Simple Mood-Boosting Recipes to Give You a Dopamine Boost
Scientists have discovered that the gut and brain are closely linked. So close, in fact, that some people have begun to call it the “second brain.”
Essentially, your stomach is home to nerve cells that produce neurotransmitter signaling molecules, including dopamine. This chemical messenger creates feelings of pleasure and reward in your brain to effectively boost your mood.
Of course, there are plenty of unhealthy foods that can increase dopamine levels — think cupcakes and pie! However, indulging this reward system too often can eventually result in long-term consequences like addiction, weight gain and chronic health conditions.
Luckily, there are just as many guilt-free dopamine boosters to choose from. But which foods are most effective?
Below, you’ll find a handful of easy recipes that contain a wide array of smile-worthy ingredients. All you have to do is add them to your weekly meal plan, make a list and hit up the grocery store.
1. Rainbow Veggie Omelet
Fruits and vegetables are major components of the dopamine diet. Eating a banana or apple is simple enough, right? But what do you do when munching on celery doesn’t sound as appealing as snacking on chips? Up your vegetable intake with a rainbow veggie omelet.
Beat two to three eggs and add them to a pan with salt and pepper. Then, chop up some cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale. Add them to your omelet along with cheese, tomatoes, yellow peppers and as many other colorful ingredients as you can. Then fold, flip and enjoy!
2. Make-Ahead Yogurt Parfait
Some research has found that certain gut bacteria species can influence dopamine levels, too. If you consume more of these bacteria, your brain will inevitably receive more dopamine. Yogurt is one of a handful of foods that contain these probiotics, and adding it to your diet is super simple.
Whip up some make-ahead yogurt parfaits to easily add a dose of dopamine to your day. All you need is granola, Greek yogurt, honey, a bag of frozen fruit and some mason jars. Layer the ingredients atop one another until you have two full parfait layers. Then, add a drizzle of honey, pop the lids on and stick your jars in the fridge for easy snacking or breakfast on the go.
3. Miso Glazed Salmon with Sesame Noodles
Fatty fish like tuna, cod and salmon are packed with omega-3s, which, unlike unsaturated fats, stimulate healthy dopamine production. Salmon also contains high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that’s essential to serotonin synthesization. So you could experience a significant mood boost after indulging in this miso glazed salmon with sesame noodles.
This Asian-inspired recipe takes less than an hour to make and is both savory and satisfying. First, let the salmon marinate for 20 minutes. Then, blanch the asparagus and cook your spaghetti or soba noodles. Bake the salmon while you toss the vegetables in mirin, sesame oil, premium light Soy Sauce, ginger and rice vinegar. Top the bowl with noodles, salmon and sesame seeds before serving.
4. Ultimate Caprese Salad
Most salads require lots of chopping, dicing and mixing, but not the ultimate caprese. This simple meal is incredibly easy to make. Plus, it contains far fewer dopamine-disrupting saturated fats than most salad dressings. The main ingredients basil, tomatoes and mozzarella also contribute to dopamine production and effectively boost your mood.
If you choose a large variety of tomatoes, slice them and the mozzarella and layer them on a plate. Want to use cherry or grape tomatoes instead? Chop your ingredients a bit smaller so each bite bursts with flavor. Then, make a chiffonade of basil and sprinkle it on top. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic glaze over your creation, add a sprinkle of salt, a dash of pepper and dig in!
5. Chicken Taco Bowl
Lean proteins like turkey and chicken are also effective dopamine boosters because they contain both tyrosine and phenylalanine. Enzymes inside your body can convert these amino acids into dopamine, making them great additions to the happy person’s diet.
Add chicken or turkey and a jar of salsa to a crockpot and cook on high for three to four hours. In the meantime, cook your peppers and onions, stirring them into the shredded chicken when it’s done cooking. Cook up some cauliflower rice and add it, along with your chicken, veggies and some guacamole, to a bowl. Top with cilantro and lime juice before digging in.
A Happier, Healthier Life
The recipes above are full of fresh, nutritious ingredients that can certainly boost your dopamine levels and your mood. However, they also create healthy reward pathways to further incentivize healthy eating habits. The more often you engage this pathway, the more likely you’ll be to stick to a diet, lose weight and feel better about yourself. Sounds like a happy, healthy life is back on the menu.
All of these recipes sound absolutely delicious! I will definitely have to pin this for later. I never think about food increasing dopamine levels, that is amazing! I’m going to be more cautious about what I eat now.