10 Must-Eat Foods to Boost Your Mood

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By Addah Arcilla | August 15, 2014 2:27 PM EST

Eating is always a pleasurable activity. But what if eating certain kinds of foods can make you feel good-literally? That's exactly what food rich in dopamine can do for you.

Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter, a chemical that controls communication in the brain. Dopamine regulates our movement, mood, behavior and cognition, memory, attention and sleep. It helps with decision-making and creativity, and is associated with reward and motivation. When have enough dopamine in our body, we experience feelings of bliss, pleasure, controlled motor movements, appetite control and we're more focused.  

Low levels of dopamine can cause symptoms such as tremors, stiff muscles, impaired motor skills, poor balance and coordination, inability to focus, mood changes, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue and excessive overeating.

If you're feeling a bit down and lethargic or weak, your body might just in need of a dopamine boost. Try these top 10 dopamine-rich foods to lift your mood, get you going and improve your mental health.

  1. Apples

The old adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" just might prove to be right after all. Apples contain a compound called quercetin, which is a powerful antioxidant that promotes brain health by preventing neurodegenerative diseases. Apples also contain polyphenols, another oxidant that help protect dopamine cells from damage.

  1. Bananas  

Bananas are rich in tyrosine, a type of amino acid that neurons turn into dopamine and Norepinephrine. These two neurotransmitters are important in motivation, concentration, alertness and memory.

Smoothies anyone?

  1.  Beets

You can't beat the beet in this one. Beetroot or beets contain a powerful antidepressant called betaine. Betaine is an amino acid that stimulates the production of S-adenoslmethionine. S-adenoslmethionine, in turn, is linked to the production of dopamine and serotonin, the "happiness neurotransmitters".

  1. Meat, Chicken and Eggs

Most neurotransmitters are made from amino acids obtained from protein found in food that we eat. Hence, one of the best ways to increase dopamine levels is through the consumption of food rich in protein.

  1. Fish

There's nothing fishy about this. Fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acid, which is directly related to the production of neurotransmitters including dopamine. Fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, halibut, striped bass, rainbow trout and sardines. Fish also have easily digestible protein, low cholesterol levels, low saturated fat levels and trace nutrients.

  1.  Watermelon

Watermelon is rich in vitamins A, B6 and. Vitamin B6 is used in the production of the "happiness neurotransmitters" dopamine and serotonin.

  1.  Chocolate

Just another reason why we should love chocolates. Chocolates are known to increase serotonin levels, but they can also play a part in the production of dopamine. Chocolates contain a compound called enylethylamine, which stimulates the brain cells to release dopamine. Pnylethylamine combines with dopamine that results in a mild anti-depressant effect.

Another compound found in chocolate called tyramine, which is derived from the amino acid tyrosine, also stimulates the release of dopamine.

  1. Almonds

Almonds contain a lot of nutrients that are critical for the maintenance of mental health. Foremost amongst these are vitamin B9 or folate and tyrosine, a precursor to dopamine. Tyrosine partially relies on the presence of folate for its conversion to dopamine.

  1.  Green Tea

Ready to swap your latte for a cup of tea? Green tea is known for its bolstering effects on the body as well as on the brain. Polyphenols, the chemical responsible for green tea's bitter taste, help boost the level of dopamine. It also helps in maintaining positive mood states and protection against brain disorders.

Green tea also contains an amino acid called theanine, which stimulates the production of dopamine and the calming neurotransmitter GABA.

  1. Wheat germ

Wheat germ contains Phenylalanine, an amino acid that converts into tyrosine, which in turn, is synthesised to dopamine.  

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