Lack of energy and motivation? Sad mood? Food cravings? You might experience low levels of dopamine, a brain chemical responsible for feeling good.
Wondering how you can increase dopamine levels without resorting to medications or supplements? We've got you covered! Read below and find out what the dopamine diet is, what foods are rich in which amino acid that synthesize dopamine and why is this brain chemical responsible for... well, your happiness!
What is dopamine?
Dopamine is another important neurotransmitter, a "happy chemical" responsible for transmitting signals between nerve cells in the brain. This brain chemical has a strong impact on the reward and pleasure centers, but also on motivation, attention, memory, or even regulating body movements.
Dopamine can be activated in a number of ways, even at the mere sight of food. When your body is high on dopamine, it gives you a feeling of pleasure and reward, which encourages you to repeat certain actions. When the dopamine level in the body is very low, you might experience a lack of motivation and decreased enthusiasm towards things that usually excite other people.
What is the dopamine diet? Can it make you happier?
The dopamine diet is a weight loss regime that promotes a mood boost. It aims to increase levels of dopamine in the body by eating certain foods, in order to make us feel good. It is recommended to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and processed sugar. Some versions of this diet suggest to completely cut out carbohydrates, but please remember that having a complex nutrition is essential for the well-functioning of the human body.
Foods allowed in the dopamine diet are, essentially, the following: dairy products, unprocessed meats, dark chocolate.
The dopamine diet is built around the idea of eating foods high in tyrosine, an amino acid essential in the production of dopamine. Certain enzymes in the body turn tyrosine into dopamine, so having an adequate tyrosine level is necessary for dopamine production.
Foods rich in tyrosine
Tyrosine is commonly found in unusual natural sources, such as:
- green tea
- sesame seeds
10 foods for boosting dopamine levels
1. Dark chocolate
We're talking about at least 70% organic cocoa dark chocolate, to be clear. Dark chocolate and cacao (the raw format of it) helps with the release of dopamine in the brain, and it's also rich in zinc, magnesium, and chromium. All of these are essential minerals that support and stabilize our mood.
Try this recipe at home - Dark Chocolate and Walnut Pie
Next time you need more motivation, grab a handful of strawberries! These sweet fruits are rich in antioxidants and protect certain parts of the brain responsible for dopamine production.
When ripped, bananas contain a high level of tyrosine. This makes them an excellent choice for regulating dopamine levels. And if you need some inspiration, here is a quick recipe infused with dopamine, that you can try at home - Chocolate Coated Banana:
4. Nuts and seeds
The body needs help to break down the tyrosine amino acid, which is found in almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, and other seeds. Give your mood a lift by eating a handful of nuts and seeds every now and then!
5. Dairy products
Either milk, cheese, or yogurt are great sources of tyrosine and a delicious way to boost dopamine production.
This veggie is high in betaine, another amino acid that works as a natural anti-depressant, helping with the dopamine production at the same time.
Here's an absolute delight to try at home - Beet Fritters.
7. Leafy greens
Broccoli, chickpeas, cauliflower, all of these are high in vitamin B6 and folate. Both of these nutrients help with dopamine production and even increase the levels of another "happiness hormone", serotonin. Enjoy them as often as possible, raw or steamed, meaning with minimal cooking so that they can better preserve their nutritious value.
8. Protein-rich foods, non-vegetarian
Another amino acid that encourages dopamine production is phenylalanine, which is later converted into tyrosine. Foods rich in phenylalanine are chicken, eggs, cheese, legumes, beef, beans, wheat germ.
Here's a quick inspiration for you - Chicken Cooked in Milk:
9. Vegetarian proteins
Don't worry if you don't enjoy eating meat. There are alternative sources for you to get the right amount of proteins and also to increase dopamine naturally. Eat soy, legumes, and beans to get enough tyrosine in order to boost your dopamine levels.
Apples are high in flavonoid, an antioxidant called quercetin, which is believed to help in the prevention of dopamine loss by the brain.
Remember: a dopamine deficiency can make you feel unmotivated, drained, and decrease your desire to do just about anything. So, adjust your happiness level and will of doing things by adding these dopamine boosting foods in your diet. In time, you will see that you will feel significantly better. And that's a promise!