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Raise Serotonin and Endorphin Levels

Updated on June 27, 2017
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Science graduate and business advisor, health educator and author, Beth writes articles on a wide variety of subjects.

Yummy Profiteroles With Fresh Cream and Chocolate Sauce

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Food Can Affect Your Mood

There are days when you feel on top of the world and don’t know why. One explanation is that the foods you eat can affect your mood. Something you’ve eaten has raised your serotonin and/or endorphin levels.

If you follow the maxim of “a little of what you fancy does you good”, with the emphasis on “a little”, then try eating one of the “happy” foods to raise your mood if you’re feeling a bit low.

Top 10 Foods To Make You Happy

Top Ten
List from Institute of Optimum Nutrition (ION) as quoted in The Daily Mail
Alternative List of Healthy & Happy Foods from Video above
1
Chocolate
Coconut
2
Strawberries
Eggs
3
Ice cream
Cherry Tomatoes
4
Pasta
Honey
5
Bread
Asparagus
6
Bananas
Greek Yogurt
7
Grapes
Dark Chocolate
8
Oranges
Mussels
9
Nuts
Blue Potatoes
10
Sesame Seeds
Swiss Chard

Succulent Fresh Strawberries Can Lift Your Mood

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What is Serotonin?

Serotonin has been nicknamed the “happiness hormone” due to its important role in regulating mood. However, serotonin also plays an essential role in many other aspects of human body chemistry. It is a neurotransmitter which means that it transmits nerve impulses (or messages) between cells in the body. Serotonin affects your appetite, sleep patterns, memory and learning as well as your mood.

Several research studies have shown that a happy person lives an average of 10 years longer than someone who is negative or sad through their life. Serotonin can be useful in lifting mood and helping someone feel happier. There are four non-drug ways of increasing brain serotonin production. These are exposure to bright light, regular exercise, meditation and diet.

What are Endorphins?

Endorphins are released during times of heightened stress, fear or pain. Their effect on the body has been likened to that of opiates (without the chemical dependency of course). They dull the intensity of pain and have a generally calming effect. Eating particular foods have been found to increase the secretion of endorphins and these foods include chocolate and carbohydrates. Release of endorphins is also increased after periods of intense physical activity.

How Diet Affects Depression

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Happy Foods Increase Serotonin and Endorphins

Everyone has favorite foods that make them feel happy, but for the purpose of this article, happy foods are those that increase brain serotonin levels or the secretion of endorphins. Peer-reviewed scientific articles on this exact subject are difficult to find as much of the basic research has been carried out on animals rather than humans.

The following 10 foods that make you happy have been suggested by Melinda Amato of the Institute of Optimum Nutrition (ION) and quoted in The Daily Mail, a UK newspaper. Her suggestions are based on anecdotal evidence, rather than proven science, so the best way to test the theory is to try a little of each of the foods and see whether your mood improves.

Naughty But Nice Chocolate-Coated Fruit Bonbons

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Chocolate (Preferably Dark Chocolate)

Luckily for the chocoholics among us, this list of happy foods includes chocolate. It came as no surprise that The Daily Mail article placed chocolate as the number one food that will make you happy.

Scientists at the Institute of Neuroscience in California are quoted as saying that eating a small piece of chocolate will “heighten sensitivity and induce euphoria” because it increases the secretion of endorphins. However, chocolate is high in both fat and sugar so you are advised to keep the quantity small when you get your chocolate “fix”.

Strawberries and Ice Cream

Strawberries and ice cream are the second and third foods on the top 10 happy list. A traditional combination, strawberries and ice cream make the perfect summer desert. English strawberries are at their best during July and August and are served throughout the Wimbledon tennis tournaments. Whether eating them makes the watching crowds good-humored is an interesting possibility. You could make a great desert and include all three of the top happy foods by sticking a chocolate flake into the ice cream next to some strawberries. A winning combination!

