What is Serotonin?
Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that acts as a mood stabilizer. It is known for its mind boosting properties and producing healthy sleeping patterns.
Serotonin levels in the body can affect mood and behavior and are linked with feeling good and living longer.(1)
Serotonin is synthesized from tryptophan. Therefore, eating food rich in tryptophan can increase the serotonin levels. Low levels of tryptophan are seen in those with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Why is Serotonin Important?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates different bodily functions.
Low levels of serotonin can lead to digestive and gut bacterial problems. Some foods irritate the intestinal lining. Serotonin plays its part by pushing the food faster and reducing the time and amount of irritation.
Serotonin also works with efficient blood clotting. Serotonin is released by the platelet cells that results in vasoconstriction. This is how it plays a role in blood clotting.
Serotonin also affects bone density. A high bone density leads to osteoporosis, a condition that causes the bones to become porous and weak, thereby, increasing the chances of fracture.
Unbalanced serotonin levels can affect sexual functions. It can increase the sexual desire in some and decrease it in others.
Foods That Can Boost Serotonin Level
Serotonin is derived from tryptophan that is commonly found in foods that contain protein. Meat is an excellent source of protein but there are vegan and vegetarian sources as well.
Salmon is an oily fish that contain omega-3 fats. These fats are essential for strong bones, healthy skin, improving eye function, balancing cholesterol, and controlling blood pressure.
Salmon is also a good source of vitamin D, essential for strong bones and joints.
2 portion of this oily fish in a week can help provide enough tryptophan.
The protein present in eggs can boost the blood plasma level of tryptophan.(2) It is important to include yolk as they are extremely rich in tryptophan.
Yolks are also rich in tyrosine, biotin, omega-3 fatty acids, choline, and other nutrients that contribute to numerous health benefits.
Cheese is another good source of tryptophan. It is yummy and favorite of many.
Cheese can be combined in various dishes. It enhances the flavor as well as the nutrient power of the food.
Make sure that you choose milk and cheese low in fat to receive the benefits without gaining weight.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and fibers.
A handful of nuts lower the risk of mortality for cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems(3)
Snacking on a few nuts in between meals makes a person feel fuller for longer.
Seeds do not contain much tryptophan when compared to oily fish, poultry, or eggs but can be a good source of tryptophan and protein for vegans and vegetarians.
Seeds can be added to food in the following ways:
- Sprinkling onto the salad
- Mixing them with nuts for a snack
- Eating seeded bread
- Adding seeds to cereals, porridge, or yogurt
Pineapples are known to contain serotonin.
Along with serving with the mind boosting properties of serotonin, pineapple also contains bromelain that is a fantastic protein with anti-inflammatory properties.
Soy products are rich in tryptophan. This protein-rich food can be added to any recipe and is an excellent source of tryptophan for vegans and vegetarians,
Tofu is also a calcium-rich food and provides a calcium boost.
Milk is an excellent source of calcium and protein and is good for building bones and muscles.
Low-fat milk options are more healthful than full-fat milk especially for those watching their intake of saturated fats.
Other Ways To Boost Serotonin
Other than food and supplements, ways to boost serotonin levels are:
- Exercise: Regular exercise can boost serotonin levels and can be helpful in people with depression.(4)
- Sunshine: Light therapy is often recommended for seasonal depression. It can help boost the serotonin levels thus helping in getting a good night’s sleep and boosting mood.(5)
- Gut bacteria: High fiber diets, fuel gut bacteria that play a role in boosting the serotonin level.(6)