Feeling lackluster these days? A bit fuzzy in the head, cloudy in the brain, dull in the heart? Need a picker-upper that’s stronger and longer-lasting than the double macchiato latte you downed after the last donut break? Consider pumping up your dopamine levels with a nice sensory-infused meal.
Dopamine is a magnificent chemical. Nestled inside the brain, it increases the movements and actions that take place inside that spaghetti-shaped organ of senses, function, and intellect. With an ample amount of dopamine, the brain stays sharp when it comes to memory, attention span, problem-solving, and responsiveness.
But dopamine also releases feelings of enjoyment and pleasure. Because of its function in increasing our responsiveness and brain movements, the sensations we experience become heightened, so we may have a higher sense of joy, elation, pleasure, and desire. Excellent.
Dopamine is produced in the brain, but not unlike other neurotransmitters in our bodies, it needs the help of a few chemical reactions to be made in sufficient doses. Usually, those chemicals are found in foods we eat.
When it comes to producing dopamine, the process goes something like this:
Phenylalanine –> Tyrosine –> L-dopa –> Dopamine –> You, feeling great.
You can eat foods that contain phenylalanine (found in lots of protein sources), which will then be processed into tyrosine, or you can simply skip straight to foods that are rich in tyrosine (also found in proteins and a few veggies). From tyrosine, your body takes on the rest, converting it into L-dopa, and finally dopamine.
So let’s get down to the food part.
Foods rich in phenylalanine:
- Organ meat
- Seeds and nuts
Foods rich in tyrosine:
- Sea vegetables
- Poultry and game meats
If you’re feeling the last crush of winter’s harsh blow, perhaps it’s time you fix yourself a wholesome meal of fish tacos with guacamole and bean salad. Or roasted salmon with an edamame and seaweed salad. Or a pulled pork sandwich with baked beans.
Just thinking about the possibilities makes me feel awesome already.