Waking up on the wrong side of the bed may have more to do with diet than most people might think. One of the key factors in regulating mood and avoiding anxiety, depression or a general malaise in mood or outlook is eating foods to boost neurotransmitters in the brain.
Foods don’t actually contain neurotransmitters. However, the right kinds of food, those rich in healthy proteins and amino acids, do kick-start chemicals in the brain responsible for positive mental health and overall wellness.
What Neurotransmitters Impact Mood?
It’s important to understand how neurotransmitters interact with the body. Here’s a list of some of the most important neurotransmitters in the brain:
- Gamma Amino Butyric Acid, aka GABA
Certain foods play better with these chemicals than others. A good rule to follow when grocery shopping is to stay on the outer perimeter of the store. This is generally the location of perishable foods, such as produce, fruits, meat and fish.
The center of most grocery stores are foods to be avoided – those that are canned, jarred, boxed and processed in any number of ways.
Foods That Boost Serotonin
Healthy levels of serotonin play an important role in promoting happiness, restful sleep and a better overall mood.
Here are some foods that boost serotonin levels in the brain:
- Chia seeds
- Sunflower and sesame seeds
Foods That Boost Dopamine
Dopamine is a big player in regulating the brain’s reward centers, which involve pleasure and motivation. Healthy levels of dopamine also impact memory, mood, sleep and a person’s ability to learn.
Some foods that boost dopamine levels are:
- Citrus fruits, like oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes
- Berries, like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
- Aged cheeses, like cheddar and stilton
Foods Related to GABA
The neurotransmitter GABA is responsible for feelings of calm. The right levels of GABA reduce anxiety and improve sleep. Therefore, moderate amounts of these foods for dinner are a good choice:
- Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kimchi
- Brown rice
Exercise Is Also Important
The body and mind combination are key to overall health and wellbeing. Regular exercise done at an intensity that fires up a sweat is a great, non-medical method for treating depression.
Exercise raises the levels of the neurotransmitter endorphins, which affect mood. The right amount of physical activity also improves sleep and a restful night’s slumber gives the brain time to refresh and recharge.
When the brain is out of whack, so is the body. For example, depression is often linked to a shortage of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Any person that has experienced sadness, loss, or depression can speak to how it’s physically, as well as emotionally, exhausting.
Research also shows that poor mental health leads to a greater likelihood of poor physical health.
Think of the brain as every person’s personal pharmacy because when it’s in balance, it’s producing all of the chemicals needed so that waking up on the wrong side of the bed isn’t a daily occurrence.
When things seem out of balance or our mood is low, especially during the winter when we get less exercise and sunlight, it’s nice to know that there are foods to boost serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters to keep the blues at bay.