Mood Foods

by TJ Davis | July 20th, 2010 | Eating Tips

Neurotransmitters are special chemicals in the brain which affect a number of body functions. Three neurotansmitters, in particular, are associated with positivity and good moods: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Chemical levels of these neurotransmitters can be affected by a number of factors, including heredity, alcohol, hormones and food.

Serotonin is often thought of as the good mood chemical in the bain. Steady levels of serotonin are most often associated with positivity and contentment. It can also promote calmness and drowsiness. Foods which affect serotonin levels are high in carbohydrates. Cereals, grains, candy and pastas all can cause serotonin levels to rise, which produces a calming effect in the brain. This is thought to be why comfort foods such as chocolate and pastries are craved by the body in times of depression, especially by women, who seem to have a much greater sensitivity to changes in serotonin levels in the brain.

Dopamine and norepinephrine production are triggered by foods high in protein. Both of these neurotransmitters are thought to promote alertness and clarity of thought, increased concentration and quicker physical reaction response time. Meats, nuts, and other high quality proteins play a part in the brain’s production of these chemicals.

The effects of these “good mood foods” are short term, lasting in bursts up to only 3-4 hours. In order to achieve the stated positive effects of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, the foods chosen to create the desired effect should focus on quality, not quantity. This is because large meals tend to be high in calories and fat, which slows the body’s absorption of protein and carbohydrates. Decreased blood flow to the brain – because the blood flow to the stomach increases to deal with fat consumption – leaves the body fatigued and sleepy.

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