Australian researchers overseeing a study published last month in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that eating more carbohydrates than fat and protein increases serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that has been linked with improved mood and mental health. Shift workers have been found to have lower levels of serotonin than daytime employees. Does this mean that people working the night shift should run out and stock up on potatoes, beans, rice, pasta, and bread? YES
In the study, half of the participants spent a year following a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates. The other half went on a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. The participants in both groups lost 30 pounds on average and generally said they felt happier after two months on the diet. But after continuing to diet for a year, the people who ate less fat (butter, steak, pork, veal) and more carbs (pasta and potatoes) reported feeling happier and less depressed and anxious than they had before. The other group, who ate more fat and fewer carbohydrates, felt that their moods were worse than they’d been before.
The book, The Serotonin Power Diet,by Judith J. Wurtman, PhD and Nina T. Fruszajer, MD, published in December of 2006 beat the Australians to the punch line. tThe book’s authors state on the home page of their website that our brains make serotonin when you eat foods such as pretzels, pasta, rice, and potatoes – in the right amounts, at the right times of the day, and without protein. And they also say that serotonin curbs your appetite, restores mental energy, and soothes emotional stress. The authors recommend that 30-60 minutes before your next meal, munch on a serotonin soothing snack: pretzels, cheerios, popcorn, or cherry licorice bites. Notice how it takes the edge off your appetite and energizes you.