How food can up your mood

By Juliana Kassianos, Transformational Fertility Coach, Yoga Teacher and Founder of The School of Fertility



Serotonin is a feel-good hormone, which tells the body to feel happy, calm and mellow. Some foods contain serotonin, but as it’s difficult for serotonin to cross the blood-brain barrier, raising levels in the brain isn’t as simple as just eating these types of food.

However, the amino acid tryptophan is a building block for the production of serotonin, so by eating foods rich in this amino acid, we can naturally boost our levels of serotonin. For it to cross the blood-brain barrier, it needs help from carbohydrate.

The slow releasing carbohydrate itself may lack tryptophan, but it causes insulin to be secreted, which decreases plasma levels of amino acids that would otherwise compete with tryptophan for transport into the brain, therefore increasing its levels in the brain.

The rate of serotonin synthesis can be affected by influences, such as stress, insulin resistance, magnesium or vitamin B6 deficiency, and increasing age.

ACTION: Consume tryptophan-rich food with a slow releasing carbohydrate as part of a balanced diet


  • Bananas

  • Eggs

  • Turkey

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

  • Beans

  • Lentils

  • Seafood


  • Wholegrains (e.g. oats, buckwheat, quinoa)

  • Vegetables (e.g. sweet potato, broccoli and spinach)

  • Lentils, peas and beans (e.g. kidney beans, black beans, peas)


  • Vitamin D: Supplementation has been shown to be favourable in the management of depression. Make sure you’re not deficient. It can be produced in the body when skin gets direct exposure to sunlight. One study suggests light may directly stimulate the production of serotonin

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Shown to be more effective than a placebo in treating depression

  • B vitamins: Low B9 (folate), B6 and B12 have been linked to depression

  • Physical exercise: During exercise, the body releases endorphins and serotonin


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  • Vitamin D and Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Comparing Studies with and without Biological Flaws. Simon Spedding. Nutrients. 2014 Apr; 6(4): 1501– 1518.

  • Sunshine, Serotonin, and Skin: A Partial Explanation for Seasonal Patterns in Psychopathology? Randy A. Sansone, MD and Lori A. Sansone, MD. Innov Clin Neurosci. 2013 Jul-Aug; 10(7-8): 20–24.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids in depression: a review of three studies. Osher Y, Belmaker RH. CNS Neurosci er. 2009 Summer;15(2):128-33. pubmed/19499625

  • Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. Coppen A1, Bolander-Gouaille C. J Psychopharmacol. 2005 Jan;19(1):59-65. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov/pubmed/15671130

  • B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and E cacy—A Review. David O. Kennedy Nutrients. 2016 Feb; 8(2): 68.

Juliana Kassianos