Good Mood Foods

by Caila Yates

We all have our own version of “comfort foods,” or foods we turn to on a gloomy day when we need a little pick me up.  Well, get ready to add these foods to your repertoire of good eats because they are rich in tryptophan, which has been proven to improve mood and knock out daytime drowsiness!

What is Tryptophan?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that produces serotonin (the neurotransmitter that is believed to control your mood).  So, by increasing your tryptophan intake, you are increasing the amount of serotonin being produced in your brain.  Studies show that high levels of tryptophan intake can decrease depressive thoughts and quarrelsome behaviors in humans, therefore increasing overall happiness.  That’s the long way of saying, “more tryptophan equals more happiness.”

Does this mean that if you eat nothing but tryptophan rich foods, you’ll be on cloud nine all the time?  Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the way it works.  Tryptophan is found in most protein-packed foods such as meat and dairy products.  But, guess what else is in these products?  21 other amino acids that are also trying to make their way to your brain.  Competing with all these other amino acids makes it kind of hard for tryptophan to find its way to your brain, which means that it doesn’t produce as much serotonin as you may think.  However, if you pack your diet with some of these tryptophan-rich foods, there will be more available for your brain to absorb, and use it to produce more serotonin (and more happy thoughts)!

1.  Chickpeas

2.  Eggs

3.  Tofu

4.  Spirulina

5.  Spinach

6.  Nuts and Seeds

7.  Salmon

8.  Cheese


Bonus:  Eat More Carbs!

Yes, you read that correctly.  We’ve all been programmed to steer clear of carbs, but in a study conducted by the American Physiological Society, carbo-loaded foods such as bread and pasta have been shown to increase insulin levels.  Insulin absorbs all 22 amino acids.  So, if there is more insulin in your body, more amino acids will be absorbed, leaving a “pool” of tryptophan in your bloodstream after you consume the foods listed above.  Your brain will dive into this pool, soak it up, and use it to produce more serotonin.


In Short:

More Carbohydrates–>More Tryptophan–>More Serotonin–>More Happiness!

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