Serotonin & Tryptophan Foods


As we all try to weather another lockdown – and this time a new Tier 4 has been introduced to the UK, which is even stricter than before – the challenge is to survive with our mental health intact.

Whilst we are in lockdown and isolation, it is tempting to try and muffle the anxiety and negative feeling with foods and drinks that we have come to know as comfort foods.  Clearly this is a path to dietary and physical disaster.

Many people put on weight during the first half of 2020 and alcohol sales were 50% up in that time.  Sadly, divorce and domestic violence are vastly increased during that time also.

What can we do to help ourselves stay in better shape mentally?

We can eat foods that help our mood stay positive.  It is commonly known that serotonin is the feel-good hormone that keeps depression at bay.  What can we eat to maximise our serotonin?

Well, you cannot ‘eat’ serotonin as it is not found in food.  But you can eat foods high in tryptophan, which the body then converts into serotonin.

A list of high-tryptophan foods is given here:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese – use unpasteurised artisan cheeses for the best nutrients
  • Pineapples – I know it is winter but there should be some in the supermarkets – have a few chunks for breakfast each day.
  • Tofu – not everybody’s favourite but it is open to flavouring in stir fries and soy sauce flavourings
  • Nuts – a good Christmas staple, so sit and shell some for yourself and have a healthy nibble!
  • Salmon – tinned, smoked, all types.
  • Turkey – now most of us will have access to turkey meat sometime over Christmas – instead of seeing it as a trial to eat it all up, see it as a positive-mood-inducing food and eat up with gusto!
  • Spinach, broccoli, greens of all kinds.

Other things you can do to increase tryptophan include:

  • Massage – even giving each other a 5 minute food rub during the tv movie can really bring some feel-good hormones circulating.  If you are living alone, do your own foot massage with some oil, it will make you feel better.
  • Bright Light – make sure you get outside and experience natural daylight – even on the grimmest, greyest day, it is still lighter outside than inside.  Minimum 30 minutes – take a short walk for exercise and daylight.
  • Supplements – seek supplements that offer high levels of tryptophan (e.g. NOW 500mg tryptophan).
  • Exercise – when you least feel like it, that is when it will do you the most good – so do try hard to make yourself do it.

Eat yourself happy – but with the right foods, not with the ‘false friendship’ of so-called comfort foods!

Happy New Year

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