Natural Serotonin Foods

Back to Addiction Blog

Natural Serotonin Foods

Serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical (neurotransmitter) in the brain that can affect mood. It carries messages between nerve cells in the brain and throughout the body. Serotonin plays a key role in mood as well as sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, blood clotting, and libido. Low serotonin levels can contribute to depression, sleep problems, chronic pain, memory problems, and more. Eating foods that are rich in the essential amino acid known as tryptophan can help the body to produce more serotonin. If you’re struggling with mental illness or any of the other symptoms we mentioned, here are some natural serotonin foods you should try.  

Foods That Naturally Boost Serotonin 

Serotonin is found in the brain, blood, intestines, and connective tissues throughout the body. It causes blood vessels to contract, helps transmit information throughout the nervous system, and plays an essential role in brain function.  

Serotonin is essential for overall health and well-being, especially for one’s mental health. The chemical is linked to positive mood, so much so that low serotonin is linked to mental illness, specifically mood disorders like depression.1  

Natural serotonin food sources can increase levels of the chemical in the brain, supporting an individual’s physical and mental health. Tryptophan is an amino acid that contributes to serotonin production in the brain, but it has to be absorbed through a person’s diet.  

Therefore, eating a healthful, balanced diet is a natural and easy way to boost serotonin levels. With that said, below are some natural serotonin and tryptophan foods you can eat.  

1. Salmon  

Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which support strong bones, healthy skin, and eye function. Salmon is also a great source of vitamin D, which supports bone health, teeth, and muscle function and development.  

Eating two portions of salmon per week or any other oily fish can provide enough tryptophan to boost serotonin levels for most people. Don’t eat fish? No worries. Vegans and vegetarians can also get omega-3 from pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and soy.  

2. Poultry  

Poultry like chicken, turkey, and goose are the most effective foods naturally high in serotonin and tryptophan. Light meat contains around 410 milligrams (mg) of tryptophan per pound, and dark meat contains 303 mg per pound.  

Chicken also contains a high amount of tryptophan, with light meat containing 238 mg per pound and dark meat containing 256 mg per pound.   

3. Eggs 

According to research, the protein in eggs can boost levels of tryptophan in the blood.2 Yolks are especially rich in tryptophan, along with other chemicals like tyrosine, choline, and biotin.  

4.  Spinach

Dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach are some of the best natural serotonin foods that are rich in tryptophan. Spinach is also a great source of iron, which helps the body make healthy red blood cells. An iron deficiency can lead to anemia, low energy, and even difficulty breathing. 

5. Seeds and Nuts  

While seeds and nuts do not contain as much tryptophan as oily fish, poultry, or eggs, they are a great source of tryptophan and protein for vegetarians and vegans. Studies also show that eating a handful of nuts a day may lower your mortality risk for cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems.  

Some easy ways to incorporate seeds into your diet include adding them to salad, having them as a snack, choosing seeded bread, and adding seeds to cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt. 

6. Milk 

Whole milk is one of the greatest sources of tryptophan, with each quart containing 732 mg. Reduced-fat (2%) is also a good source that’s easier on the stomach for people who don’t tolerate heavy dairy well, coming in at 551 mg per quart. 

7. Soy 

Products that contain soy, such as tofu, soy milk, or soy sauce, are a great source of tryptophan. These are also great non-dairy options for vegans and vegetarians. 

8. Cheese  

Though cheese is not as high in tryptophan as meat and milk, cheddar cheese specifically contains 91 mg of tryptophan per ounce, making it a delicious option that can be easily integrated into your diet.  

9. Fruit 

Fruits like pineapples, bananas, and apples are also great foods that boost serotonin naturally because they contain tryptophan. For instance, a medium-sized banana contains 11 milligrams of tryptophan, and a medium-sized apple contains 2 mg of tryptophan.  

Pineapples can boost serotonin levels, as well. It’s also important to note that plants like tomatoes increase serotonin as they ripen.  

10. Tofu 

Considering that soy is on our list of natural serotonin foods, it’s no surprise that tofu is a rich source of tryptophan. You can substitute tofu for basically any protein, making it an excellent natural serotonin food for people with any kind of diet.  

Mixing high-tryptophan foods with carbs can also help boost serotonin. Carbs cause the body to release more insulin, which promotes amino acid absorption and leaves tryptophan in the blood.  

You can pair the natural serotonin foods listed above with carbs like rice, oatmeal, and whole-grain bread to achieve ultimate serotonin-boosting power. Other natural ways to boost serotonin and dopamine include exercising, getting sunshine, and eating fiber.   

Help for Mental Health in Florida  

Our Banyan Lake Worth rehab center offers various Florida mental health services. We treat disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and others with evidence-based practices like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) 

While these natural serotonin foods are a simple way to boost your mood and improve mental well-being, it’s important that if you or someone is struggling with depression or anxiety, you reach out for professional help. Call Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches today at 561-220-3981 for more information about our mental health and Lake Worth drug rehab programs. 



  1. NIH – Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis 
  1. NIH – Chronic treatment with a tryptophan-rich protein hydrolysate improves emotional processing, mental energy levels and reaction time in middle-aged women 


Related Reading:  

Best Mental Health Tips for Working From Home 

How Toxic Relationships Affect Your Mental Health 

Share this post

Back to Addiction Blog