Tryptophan signals the release of serotonin in the body, allowing it to cross the blood-brain barrier where it is then distributed throughout our nervous system. As it does so, it boosts our mood quickly and we have access that serotonin more easily.
So if we want to boost serotonin levels in the body, we need to focus on helping our bodies take in more tryptophan and utilizing that tryptophan as much as possible.
Also worth mentioning when discussing how to boost your mood naturally is the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone that aids in energy levels, but it also counteracts the production of serotonin. So to improve your mood naturally, it’s especially important to focus on eating serotonin-boosting foods high in tryptophan that also help reduce cortisol in the body.
Consider eating these 10 serotonin-boosting foods to help improve your mood naturally; they are digested slowly by the body unlike junk foods and snacks we so often crave when we have a bad mood. They’re also high in many other nutritional benefits you can take advantage of, and don’t worry, these serotonin-boosting foods happen to taste great too!
1. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes aren’t referred to as a superfood these days without good reason. Aside from the fact they’re delicious, they’re also a fantastic source of complex carbs and are low on the glycemic index. This makes them friendlier to your blood sugar levels than regular potatoes, and these tubers can even help quell a sweet tooth to help you crave less sugar. Sweet potatoes are also high in magnesium, potassium, Vitamin B6, and especially high in the amino acid tryptophan.
All of these nutritional benefits found in sweet potatoes make them an excellent serotonin-boosting food to add to your current diet if you’re not already eating them. Since they are a complex carb, they will also help the body produce (and release) serotonin into the bloodstream slowly to boost mood for longer periods of time than refined carbs like bread and sugar will.
Try these mouthwatering sweet potato recipes if you need some new ideas for ways to cook them!
Oats are also high in tryptophan and a good source of protein for a whole grain. Oats are also high in iron, magnesium, potassium and contain more amino acids per gram than any other grain, even quinoa. They’re also one of the best for your blood sugar levels as well as a fantastic source of fiber.
To get the best mood-boosting effect from your oats, choose rolled, steel cut, or plain quick cook oats instead of instant oats flavored with sugary sweeteners. Feel free to eat oats for breakfast, add them to a smoothie for more fiber and protein, or use them in place of breadcrumbs. You can also bake with oats in place of flour and use them to thicken up any recipe where you would normally use white flour.
If you make regular oatmeal, try topping your oats with berries and some cinnamon for even more energizing carbs, amino acids, and for better blood sugar function. No matter how you enjoy this healthy whole grain, it’s one of the best serotonin-boosting foods you can eat!
Speaking of berries, they’re also a fantastic food for your mood because they contain amino acids, many different antioxidants, and they are also rich in fiber which will stabilize your blood sugar levels. This makes berries a great food for your mood, blood sugar levels, and even your weight.
There is also research that shows the unique class of antioxidants found in berries help boost your mood naturally, even without other factors considered. So whether you enjoy them frozen or fresh, add more berries into your routine whenever you can. They taste especially great in oatmeal, a smoothie, on top of salads, over yogurt, and even just eaten plain as a snack.
Maca is a root from Peru that’s a member of the cruciferous family of plants (such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts). Maca helps balance your adrenal glands and hormones to boost your mood naturally. It’s also rich in amino acids, (especially trytophan), and is one of the best foods to improve hormone function you can eat.
Maca is sold in the United States as a golden, yellow powder and has caramel, malt-like flavor. You can purchase raw or gelatanized (heated) maca, but keep in mind that raw maca can be hard to digest for some people, so stick with the gelatanized version if you suffer from gastrointestinal issues of any kind. You can also buy maca extracts for a more potent option.
Maca is especially great to keep on hand if you suffer from high levels of stress that can lead to too much cortisol production in the body. Maca is an adaptogenic food meaning it can help calm you down during times of high stress without making you sleepy or tired like prescription drugs. This root is especially helpful for women and men who suffer hormonal imbalances that want a natural option, and it has even been shown to boost libido and improve the estrogen/testosterone ratio in the body of both men and women.
Add a tablespoon or two to your morning smoothie or oatmeal; just be careful not to eat it at night since it can boost energy levels naturally. Maca pairs well with cocoa, cacao, spinach, acai, and other berries in smoothies, so feel free to test out this serotonin-boosting superfood for yourself!
