Change Your Mood With FoodChange Your Mood With Food

By Frances Lam L.Ac., TCM Clinical Nutritionist

The foods you eat can have a powerful effect on your mood. Serotonin, sometimes called the happy chemical, contributes to feeling comfortable, healthy, and happy. Roughly 90% of the serotonin in our body is found in the gastrointestinal tract where it regulates digestive motility. The brain, central nervous system and blood platelets are other areas in which serotonin can be found.

Serotonin is best known as a neurotransmitter; a chemical messenger that affects mood and wellbeing; it also plays a role in digestion, appetite, cognition, learning, and memory. Many neurotransmitters are made from amino acids, the building blocks of protein. A biochemical process that combines tryptophan, an essential amino acid and tryptophan hydroxylase, a chemical reactor, creates 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), or serotonin.

A 2013 study published in the Nutrition Research Reviews states that, "Because serotonin levels in the brain are dependent on the availability of the food-derived precursor tryptophan, foods such as chicken, soybeans, cereals, tuna, nuts, and bananas may serve as an alternative to improve mood and cognition." Since tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, targeting foods high in this essential amino acid can help boost mood, ease digestion, and strengthen brain power.

Choose foods like salmon, turkey, chicken, meat, eggs, spinach, milk, tofu, and cheese; seeds such as pumpkin, chia, sesame, sunflower and flax; nuts like pistachios, cashews, almonds and hazelnuts, along with beans, lentils, and oats. Combine protein with carbohydrates because tryptophan needs them in order to reach the brain and build serotonin, so choose these foods for a fun, happy holiday.

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