Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, widespread throughout the brain and the body's nervous system. By modulating brain activity, dopamine's primary function is to control movement, but it also plays a critical role in many bodily functions, including circulation and stimulating metabolism. Furthermore, dopamine affects human emotions, releasing chemicals such as endorphins to promote feelings of pleasure, love and attachment. A dopamine deficiency can lead to an array of physiological and psychological health problems, and while foods do not contain the neurotransmitter, eating right can promote an increase in dopamine levels in the body.
The brain cells responsible for producing dopamine requires the amino acid l-phenylalanine. Therefor, an increased consumption of amino acids will stimulate dopamine production. Animal derived protein sources such as meats, eggs and dairy are known as "complete proteins," as they contain all of the essential and non-essential amino acids required by the body. Wheat germ is another good source of phenylalanine.
Fruits and Vegetables
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants. Dopamine is easily oxidized, so eating foods rich in antioxidants may help protect dopamine levels from becoming depleted. Apples contain quercetin, an antioxidant found to reduce the risk of neurodengenerative disorders. Bananas contain tyrosine, an amino acid neurons use to produce dopamine. Celery, beets, cucumber, sweet peppers, watermelon and green leafy vegetables also have dopamine boosting properties. Integrative Psychiatry states many healthcare professionals recommend supplementing your diet with antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E.
Fish such as mackerel, tuna, salmon, sardines and trout all contain Omega-3 fatty acids. These "good fats" play a role in regulating many bodily functions including the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine. In a study conducted by French scientists, rats given a diet without Omega-3 fatty acids showed a reduction of dopamine levels in the brain.