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A Diet to Increase Serotonin Levels

by Sylvie Tremblay, MSc

About Sylvie Tremblay, MSc

Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.


Your brain uses chemicals, such as serotonin, to help regulate your mood. Robust serotonin signaling often indicates a good mood and healthy emotional state, while too little serotonin in your brain can lead to mental disorders, such as depression. Serotonin production and signaling within your brain requires a number of nutrients; thus, following a diet containing specific foods may help boost your serotonin levels.

Whole Grains

Consuming whole grains may help increase the levels of serotonin in your brain. Whole grain foods contain vitamin B-6, or pyridoxine, a type of essential vitamin. Pyridoxine helps promote the synthesis of chemicals involved in brain signaling, including serotonin, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. To increase your intake of vitamin B-6, substitute refined carbohydrates -- like white bread or pasta -- for their 100% whole wheat counterparts. You can also consume whole grains as cereal, such as steel cut or rolled oatmeal.

Nuts and Legumes

Including nuts and legumes in your diet may also help increase your serotonin levels. Your body utilizes the amino acid tryptophan to make a number of brain signaling molecules, including serotonin. Nuts, lima beans, pumpkin and sesame seeds all contain rich sources of tryptophan, according to the Franklin Institute. These foods also provide a number of other healthy nutrients, including healthy fats and dietary fiber. Consume several servings of nuts and legumes weekly to support proper serotonin production in your brain.

Meats and Fish

Another component to a serotonin-friendly diet is meat and fish. These foods contain vitamin B-3 or niacin, which helps convert tryptophan into serotonin. In addition, meat and fish contains a number of amino acids, and therefore, also provides a source of tryptophan itself. Eating fish also provides other health benefits, such as omega-3 fatty acid consumption. When selecting meat, choose lean cuts of beef, or leaner meats such as chicken or turkey to help avoid consuming saturated fat.

Other Food Groups and Considerations

While these foods may help boost your serotonin, they should not make up your entire diet. Your body also relies on a number of other nutrients to function properly, and focusing entirely on eating serotonin-boosting foods may hurt your health in the long run. In addition to the foods mentioned above, you should consume several servings of cooked or fresh vegetables and fruits each day as a source of additional nutrients. In addition, if you suffer from a serotonin-related disease, such as depression, diet alone may not increase serotonin to sufficiently alleviate your condition. Talk to your doctor about the potential benefit of depression medication in addition to following a healthy diet to help treat your condition.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.