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Recipe to boost your happiness hormone serotonin

July 20th, 2021  

We’ve all heard of serotonin, which is colloquially known as our happiness hormone. But what only a few know is that serotonin is mostly, 90% to be exact, produced in our gut.  This is because certain gut bacteria in our microbiome can produce substances that release serotonin. These substances include, for example, the short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) butyrate and propionate (1,2). And serotonin can do much more, in our body it regulates glucose and fat metabolism, gut inflammation and gut motility (1,3). A recent study also found that serotonin production in the gut is protective against the invasion of pathogenic invaders that cause disease (4). Now the questions remains, what can we do ourselves to increase these serotonin-producing gut bacteria? 

By the way, with the myBioma gut microbiome analysis you can find out how much your gut bacteria support you in coping with stress.

The right diet to boost your serotonin production in the gut

In general, a diet with adequate levels of prebiotic fibre (often found in plant-based foods) helps support a health-promoting gut microbiome.  Prebiotic fibre supports the growth of SCFA-producing bacterial species that can stimulate serotonin production. Importantly, serotonin production in the gut is dependent on the absorption of certain nutrients, which can be obtained through a balanced diet.  

The precursor of serotonin: tryptophan

Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is the building block for serotonin production in both the brain and the gut (5). As an essential amino acid, tryptophan cannot be produced by our body and must be taken in through food. Serotonin production from tryptophan also requires nutrients such as vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B3 (niacin) as well as glutathione. Let’s look at a few suitable foods.

Strawberries are in season and contain tryptophan

Foods that contain a lot of tryptophan, glutathione, B6 and B3

These foods contain tryptophan:

Tuna
Pumpkin seeds
Amaranth
Dates
Avocados
Strawberries
Figs
Papayas
Walnuts
Cashews

These foods contain glutathione:

Asparagus
Avocados
Walnuts
Potatoes
Broccoli
Spinach

These foods contain B6 (pyridoxine):

Fish
Milk
Carrots
Potatoes
Banana
Walnuts
Peanuts

These foods contain B3 (niacin):

Turkey
Meat
Fish
Eggs
Dairy products
Mushrooms
Peanuts
Wheat bran
Dates
Legumes

A recipe to boost your serotonin production. 

We’ve created a recipe for you that boosts your serotonin production and tastes delicious too. Have you ever tried amaranth? Amaranth was one of the main foods of the Aztecs and Incas and belongs to the foxtail family. The power corn is gluten-free and full of valuable ingredients such as iron, zinc and, of course, tryptophan. It tastes slightly bitter/nutty and is a great source of vegetable protein. What’s more, the strawberry season is starting and we need to make the most of it. Here we go!

Amaranth is gluten-free and full of valuable ingredients

Amaranth porridge with strawberries & walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 130 g amaranth
  • 130 ml almond milk (or another milk alternative)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 banana
  • strawberries
  • 1 handful of walnuts
  • 1/2 vanilla pod 
  • cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Instructions 

Soak the amaranth in water overnight. The next morning, pour the amaranth through a sieve and rinse again. 

Now heat the amaranth together with the almond milk in a pot and let it simmer gently for about 10 minutes.

Now you can grate the apple or cut it into small pieces and then fold it into the porridge. Let the porridge simmer for another 5 minutes. 

In the meantime, chop the walnuts and cut the banana and strawberries into bite-sized pieces.

Season the porridge with vanilla and cinnamon to taste. Then stir the maple syrup into the porridge and add a little almond milk if needed.

After a total of 15 minutes cooking time, you can serve the porridge in a bowl and garnish with the banana, strawberries and walnuts. If you like it even sweeter, you can add some maple syrup on top. And your amaranth proddige is ready.

If you try this recipe, feel free to link your creation to @mybioma on Instagram. We’ll be happy to repost your post!

References

  1. Martin AM, Young RL, Leong L, Rogers GB, Spencer NJ, Jessup CF, Keating DJ. The Diverse Metabolic Roles of Peripheral Serotonin. Endocrinology. 2017 May 1;158(5):1049-1063. doi: 10.1210/en.2016-1839. PMID: 28323941.
  2. Fukumoto S, Tatewaki M, Yamada T, Fujimiya M, Mantyh C, Voss M, Eubanks S, Harris M, Pappas TN, Takahashi T. Short-chain fatty acids stimulate colonic transit via intraluminal 5-HT release in rats. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2003 May;284(5):R1269-76. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00442.2002. PMID: 12676748.
  3. El-Merahbi R, Löffler M, Mayer A, Sumara G. The roles of peripheral serotonin in metabolic homeostasis. FEBS Lett. 2015 Jul 8;589(15):1728-34. doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2015.05.054. Epub 2015 Jun 9. PMID: 26070423.
  4. Kumar A, Russell RM, Pifer R, Menezes-Garcia Z, Cuesta S, Narayanan S, MacMillan JB, Sperandio V. The Serotonin Neurotransmitter Modulates Virulence of Enteric Pathogens. Cell Host Microbe. 2020 Jul 8;28(1):41-53.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2020.05.004. Epub 2020 Jun 9. PMID: 32521224; PMCID: PMC7351610.
  5. Richard DM, Dawes MA, Mathias CW, Acheson A, Hill-Kapturczak N, Dougherty DM. L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research and Therapeutic Indications. Int J Tryptophan Res. 2009 Mar 23;2:45-60. doi: 10.4137/ijtr.s2129. PMID: 20651948; PMCID: PMC2908021.

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