Food & serotonin: what’s the link?

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Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood, appetite, and sleep. Tryptophan, an amino acid found in certain foods, is used by the body to produce serotonin. Meals containing both tryptophan and carbohydrates are the best way to increase serotonin levels. Consulting a dietician or nutritionist can help create a diet plan for optimal health.

Seratonin is a naturally occurring chemical known as a monoamine neurotransmitter that helps carry messages from one nerve to another in the human body. An imbalance of this chemical can cause problems like depression, food cravings, and obesity. Research suggests there may be very real connections between food and serotonin levels in the body. An amino acid known as tryptophan is used by the body to produce serotonin, so consuming foods containing this amino acid properly can help increase serotonin levels, possibly improving symptoms such as depression and reducing the chances of obesity.

Tryptophan is the key connector when it comes to food and serotonin. Consuming some whole foods that contain tryptophan, such as cottage cheese or turkey, isn’t the best way to try and boost your serotonin levels. This is because these foods contain other natural chemicals that compete with tryptophan, making any increase in serotonin levels very short-lived.

Meals that contain both tryptophan and carbohydrates are better choices when considering the connection between food and serotonin levels. Carbohydrates release a hormone known as insulin which naturally rids the body of all competing amino acids. For this reason, certain foods are more desirable when trying to make the natural connection between food and serotonin.

Developing a diet that utilizes food and serotonin may seem difficult at first, but it’s relatively easy with a little practice. For example, foods such as turkey, chicken and cottage cheese are rich in tryptophan, the amino acid responsible for the production of serotonin within the body. These foods can be combined with healthy carbohydrates to help the body use serotonin most productively. Some good foods to incorporate into your diet are whole grains, almonds or pumpkin seeds.

Anyone looking to incorporate food and serotonin into a healthier lifestyle may benefit from consulting a dietician or nutritionist. These food specialists can often help create a diet plan that will work best for the individual. Consulting with one of these specialists can help relieve some of the pressure of trying to learn a new way to eat for optimal health. Many doctors are also willing to help with any questions or concerns, especially if the patient is already taking prescription medications aimed at increasing serotonin levels.

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