When people hear the word serotonin, they usually associate it with norepinephrine and depression, but the truth is it does more in the body than just make you “feel good.” Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, pain perception, gastrointestinal function – including hunger and satiety-, temperature regulation, and sleep functions.
Below is a chart that displays the differences between normal serotonin levels and low serotonin levels.
|Optimal Levels of Serotonin||Low Levels of Serotonin|
|Reflective and thoughtful||Impulsive|
|Able to concentrate||Short attention span|
|Creative, Focused||Blocked, Scattered|
|Able to think through things||Flies off the handle|
|Able to seek help||Suicidal|
|Looks forward to dessert without an emotional charge||Craves sweets|
|Hungry for a variety of different foods||Craves mainly carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and cereal|
(Chart Provided by Potatoes, Not Prozac p.44)
Tryptophan and a few other amino acids are what creates this amazing transmitter. Carbohydrates (glucose) then distribute the tryptophan throughout the body to be made into serotonin. Below is a list of foods that have high levels of tryptophan in them.
|Protein Food||Serving Size||Amount of Tryptophan|
|Chicken (white)||4 oz||390 mg|
|Pork loin||4 oz||390 mg|
|Cheddar Cheese||1 cup||330 mg|
|Ground Beef||4 oz||320 mg|
|Tuna||4 oz||320 mg|
|Tempeh||4 oz||310 mg|
|Cottage Cheese||1 cup||300 mg|
|Tofu||4 oz||280 mg|
|Salmon||4 oz||250 mg|
|Soy Protein Powder||1 oz (2 tbs)||220 mg|
|Scrambled Eggs||2||200 mg|
|Kidney Beans||1 cup||180 mg|
|Quinoa||1 cup cooked||170 mg|
|Almonds||½ cup||170 mg|
|Lentils||1 cup cooked||160 mg|
|Milk||8 oz||110 mg|
|Soy Milk||8 oz||110 mg|
|Yogurt||8 oz||70 mg|
Chart Provided By Potatoes Not Prozac, p 131
The other important component is making sure your body has enough sugars to carry the tryptophan through your body. Make wise choices and pick complex carbohydrates and not quick fixes like candy. Brown rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, and beans are all good choices for carbohydrates.
Conjecture Corporation “What is serotonin?”. 2013. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-serotonin.htm
DesMaisons, Kathleen. PhD. “Potatoes Not Prozac” New York. 2008. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.