These mood-boosting foods can help stave off depression
04/25/2019 // Edsel Cook // Views

Depression is often linked to a deficiency in serotonin, an important neurotransmitter in the brain. Combining a serotonin diet with certain healthy foods like turmeric can naturally restore normal levels of this vital brain chemical.

A meal rich in natural carbohydrates raises serotonin levels in the brain

While some foods are rich in serotonin or its precursor tryptophan, eating those foods will not raise the levels of the neurotransmitter. Tryptophan comes from eating protein, but protein also blocks the formation of serotonin.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers Judith and Richard Wurtman recommend a diet where a person occasionally eats a meal with lots of carbohydrate-rich foods but no protein whatsoever. A carbohydrate-only meal raises serotonin levels in the brain.

To maximize the benefits of this strategic diet, eat healthy foods that are naturally rich in carbohydrates. Fruits, legumes, non-wheat grains, and vegetables are healthier than bread and crackers, since they provide plenty of nutrients in addition to carbs.

A single meal or even a snack made up of these foods is enough to increase serotonin levels and improve a person's mood. Protein can be added to the other meals left for the day. (Related: Antidepressants are OVERPRESCRIBED to older patients who are at high risk for “clinically significant depression,” warns study.)

These foods can also boost serotonin levels in the brain and gut

Turmeric is a popular spice used in curry. Its main active component, curcumin, is able to enter the brain very easily. Once there, curcumin can raise the levels of serotonin and dopamine.


Dark chocolate increases serotonin not only in the brain but also in the digestive tract where 95 percent of the body's supply of neurotransmitters can be found. Avoid chocolate candy bars and, instead, eat cacao nibs as a sugar-free way to boost the mood and the brain.

Salmon and other cold-water fatty fish contain plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. In particular, DHA is important for healthy brain function. DHA deficiency is often associated with low serotonin levels. Eating more omega-3 fatty acids can return serotonin levels to normal.

Fermented foods replenish the good bacteria in the gut. Furthermore, probiotic foods regulate the number of bad bacteria that produce lipopolysaccharides. Lipopolysaccharides are bad news for your serotonin levels. So eat plenty of kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt to protect your brain from this possible source of depression.

Drink tea for L-theanine which increases serotonin levels

Tea is one of the most consumed drinks in the world. It contains more than 1,300 known natural compounds, many of which bring considerable benefits to human health.

L-theanine is one of these compounds. Found only in true teas produced from the Camilla sinensis plant, it is an amino acid that brings a feeling of relaxation.

It should come as no surprise that L-theanine can increase serotonin levels in the brain. You can get this amino acid from drinking freshly prepared black, green, oolong, and white tea.

At the same time, avoid drinks that can reduce serotonin levels, even if they make you feel good. Alcohol is one example of a beverage that makes people feel happy and relaxed but actually depletes serotonin in the brain.

Another example is a drink that contains aspartame. The artificial sweetener stops the brain from absorbing tryptophan and also prevents its conversion into serotonin. Instead, use a natural sweetener like honey, which doesn't decrease serotonin levels or cause depression.

Sources include:

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