Have you ever experienced happiness after eating certain foods? That’s because of a chemical called dopamine. A boost of dopamine will take you from feeling like you have zero energy, to feeling more productive in no time. But how do you know what foods to choose? Keep reading to learn more about dopamine as well as 10 foods that boost dopamine naturally.
What is dopamine and why is it important?
So we know that dopamine can help us feel better and more energized, but what exactly is it? Dopamine isn’t just one thing. In fact, it’s two different things. It is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter that is produced in your brain.
Dopamine is our brain’s “feel-good” chemical. It’s also been called a reward chemical or a motivation molecule. When you are feeling that your needs are being met, or you’re close to achieving a goal, dopamine is released into your body, giving you that feeling of joy and satisfaction.
As a hormone, dopamine works alongside serotonin, another hormone, as well as adrenaline which is a stimulant, to create a sensation of pleasure. As a neurotransmitter, dopamine carries signals from your brain to the rest of your body, more specifically, your nerve cells.
It creates a feeling of pleasure, as well as happiness and motivation – and it can all be done naturally.
15 Signs of Low Dopamine
How do you know if you are low on dopamine? If you’ve been feeling moody, tired, or unmotivated, you may be experiencing a dopamine deficiency.
Dopamine plays a key role in multiple brain functions, and as a result, low levels can cause a variety of symptoms. The symptoms you experience will depend on the underlying cause. Take a look at these 15 signs of low dopamine to see if you might need a boost.
1. Difficulty concentrating
2. Poor motor coordination or balance
3. Reduced alertness
4. Lack of desire or motivation
5. Inability to feel pleasure or pain
6. Muscle cramps, spasms, tremors, or stiffness
8. Weight loss or gain
9. Body aches and pains
10. Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
11. Low energy levels
12. Feeling anxious
13. Constant mood swings
15. Low sex drive
8 Causes of Low Dopamine
Now that you know what the symptoms are, it’s important to figure out the cause. Talk with your doctor if you have questions. Here is a list of the 8 most common causes of low dopamine:
3. Parkinson’s Disease
4. Restless legs syndrome disorder
5. Drug use
6. High creatives
7. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
8. Poor diet or health conditions
10 Foods That Boost Dopamine
You don’t need to overhaul your entire diet to reap the benefits of dopamine. Simply snacking on certain foods or adding them to your meals each day will do the trick. Some of the best choices are foods that contain tyrosine, an amino acid that helps to synthesize hormones. Below is a list of 10 delicious foods that help boost dopamine naturally.
Milk and dairy products
A chemical called phenylalanine can be found in milk and other dairy products. It converts to tyrosine in your body, which helps to stimulate dopamine production. Avoid dairy products with a high-fat content not only because they aren’t as healthy, but a poor overall diet can affect dopamine levels.
You may already know that eggs are a nutritional goldmine. Eggs contain folate and all 9 essential amino acids. Since our bodies cannot make these things on their own, consuming eggs, which also contain phenylalanine, helps your body make tyrosine.
Certain fruits can help boost your dopamine levels. Choose berries, bananas, watermelon, or papaya. All of them contain tyrosine, but also quercetin, which is a plant pigment. The two of them together mean that a daily dose of fruit will keep your dopamine levels up.
You’ve probably been told to eat your greens. Tyrosine is also found in green vegetables. Everything from leafy greens, to broccoli, to avocados contain folate, a B vitamin, which helps to synthesize serotonin and dopamine.
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. It has the ability to increase neurotransmitters in your brain. One of those is dopamine. That dopamine can help reduce depressive symptoms.
Nuts & seeds
Nuts and seeds are a tyrosine powerhouse. Choose things like almonds or pumpkin seeds to help get those dopamine levels up.
Meat & fish
Essential amino acids are found in animal proteins. Your body can’t produce these on its own. When these proteins are digested, they trigger the release of dopamine. Lean-cut meats or fish like salmon are great choices.
Many of us can’t do without the caffeine boost we get from a cup (or two!) of coffee. Caffeine triggers our bodies to produce dopamine. That dopamine wakes us up and makes us feel more alert and focused.
Plant-based protein doesn’t have the same amino acid profiles of its animal-based counterparts. However, you can still reap the benefits by consuming a variety of plant-based protein sources like tofu, lentils, or quinoa.
Dark chocolate is a fantastic source of tyrosine as well as phenylalanine. In moderation, it’s a healthier alternative when you need a sweet treat. Because of the dairy in dark chocolate, the phenylalanine converts to tyrosine and gives you a dopamine boost.
Now that you know what to eat, you’re ready to take advantage of the benefits of dopamine. Pair these foods with regular exercise and more sleep, and you’ll stay motivated, energized, and ready for whatever life throws at you!