Get Nutty or Fruity to Improve Your Mood

Food for Happy Thoughts

Researchers from the Biomarkers & NutriMetabolomics Research Group of the University of Barcelona in collaboration with the Human Nutrition Unit of the Rovira i Virgili University recently found that eating just one ounce of raw mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts) increased serotonin levels.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep in the central nervous system.  It has also been linked to improved heart health.  When serotonin levels are low, we’re more depressed, and when they’re high, we’re happier.  However, 80 to 90 percent of the human body’s total serotonin is found in specialized cells in our guts, not in our brains.

“New studies have shown evidence that serotonin is important in our hunger signaling, particularly in feelings of fullness,” say boomer generation health experts Dian Griesel, Ph.D., and Tom Griesel, authors of the new books TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust (April 2011, BSH) and The TurboCharged Mind (January 2012, BSH). “Experiments with rats where serotonin was administered caused them to eat less even though they were hungry.  It seems serotonin somehow modulates food intake.  This could be very important in maintaining an ideal body composition.”

“The highest concentrations of serotonin are found in walnuts, plantains, pineapples, bananas, kiwis, plums and tomatoes,” adds Tom.  “We also need to include the serotonin building block tryptophan.  Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a key to serotonin production in our brains when serotonin levels are low.  Foods that are rich in tryptophan include turkey, bananas, nuts, beans, eggs, fish and meat.”

“Mood affects how we eat and vice versa,” says Dian.  “Dieting by reducing calories and/or carbohydrates has been shown to decrease serotonin and tryptophan levels.  This helps explain why many become depressed after several weeks of dieting.  It might also explain why dieters often resort to high carbohydrate junk food binges.  Low levels of certain vitamins will also reduce serotonin levels.”


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