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What are the Connections Between Food and Serotonin?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2016
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Seratonin is a naturally occurring chemical known as a monoamine neurotransmitter that helps to carry messages from one nerve to another in the human body. An imbalance of this chemical can cause problems such as depression, food cravings, and obesity. Research suggests that there may be very real connections between food and serotonin levels in the body. An amino acid known as tryptophan is used by the body to make seratonin, so proper consumption of foods containing this amino acid can help to raise seratonin levels, possibly improving symptoms such as depression and lessening the chances of obesity.

Tryptophan is the key connector when it comes to food and serotonin. Consuming certain whole foods that contain tryptophan, such as cottage cheese or turkey, is not the best way to try to raise seratonin levels. This is because these foods contain other natural chemicals that compete with the tryptophan, making any elevation of seratonin levels very short-lived.

Meals that contain both tryptophan and carbohydrates are better choices when considering the connection between food and serotonin levels. Carbohydrates release a hormone known as insulin that naturally clears the body of any competing amino acids. For this reason, certain foods are more desirable when trying to make the natural connection between food and serotonin.

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Developing a diet that utilizes food and serotonin may seem difficult at first, but it is relatively easy with a little practice. For instance, foods such as turkey, chicken, and cottage cheese are high in tryptophan, the amino acid responsible for the production of seratonin within the body. These foods can be combined with healthy carbohydrates in order to help the body utilize the seratonin in the most productive way. Some good foods to incorporate into the diet are whole grains, almonds, or pumpkin seeds.

Anyone who desires to incorporate food and serotonin into a healthier way of life may benefit from consulting a dietitian or a nutritionist. These food specialists can often help create a dietary plan that will work best for the individual. Consulting one of these specialists can help to relieve some of the pressure of trying to learn a new way of eating for optimal health. Many doctors are also willing to help with any questions or concerns, especially if the patient is already taking prescription medications aimed at raising seratonin levels.

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bluedolphin
Post 3

I don't see why we have to eat carbohydrates to increase serotonin levels. As far as I know, insulin is released regardless of what we eat. Everything we eat turns into glucose in the blood stream which triggers an insulin release. It's true that carbohydrates will cause glucose to enter the blood faster but I think that just eating turkey or cottage cheese will increase serotonin too.

candyquilt
Post 2

I've suffered from anxiety practically all my life. After going the routine way of prescription medications, I realized like many others that there are also life changes I can make to help myself. One thing I did first was to incorporate a minimum half hour walk to my everyday routine. The second thing has been to learn about foods that produce serotonin and eat more of them.

From what I've learned, meats, seafood, legumes and dairy have the most l-tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin. So I eat more of these than before. Also, it's a good idea to try different things. Yes, red meat and turkey have l-tryptophan but duck, deer and crab have even more. I've been trying to eat more game meat and more seafood for this reason. And I think it's working because I have been feeling better and better lately.

fify
Post 1

For years, I've wondered why I crave carbohydrate rich comfort foods when I'm sad or upset. I knew that this happens to a lot of people, but it didn't really make sense. This article has finally cleared it up for me. Carbohydrates help boost serotonin which fights depression and improves mood. That's why we go for pizza or cookies when we're not feeling great. I've always thought of carbohydrates as bad things but I guess they're not so bad after all. They do have benefits.

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