|Tryptophan is found in most protein-rich foods like chicken, eggs, meat, nuts and dairy. However, only a very small amount of tryptophan will get through to the brain after eating a protein-rich meal. This is because amino acids compete with one another for absorption. Slow-releasing carbohydrates like whole grains trigger a release of insulin which removes all amino acids from the blood – except tryptophan – allowing it to enter the brain more freely. Taking in enough vitamin B rich food, particularly B6, may also be helpful as this nutrient helps convert tryptophan to serotonin. B6 is found in high levels in fortified cereals, meat and whole grains as well as a variety of vegetables and fruits.
It may be helpful to include magnesium-rich foods as part of a balanced diet. Rice, buckwheat, bran, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts and dark green leafy vegetables are examples of foods high in magnesium. Studies have found this important mineral acts as a natural relaxant and low levels of magnesium have been linked with low mood and depression.