Eating Carbohydrate Increases Serotonin Levels

Comfort foods often contain carbohydrates. They make you feel relaxed through a slow release of proteins and carbohydrate. These types of food take the edge off your hunger pangs. Eating these will cause your serotonin levels to rise, resulting in an improvement in your mood. It is logical then that the fourth, fifth and sixth happy foods on the ION’s list are all carbohydrates. These are pasta, bread and bananas.

Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice Gives Your Day Added Zing

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Fresh Fruit, Vegetables, Nuts and Seeds - Eat 5 A Day

Maintaining good general health helps you stay in a positive frame of mind. Both the US and UK governments recommend that a balanced diet should include eating five portions of fresh fruit or vegetables every day. Not only will you feel happier and more energetic if you eat 5 a day, but you are likely to live for longer too.

This nutrition advice is echoed by the foods making places seven, eight, nine and ten on The Daily Mail’s happy food list. These places are taken by grapes, oranges, nuts and sesame seeds. All the fruits are high in vitamin C and the sesame seeds are a good source of vitamin B. These vitamins affect serotonin production and thus make you feel happier.

Other Top Ten Foods

Each person will have their own ideas about which are the top 10 foods to improve mood and well-being. The video below gives an alternative list which you may prefer. The video's list places more emphasis on eating healthily and getting a balanced diet rather than focusing purely on endorphin and serotonin production.

In my opinion the key to being a happy person is to eat a balanced diet and take regular exercise. Within your varied diet you should prepare and cook foods that you enjoy eating.

10 Foods to Make You Happier

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    • NornsMercy profile image

      Chace 3 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      This is awesome. I love all these foods! Now I want some chocolate... :)

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      I love all the things on your top 10 list, though I would swap chocolate & strawberries. I also love honey and eat quite a bit of that, in porridge or on toast or bread, as well as with lemon juice & hot water for a 'beat a cold' drink at bedtime.

      I'm so happy about your list and now feel justified in all my choices! Great fun! Up, useful & interesting. Ann

    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 3 years ago from Vernon British Columbia Canada

      I love everything on the list of top ten foods and alternatives, except for mussels. And I haven't tried Greek yogurt yet, but I love yogurt.

      Now I know why I like them so much :).

      Thanks for putting all this information together.

    • electronician profile image

      Dean Walsh 3 years ago from Birmingham, England

      This is great - some of my favourite foods made it onto the top lists! I love dark chocolate and grapes and nuts and seeds and asparagus greek yoghurt!

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 3 years ago

      I've always known that chocolate makes you happy. thanks for this useful and informative hub. will be sharing with other. voted up and pinned.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

      Oh yes, definitely dark Chocolate, and of course, it belongs at the top of the list. Nothing else compares, though it's not a bad list after the daily dose! :)

    • amiebutchko profile image

      Amie Butchko 3 years ago from Warwick, NY

      Very interesting! Just looking at that chocolate pastry picture made me happier!!! Wish I had some right now....

    • vibesites profile image

      vibesites 3 years ago from United States

      Yeah, whenever I am sad (most especially after a misunderstanding with my guy), I mostly turn to chocolates and ice cream to make me feel better even for a while. Thanks for posting :)

    • rls8994 profile image

      rls8994 3 years ago from Mississippi

      I do always feel better after I have some chocolate :) This is great information to have! Thanks for this hub :)

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      I'm happier just by seeing the profiteroles! Great hub, voted up and interesting.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 3 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      This hub made me happy -- just knowing chocolate is still on the list of foods which make us happy. Great list of foods. Great hub.

    • Ruchi Urvashi profile image

      Ruchi Urvashi 3 years ago from Singapore

      My best choice to raise my serotonin levels is dark chocolate. I just love it. I enjoyed reading your article.

    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 3 years ago from Austin, TX

      I'm with you all guys here, I also go for chocolate to lift my spirits high. Although I like all other foods that are listed here, I only wasn't aware that they are also capable to make you feel good. Thanks for posting. :)

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 3 years ago from Georgia

      I agree that chocolate and high carb foods provide a peaceful and happy feeling, but it's short-lived for me and usually results in craving more and more food that is unhealthy. Glad to see there are some healthy foods on here too. Very interesting hub and voted up.

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