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Healthy eating based on serotonin production

Serotonin, also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is a crucial neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in regulating various physiological and psychological functions. It is predominantly found in the brain, bowels, and blood platelets. It  derives from the amino acid tryptophan. The primary site for its production in the CNS

While most of us believe that serotonin is simply linked to positive emotions, in reality, its actions are varied and related to the proper functioning of the entire organism. In the brain, it is involved in regulating mood, cognitive function, and executive functions, and it affects emotions, memory, and social behavior. Additionally, its role is significant in the control of movement and motor functions, and it also impacts homeostatic processes, including appetite, sleep, and temperature regulation. However, the majority of serotonin in the body is not found in the brain, even though it is produced there. About 90% of it is located in the gut. There, it regulates intestinal motility and secretions and plays a very important role in the signaling between the gastrointestinal system and the brain.

But what do all these mean for us health scientists? It is produced by the brain in sufficient quantities when we consume a meal. When the brain receives all the nutrients it needs at that moment, it signals the start of serotonin production. The production of this neurotrasmitter itself sends three signals to the body: 

  1. I am well 

  2. I am in control 

  3. I am full.

So, when a person has eaten a complete meal, they receive these three signals, which prompt them to stop consuming food. And the result of this? The person consumes the amount of food they need and receives the necessary nutrients. They do not consume additional calories, and therefore, do not store fat. So this could be an alternative way to guide our clients to eat more healthily.

Lack of serotonin

In cases where the brain does not produce enough serotonin, the entire hunger-satiety system is significantly disrupted. Initially, the individual cannot distinguish between emotional hunger and biological hunger.They try to soothe negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, and depression through food consumption. Consuming large amounts of food, especially simple carbohydrates, due to emotional hunger is one of the main problems that dietitians face in modern times. These cravings are also justified by the body's need to obtain the necessary nutrients and produce serotonin, which is temporarily boosted by carbohydrates. At the same time, satiety signals are also disrupted. This means the individual cannot understand when they are full and continues to eat until they are overfull. Thus, in this case, there is a very high consumption of food.

Finally, reduced serotonin is associated with increased emotional eating and the occurrence of eating disorders such as binge eating. As previously mentioned, the substance contributes to the control of food consumption. Individuals who experience binge eating episodes report that during the episode, they had no control over what and how much they were eating and could not stop. This indicates reduced serotonin levels, which not only fail to calm feelings of hunger and cravings but also make the individual desperately seek ways to raise its levels. 

Constructing complete meals

We can very easily guide our clients to achieve maximum serotonin production and thus the greatest possible well-being as well as control over food consumption. As previously mentioned, a complete meal must provide the brain with all the nutrients necessary to produce the substance. The meals have to contain:

  1. A source of protein. Protein sources can include chicken, meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. These will provide us with the necessary tryptophan to produce serotonin. Additionally, fish and dairy products are rich in vitamin D and n-3 fats, which are also  structural components of the neurotransmitter and have been shown to have antidepressant effects.

  2. A source of carbohydrates, such as whole grain products or other complex carbs, which contain vitamins like niacin, folic acid, and B6, that are also key components.

  3. The last thing a meal needs to be complete is a fresh food item. This means it needs some fruit or vegetable to provide magnesium, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin C.


It is, therefore, a very simple way of great significance to improve the diet of individuals, especially those who do not want to commit to a diet, and as health scientists, to propose a different approach. Teach them how to properly structure the components of their meals and create complete meals at least 2-3 times a day. And just to show you how easy it is…examples of such meals are: milk with oats and fruit, meat or fish with rice and salad, pasta with minced meat and salad, or even a caesar salad with chicken and croutons.

I'm excited to hear about your ideas for complete meals in the comments!

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