If like me you live in the northern hemisphere, then your days will probably be getting shorter and shorter and the nights longer and longer. It is easy to feel very gloomy as winter approaches and many people may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, with symptoms of depression.
It seems there may be one very simple way of protecting yourself from feeling low – all you might need to do is switch what you eat and go for a walk!
Serotonin and Melatonin are each other’s day and night incarnations. The more serotonin you have going through the right parts of your brain during the day, the more melatonin you will have during the night. The healthier your serotonin and melatonin levels, the better will be your mood.
Eating a breakfast that contains the amino acid tryptophan boosts serotonin levels for the rest of the day. The amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine also have an effect on mood and making sure you get these every morning may also help to ward off any lingering feelings of depression. If you choose a protein rich food source that also contains vitamin B6 (e.g. eggs) you will be helping your brain to make serotonin from its raw materials.
Breakfast + Sunlight
A fascinating Japanese study has revealed you might be able to combine breakfast and daylight to give your serotonin levels a very big jolt upon waking every morning. Exposure to more than 10minutes of daylight following a breakfast rich in both tryptophan and vitamin B6 seems to have a very powerful effect on the body clock, most likely through its effect on serotonin levels.
What is the best breakfast to have?
Many people tend to have a cereal or bread-based breakfast. The studies I mention were all carried out in Japan where eggs, fish and meat are usually consumed at breakfast time. All are good sources of protein as they contain a broad range of amino acids including tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylalanine. Eggs and meat also contain good levels of vitamin B6. If you are vegetarian then adding some vegetarian protein powder containing the three amino acids should also do the trick.
Putting it into practice
1. Ditch the cereal and toast and switch to a protein rich breakfast such as eggs, fish or meat that also contains B6.
2. A quick 15-minute exposure to daylight afterwards will seal the deal!
Akimitsu O, Wada K, Noji T, Taniwaki N, Krejci M, Nakade M, Takeuchi H, Harada
T. The relationship between consumption of tyrosine and phenylalanine as
precursors of catecholamine at breakfast and the circadian typology and mental
health in Japanese infants aged 2 to 5 years. J Physiol Anthropol. 2013 Oct
Harada T, Hirotani M, Maeda M, Nomura H, Takeuchi H. Correlation between
breakfast tryptophan content and morning-evening in Japanese infants and students