Feeling stressed out? Having problems with digestion? Can’t sleep well? Everyday issues, both external and internal, may deprive you of positive emotions. Your lack of enthusiasm impacts your life choices, relationships with others, and most importantly yourself.
In this case, getting back on track is a tough task, depending on your type of personality. But what if the cause for your anxiety and depression whirls around the deficiency of certain hormones?
You might be surprised to discover that one of the top reasons why you’re dealing with all these conditions lies with low levels of serotonin in your body.
Serotonin is the essential hormone influencing the crucial processes around your body. It mostly affects mood, the levels of depression and anxiety. When you are feeling contented, therefore, your serotonin hormone is doing a great job. You feel sad-sacky, your serotonin levels are too low.
Here comes the logical question – where can you obtain the necessary amounts of serotonin? Food is the healthy source of serotonin. Check out this article to discover the 8 delicious serotonin foods that can boost your overall health.
Which Foods Increase Serotonin?
Prepare yourself for the list of foods with the serotonin that naturally boosts the levels of this hormone in your body.
Please note, there is one essential point to highlight. Serotonin cannot cross the blood-brain barrier (tightly packed cells that keep harmful substances from entering the brain).
This means that eating foods with serotonin is not an effective way to lift serotonin levels. Instead, select food rich in tryptophan which easily passes through the blood-brain barrier (5).
Tryptophan is used to create serotonin and you can find it in these 8 foods:
- Soy products
There are so many delectable dishes you can prepare with poultry. If you like meat, you can opt for turkey, chicken, or goose. Lean poultry, such as chicken, includes a great amount of protein and low levels of fat (6).
Salmon is rich in tryptophan. Additionally, this oily fish is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for strong bones, healthy skin, and eye function. Plus, salmon includes vitamin D which makes your teeth and muscles stronger.
Consuming two portions of oily fish per week provides enough tryptophan for most people. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you can get omega-3 from pumpkin seeds, soya, and walnuts (6).
According to research in 2015, eggs can significantly boost your levels of tryptophan. Also, don’t neglect to eat yolks, as they are rich in tryptophan, and many other important nutrients, such as choline, biotin, and tyrosine.
Compared with other foods that increase serotonin, seeds do not contain as much tryptophan as oily fish, eggs, or poultry. Still, they are considered as a good source of tryptophan and protein for vegans and vegetarians.
You can incorporate seeds into your diet by:
- sprinkling seeds onto your salad
- mixing nuts and seeds for a snack
- picking seeded bread
- adding seeds to cereal, yogurt, or porridge (6).
Recall the cartoon with Popeye who gobbled down spinach. Immediately he would feel more invigorated and stronger. It was a nice commercial for kids as well as adults as spinach is a good source of tryptophan.
Spinach is also a good source of iron, which helps the body to make healthy red blood cells. The less iron you have, the lower your energy will be (6).
Milk is also a good source of calcium and protein, which supports healthy bones and teeth.
Of course, it’s better to opt for a fat-free or a low-fat option as it can be more healthy than full-fat milk, particularly for people watching their saturated fat intake (13).
Soy products, such as tofu, soya milk, or soy sauce can give you an instant serotonin boost because of their tryptophan levels. Besides this, it’s a good option for people who don’t eat meat (6).
Nuts are a perfect snack as it’s a source of protein, healthy fats, fiber, and tryptophan (6). Instead of binge-watching with chips or fries try to binge-watch with nuts and seeds. It’s going to keep you satiated for longer and boost your health. Please note that nuts are calorie-dense. Know your limitations if you care about your weight.
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What Is Serotonin?
Do you want to live a happy life? Keep tabs on your serotonin levels as it promotes your overall health.
Let’s shortly touch upon this hormone.
Serotonin is a hormone that acts like a neurotransmitter. It carries messages between nerve cells in your brain and throughout your body. Per these chemical messages, your body knows how to work properly (9).
You can find serotonin in your intestines, brain, blood, and connective tissues (6). You need serotonin as it influences your learning and memory. Plus, it regulates your body temperature, hunger, and sexual behavior (9).
In a nutshell, this hormone keeps you perky, satisfied, and healthy.
As you already know, serotonin is created from the essential amino acid tryptophan. An essential amino acid means your body can’t create it. You need to obtain it from the foods you eat.
Which Food Has The Most Serotonin?
From the previous segment you’ve learned the top 8 delectable foods to enhance the level of serotonin inside your body. Besides them, there are other foods with high serotonin you can add to your diet today and notice positive changes:
- Cheese is a wonderful source of tryptophan. Besides, cheese contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K2 for blood clotting. Among other benefits, cheese can reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, better gut and bone health, and blood vessel protection (2).
- Sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchi also increase the amount of tryptophan leading to boosting serotonin levels.
How Can I Raise My Serotonin Levels?
Eating hearty food for elevating serotonin levels is just the beginning of your big changes. Besides, you may not enjoy all of the food on the list. So, it’s beneficial for you to know other ways to increase your serotonin.
Spoiler alert: these ways will make you feel and look better.
- Move your body.
- Manage stress.
- Get more sunlight.
- Drink enough water.
- Think positively.
Move Your Body
You know that physical training is crucial for your life. Everybody gushes about their effect on your physique and mental health. In fact, research shows that physical activity releases endorphins and several mood-boosting chemicals, including dopamine and serotonin. Thus, if you move your body, you feel less stressed or depressed.
Plus, let’s face it, after each training session, your self-esteem will likely be elevated as you’re proud of doing something beneficial. You look at the mirror with respect for yourself since instead of lying on your couch the whole weekend you found some time for self-improvement.
Any physical activity is excellent here. You, for instance, can take:
- Jump rope
Stress is your enemy as it impairs the production of serotonin receptors (11). Besides, when you’re stressed you’re less likely to work out, spend time with loved ones, or enjoy other daily activities.
As a consequence, stress management should be on your checklist. Here are some stress-relieving techniques to try:
- Massage therapy
- Mindfulness (mindful walking is an effective way to reduce stress)
- Physical exercise
- Art therapy
- Breathing techniques
Yes, it’s hard to eliminate stress from your life but you can reduce its symptoms with the right methods.
Get More Sunlight
Let the sun’s rays cover your body and fill it with serotonin. Actually, research shows that light therapy, or exposure to the sun for at least 10 minutes lifts up the levels of serotonin. Besides, if you’re overwhelmed with work or can’t stop thinking about the last argument with a friend, going out in nature will improve your mood for new challenges.
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Drink Enough Water
Staying hydrated is the must thing everyone should do for proper functioning. When you lack energy, grab a bottle of water and gain more power. Water is beneficial to brain functioning and energy levels (6).
On top of that, water makes your skin more appealing and cleaner, flushes body waste, prevents kidney damage, regulates body temperature, and lubricates the joints. Plus, it helps you lose weight and promotes digestion.
It’s impossible not to include positivity in this list as research shows the connection between positivity and increased serotonin levels. Of course, happy thoughts don’t appear out of nowhere, you create them with your favorite activities.
Some ideas to help you think positively are:
- Go on vacation
- Talk to your good friend
- Reminisce a funny memory
- Watch a comedy
- Listen to relaxing music
- Go to the concert
- Play games with your relatives or friends
Additionally, you can try cognitive behavior therapy where a professional therapist can find the profound reasons for your negative thoughts and reprogram them.
What Foods Block Serotonin?
Perhaps you suspect the food you eat is depleting your serotonin. You may feel bummed as it could be your favorite source of satiety. Nevertheless, not highlighting them would be a big mistake. If you want to feel happier and stay healthier, you need to avoid eating:
- Refined sugar. Your love for candy bars, soda, packaged desserts, sugary drinks, and breakfast cereals negatively impairs the production of serotonin. You don’t necessarily need to eliminate them completely but gradually substitute some sugary desserts with fruits or berries, for instance, and make them the foundation of your healthy diet.
- Trans fats. Who doesn’t love pizza, potato chips, or pastries? However, not only do they interfere with serotonin production but also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke (12).
- Highly-processed food can also cause a dip in your serotonin levels. Think twice before consuming processed meats, sodium-rich frozen foods, and other meals containing high levels of sodium and saturated/ or trans fats.
Which Fruit Increases Serotonin?
Besides the foods listed above which are rich in tryptophan, you can increase serotonin levels by ingesting certain fruits. These are:
You can find a high amount of tryptophan here. Also, a moderate amount of tryptophan can be found in:
The best way to get the most tryptophan from the aforementioned foods is by mixing them in smoothies, healthy sandwiches, or salads.
Does Coffee Increase Serotonin?
Starting your morning routine with a warm mug of freshly-made coffee is amazing. It feels especially beneficial after an intensive workout where you refuel your strength by sipping a skinny latte.
Coffee boasts an impressive number of benefits: it fills you with antioxidants, lowers the risk of diabetes, makes your liver healthier, and reduces cancer risk.
Coffee increases the receptors of serotonin. That’s why it can help you lower your symptoms of depression (4).
But drinking too much coffee is harmful to your body. The most common side effects of abusing caffeine are anxiety, insomnia, digestive problems, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, muscle breakdown, fatigue, and addiction.
