• Bruce Salinger

Serotonin: Why You Need It, How You Know You’re Running Low and What Foods Have It

Are you having trouble sleeping? Is your mood all over the place lately? If the answer is yes, you may need to boost your serotonin levels. Before you panic about taking pills, you should know that serotonin is a completely natural substance that your body produces on its own.


Why Is Serotonin Important?


This incredible feel-good hormone does more than people give it credit for:


  • Promoting happiness and a positive mood

  • Lowering anxiety and depression

  • Helping you fall asleep at night

  • Keeping you more alert during the day

  • Balancing bowel movements

  • Encouraging wounds to heal more quickly


How Can You Get More Serotonin?


Exercise helps. So does spending time outdoors in sunny, beautiful places. Some of the most important sources of serotonin are the foods you eat.


Serotonin doesn’t just magically appear. Your body needs to “bake” it first using an important ingredient called tryptophan. If serotonin were a cake, tryptophan would be the flour.


What Are the Best Foods for Serotonin?


Foods that are high in tryptophan make it easier for your body to create healthy levels of serotonin. Check out these delicious natural superstars to put a spring back into your step!


1. Salmon


Many types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that are great for your heart. These fish also have a huge amount of tryptophan. Here’s a short list of favorites:


  • Salmon

  • Albacore tuna

  • Trout

  • Sardines

  • Herring

  • Atlantic mackerel

  • Cod

  • Mahi-mahi


The best part? Omega-3s have mood-boosting effects, too. They can significantly lower depression and stress.


2. Chicken Breast


Chicken breast is lean, works with tons of recipes, and contains the most tryptophan of all sources. One serving gives you 245% of the tryptophan you need for the day.


3. Milk


Milk has tons of tryptophan. You don’t need to go with the full-fat versions; a glass of skim milk gives you 75% of your daily needs.


4. Cheese


Your favorite cheese doesn’t boost serotonin as much as fish or poultry, but there’s a reason it’s on this list: it’s easy to work with. You can add cheese to any meal, from omelets to tacos.


5. Turkey


This lean family-favorite packs a punch for serotonin whether you enjoy it straight from the oven or in sandwiches the next day. It has less fat than chicken and more protein, which is why it’s popular for losing weight.


6. Firm Tofu


Tofu is the best way to get tryptophan and serotonin for vegetarians and vegans. It almost ties chicken breast, plus it gives you calcium and fiber.


7. Peanut Butter


Like cheese, peanut butter isn’t exactly brimming with tryptophan (only 25% of your daily intake per serving), but it’s a great snack backup. Instead of reaching for a candy bar, make whole-grain toast with peanut butter.


What Do Carbs Have To Do With It?


Remember how tryptophan is the flour in the recipe for serotonin? Your body needs one more ingredient before “baking”: carbohydrates.


Whole grains, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and beans are amazing sources of good carbs. Sweet potatoes are full of antioxidants and vitamins.


Try to plan meals so you get healthy carbs and tryptophan at the same time. For example, make turkey chili with kidney beans or grilled chicken with sauteed veggies.


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