5. Spinach (and/or Kale)
Greens are absolutely critical for good health, but they also help boost your mood naturally since they are rich in amino acids, including tryptophan. Spinach and kale are particularly great greens to include since they’re also high in magnesium, B vitamins (especially folate), and they’re a good source of iron which improves blood flow to the brain and muscles. Eat them raw or cooked, whichever you like, and try to include at least 2-3 servings a day from any variety of greens you enjoy.
Lastly, both of these leafy greens are high in Vitamin C. Vitamin C doesn’t influence serotonin production, but it has been shown to reduce stress levels and improve mood. Vitamin C also helps improve the body absorb iron, so spinach and kale make exceptional foods to add to your list of serotonin-boosting foods to eat each day.
Chia seeds are a nutritional bomb of perfection! Loaded with magnesium for a healthy metabolism and nervous system function, B vitamins that improve energy, amino acids for a healthy metabolism and iron for optimal energy, nothing compares to the nutrients per ounce of chia seeds.
All of the nutrients found in chia helps make them helpful for boosting serotonin levels naturally, so add a little chia to your oatmeal, smoothie, salad, or make chia pudding as a dessert.
Just be mindful of how much chia that you consume per serving; these little seeds are rich in fiber and swell up to ten times their size when they interact with the water in your body. Start slow when it comes to your serving sizes and adjust as your body adapts to them.
Don’t leave out lentils if you want more energy, a better mood, and overall better health. These legumes are one of the best foods you can eat for your hormones, metabolism, sleep health, and your weight. They’re packed with iron, protein, B vitamins and fiber which create the perfect formula for a better mood. They help boost serotonin levels in the body since they’re high in complex carbs, protein, and minerals that boost serotonin naturally.
Red lentils tend to be easier to digest than brown or green because they’re smaller in size and split which makes them great for quick-cooking stews and soups. You can also use lentils in place of meat for veggie burgers or casseroles. Lentils are one of the few foods that don’t need to be soaked like most beans or legumes, so add a serving to your dinner tonight for better sleep, a better mood, and more energy in the morning!
Yogurt is high in all essential amino acids, including tryptophan. It’s one of the few dairy products that offers significant health benefits and can be incorporated into any breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Yogurt is also high in B vitamins, calcium, potassium, probiotics, and Vitamin D to support your mood even further.
Mix some plain, nonfat or 2% Greek yogurt into your next morning smoothie or oatmeal, or mix a little bit of yogurt with some berries and chia for a filling snack. If you’re intolerant of dairy, choose a plain soy yogurt with minimal to no added sugar as another option. Soy is also high in amino acids, (including tryptophan) to boost your mood naturally and help you meet your protein needs naturally.
Bananas are a fruit that can provide a quick serotonin boost because they’re easy to digest and they are high in tryptophan, Vitamin B6 and magnesium which all support serotonin production in the body. Bananas are also high in potassium, Vitamin C and even contain small amounts of protein per serving.
Bananas are best eaten ripe when they’re easiest to digest and less starchy, and their enzymes also increase as they ripen which will help your body absorb the nutrients in bananas easier. So don’t be afraid to eat them after they’ve speckled and turn brown; they’re not only sweeter this way, but they’re also better for you too!
Try eating peeled, ripe bananas when they’re frozen by adding them to a smoothie for natural sweetness or making dairy-free ice cream with them!
10. Winter Squash
Winter squash such as pumpkin, butternut, acorn, kabocha, and other types of starchy squash are powerful serotonin-boosting foods to add into your routine. Most all carbohydrates boost serotonin levels in the body, but it’s important to choose those that digest slowly and support your blood sugar levels whenever possible. Squash is a great option, and it’s also a good source of Vitamin C, beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A in the body to support your immune system and skin health, magnesium for your mood and energy levels, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and water.
Here’s a tip for you to make cooking squash easier: Roast a whole squash in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes and then let it cool for 10 minutes on the counter. Slice open with a knife, scoop out the seeds, and enjoy the squash flesh with a side of your favorite protein and other veggies for a mood-boosting and heart-healthy lunch or dinner!
Final Serotonin-Boosting Tips for a Good Mood
One key thing to keep in mind about serotonin is that you want to help your body use the nutrients found in these foods as quickly as possible, so avoid foods that can interfere with the utilization of tryptophan as much as possible. This includes especially processed foods, allergenic foods, high fat foods, having too much protein at one meal, and sugar.
For more mood-boosting tips, learn more ways about how you can eat to support your emotional health. Remember, every bite you take can be a step towards a healthier and happier you!
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