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6 foods that can actually boost your serotonin levels

young girl eats and bites big chocolate bar foods and smiles and rejoices on yellow isolated background, happy woman with sweet meal shows toothy smile
Eating foods such as dark chocolate can make you happier. (Getty Images)

Cold snaps and long, dark days can have detrimental effects on our moods, but did you know that eating certain foods can actually make you happier?

You’ve likely heard the term ‘feel-good food’ before, and there’s a reason why some are labelled as such: these foods contain nutrients that can boost our moods and increase our serotonin levels.

In fact, foods high in protein such as lean meats and lentils can improve mood and wellbeing, as the amino acids in the protein help the brain to produce neurotransmitters that regulate thoughts and feelings.

Fermented foods like sauerkraut can also help increase overall mood, as poor gut health can be a root source of feeling low, which can be reversed by increasing levels of healthy bacteria in the gut.

"Our bodies require lots of essential nutrients in order to function properly," wellness expert Samantha Greener from Simply Supplements, says.

"Some of these nutrients affect our moods and can even help to lift moods caused by seasonal affective disorder or general low moods. Your diet can have a huge impact on your overall well being, which is why we wanted to share some feel-good foods.

Winter breakfast concept. Overnight oatmeal with banana, berry, chia seeds, sesame tahini, cinnamon and syrup in bowl, top view, dark background.
Both oats and bananas do wonders for serotonin levels. (Getty Images)

"Common foods like lean meat, bananas and oats provide essential vitamins and proteins to lift spirits and help rid new year blues."

With this in mind, Greener has detailed the six key foods that can make you feel better, both in body and mind.

Dark chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the higher the cocoa percentage, the better. So, swap your white or milk chocolate for a piece with at least 70% cocoa and feel the good effects instantly.

"On a bad day, a bit of dark chocolate can make all the difference," Greener says. "Dark chocolate has been shown to contain serotonin which has a euphoric effect on the mind, as it is a neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation."

Fatty fish

Fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies, and mackerel, contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for optimum wellbeing.

"Omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained through diet, as your body cannot produce them on its own," Greener says.

"Tuna and salmon are some of the fatty fish rich in omega-3 which can be easily added to your diet."

Sauerkraut

Want to look after your gut health? Look no further than fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut.

"Fermented foods can have positive effects on both your gut health and mood," Greener explains. "Through fermentation, bacteria is allowed to thrive and probiotics are created. Your serotonin levels are increased by the live microorganisms and healthy bacteria in your gut."

Homemade russian sauerkraut in a glass jar with copy space
Sauerkraut can help boost gut health. (Getty Images)

Lean meat

"Lean meat contaisn essential proteins which can positively impact your mood," Greener explains. "Neurotransmitters produced from the chemicals in protein help to regulate your thoughts and feelings, boosting overall mood."

Greener suggests tucking into low salt sausages, pork, and beef to get the best results from lean meat.

Bananas

"Bananas contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which your body uses to produce the compound which makes serotonin and melatonin, two mood and sleep-regulating neurotransmitters," Greener says.

Oats

Oats get a gold star for mood boosting thanks to their low glycaemic index.

"They slowly release energy into the bloodstream, which keeps blood sugar and mood stable," Greener says. "They are an excellent source of fibre and also contain the mood-boosting mineral selenium."

Healthy eating: Read more