We all know that the food we eat plays a significant role in our mood. On the other hand, what we eat and how much we eat can also be influenced by our current mood. It is well recognized that many of us go for so-called “comfort foods” when we are stressed and need to improve mood. Chocolate, for example, profoundly affects mood by increasing positive feelings and relieving fatigue-like symptoms. This is due to the presence of psychoactive chemicals and amines in chocolate that greatly stimulates the brain and helps elevate mood. Another example is caffeine found in coffee and tea that precipitates anxiety in susceptible persons. Due to its stimulating effects, withdrawal can occur when caffeine intake is halted abruptly.
70% of your serotonin is made in your gut. What’s going in your gut is going to affect your mood- anxiety, depression, and focus.~ Dr. Frank Lipman
Serotonin is a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the human body. It is sometimes called the happy chemical, because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness. is one of the most important neurotransmitters in the body and is found throughout the nervous system. It plays a significant role in mood, sleep, and appetite regulation. The release of serotonin in the brain is modulated by food intake, among other things.
Low mood, depression, anxiety, and even autism are associated with altered serotonin levels. For all of its importance to mental wellbeing, you might expect that the brain is where we find most of the body’s serotonin, but it’s not. In fact, the gut contains the vast majority of the serotonin in our body.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is important for the production of serotonin in the body. It is also key to brain function and has a role in healthy sleep. People cannot make tryptophan in their bodies, so must obtain it from their diet. Fortunately, tryptophan can be found in food whereas serotonin cannot.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an essential way to support mental as well as physical health. Including sources of tryptophan in the diet can have positive benefits on energy levels, mood, and sleep.
Best way to get typtophan is to include these food items into your diet:
- Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, are a source of tryptophan. Spinach is also a good source of iron. Iron helps the body to make healthy red blood cells. A lack of iron in the diet can lead to anemia, low energy, or difficulty breathing.
- Seeds are a good source of tryptophan and protein for vegetarians and vegans. Some easy ways to eat more seeds include:
- sprinkling seeds onto a salad
- mixing nuts and seeds for a snack
- choosing seeded bread
- adding seeds to cereal, porridge, or yogurt
- Soy products: Products containing soy, such as tofu, soya milk, or soy sauce, are a source of tryptophan. These can be a good option for vegetarians and vegans.
- Nuts are a good source of protein, healthful fats, and fiber. Snacking on a few nuts between meals can help a person to feel fuller for longer.
There are many studies that show the way serotonin levels affect our over-all mental and physical well being. So, why not indulge in happy foods and happy moods by being mindful about what we consume?