5 Foods that Deplete Serotonin (and what to eat instead!)


5 Foods that Deplete Serotonin (and what to eat instead!)

The afternoon slump- we've all been there. You reach for a candy bar or muffin or coffee as a pick-me-up, and it feels good for a moment, but then you end up feeling even worse.

Why is that? It all has to do with a neurotransmitter called serotonin.

If you're wondering how to get rid of brain fog, boost your energy levels naturally, and boost your moods, you're in the right place!

Discover which foods to avoid and which foods to eat instead to boost serotonin levels for less anxiety, fatigue, stress and brain fog.

What is serotonin?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (fancy word for brain chemical) that helps send chemical signals between the brain and nerve cells, as well as regulates functions in our bodies and brains. Those include our mood, sleep, memory, cognitive health, and more. Having balanced serotonin can help keep our mood stable and emotions positive

That's why serotonin is often referred to as the "feel-good chemical"!

Some symptoms of low serotonin levels are:

  • Insomnia or trouble staying asleep
  • Fatigue throughout the day
  • Indigestion
  • Memory problems
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Cravings for sugar and carbs
  • Brain fog

Where and how is serotonin produced?

The brain naturally produces the neurotransmitters it needs to function, as long as it has the materials to do so (from our food!).

But it's not only the brain that produces neurotransmitters. In fact, it is estimated that 90% of the body's serotonin is actually produced in the gut!

Serotonin is produced in the brain and gut through a biochemical process with the essential amino acid called tryptophan

This is where the importance of the food you eat comes in, because the body is incapable of creating its own supply of tryptophan, it has to come from our diet.

In order for tryptophan to transform into serotonin, other nutrients and cofactors are also required, such as iron, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. 

So, foods with tryptophan and these other nutrients and cofactors can help support our body's production of serotonin, while other foods can block our body from making enough serotonin. Let's get into what those are!

What foods deplete serotonin?

These are five foods that can deplete your serotonin:

1. Alcohol

Ever feel anxious and down in the dumps after a night of drinking? This is why! Alcohol interrupts the enzymes and processes involved in the synthesis of tryptophan to serotonin. It also disrupts the the release of serotonin from nerve cells, and affects the function of serotonin receptors in the brain.

It's been shown in research that alcoholics have lower levels of serotonin.

2. Caffeine

Caffeine raises levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the body. This triggers serotonin to come in and counterbalance the high stress levels. Over time, excessive and frequent consumption of caffeine from coffee, energy drinks and soda, can deplete levels of serotonin.

Caffeine also can hinder your ability to absorb iron from your food, and depletes your body of B vitamins, like vitamin B6. Both of these nutrients are co-factors for the synthesis of tryptophan to serotonin.

3. Industrial Seed Oils

Seed oils like vegetable oil, soybean, sunflower, and canola oil, which are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), have been suggested to potentially disrupt the production of serotonin.

The metabolism of PUFAs, like the omega-6 fatty acids found in seed oils, require the same enzymes as are needed for the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. So the seed oils compete with tryptophan for these enzymes, potentially reducing the availability of tryptophan for serotonin synthesis.

In addition, the excessive intake of omega-6 fatty acids, including those from seed oils, can promote inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation has been associated with alterations in serotonin signaling and neurotransmission. Inflammatory substances can interfere with the synthesis, release, and reuptake of serotonin, potentially leading to lower serotonin levels.

Unfortunately, these seed oils are almost everywhere...in almost all processed and packaged foods, and restaurants, especially fast-food ones, use them because they are cost-effective. Try to cook more at home, buy less processed foods, and use other oils like olive oil, butter and ghee when cooking.

4. Artificial Sweeteners

Specifically, the artificial sweetener known as aspartame. Aspartame contains an essential amino acid called tyrosine, which is often in direct competition with tryptophan

Tyrosine can limit the amount of tryptophan that crosses the blood-brain barrier. The brain won’t be able to get as much tryptophan, which can hinder its overall serotonin production. 

5. Fructose

Fructose is a natural sugar found in carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables and honey, as well as high fructose corn syrup. No, we're not about to say vegetables and fruits are bad for you now! But too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.

Roughly 40% of people in the Western hemisphere have fructose malabsorption, meaning fructose is not properly digested and ferments in the bowels. Fermented fructose can hinder your body's ability to absorb tryptophan. 

See your medical provider to take a test known as the Fructose Malabsorption Breath Test to see if your body is having trouble digesting fructose.

What foods contain tryptophan?

We have good news, there are many foods high in tryptophan and the other nutrients and cofactors necessary to produce serotonin! 

Because serotonin is also produced in the gut, probiotic foods promoting balanced gut bacteria can support serotonin production. As a plus, many of them are also tryptophan-rich foods.

Here are a few examples of foods that are good sources of tryptophan, iron, riboflavin and vitamin B6:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Beef
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Chicken
  • Crab 
  • Eggs
  • Lamb
  • Lentils
  • Lobster
  • Milk
  • Oatmeal
  • Prunes
  • Red Kidney Beans
  • Salmon
  • Spinach
  • Tofu
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
  • Yogurt

Put it into action! Try these serotonin-boosting recipes:

Healthy Turkey Chili by Ambitious Kitchen

Crab and Spinach Quiche by Big Oven

Soba Noodle Bowl with Crispy Tofu by The Kitchn

Supplements to Boost Serotonin Levels

Our Serotonin Support Bundle was designed to help your body boost serotonin production! It includes:

  • Mood Biotics: 6 strains of prebiotics and probiotics proven to improve gut health and mental wellness
  • Mood B Complete: 9 essential vitamins and co-factors to support tryptophan synthesis 




Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter for our mood health and overall health. It is produced through a biochemical process where the essential amino acids tryptophan is converted to serotonin. 

We need to get tryptophan from our diet. Certain foods contain high levels of tryptophan and the nutrients and co-factors necessary for synthesis, while other foods impede this process and lower serotonin levels.

You can take supplements like the ones in the Serotonin Support Bundle to easily boost your production of serotonin for better moods, energy levels, and mental clarity.