Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Foods that Boost Serotonin

by Sarah Harding, Contriubtor to Holistic Nutrition on

Serotonin plays an important role in regulating happiness, problem-solving and concentration. When the level of serotonin fluctuates, it can directly change an individual’s mood, sleep patterns, appetite, memory, ability to learn and comprehend, body temperature, heart performance and muscular functioning. A deficiency in serotonin is sometimes regulated with medication but consuming specific food items can boost the level of this chemical in the brain.

Fruits that Increase Serotonin
Various fruits boost serotonin and other mood-improving chemicals in the brain. Plums, pineapple, bananas and sour cherries can directly influence serotonin production. Bananas contain high levels of a chemical called tryptophan. This chemical is converted to serotonin in the brain. Melatonin, a chemical known for improving sleep, is found in sour cherries.

Serotonin Boost from Protein Sources
Turkey is another food known to contain high levels of tryptophan. Many people report feeling drowsy after eating turkey. The sleepiness following a large meal with turkey, such as the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, is somewhat due to tryptophan and serotonin but it is also due to eating a larger quantity of food. Other foods that can boost serotonin in the protein family include eggs, beef, wild fish and most animals that are free of growth-promoting hormones.

Carbohydrate-based Foods that Increase Serotonin
Carbohydrates can make a person feel full. Any grain or sugar-containing item is usually considered to be a carbohydrate source. When an individual feels the full sensation in the stomach, it can be rewarding in different ways. The person may feel satisfied because basic nourishment has been fulfilled, but the brain may also produce more serotonin as a result of the sugar and make up of the carbohydrate-based food. Examples of carbohydrate foods include pasta, bread and white potatoes. Dairy products consist of sugars that boost serotonin production. Examples include milk, Swiss cheese and cheddar cheese. The cheeses can increase other mood-boosting chemicals in the body having the same effect as an increase in serotonin.

Sweet Treats Boost Mood
Eating a favored sweet treat, like dark chocolate, can increase mood not just because it is so well-liked but also because it increases serotonin levels in the brain. Some sugary snacks can lead to a dip in energy, causing the individual to feel sleepy instead of energized or happier. For the purpose of increasing serotonin, foods lower in sugar will have a more lasting effect.

Things to Consider
Every individual will respond differently to various foods. The exact quantity of each food needed in order to increase serotonin has yet to be determined. Eating foods known to boost serotonin is not a recommended method of treatment for depression or other mood disorders associated with serotonin deficiencies. Instead, mood-boosting foods can be eaten during illness or other short-term events that cause a negative mood, fatigue, trouble concentrating and sleep problems.

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