The Serotonin – Food Connection
When watching one of my guilty pleasures – the food network, a commercial break mentioned eating carbohydrates as a snack to help boost mind-calming/mood-altering chemicals in the body, essentially to feel calm and happy. If you know anything about me, I am revered by some as the “food police.” In my defense, I believe that food therapy is one of easiest ways that we can take control of our own health. I discuss diet with every patient and usually send them home with homework – doing a food journal. In the future, I could see myself visiting my patients’ homes and cleaning out their refrigerators…that would be a good time for me! Okay…another guilty pleasure – fridge cleaning!
Back to the point…during the commercial, the suggestions were to snack on popcorn and other carbohydrates for that calming effect. Now, unless you don’t care about your waist or hip circumference…then, by all means, indulge in what is considered as those “comfort foods.” But if you are figure-conscious and want to look stellar in your 7 For All Mankind Jeans, then let me give you the skinny on the subject…
The neurotransmitter Serotonin is the chemical that, when released from the brain into the bloodstream, produces a calm and happy, almost sedative effect – hence the term “comfort food.” The food sources for serotonin to be produced are those that contain tryptophan and those that contain B vitamins. Tryptofan is an essential amino acid that can only be derived from food, the body does not produce it. In the brain, B vitamins convert the tryptofan to serotonin. Yes, some of these foods are carbohydrates such as brown rice. However, the others are kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, peas, sunflower seeds, almonds, salmon, blue green algae, brewer’s yeast, eggs, meats, and tofu. There are plenty of better foods to choose from when desiring a calming effect. The trouble when relying on the carbohydrates, specifically, the refined ones like cookies, cakes, white breads, is the blood sugar (insulin) crashing effect that occurs. And don’t forget that excess sugar not burned gets stored as fat…or in laymans terms – saddlebags, bat wings, muffin tops, belly pooch, etc.
In conclusion, if you’re feeling a little nervous or anxious and desire a little calmness, skip the bread and popcorn, bring on the kale salad or power green smoothie!
Here are a couple of my go-to recipes:
Add to the mixture some chopped veggies:
Power Green Smoothie
Blog postings by Natalie Maddox Rougie, AP, DACM owner of Palm Wellness in Tampa, FL.