How to Boost Warm, Happy and Optimistic Feelings Through Food


Teasing out the more subtle nature of your depressed moods can give you important insight to what may be happening biochemically.

Some of us have feelings of depression laced with deep fatigue and a flat, lethargic undertone. Others experience their depressed moods with an edginess to them- depression paired with anxiety or irritability as well.

If you tend toward an “edgier” depression, low serotonin may be the culprit.

Now, of course, there are many factors that go into proper diagnosis of our mental and emotional health. What I’d like to share this week, though, is a nutritional perspective if you suspect your serotonin levels (the neurotransmitters that help us feel happy, optimistic and warm feelings) are low.

The thing is, regardless of many other excellent strategies for bolstering your mental health, if your body simply does not have the raw materials it needs to produce the proper neurochemicals, not much else can really help.

In order for your body to produce serotonin it needs to have adequate amounts of tryptophan, an amino acid.  But not all high protein foods have the same amount of tryptophan.  Knowing which foods are high in tryptophan is essential to be sure you are providing your body and mind what it needs to feel well.

To make it super easy, I’ve put together a list of high tryptophan foods.

Best Sources

Foods that contain the highest amounts of tryptophan are turkey, beef, pork, dairy products and eggs.  Yup- animal sources.

The fascinating thing is that as we have shifted from wild game and animals raised in their natural setting to factory farming…the amount of tryptophan in the meat of these animals has gone significantly down.  There is now 3 times more of all the other amino acids in meat than there is of tryptophan.  The difference in actual nutrition of organically, naturally raised animals is staggering.

Good Sources

If you are a vegetarian, it will be a bit harder for you to get adequate amounts of tryptophan without taking a supplement, but these sources do provide this amino acid: nutritional yeast, milk products, nuts and seeds, bananas and pumpkin.

As always in nutrition, nothing happens in isolation, so it’s imperative that you have enough calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and B Vitamins available in order for your body to synthesize the tryptophan into serotonin.

If you experience any level of depression, do you tend toward the flat/lethargic side or the edgy/irritable/anxious side?