Good Mood Foods

Foods that boost serotonin, a neurotransmitter, can ease depression, naturally

By: Melanie Peters   |   February 26, 2016

Moods can vary throughout a day – sometimes throughout an hour – and the triggers for these emotions vary from person to person, situation to situation. In reality, we are often experiencing several emotions at once. While it’s true that our mood may go up and down in a short period of time, there are many ways to naturally keep it on an even keel. One of these is by eating foods that help boost serotonin.

happy food

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps relay messages from one part of the brain to another and it is present not only in our brains, but in blood platelets and the digestive tract. Because of its ubiquity, serotonin affects a lot of body systems, including mood, appetite, sleep, even our behavior. Therefore, eating foods that promote serotonin production is a smart choice. So what foods contain serotonin? Here’s where it gets interesting.

Serotonin does not occur in the foods we eat, however it is synthesized from tryptophan, an amino acid. Tryptophan is mostly found in high protein foods, like meat, fish and poultry. But tryptophan alone isn’t enough to make serotonin: carbohydrates need to be consumed as well to allow tryptophan to pass the blood-brain barrier. Carbohydrates make glucose, which releases insulin; insulin provides amino acids to the heart and other organs; now that tryptophan isn’t competing with other amino acids, it can enter the brain where it’s converted into mood-stabilizing serotonin. 

Vitamin B, which the brain needs to produce neurotransmitters, is also considered a “mood booster” and can be found in the foods we eat everyday: proteins like poultry, meat and dairy; leafy greens; beans, even breads and cereals (although these are often fortified – meaning B has been added).

baked eggs

Photo courtesy of Country Living

Here are some recipes to help put you in a better mood:

Baked Eggs with Spinach and Tomato (recipe courtesy of Country living): Baked eggs are great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Egg yolks are one of the richest dietary sources of the B-complex vitamin choline and are a great source of protein. This recipe also features spinach, a nutritional powerhouse on its own, anti-oxidant rich tomatoes and you can easily adapt the spices to your taste.

Mandarin Stir-Fry Beef: This hearty recipe that can easily feed four is rich in protein, healthy skin and teeth promoting vitamin A, folic acid, calcium and vitamin K. The best part? Serve with brown rice instead of white and now you’ve got a healthy whole grain to help break down tryptophan into mood boosting serotonin.

Spanish Shrimp and Farfalle (recipe courtesy of Health.com): Full of mood boosting omega 3s, protein, carbohydrates and lots of spice – this dish will delight your taste buds as well as your serotonin receptors.