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The food you eat can have a direct impact on your mood and happiness. If you’re feeling down, it could be because of low levels of serotonin in your body.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter—a chemical that your nerve cells use to talk to each other. It is sometimes called the happiness hormone, as it helps regulate your mood and make you feel positive and confident.

There are plenty of foods that affect the level of serotonin in your body. Here's a quick look at seven foods that have proven mood-boosting benefits which can help you become happier and healthier with every bite:

  1. Bananas can improve your mood
  2. Eating fatty fish may improve your mood
  3. Coffee can make you feel better
  4. Dark chocolate can make you happier
  5. Green tea lifts the mood
  6. Nuts like almonds and walnuts are mood enhancers
  7. Gut friendly food for mood improvement
  8. Mood foods: what not to eat

Bananas are a great source of natural sugar, vitamin B6, and prebiotic fibre, which helps synthesize feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin—these work together to keep your mood stable.

Fatty fish contains vitamin D which activates tryptophan, a protein which leads to an increase in serotonin levels which in turn helps to elevate your mood.

In addition to helping increase serotonin levels, fatty fish contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. According to a research study, people who are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids may be more susceptible to depression and low mood.

In India, for fatty fish, you can consume rawas (Indian salmon), rohu (Carpo fish), surmai (king mackerel), pomfret (Indian butterfish), hilsa, bangda (Indian mackerel) and pedvey (Indian sardines or mathi).

Read more: Best fish in India by health benefits

A cup of coffee could boost your mood, both in the short-term and long-term. It contains caffeine, which provides an immediate boost to your mood.

You might also be interested in: Should you add protein powder to your coffee before a workout?

Dark chocolate boosts the serotonin level in the body. Serotonin has a number of functions in the body, including influencing your mood, helping to move food through your intestines, and constricting blood vessels.

Apart from serotonin and L-tryptophan, dark chocolate also contains carbohydrates in the form of sugar which can signal the body to produce more serotonin. So whenever you are feeling low or stressed, you can have one or two blocks of dark chocolate (70% or more cocoa) without feeling guilty about it.

Green tea contains less caffeine than coffee but enough to produce an effect in our body. It also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which can work synergistically with caffeine to improve brain function. Many people report having more stable energy and being much more productive and happy when they drink green tea, compared with coffee.

Nuts, especially almonds and walnuts, contain calcium which can help offset hormonal imbalances in women as well as alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, irritability, and impaired memory. A study confirms that nuts have higher serotonin levels, so they make you feel calmer and happier and help to boost happy hormones in the body.

Read more: Calcium-rich Indian food

Much of the serotonin in your body is produced in your gut, so try to optimize gut health and the production of serotonin could certainly go a long way toward optimizing your mood and mental health.

Make sure you are taking a quality probiotic, hydrating properly, and eating a brain-healthy diet. To add gut-friendly food in your regular diet, take fermented and cultured food such as curd, yoghurt, buttermilk, kimchi, Idli and dosa.

Some foods and drinks can lower the levels of serotonin in your body, to below the minimum level you need to maintain for a sense of well-being. Alcohol, artificial sweeteners, diet sodas are some food items that decrease the serotonin levels in the body. Try to avoid the consumption of these foods.

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References

  1. Pribis P. Effects of walnut consumption on mood in young adults: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrients, 25 October 2016; 8(11): 668. PMID: 27792133.
  2. Prasad C. Food, mood and health: a neurobiologic outlook. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research [online version], December 1998; 31(12): 1517-1527.
  3. Young S.N. How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience. November 2007; 32(6): 394-9. PMID: 18043762.
  4. Sampath Kumar K.P., Bhowmik D., Duraivel S., Umadevi M. Traditional and medicinal uses of banana. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, September 2012; 1(3): 51-63.
  5. Socci V., Tempesta D., Desideri G., De Gennaro L., Ferrara M. Enhancing human cognition with cocoa flavonoids. Frontiers in Nutrition, 16 May 2017; 4:19. PMID: 28560212.
  6. Naidoo U. Gut feelings: How food affects your mood. Harvard Health Publishing [Internet], 7 December 2018 [updated 27 March 2019].
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