What Foods Produce Serotonin and how

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By Tess Thompson

A hearty meal not only induces sleep but also gives rise to a sense of well being. It is actually the work of the high carbohydrate content in the meal that induces such a feeling. Ingestion of increased quantities of carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates, increases the level of serotonin in the body, which alters the mood. Simple sugars like candy and sweets can convert sadness and sorrow to an ‘all’s well with the world’ attitude for about an hour or two. Complex carbohydrates also increase serotonin levels but the presence of proteins restricts the production of serotonin.

How does this actually happen? The three neurotransmitters, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin that affect mood have been studied extensively in relation to food. There is a strong indication that the production of these neurotransmitters is related to the type of foods we eat. It is suggested that when we eat too much of carbohydrates there is an automatic response from the brain for excess release of insulin to control blood sugar. Insulin clears the blood of all amino acids except tryptophan, an amino acid which is a serotonin precursor and is easily converted into serotonin in the brain.

Serotonin is found in many mushrooms and plants including some fruits and vegetables. Edible nuts of the Juglan genus, especially walnuts and hickory of Carya genus also contain serotonin. These contain a value equivalent to 25 to 400 mg/kg. Pineapple, banana, kiwifruit, plums, tomatoes and plantain contain anything between 3 to 30 mg/kg of serotonin. Smaller quantities of serotonin are found in a broad range of vegetables.

The general perception is that skipping meals reduces energy levels. But a skipped meal can also result in a drop in serotonin levels and consequently affect your emotional wellness. A steady level of serotonin produces a positive mental state. Women are considered to be more susceptible than men to the changes caused by serotonin. The frequent mood swings that women experience during periods and after menopause are considered to be caused by the change in hormone production that disturbs the level of this neurotransmitter.

The effect of food on your sense of well being is short lived. That, however, does not mean that you can go on a binge, eating foods that help serotonin production. A dietician is the right person to suggest changes in dietary habits to improve moods Excess intake of simple carbohydrates like sugars and fried foods can cause many ailments including high cholesterol, an increase in blood sugar and obesity. It the desired results are not achieved within reasonable time there maybe a case for consulting a specialist for signs of depression.



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