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Maintaining a healthy weight is a key piece to having a long life free of major health problems.
Being obese, or even just carrying too much weight around the middle, often opens the door to more serious health problems waiting in the wings.
Google the word “diet” and you’ll find enough information, and enough choices of weight loss plans, to keep you reading all day long. It can be horribly confusing, and disheartening.
At the risk of adding one more, we’d like to share some information with you about a way you can work with your body and its natural chemical processes to help control your appetite and be able to make better food choices.
And, as an added bonus, you may find yourself smiling more often.
Here’s the scoop…
Serotonin: Nature’s appetite suppressant and feel-good chemical
When trying to lose weight, which type of food is usually looked at as the enemy?
Not proteins. No, it’s usually those carbs that get all the bad press.
But what if I told you that, eaten at the right time and in the right amounts, those pretzels or cookies could be your best friend if you’re trying to lose some weight?
The key to this is serotonin, a chemical messenger your body produces that can act as a natural appetite suppressant.
Serotonin is best known as a chemical that can stabilize your mood, reduce anxiety and promote energy. It’s popular in supplement form for this purpose.
But given the right eating patterns, serotonin can increase your energy, while helping you stick to whatever weight loss plan you’ve decided is right for you.
Here’s how it works.
Tryptophan: Serotonin’s “secret agent”
You know how relaxed, even sleepy, you can feel after a big Thanksgiving dinner?
It’s not just because you’ve stuffed yourself with turkey, stuffing, crescent rolls and sweet potatoes with marshmallows.
You’ve just eaten the perfect dinner to put serotonin to work.
You see, serotonin is not found in the foods you eat, but the turkey you just ate is full of tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an amino acid found in all protein. It’s one of the building blocks of serotonin. But in order for it to be of use, it’s got to make its way from your food, through your blood, and through the blood-brain barrier into your brain, where serotonin is made.
This isn’t as easy as it may sound. While eating protein provides an abundance of tryptophan, it also provides many amino acids, all of which are competing with tryptophan for entry into the brain.
But carbohydrates tip the odds in tryptophan’s favor.
Carbs are digested to become glucose, which enters the blood, releases insulin, and pushes amino acids into the cells of the heart, liver and other organs. Suddenly, tryptophan is the only runner in the race and can get straight into the brain, where it is immediately converted to serotonin.
How to put the power of serotonin to work
Have you ever become tired and cranky around two or three in the afternoon, found yourself falling asleep and unable to focus?
And, you’re craving a donut!
That craving for a sweet or starchy snack is really your body asking for more serotonin… but a greasy donut isn’t the best choice.
Here’s how to put the power of serotonin to work for you…
Eat that carb, but eat it without any protein, so those amino acids aren’t blocking tryptophan from getting into your brain. In fact, wait at least three hours after any meal with protein before having that snack.
Skip the donut. Make it a low-fat or fat-free carb snack like pretzels or graham crackers. Ideally, it should contain between 25 and 35 grams of carbohydrate.
If you’re looking for a rapid pick-me-up or decrease in your pre-meal appetite, choose something low-fiber, since fiber takes longer to digest. Eat high-fiber carbs more as part of your daily nutritional plan than for quick results.
If your snack does contain protein, make it 4 grams or less. And try to limit the fat content to 3 grams, to avoid sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
Stick to these guidelines for your snack, and stop eating after you’ve had the recommended amount. It should take 30-40 minutes for you to feel less hungry.
Other ways to boost serotonin levels
In a paper published in FASEB Journal, researchers suggest that optimizing intakes of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids would optimize brain serotonin concentrations.
“In this paper we explain how serotonin is a critical modulator of executive function, impulse control, sensory gating, and pro-social behavior,” says Dr. Patrick. “We link serotonin production and function to vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, suggesting one way these important micronutrients help the brain function and affect the way we behave.”
Here’s to feeling satisfied and having the control to say no.
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- Serotonin: What It is and Why It’s Important for Weight Loss — Psychology Today
- Does the Serotonin Diet Actually Work for Weight-Loss? — NootropicsInfo.com
- Top 6 Serotonin Deficiency Symptoms — Healthy Foods Diet Plan
- 7 Foods That Could Boost Your Serotonin: The Serotonin Diet — Healthline