At a glance: An optimal level of Serotonin, also called the happy hormone, is essential for the body to function normally. While higher levels may increase heart rate and blood pressure, cause confusion, hallucinations, etc., lower levels may trigger anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, etc. This article explores tryptophan rich, vegan, plant-based food sources that may boost serotonin levels naturally.
The human body is an amazing machine that involves not only bigger organs but also tiny chemical messengers that transmit important information through nerve cells. Serotonin is one such neurotransmitter produced in the brain and the intestines and is found in blood platelets and serum. The role of serotonin is complex. It is involved in physiological processes such as vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels) and plays a significant role in regulating mood, sleep cycle, and food intake. It also influences learning, memory, happiness, and more.
Uses Of Serotonin
Serotonin, a chemical made of the essential amino acid tryptophan, is produced in the brain and the intestines. It plays several important roles that help in many bodily processes. A few of them are:
# Regulates mood, sleep and appetite
Serotonin is a feel-good hormone that contributes significantly to regulating mood and overall mental well-being. It essentially acts as a natural mood stabiliser, helping to reduce depression and anxiety and even plays a key role in sleep and appetite regulation. Low serotonin levels may make you feel anxious and depressive, difficult to process emotions, have difficulty sleeping, and have problems regulating appetite and satiety.
# Influences wound healing process in several ways
Serotonin plays a significant role in wound healing through various mechanisms. When an injury occurs, platelets gather at the site to create an environment that promotes blood clotting. As part of this process, platelets release serotonin, which causes blood vessels to narrow, restricting blood flow and aiding in clot formation at the wound site.
Additionally, serotonin influences the inflammatory response during wound healing. It can affect the release of other signalling molecules involved in inflammation, thereby prompting the recruitment and activation of immune cells at the wound site. Furthermore, serotonin contributes to scar formation by influencing the production and organisation of collagen. This can impact the quality and appearance of the healed wound.
# Impacts bone health
Serotonin can both negatively and positively impact bone density; hence optimal levels are important for healthy bone mass density and skeletal health. When produced peripherally, serotonin inhibits bone formation. On the other hand, when produced in the brain, it enhances bone formation and limits bone resorption.
# Important for digestive health
With a significant portion of our body’s serotonin being produced in the gut, it’s no surprise that it’s integral for healthy digestion. Specialised cells called enterochromaffin cells scattered throughout the intestinal lining produce and release serotonin in response to various stimuli, including food intake and food and waste movement in the digestive tract. Higher levels of serotonin may cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
- 5 Key Benefits Of Protein You Didn’t Know Other Than Muscle Gain
- 3 Wonderful Herbs To Fight Fatigue And Boost Energy Naturally
- Sugar Cane Juice: Benefits, Uses, Precautions, And How To Make
10 Serotonin-Rich Foods For Vegans
You can’t obtain serotonin from the food you eat because it is primarily synthesised in the body. However, foods high in the amino acid tryptophan can help promote serotonin secretion. The following are some of the top vegan foods rich in tryptophan, and can help boost serotonin levels.
An everyday fruit with extraordinary benefits, bananas contain tryptophan and so can encourage serotonin production. You may have it as a fruit snack or can add to breakfast smoothies, oatmeal, or desserts.
2. Nuts and Seeds
Almost all nuts and seeds, including almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, pack a punch of tryptophan and hence are excellent vegan foods to boost serotonin levels. They can be enjoyed as snacks or sprinkled over salads and stir-fry dishes for an extra crunch.
3. Soy Products
Tofu, tempeh, and edamame beans are high in tryptophan and are popular serotonin-rich vegan food options. Peri peri and stir-fried tempeh are easy and delicious recipes you can include in your diet.
4. Whole Grains
Foods like oats, brown rice, and quinoa also contain tryptophan. In addition, these grains provide ample fibre, promoting good gut health and further supporting serotonin production.
5. Dark Chocolate
Mental health advocates often suggest dark chocolates to get over anxiety. This is because dark chocolate can stimulate serotonin production, making it a tasty mood booster. Just remember to choose a high-quality, low-sugar version for maximum benefits.
6. Leafy Greens
Folate, a naturally occurring B vitamin, helps the brain synthesise serotonin. Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens have high levels of folate, and incorporating them into your meals boosts serotonin and nutrients.
7. Lentils and Beans
They are a power-packed source of essential amino acids and fibre and a good plant-based source rich in tryptophan for vegans. These can be cooked into soups, stews, or salads to add variety to your meals.
8. Sweet Potatoes
Besides being delicious, sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins and minerals that promote serotonin production, thus lifting your mood.
Studies indicate that avocados positively impact gut bacteria, which may boost serotonin production in the intestines. In addition, avocados contain folate that promotes serotonin production in the brain. Avocado toast or guacamole, anyone?
They are tropical delights abundant in tryptophan, which helps boost serotonin production. The fruits full of freshness and flavour are a delightful and sweet addition to a vegan diet.
All these foods are excellent to incorporate into your vegan meal and can significantly contribute to healthier serotonin levels.
Other Natural Ways To Improve Serotonin
While a well-planned diet helps boost serotonin levels, there are other natural ways as well to improve this ‘feel-good’ hormone.
- Exercise regularly: Physical activity is a potent mood lifter. It encourages the brain to release serotonin and endorphins, making you feel happier and more relaxed.
- Get enough sunlight: Sunlight exposure influences serotonin production. Strive for a healthy balance, ensuring your skin safety while enjoying the natural light.
- Practice mindfulness and meditation: These stress-reducing practices have been shown to increase serotonin levels. Just a few minutes of practice daily can contribute to a healthier you.
- Prioritise sleep: Quality sleep is crucial for serotonin receptors to turn off during non-REM sleep and regain sensitivity when you are awake, ensuring healthy serotonin production. So, establish a regular sleep schedule and create a restful environment for yourself and the serotonin receptors as well.
- Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can affect mood and cognition. Drink plenty of water to keep your brain health optimal, facilitating proper serotonin function.
Serotonin, often called the ‘happy hormone,’ is crucial to regulating your mood, and an optimal serotonin level is key to good mental health and overall well-being. Vegans have a variety of tryptophan-rich foods, such as fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and even dark chocolate, that may boost serotonin production and maintain optimal levels.
In addition to a well-rounded diet, incorporating regular exercise, getting enough sunlight, practising mindfulness, ensuring quality sleep, and staying properly hydrated can all contribute to enhanced serotonin production.
So, it’s evident your food choices and lifestyle profoundly impact your physical and mental health. And veganism is not a deficient lifestyle when you make conscious food choices. So make the healthiest choices and enjoy veganism with all your heart.💖