By Maui Drilon for Yahoo! Southeast Asia
We all know that the sight of chocolate can make our hearts go pitter-patter. Or that the thought of a scoop of gelato can put a smile on our faces. But can certain foods actually give your self-esteem a boost? According to a study, the answer is yes!
Researchers in McGill University in Montreal, Canada, found that food containing the amino acid tryptophan makes people more confident. Volunteers in the study who were given three grammes of tryptophan supplements said they felt more confident when in social situations. That’s because tryptophan boosts levels of serotonin, a chemical your brain produces that makes you feel relaxed and good about yourself. In fact, most anti-depressants work to boost serotonin levels in the body. This generally follows that heightened levels of serotonin in the body has anti-depressant effects.
With this new research, maybe it’s time you added some serotonin-boosting foods to your diet. Here are some you can add to your grocery list or order the next time you’re out lunching with friends.
Turkey is notorious for its tryptophan content. Why do you think people claim that they feel so relaxed after gorging on Thanksgiving turkey they fall asleep right after? Turkey is one of the best protein foods that boost serotonin levels. It’s also rich in essential fats. The next time you hit the deli, consider getting yourself a turkey and cranberry sub!
Fatty Fish like salmon contain essential fats like DHA. Studies show that DHA alters the composition of nerve cell membranes, which in turn reduces depressive symptoms. Have a meal consisting of either salmon, sardines or mackerel three times a week if you can. If you’re worried about mercury poisoning or can’t stand the taste of fish, consider taking a fish oil supplement instead.
Green Leafy Veggies Popeye was onto something when he gobbled up spinach nonstop to stay healthy. Green leafy veggies such as spinach are high in folic acid. Studies show that the higher the folic acid in your body, the higher the serotonin present. You can get more folic acid by eating dried beans, almonds, nuts and lentils.
Buckwheat This natural starch food contains the most tryptophan out of all the starchy carbs. The high levels of Vitamin B present in buckwheat are key to what makes this a great mood improver. Research shows that certain B vitamins help in proper serotonin synthesis in the brain. Don’t be afraid you’ll be packing in on the calories just because this food is starch-based; you need to include a starchy carb that increases serotonin in your diet as this clears all other amino acids from your bloodstream, leaving only tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier. This then gets converted into serotonin. The trick is to eat starchy carbs in moderation. Pair a multi-grain piece of bread with some leftover roast chicken for lunch. The protein from the chicken helps create more serotonin.
Dark Chocolate You read that right – cocoa is well known to increase serotonin levels! The key is to buy dark chocolate that has a 70 per cent or higher cocoa content. Keep in mind: the darker the chocolate, the more anti-oxidants and polyphenols. Don’t think this gives you the license to eat every chocolate bar in sight though. Chocolate bars are still high in sugar! While you may think those sweets are making you happy, your waist line surely wouldn’t agree!