7 Foods that Trigger the Release of Serotonin and Dopamine

7 Foods that Trigger the Release of Serotonin and Dopamine
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Foods that trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine essentially make your brain work better and have the power to improve mild depressive states and make you feel better when you’re blue. These two neurotransmitters get your blood pressure in balance, help you sleep better, and also give you the energy you need for your day.

You might have read about miracle foods that will make your depression go away all on their own. Now, be careful with claims like that; there are nuances. There may be some truth underneath them, but it’s more complicated than that.

You have four natural chemicals in your body that we call the “happiness quartet”: endorphin, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Some foods have a nutritional composition that fosters a certain brain chemistry corresponding to reduced symptoms of depression and improved moods. However, something that’s clear according to multiple studies is that there is no food capable of completely fixing any depressive disorder.

Eating a healthy diet including foods that increase serotonin and dopamine levels is a strategy that should be accompanied by psychological support and medication, as your doctor sees fit. If you don’t have depression, there is a lot of good that these foods can do for you too.

Foods that trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine

Your levels of serotonin and dopamine oscillate in your body for various reasons. Depression is one of them, though there are many more that we must take into account:

  • Stress
  • Eating too much saturated fat, sugar, processed foods, etc.
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Medication that reduces the production of serotonin and dopamine

All of that said, eating a healthy diet is crucial, as are regular doctor visits. Now let’s take a look at foods you can eat to encourage your body to produce serotonin and dopamine.

1. Oats

Oats fall under the category of “smart” carbohydrates. What does that mean? Basically, these carbs have a  calming effect on your brain. Oats are also a complex carbohydrate (whole grain), and also trigger the production of tryptophan, an essential amino acid from which serotonin is synthesized.

A woman eating oatmeal with berries to increase her serotonin.

2. Bananas

Bananas are one of the best things you could eat if you want to increase your serotonin and dopamine levels. They won’t cure depression all on their own, but they will give you a natural shot of energy, optimism, and health. Why? Well this is what bananas do in your brain:

  • Trigger the production of tryptophan
  • Contain vitamin A, C, K and B6: basic components in the synthesis and metabolism of neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine.
  • Bananas are rich in natural sugars which, combined with the natural fiber in them, results in increased strength and energy.

3. Eggs

Many people today may try to not eat eggs, afraid of increasing their cholesterol levels. However, science has confirmed that eggs are good for you because they provide good cholesterol, HDL. The key is to consume them in moderation. Plus, eggs, just like dairy products, help your body produce tryptophan and vitamin B6. These substances are necessary in the production of serotonin and dopamine.

4. Chocolate

Were you hoping to see chocolate on our list? Well, here it is, and now you can eat it daily, especially in the mornings, guilt-free. That said, of course you shouldn’t eat more than one ounce of dark, unsweetened chocolate per day.

Chocolate, besides being one of best foods for increasing your serotonin and dopamine levels, also provides exorphin, a natural pain-reliever, and theobromine, a substance similar to caffeine that gives you energy.

Chocolate shavings.

5. Pineapple

Sometimes we forget how good fruit can be for us. Pineapple, for one, deserves a spot in everyone’s diet. The reason? Here are just a few reasons:

  • Pineapples reduce anxiety and are anti-inflammatory.
  • They’re high in vitamin C and good for your circulation, concentration, and motivation.
  • They’re great for dinner time, since they help your body produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. 

6. Salmon

Fish like salmon and mackerel are rich in B vitamins. These are essential nutrients and essential in the production of serotonin and dopamine. Also, like we’ve written about before, our brain needs the omega-3’s found in salmon. Omega 3 improves processes related to attention, memory, and mood. 

7. Chickpeas

Out of all the foods that trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine, chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) are one that has been recognized and loved for centuries and centuries in many different culture.

All over the world, people love them for their ability to improve their mood and give them energy. Maybe that’s why hummus along with olive oil, garlic, and paprika is one of the most common foods eaten in the Middle East.

Hummus with chickpeas.

Maybe you already eat some of the foods we listed above. We encourage you to add some more to your diet, always remembering to eat a balanced diet, as natural as possible and accompanied by healthy lifestyle habits. Exercise and proper emotional management are vital as well. So add some bananas and chickpeas to your diet, exercise, and be happier and healthier!

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.