Ever noticed when you eat well you feel fantastic, and when you eat poorly you feel like crap? I have recently read an article about a restaurant providing a serotonin rich menu. The aim of the serotonin diet was to lift your mood and help you feel great.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter where 80-90% is found in the gastrointestinal tract. The rest can be found in the brain, central nervous system and platelets.
Tryptophan is an amino acid present in foods and supplements. When ingested, it turns into serotonin which helps to lift your mood, relax you and allow you to better deal with stress.
Studies have found that tryptophan ‘is an effective antidepressant in mild-to-moderate depression. Further, in healthy people with high trait irritability, it increases agreeableness, decreases quarrelsomeness and improves mood’. The same study busted the common misconception that bananas lift mood with their high serotonin content. Unfortunately, the serotonin present in bananas does not cross the blood/brain barrier.
So what foods do you eat for happiness? Whole foods. Twinkies just won’t cut it unfortunately. Unprocessed, nutritious food does your body and mind good.
Oily fish. Foods higher in omega-3. Studies have found ‘populations that eat the most fish have the lowest rates of depression, bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder (the winter blues). It is really quite easy to supplement omega-3 if you think you may not get enough through diet.
Tomatoes. Lycopene found in tomatoes acts as a great protector from various cancers such as breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. It has also been studied that people with a high dietary intake of lycopene have a longer lifespan by up to 11 years more than those with a lower intake. Tomatoes are also high in folate and magnesium which are both used to help fight depression.
Another food high in Lycopene is watermelon! Just another reason why I love fruit! To make the lycopene most available, eat a room temperature.
Saffron has also been studied to find positive results when used to treat depression. Saffron is also great for PMS related symptoms.
We all know green tea is good for us but why An amino acid in these teas works with caffeine to improve your attention and alertness. To become more focused and clear your head, drink 5-6 cups of caffeinated black, green or oolong tea a day.
Oranges are good for you! Oranges are high in vitamin B6 and folic acid; vitamins that have been shown to be lacking in patients with depression.
Carbohydrates. Healthy carbohydrates can be a helpful aide in producing serotonin. Simple carbs are known to boost mood instantly, and causing a ‘crash’ effect shortly after (making you feel worse). Complex carbs take a longer time to digest and a longer time to boost mood. Try sweet potato and whole grains instead of white bread and potatoes.