You won’t be able to complete daily activities well enough without another cup of black beverage. Your mood may swing from excitement to self-loathing. Consequently, your key to important benefits from coffee lies in the healthy amount of coffee – 400 milligrams per day (four or five cups per day) (10).
If you can get away with one to two cups, it would be even better.
What Does Serotonin Do In My Body?
What happens when you have enough serotonin in your body? Short answer: your overall health boosts. But let’s look at the possible advantages of serotonin and its effects on your organism.
- Mood: Serotonin is a natural “feel good” chemical in your brain that regulates your mood. At normal levels, serotonin keeps you more focused, emotionally stable, happier, and calmer. Low levels of serotonin make you depressed and frustrated. Taking up certain medications for anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders often targets ways to increase the level of serotonin in your brain.
- Digestion: Most of your body’s serotonin is in your GI tract which helps control your bowel function and protects your gut. Your gut increases serotonin release to quickly rid your body of irritating toxic food. Serotonin also reduces your appetite while you’re eating.
- Nausea: When serotonin is released into your gut faster than it can be digested it triggers nausea. Your brain receives the chemical message which you perceive as nausea.
- Sleep: Serotonin, together with dopamine, plays a role in the quality of your sleep. Your brain also needs serotonin to create melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle.
- Wound healing: Serotonin helps heal wounds. It also causes the tiniest blood vessels to narrow to slow blood flow and helps clots to form. This is a crucial process in wound healing.
- Bone health: Low levels of serotonin can make your bones weak, which can lead to bone breaks and osteoporosis. So, make sure you have an adequate amount of this hormone.
- Sexual health: Serotonin along with dopamine promotes better sex life. Your desire for sex enhances making you feel more pleasure during the process (9).
What Activities Release Serotonin?
Raise your serotonin levels naturally. Firstly, ensure you expose yourself to the sun for at least 10 minutes per day. A gentle walk during daylight is a good idea. The second thing you can do is stay active by doing physical exercises, swimming, jogging, or playing games. Your third activity to release serotonin is doing things that provoke positivity. Lastly, staying hydrated and managing stress also play a big role in the increase of serotonin.
Where Is Serotonin Produced?
Most serotonin is produced in the intestines. However, you can also find it in the brain, blood, and connective tissues.
What Does Low Serotonin Feel Like?
If you’re dealing with low levels of serotonin, you can end up with a number of health conditions: poor sleep, depression, anxiety, panic disorders, phobias, suicidal behavior, and digestive problems. You should eat more tryptophan-containing foods, lower your stress levels, and stay active.
What Foods Give You Dopamine And Serotonin?
There are many natural foods that boost serotonin and dopamine: nuts and seeds, fruits, poultry, salmon, milk, dark chocolate, eggs, soy products, spinach, and veggies. Your hydration is essential too. Drink enough water to maintain energy levels, healthy skin, and a stronger body.
The Bottom Line
Serotonin is the essential hormone responsible for your mood, sexual desire, memory, and healthy digestion. You’ve discovered 8 delicious serotonin foods to boost your overall health: poultry, salmon, eggs, seeds, spinach, milk, soy products, and nuts.
Additionally, you can increase your serotonin levels by consuming cheese, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchi.
Serotonin is the hormone produced mostly in the intestines. Besides food, you can do other things to raise your levels of serotonin: stay active, drink enough water, manage stress, think positively, and expose yourself to sunlight.
Coffee is another way to increase serotonin levels but drinking it in inadequate amounts will harm your health.
Meta Description: Want to increase your serotonin levels? Read the article to discover delicious 8 serotonin foods to boost your overall health and other ways to raise serotonin.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Associations between aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise with depressive symptom severity among 17,839 U.S. adults (2019, sciencedirect.com)
- Cheese: Are There Health Benefits? (2023, webmd.com)
- Chronic treatment with a tryptophan-rich protein hydrolysate improves emotional processing, mental energy levels and reaction time in middle-aged women (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Coffee and caffeine consumption and depression: A meta-analysis of observational studies (2015, sagepub.com)
- Effect of diet on serotonergic neurotransmission in depression (2012, sciencedirect.com)
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- How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs (2007, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Light therapy and serotonin transporter binding in the anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Serotonin (2022, clevelandclinic.org)
- Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much? (2018, fda.gov)
- Stress, serotonin, and hippocampal neurogenesis in relation to depression and antidepressant effects (2014, sciencedirect.com)
- Trans fat is double trouble for heart health (2022, mayoclinic.org)
- What Milk Can Do for You (n.d., webmd.com)