Foods that Naturally Increase Dopamine & Serotonin
Right along with positive thinking and taking negative thoughts captive, the right foods can help boost the feel-good chemicals in your brain that help you beat the blues, specifically those chemicals associated with depression.
When your brain is lacking the right foods, it may have a more difficult time producing dopamine and serotonin.
Certain nutrients, found in healthy foods, can actually change your brain chemistry, and improve your mental health. Complex carbohydrates, the B vitamins, and omega-3 fats contain important nutrients that can alleviate mild depressive symptoms, as well as helping you feel more alert.
When you eat the right foods, you can actually increase the levels of circulating neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, in your brain.
Foods rich in trytophan, such as lean proteins, dairy products, and whole grains, can help improve your mood because of their effect on your brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters. The nutrients found in whole grains and lean proteins help produce a class of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers within the brain) that influence behavior. One important neurotransmitter, called serotonin, helps regulate mood, sleep patterns and appetite. Tryptophan is the particular amino acid that converts to serotonin in the brain, and you can obtain tryptophan from other nutrient-rich carbohydrate choices like starchy, root vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, beets and carrots).
The Tyrosine Treatment
If dopamine levels drop, it can lead to depression, a loss of satisfaction, addictions, cravings, compulsions, low sex drive, and an inability to focus. Tyrosine is an important amino acid (a building block of protein) found in dairy products, meats, poultry and nuts. It boosts your brain’s ability to release dopamine and norepinephrine. These two neurotransmitters act on the brain to perk you up, with sharper thinking and by making you more alert.
In addition to meats and dairy products, other specific tyrosine-rich foods that help increase dopamine levels, such as almonds, avocados, bananas, lima beans, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
B-Vitamins for your Brain
Vitamin B6, found abundantly in leafy green vegetables, fish, poultry, and lean meats can help elevate your serotonin levels, which can improve your mood. If you don’t consume enough folate-rich foods, serotonin levels in your brain can drop. In fact, folate deficiency is a common nutrient deficiency in adults living in the United States. Often, those who have been diagnosed with clinical depression have low blood levels of the active form of folate. Leafy greens, like romaine lettuce, and starchy beans, such as chickpeas, kidney and black beans, are rich in folate, but unfortunately, it is easily destroyed by cooking. Enjoy your leafy greens raw as often as possible, and add some fresh edamame (soybeans) on top.
Omega-3s in your Brain
Cold-water fish, such as tuna, herring, salmon and mackerel, are quite rich in the polyunsaturated fatty acid known as omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish help fuel the production of serotonin. These particular foods are also high in the B vitamins, which can help your brain manufacture serotonin. A third reason to consume these healthy varieties of fish – they are rich in the trace mineral selenium. A low intake of selenium has been linked with depression. Other food sources of selenium include whole grains, nuts, seeds, and shellfish.
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