Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that’s involved in many mental and physical functions. That includes regulating your appetite and mood. The way you eat determines your serotonin levels in an indirect, but powerful way.
Serotonin is made from tryptophan, one of the amino acids in protein. However, when you eat protein rich foods alone, serotonin levels drop because the amino acids are competing to get into your brain. On the other hand, when you add in carbohydrates, insulin gets released. The other amino acids are absorbed into your blood making it easier for tryptophan to reach your brain.
Once you understand how serotonin works, you can adjust your diet to make weight loss easier. You’ll feel better and get to eat foods like bread and potatoes that you might have thought were too fattening.
Eating to Boost Serotonin
1. Focus on complex carbohydrates. Brown rice and whole wheat bread are much more nutritious than cookies. Get your carbohydrates from natural sources rather than processed foods with added sugar.
2. Avoid carbohydrate deprivation. High protein diets and stress hormones can lead to such cravings. A balanced diet and relaxation practices help to control your appetite. Plan your menus in advance. Meditate daily or get a massage.
3. Listen to carbohydrate cravings. If you have difficulty stopping at one waffle, you may be low on serotonin. Healthy levels of serotonin protect you from emotional overeating.
4. Snack between meals. Mini meals may help you to stay on track. Eat a handful of almonds before lunch and drink a cup of herbal tea with a few fig bars after dinner. Then, you’ll find it easier to resist junk food all day long.
5. Choose healthy proteins. Some foods are very high in tryptophan. That includes nuts, seeds, dairy products, poultry, and soy beans. Just remember to combine them with carbohydrates.
6. Limit fat. Healthy fats are an important part of your diet. For the best results, practice portion control. This will help you watch your calories and digest your carbohydrates more quickly. Select low fat dairy products and put your dressing on the side, so you’ll use less of it on your salad.
7. Talk with your doctor. Certain medications such as anti-depressants may interfere with natural serotonin levels. Consult your physician about your individual needs.
Other Lifestyle Habits that Boost Serotonin
1. Sleep well. Good quality sleep helps your body to produce more serotonin. Go to bed and wake up on a consistent schedule. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
2. Stay active. Low intensity exercise also provides a lift. Take a 20 minute walk. Play a game of catch with your children. Climb the stairs rather than riding the elevator. Park farther away, so you have to walk a longer distance to your destination.
3. Turn up the lights. Some people find that their serotonin levels drop in the winter when they have less exposure to sunlight. Light therapy boxes may be one solution if you want to supplement the time that you spend outdoors.
4. Cut back on caffeine. There are also substances that tend to reduce your serotonin levels. Caffeine is one of the most common culprits. Alcohol has similar effects. You may benefit by cutting out the soda. Perhaps you can switch from coffee to herbal tea or cut down to one cup of coffee per day.
5. Be happy. Serotonin helps you to feel good, and those pleasant feelings help you hold onto more serotonin. Encourage the cycle by engaging in activities you love and reminding yourself to smile more. Play with your dog or call a friend who makes you laugh.
Enjoy your pasta and breakfast cereal. Carbohydrates increase your serotonin levels, which help you to feel better and manage your appetite more effectively.