The serotonin diet is an eating plan based on improving the mood as well as losing weight by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Many people struggle with emotional eating, and this diet helps to curb mood swings and prevent food binges. In addition, those who are on medication for depression often suffer from weight gain due to the medication as well, and the diet can help to regulate that weight gain. The serotonin diet may also refer to a book called "The Serotonin Power Diet" by Judith J. Wurtman, PhD, and Nina T. Frusztajer, MD.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter known as the "feel good" brain chemical, because it acts as both a mood booster and an appetite suppressant. Serotonin occurs naturally in the body, but often at very low levels; much of the serotonin in the body is created from the food consumed. In order for the body to make enough serotonin, it is necessary to consume enough of an amino acid called tryptophan.
Tryptophan is found in the highest concentrations in meat and dairy products, or it can be taken in supplement form. Most people have felt the calming effects of tryptophan after eating a turkey dinner or drinking a glass of milk before bed. The amino acid tryptophan works in conjunction with other amino acids, so it is necessary to eat a balanced serotonin diet to receive lasting effects.
There are a number of foods that contain tryptophan. In addition to meats, such as turkey or chicken, or dairy products, such as milk, eggs, and cottage cheese, tryptophan is also found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grain products. Many people find that carbohydrates quickly boost serotonin levels and improve mood; this works because carbohydrates encourage the body to release insulin, which in turn makes it easier for the tryptophan to reach the brain. It is especially important to eat carbohydrates in moderation, however, when attempting to follow the serotonin diet.
"The Serotonin Power Diet" book contains an eating plan for twelve weeks, along with more than 70 recipes. The authors state that it is possible to lose approximately two pounds per week on the serotonin diet, as well as reduce stress and curb emotional eating. However, even those who do not need to lose any weight could potentially benefit from eating foods containing tryptophan, in order to boost the mood, improve feelings of well-being, curb emotional eating, and even help with sleep disturbances.