Dopamine Supplements to Boost Your Mood - Part 2Category: Newsletter
Foods to Support Dopamine - Food naturally provides the complete nutrient package your body needs. Nutrients that help the body fulfill its many functions are most bioavailable (accessible for the body to use) from whole foods, Wright says. “It is the synergistic effect of these nutrients in whole foods that are absorbed best and utilized most for good health.” For example, she says, the vitamin C in dried apricots enhances the absorption of the iron in the fruit.
Food first is also the focus for Naidoo. When developing nutritional plans for patients with mood issues, she says, “I tend to try to lead with food and then find out where the gaps are.” So far, she adds, “I wouldn’t say my patients are beating down the door about dopamine supplements.”
Healthful foods containing these dopamine-supportive nutrients include:
Citrus fruits, kiwifruit and red bell peppers are among foods rich in vitamin C.
Cheese, dairy, soy products, meats, fish, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils all contain tyrosine.
Fatty fish like salmon and plant sources such as oils, walnuts and chia seeds increase levels of omega 3.
An Indian food staple, turmeric can also spice up beverages like smoothies. “We always talk about adding a pinch of black pepper to increase its bioavailability to the brain and body,” Naidoo notes.
Oregano is available as a dried spice, in oregano-infused oil and even oregano tea.
Avocados, almonds, black beans, and quinoa are among magnesium-rich foods.
Sipping on green tea on a regular basis may boost dopamine levels to ease depression and help with cognition.
Salmon, egg yolks and mushrooms are rich in vitamin D.
Fermented foods such as kimchee, plain dairy yogurt or coconut yogurt can be associated with improving dopamine levels, Naidoo says.
Vivid red-orange saffron, one of the more expensive spices, is used in a variety of foods like saffron rice.
Before moving to supplements, Naidoo suggests, why not try foods that can impact dopamine levels first? “When you’re eating something, it allows more gentle buildup of that nutrient,” she says.
Adopting an overall healthy eating plan, like the Mediterranean diet, is good for your mood.
“The Mediterranean diet is tried and true for so many things: (preventing) cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions,” Wright says. “But we also know from other research that it does help to prevent depression and promote a positive mood.”
Dopamine Supplement Precautions - Supplements are not substitutes for prescription drugs. They don’t undergo the same regulation or scrutiny. So what’s listed on the label may not actually even be contained in the supplement. Also, active ingredients in supplements might not be enough to help treat certain deficiencies, despite seemingly positive study findings.
Before resorting to dopamine-support supplements, have a discussion with your health care provider. And before taking any supplement, ask your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects or interactions with medications you already take.
Because dopamine is a neurotransmitter that interacts with the brain, any attempts to tweak dopamine levels should be carefully considered, Naidoo says. The supplements “can change your mood or create mood states that are unnatural or unsafe,” she says. “So, I wouldn’t necessarily say to someone: Just go grab something over the counter.” Instead, she says, “talk to your doctor. Check if you have a deficiency. Ask the right questions.”
These healthy habits also promote brain chemicals related to good mood:
Going outside. “Ten minutes of outdoor time can provide the body with the vitamin D you need,“ Naidoo says. Being exposed to nature, in itself, is known to improve mood.
Sleep. Regular, high-quality sleep can help keep your dopamine levels balanced, says Naidoo, who suggests using sleep hygiene techniques.
Exercise. Cardio exercise makes you feel energized and might have a positive effect on the brain’s dopamine receptors, according to a March 2016 study.
Meditation. Being in a meditative state was associated with a 65% increase in dopamine levels in a brain study by researchers in Denmark. Yoga practice may have similar effects.
The U.S. News Health team delivers accurate information about health, nutrition and fitness, as well as in-depth medical condition guides. All of our stories rely on multiple, independent sources and experts in the field, such as medical doctors and licensed nutritionists. To learn more about how we keep our content accurate and trustworthy, read our editorial guidelines.
Uma Naidoo, MD - Naidoo is a Boston-based, Harvard-trained nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef, nutrition specialist and author of “This Is Your Brain on Food.”
KC Wright, MS, RDN - Wright is a research dietitian and consultant in private practice based in New London, New Hampshire.
US News & World Report
Medically reviewed by S. Shalom Feinberg, MD
This article is based on reporting that features expert sources.