Serotonin is often referred to as the “happiness hormone,” despite the fact that it is a neurotransmitter. However, it certainly does increase feelings of happiness, relaxation, and well-being. Serotonin regulates mood and sleep, among other functions, such as appetite. When our body releases serotonin, we experience the calm feeling that everything is going to be all right. It eases our anxiety and aggression, allows us to sleep better, focus, and maintain a positive outlook on life.
So how do we release serotonin in our bodies? Tryptophan is the basis for conversion into serotonin. Many proteins contain tryptophan (you know, that amino acid that makes you feel sleepy after eating turkey), and consuming foods rich in tryptophan will contribute to the release of serotonin. So, if you aren’t eating these foods already, take a look at the list, and incorporate them into your diet.
Foods High in Tryptophan
Red Meat Cheese
Poultry- such as chicken or turkey Milk (including soy milk)
Dried date Mushrooms
Sea weed Mustard greens and seeds
Papaya Turnips & Rutabagas
Celery Sweet peppers
Squash Dried apricots
Limit your consumption of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. These stimulants produce temporary highs in mood and energy, and cause you to “crash” afterwards. Regular intake of these stimulants creates an ongoing cycle of ups and downs.
In addition, exercise releases those “feel good” hormones, giving you a natural high and happiness after working out. If you exercise frequently, you will enjoy the ongoing benefits of serotonin. You will also begin craving exercise, rather than caffeine and other stimulants. Exercise is not just about looking good, but feeling good.
If you incorporate tryptophan rich foods in your diet, eliminate stimulants, and exercise regularly, your mood and sleep routine will improve, your anxiety will be eased, and you will feel more relaxed.
Check out my recipe for Carrot, Ginger and Pear Soup, which incorporates 4 of these tryptophan rich foods!