How do ‘dopamine foods’ impact our mood?
Most foods included on the diet are high in protein, which thanks to an amino acid called tyrosine, promotes a surge in dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter - a chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells in the brain, directly affecting the reward and pleasure centres. In turn, this affects our mood and may relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety.
In what ways does the dopamine diet differ from ‘fad diets’?
Unlike other fads such as the Ketogenic or Mediterranean diet, the dopamine diet doesn’t require you to restrict entire food groups. In fact, there are many different variations on the dopamine diet – from those with a zero-starchy carb policy to more lenient iterations that allow low-GI carbs, like oats, brown rice and sweet potatoes in small doses. Because of this, the dopamine diet can be tweaked to meet all needs and requirements.
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Are there any dangers to the dopamine diet? Do dieticians endorse it?
While the benefits of sticking to a high-protein diet have proven to be effective for weight loss, experts are divided on the low-carb front.
“Whilst the dopamine diet is great for promoting the consumption of oily fish, unprocessed meats and dairy products, the fact that it involves cutting back on carbs is problematic,” practising accredited dietician, Natalie Von Bertouch tells New Idea Food.
“Carbs are the brain’s primary source of fuel and an essential macronutrient in any balanced diet. In addition, our gut needs a variety of fuels to keep the microbiota diverse so it can function at its best.”
If you do choose to cut back on starchy carbohydrates, aim for low-GI options such as rye bread or porridge. “These will help the blood glucose and hormone levels to remain steady, which will regulate the appetite.
6 foods thought to increase dopamine
6. Good-quality protein
Think grass-fed beef and lamb and free-range pork, chicken and turkey.
5. Oily fish
Aim for salmon, fresh tuna, trout, sardines and mackerel.
3. Full-fat dairy products
Like yoghurt, cheese, butter and milk.
2. Healthy fats
Such as those found in avocado and cooking oils like olive, safflower, sesame and rapeseed oils. Plus, nuts such as walnuts and flaxseeds.
3 Dopamine diet-approved recipes
Keen to give dopamine foods a go? Try these simple recipes:
Note: Usually, the nervous system manages dopamine production effectively, however, certain medical and lifestyle factors can cause these levels to drop to a level that requires supplementation. In these cases, the dopamine diet may be especially effective.
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