Research has linked low serotonin levels to mood disorders and depression – as well as being associated with memory and sleep problems – what is more, low levels of serotonin have a much more significant effect on people who have been depressed in the past.
Serotonin cannot be found in food. Research has shown that the essential amino acid, Tryptophan, can help the body to produce more serotonin
Essential amino acids are necessary because our bodies cannot produce them naturally and so these need to be part of our diet.
It is thought that eating foods that contain tryptophan can therefore boost serotonin levels and thus have a positive effect on our mood and well-being, energy levels and promote healthy sleep
Tryptophan, is commonly found in foods that contain protein. Although meat is often a key source of protein for many people, there are also many vegetarian and vegan sources.
The table below shows a selection ofhigh tryptophan foods. It includes nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs. The recommended daily intake for tryptophan is 4mg per kilogram of body weight or 1.8mg per pound. So a person weighing 70kg (11 stone) should consume around 280mg of tryptophan per day.
The majority of serotonin is made in the gut with a small amount being made in the brain. Having a healthy gut is vital for the production of serotonin. In order to promote a healthy gut, we should limit foods that negatively alter gut bacteria, such as artificial sweeteners, trans fats, and processed and refined carbohydrates.
That being said, however, carbohydrates play an important role because foods containing tryptophan are more effectively absorbed if they are eaten at the same time as carbohydrates.
So, unrefined carbohydrates, in the form of nutrient-dense carbohydrate sources which may include fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads and pastas, can therefore promote a healthy gut and facilitate tryptophan absorption.
Other factors can also help balance mood.
Feeling positive is usually about balance. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and having a good night’s sleep are key elements to improving mood and all these factors can be enhanced by boosting serotonin levels.
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