We can naturally increase serotonin levels by:
- eating foods with tryptophan
- exposing to sunlight
- having a breakfast high in carbs
- having a post-workout meal rich in carbs
- taking L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP supplements
- avoiding alcohol
- getting high doses of vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folic acid, magnesium, and iron!
What is serotonin?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. It’s mainly found in the digestive system, blood platelets and the central nervous system. It’s a popular supplement for regulating mood, temperature, eating behavior, sexual behavior, movement, gastrointestinal motility and sleep. Moreover, serotonin is good for weight loss.
Eat foods with tryptophan to naturally increase serotonin levels
The body produces serotonin from tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that we should take from food. The recommended daily intake of tryptophan is about 250-425 mg. As many foods are high in tryptophan, most people consume more than 900 mg of tryptophan a day.
Great dietary sources of tryptophan are chicken, turkey, red meat, pork, fish, eggs, and cheese, and other dairy.
Vegans and vegetarians can also get high amounts of tryptophan from beans, nuts, seeds, and cereals. Soybeans, tofu, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes, wheat bread, chocolate, peanuts, spinach, broccoli, avocados, and bananas are great plant-based sources of tryptophan.
Moreover, the synthesis of serotonin demands adequate amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron:[3,4]
Exposure to sunlight may naturally increase serotonin levels
Another great way to increase your serotonin levels is sun exposure! Sunlight promotes the synthesis of serotonin. Serotonin levels are higher in the morning and in the summer.
In addition, sun exposure boosts the synthesis of vitamin D. Serotonin and vitamin D have beneficial effects on the mood. Hence, sunlight and a tryptophan-rich diet might help people with depression.
We need carbs for increased serotonin levels
Another way to naturally increase your serotonin levels is by having a meal high in carbs. No protein, no fat.
Tryptophan competes with other amino acids. Eating a meal high in carbs releases insulin, which transfer amino acids away from the cells of the brain. Tryptophan isn’t so vulnerable to insulin, though. So, there is more tryptophan into the blood compared to other amino acids. Hence, more tryptophan reaches the brain, synthesizing more serotonin!
On the contrary, eating meals high in protein won’t promote serotonin synthesis. High-protein meals contain high amounts of other amino acids, which compete with tryptophan. Even small amounts of protein could inhibit the production of serotonin.
We should avoid protein only for this high-carb meal. In general, we should consume foods with protein to take the recommended tryptophan dose.
Furthermore, we can trigger the synthesis of serotonin by having a breakfast rich in carbs, such as oatmeal! Only the first meal of the day can substantial affect the synthesis of serotonin!
Moreover, we can significantly increase serotonin levels by consuming a meal high in carbs right after a workout. After strenuous exercise, the body has increased insulin sensitivity, as glycogen stores in the muscles are empty. Not only are insulin spikes after exercise good for muscle recovery, but also they have a huge impact on the synthesis of serotonin.
Also, exercise per se increases the synthesis and the release of serotonin.
Supplements can instantly increase serotonin levels
Certainly, there are supplements, such as L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP, that can increase serotonin levels. Although these supplements are considered pretty safe, you should consult your doctor before taking them. They could interfere with other medication, causing serious adverse effects.
Actually, eating foods with tryptophan, walking outdoors, and having a breakfast high in carbs are the safest ways to naturally boost serotonin synthesis!
Avoid excess alcohol consumption
Last, but not least, you shouldn’t consume too much alcohol. Alcohol impairs serotonin synthesis. High alcohol consumption decreases the ability of tryptophan to reach the brain cells by 25%.
In addition, stress, insulin resistance, magnesium deficiency, and age can affect serotonin synthesis.