Can we boost and normalize dopamine through foods?
First things first, what is dopamine? Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. It influences well-being, alertness, learning, creativity, attention, emotional response, and concentration. Dopamine also enables us to take action and move toward our goals. It’s thought that dopamine deficiency results in Parkinson's, and people with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction. A study in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, suggests that your brain uses dopamine to tell your body when to stop eating. Alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, amphetamines and even sugar can also disrupt dopamine balance, feeding the addictive cycle.
Can we boost and normalize dopamine through foods? Yes! It’s thought that foods rich in the dopamine precursor L-tyrosine may keep your cravings at bay and reduce your impulse to eat, as well as retrain and reactivate dopamine receptors in the brain; making it easier and easier as time goes to derive increased pleasure from smaller amounts of food, and not depend on other potentially addictive substances like sugar, or alcohol.
Foods rich in L-tyrosine include: Fava beans, duck, chicken, ricotta cheese, oatmeal, mustard greens, edamame, dark chocolate, bananas, seaweed and wheat germ.
What are some other foods and tips that will help boost dopamine and proper neurotransmitter function?
Dates. Dates are a good source of vitamin B6. B6 is one of several B vitamins required for proper production of neurotransmitters - including dopamine, GABA and serotonin, arguably the three most well known neurotransmitters, all require B6 for synthesis. A cup of Deglet Noor chopped dates contains 0.24 milligrams, or at least 14 percent of the DRI!
Maybe you're not hungry in the morning – but eat breakfast! Studies have demonstrated that a substantial breakfast with at least 13 grams of protein leads to reduced cravings for sweet and savory foods compared to no breakfast at all. Researchers suspect that protein may help stimulate the release of dopamine, thus helping to manage cravings. Two eggs, half-cup of cottage cheese, or a cup of cooked oatmeal with two tablespoons of almond butter will keep you powered on protein. Keep in mind this trick can work throughout the day, make sure all meals and snacks include protein.
Get your fat. Omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood, flax, chia, purslane and walnuts have a significant effect on dopamine levels. In fact, the brain is comprised of 60 percent fat - DHA is the most prominent. Poor electrical transmission in brain cells has a direct effect on dopamine production –low DHA contributes to this. Supporting the brain’s electrical signals is just one way DHA boosts dopamine.
Caffeine. According to researchers, caffeine not only stimulates the central nervous system but may act as a mild antidepressant by boosting the production of neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. So, does this mean we should all be increasing our caffeine intake? Probably not, especially if you're already having a few cups of coffee a day. No more than 2-3 cups per day or 400 mg of caffeine per day is advised. Just because some is good, doesn’t mean more is better!
Our natural tendency when experiencing a state of “feel good” is to seek out more and work to sustain it. This can lead to chronic dopamine surges, eventually causing a loss of dopamine activity in the brain and a decrease in the number and activity of the receptors in charge of satiety. A cycle that once started is hard to break. It’s important to eat nutrient dense foods and time your meals appropriately to feed your body and your brain, maintain satiety, and balance mood and weight.