Foods that Boost Serotonin Levels, Naturally
Sometimes we may feel a bit down, moody or unmotivated for seemingly no reason. This may potentially be because of low serotonin levels in our brain.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is extremely important for regulating mood, sleep and appetite as well as having a role in learning and memory. Low serotonin levels are associated with feelings of depression, anxiety, and irregularities in sleep and appetite.
Some people choose medications to boost the availability of serotonin in the brain. For those looking for a more natural and safe approach, there are ways to increase your body’s production of serotonin by providing it with the right resources to make more.
How the body produces serotonin
Our bodies produce serotonin through a series of sequential steps. The amino acid, L-Tryptophan is the initial starting substance. L-Tryptophan is then converted to 5-hydroxy-Tryptophan (5-HTP), which is then converted to 5-Hydroxy-Tryptamine (Serotonin).
Both Vitamin B6 and Magnesium are used by the body to convert L-tryptophan to serotonin. B6 and Magnesium can either be sourced from food or taken as supplements.
How to get serotonin foods from our diets
Choosing foods rich in L-Tryptophan, Vitamin B6 and Magnesium are a great way to boost your body’s natural production of serotonin. Some people like to take plant-sourced supplements with 5-HTP in them (the intermediate between tryptophan and serotonin) to increase their serotonin levels.
Tryptophan is most abundant in protein rich foods, typically animal products (Eggs, Meat, Dairy). It can be found in a number of fruits, vegetables and nuts/seeds as well. Sometimes a vegetarian or vegan diet can be deficient in tryptophan. If eating animal products is not an option, supplementation with nutritional products works well.
Why carbs can boost serotonin
It is important to eat a carbohydrate (such as a piece of fruit, rice, potatoes or any natural sugary/starchy food) in conjunction with a tryptophan rich meal because this will increase the absorption of tryptophan, and thus increase serotonin levels.
Dietary Sources for Tryptophan:
Tryptophan is the initial raw material that our bodies use to produce serotonin. It’s an amino acid, which means that it is a building block for protein. Because of this, many protein rich foods are good sources of tryptophan.
Some of the best sources of tryptophan are listed below. As you can see, many of these tryptophan containing foods are appropriate for vegetarian and vegan diets.
- Animal Meat (Chicken, Turkey, Red meat)
- Dairy products
- Pumpkin, sunflower seeds, and almonds
Dietary Sources of Magnesium:
Magnesium is a mineral that is important for a variety of crucial brain functions, including serotonin production. Magnesium is also an important component of dopamine production. Some great dietary sources of magnesium are listed below.
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Nuts and Seeds
- Dark Chocolate
Dietary Sources of B6:
B6 is an essential vitamin that our bodies use to produce red blood cells and neurotransmitters like serotonin. It’s also an important part of fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. Below are a number of foods that contain B6.
- Sunflower Seeds/Pistachios
- Turkey, Chicken and Red Meat
- Prunes, Apricots and Raisins
Supplements that boost serotonin
The most common supplement that people take to boost their serotonin is 5-HTP. Because vitamin B6 and magnesium are also required for serotonin production, it’s recommended to take a supplement that contains all 3.
Most people who take serotonin supplements are looking to boost their mood. To get the best results, it’s wise to choose a supplement that contains other mood boosting substances like mucuna pruriens, ashwagandha and curcumin.
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