The Good Foods' Blog

Transform Your Mood in Minutes

Article provided by Alive Publishing Group. You can find more great articles anytime on alive Connect, or grab a copy of the latest printed issue of alive Magazine next time you’re in Good Foods Co-op. It’s free!

You can tap into the power of serotonin to transform your mood, motivation levels and overall well-being. Who couldn’t benefit from that these days?

Serotonin is a feel-good hormone, known as a neurotransmitter, that helps ensure we’re motivated, have balanced moods and feel good about life. Boosting low serotonin levels is one of the keys to health and happiness. Low serotonin levels are linked to anxiety, depression, insomnia and even violent behavior.

Look for mood-boosting foods

While serotonin isn’t found in foods, it is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan, so foods and supplements that contain tryptophan can help boost serotonin levels. Some of the best tryptophan-rich foods include eggs, nuts, pineapple, salmon, tofu and turkey.

According to some experts, plant-based foods are superior to animal-based sources of tryptophan. That’s because other amino acids in meat compete with tryptophan for absorption into the brain. The carbohydrates in plant-based foods, on the other hand, trigger insulin, which causes other amino acids to be used for fuel for our muscles, leaving tryptophan without competition for access to the brain.

Foods high in the amino acid L-theanine also increase levels of serotonin. It works quickly, reaching the brain within 30 to 45 minutes. L-theanine-containing teas include white, green, oolong, and black teas.

Reconsider low-carb living

Complex carbohydrates are needed to ensure the absorption of critical nutrients such as tryptophan into the brain, where brain cells, known as neurons, can convert the amino acid into serotonin. Complex carbs also supply energy to ensure the proper functioning of our bodily processes, including serotonin production. Get sufficient complex carbs in your daily diet in the form of whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Get a good gut feeling

Preliminary research shows that the gut can play a role in boosting serotonin levels. In one study of people with major depression, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs were augmented with supplements of the probiotic strain known as Lactobacillus plantarum, with impressive results.

Let there be bright light

Exposure to bright light has been shown to increase serotonin levels, yet modern life keeps most people indoors for long periods of time. Even on a cloudy day, it’s important to spend time outside to help reset serotonin levels. You can also purchase full-spectrum lights or light therapy lamps to use indoors at your desk, in your living room, or other places where you normally spend time. They should be at least 10,000 lux to help boost serotonin levels.

Get plenty of exercise

Exercise not only keeps us fitter, but also helps boost serotonin levels. Several studies demonstrate that exercise increases the release and synthesis of serotonin by the brain, and that tryptophan, the precursor for serotonin, also stays higher in the brain after exercise.

When it comes to serotonin, it’s all about finding a healthy balance for your body and supporting your body’s production with brain foods, healthy lifestyle choices, and natural supplements.