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How to Raise Your Serotonin Levels Through Diet & Amino Acid Supplementation

By Ann Jones

The body requires 22 essential amino acids to build the proteins that fight infection, regulate growth and influence mental state. While most of these amino acids are synthesized by the body, there are several that must come from the food we eat and the supplements we take. According to, many people do not get enough tryptophan, an essential amino acid that leads to serotonin production. Serotonin is vital for regulating mood and appetite. A deficiency of serotonin can lead to depression and anxiety as well as to a tendency to eat more high-carbohydrate foods.

  1. Replace white bread, rice and pasta with whole grain versions. Carbohydrates boost levels of tryptophan, and whole grains contain zinc, which aids in tryptophan absorption.

  2. Eat plenty of low-fat dairy, such as skim milk, cottage cheese and yogurt. Dairy products contain high amounts of tryptophan as well as vitamin D, which may also aid in relieving depression.

  3. Sprinkle wheat germ and flaxseed, high in folic acid, on cereals, salads and sandwiches. Folic acid, like tryptophan, is a precursor to serotonin.

  4. Add nutritional yeast to popcorn, salads and grains. These bright yellow flakes, high in B vitamins, can often be found in the bulk section of health food stores. Vitamin B-6 helps convert tryptophan to serotonin.

  5. Snack on raw walnuts, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Other sources of omega-3s are oily fish, such as salmon and halibut. According to Dr. Andrew Stoll, director of the Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory at Harvard Medical School-McLean Hospital, omega-3s make brain cell membranes more fluid, which allows a smoother flow of serotonin in the brain.

  6. Warnings

    Do not take amino acid supplements with MAOI antidepressants or antipsychotic medications. If you are uncertain whether your current psychiatric medication falls into these categories, ask your pharmacist. Some common MAOIs are Nardil and Parnate. Common antipsychotics include Haldol, Clozaril, Seroquel and Zyprexa.

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