How To Increase Serotonin And Dopamine Through Your Diet

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Many people wonder how you can increase your serotonin and dopamine naturally. Well luckily we have just the answer - it’s your diet! In this article, we'll tell you all about how you can increase your happiness hormones by just looking at what you eat.

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If you were to hear the term "eat yourself happy", most people would think of eating things like chocolate, ice cream, bread or pasta. In fact, our body releases endorphins for short-term well-being when we eat things that we like or that we associate with happy moments. Unfortunately, this happiness is very short-lived.

After ingesting these ‘comfort foods’, you fall into hypoglycaemia, meaning you suffer from an uncomfortable feeling of fullness - or, if you ingest alcohol, a hangover - and your mood plummets.

Even if these treats are tempting and have their justification as a luxury food, there are other foods that can really brighten your mood in the long term and give you a feeling of balance.

What are serotonin and dopamine?

There are two messenger substances primarily responsible for our good mood: dopamine and serotonin. The function of dopamine is to be our ‘inner driver’ - with a balanced dopamine level, it is easier for you to motivate yourself. Dopamine is therefore also known as the ‘drive hormone’.

If you’re then wondering what Serotonin does, it is effectively our feel-good hormone. It improves your mood and counteracts anxiety.

However, both neurotransmitters also influence other bodily functions such as our sleep-wake cycle or body temperature. This makes it all the more important to ensure that both neurotransmitters are in balance. You can actively influence your neurotransmitter balance with your diet.

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Happy foods - increase neurotransmitters with your diet

Although some foods such as pineapple, kiwi, plums, tomatoes and bananas actually contain serotonin, consuming them does not immediately make us feel happy. Serotonin absorbed through food cannot cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore does not reach the crucial area of the brain.

The blood-brain barrier is a natural border between the blood and the central nervous system that protects the brain from harmful substances, pathogens and toxins.

Only serotonin, which is produced by nerve cells in the brain itself, can have an effect there. Nevertheless, it is possible to eat yourself happy (or at least happier) by taking a few small but simple steps.

Here are our top tips for boosting your neurotransmitters naturally:


In order for serotonin to reach the brain and take effect there, the amino acid tryptophan has to be present. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, meaning without it, our brains cannot produce the happiness hormone.

L-tryptophan is found in many plant-based foods, such as soya protein, nuts and pulses. Eggs, meat, fish and dark chocolate are also a good source of tryptophan.


In order for serotonin to be produced in the brain, tryptophan must be present. The hormone insulin is very important for this process. Insulin is always released when our blood sugar rises, which happens when we consume carbohydrates. An increased intake of carbohydrates can therefore increase the level of tryptophan and, accordingly, serotonin in the brain. This effect can be achieved simply by increasing our protein intake - i.e. not just by eating foods containing tryptophan.

This means we should mainly focus on complex carbohydrates present within fruit, vegetables and wholemeal products.


Our sense of happiness depends not only on foods that contain happiness transmitters, but also on whether our gut is happy. The gut is a kind of second brain in our body and plays a major role in mood swings.

There is a two-way communication axis between the brain and the gut: the gut-brain axis, if you will. If there is a disturbance in the bacterial population in the gut, this axis no longer functions properly and the happiness in the gut does not reach the head properly.

Incidentally, more than 90 per cent of serotonin is produced in the gut. Although this does not reach the brain (due to the blood-brain barrier), so it takes on important tasks in the digestive area.

What this means for your diet: incorporate probiotic foods such as yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, apple cider vinegar or raw sauerkraut to increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut. It is also helpful if you eat prebiotic foods to give the colonised bacteria their favourite food.


One tidbit we love to share: the right fats don't make you fat, they make you happy! Two thirds of our brain matter are special fatty substances that need to be constantly replenished and are closely linked to our moods. To ensure that we, and above all our brain, feel as good as possible, we should regularly feed it with the best fatty foods.

This mainly includes omega-3 fatty acids (the more omega-3, the better our mood). Studies have shown that with a sufficient supply, we can increase our dopamine production in the brain by 40 per cent. This makes us more alert and increases our ability to concentrate.

Fatty fish is particularly rich in omega 3. But linseed and linseed oil, walnuts and avocado also help your body to feel better. If you don't eat fish regularly, you should support your brain with a high-quality omega 3 oil.


A good supply of micronutrients is of course essential for all bodily functions. However, these two micronutrients play a particularly important role in our mood.

Magnesium is directly involved in the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in the brain. A magnesium deficiency therefore often manifests itself in neurological or psychiatric symptoms. Wheat bran, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, nuts and wholemeal products are rich in magnesium. But also bananas, peas, raspberries and broccoli.

A sufficient vitamin B6 level is a prerequisite for the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin. Vitamin B6 is also involved in the synthesis of other neurotransmitters such as GABA, noradrenaline, adrenaline and dopamine.

Great sources of vitamin B6 are fish and meat, wholemeal products, various vegetables (e.g. cabbage, green beans, lettuce), pulses, wheat germ and soya beans.

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More and more studies are showing a clear link between vitamin D and mood. According to recent studies by the Asklepios clinics, the risk of developing depression almost doubles if you have a vitamin D deficiency. This is because vitamin D plays an important role in the regulation of serotonin, influences the utilisation of dopamine and regulates the synthesis of noradrenaline.

Unfortunately, we can only cover a very small proportion of our vitamin D requirements through our diet. As vitamin D is mainly formed on the skin by the sun's rays, it is important to spend a lot of time in the sun in summer - however always with suitable sun protection, of course. If this is not possible, then vitamin D supplements are a good way to introduce it into your system.


In addition to the nutrients mentioned above, the brain needs a variety of other nutrients, including iron, zinc, vitamins B, E and K - the list is long. A balanced and varied diet is of crucial importance to us, since it supports brain function and thus the production of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.

Make your vegetables as colourful as possible, because each colour has different superpowers. Fruits, especially dark-coloured berries, contain many antioxidants that protect the cell membranes of our brain and support all neurotransmitters. Fruit and vegetables also contain lots of vitamin C, which is needed by the adrenal glands to cope with stress.

It's best to follow our Simple 7 concept. And reach for anything fresh and crunchy that you can get your hands on.

By the way: adaptogens such as ashwagandha or medicinal mushrooms can also influence your mood. They can help to reduce stress and fatigue and thus improve your mood.


It is certainly no surprise that it is not chocolate but a wholesome, colourful and protein-rich diet that ensures long-term happiness and balance. However, the connection between hormones, neurotransmitters and the gut once again emphasises your own influence on your feelings of happiness in everyday life. So succinctly summarise a good mood meal plan:

  • Follow the Women in Balance plate for every meal: 1/4 protein, 1⁄2 colourful vegetables and fruit, 1⁄4 complex carbohydrates and a few good fats
  • Eat your fill at every meal. Hunger makes you miserable!
  • Support yourself with adaptogens and micronutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin D and omega 3 if necessary
  • Choose organic food as often as possible to avoid ingesting hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or other residues
  • Treat yourself - short-term endorphins are also part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle

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Panossian A, Wikman G. Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals. 2010;3(1):188-224. doi:10.3390/ph3010188

Hilft Vitamin D gegen die Volkskrankheit Depression?. Published February 7, 2020. 

Panossian A. Evidence-Based Efficacy of Adaptogens in Fatigue, and Molecular Mechanisms Related to their Stress-Protective Activity

Kałużna–Czaplińska J, Gątarek P, Chirumbolo S, Chartrand MS, Bjørklund G. How important is tryptophan in human health? Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2017;59(1):72-88. doi:10.1080/10408398.2017.1357534