6 Foods That Increase Dopamine Levels
The brain is run through an electrical circuitry that depends upon key neurotransmitters. Dopamine is associated with the “pleasure system” of the brain and allows us to feel enjoyment and a sense of reward in order to motivate performance. It also helps with focus and attention and the ability to feel pleasure. There are key lifestyle strategies and superfoods that help enhance our dopaminergic system. In this article, you will discover 6 great foods that increase dopamine levels.
Individuals with low dopamine levels often experience hopelessness, worthlessness and an inability to handle stress. They often isolate themselves from others and they have self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. Being easily distracted and unable to focus and having a hard time finishing tasks can also be a sign of early dopamine deficiencies (1).
Lifestyle Behaviors that Drain Dopamine:
Dopamine is involved with modulating mood, attention and ability to learn. It is known as the pleasure system of the brain which is evidenced in animal studies where animals will choose dopamine over food and water until their death.
We see this same behavior in humans who are addicted to drugs, gambling, alcohol, sex, food, extreme sports, etc (2). All of us get surges of dopamine from different activities that give us pleasure.
The most common lifestyle factors that alter dopamine signaling include poor blood sugar balance, alcohol or drug abuse, poor gut function, adrenal fatigue and brain inflammation. These things must be addressed for optimal brain function.
Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Plan:
If you feel that you have signs and signals of low dopamine be sure to follow an anti-inflammatory nutrition plan with high quality supplements targeted at improving gut function and reducing oxidative stress levels in the body.
Key nutrients our body needs to produce adequate dopamine levels include D,L phenylalanine, beta-phenylethylamine (PEA) and N-acetyl L-tyrosine, vitamin B6, folate, selenium, glutathione, zinc and magnesium. Here are some of the richest food sources of the following:
Also called cacao this superfood is loaded with dopamine boosting nutrients. It is one of the best sources of PEA’s which are natural compounds that cross over the blood brain barrier and stimulate and modulate the release of dopamine in the brain. Cacao is also very rich in magnesium and zinc and chromium which help to balance and stabilize blood sugar.
Cacao also helps to boost serotonin and contains endorphin Anandamide which is considered the “bliss chemical.” This combination of ingredients makes raw chocolate the best mood boosting superfood. Be careful not to overdo the chocolate though as the body may develop a sensitivity to some of the compounds in the chocolate and create adrenal stress.
Blueberries are rich in the flavonoid antioxidants anthocyanin which has been shown to protect some of the major regions in the brain that control dopamine secretions. A 2006 study published in Nutritional Neuroscience demonstrated that blueberry extract prevented oxidative stress associated stress to the Substantia Nigra and Striatum regions of the brain (3).
This is particularly important for Parkinson’s disease prevention but also for general improvement in motor coordination and dopamine signaling patterns. Add some organic blueberries to your shakes and smoothies.
Healthy Nuts & Seeds:
Brazil nuts are extremely high in selenium which is a critical nutrient needed for healthy dopamine production. Almonds are high in tyrosine and pumpkin seeds are rich in B vitamins such as B6, folate and the trace mineral zinc which are all necessary for healthy dopamine levels.
Walnuts, chia and hemp seeds supply a perfect ratio of omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and gamma linoleic acid necessary for healthy hormones and neurotransmitters. Be sure to have the majority of your nut intake from soaked, steamed or sprouted nuts and seeds.
You can simply put these nuts/seeds into some clean water and let sit over-night and then drain, rinse and dry. This will wash away phytic acids, enzyme inhibitors and many of the lectins and other anti-nutrients that these nuts and seeds contain.
You can also stick them in your steamer with veggies you may be steaming such as brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc. This removes many of the anti-nutrients and makes them softer and easier to consume and digest.
Raw, Grass-Fed Fermented Dairy:
Raw dairy from 100% grass-fed cows, goats and sheep is extraordinarily rich in omega 3 fatty acids, choline and CLA which all enhance hormone and neurotransmitter function. Additionally, the fermentation process produces enzymes and probiotics that improve gut function and reduce inflammatory stress in the body.
These enzymes and healthy microbes also enhance amino acid bioavailability making it easier for the body to synthesize the alanine, tyrosine and phenylalanine necessary for healthy dopamine production. Fermented raw dairy from grass-fed animals is also rich in glutathione precursers such as cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine. They are also very rich in L-glutamine which is critical for a healthy gut membrane.
Damage to the gut is one of the leading causes of neurological stress and reduced neurotransmitter activity. Unless the individual has a food sensitivity to dairy, using fermented raw dairy from 100% grass-fed animals is one of the best ways to enhance gut function, neurotransmitter activity and dopamine levels.
Pasture Raised Animal Products:
The best dopamine boosting animal products include wild-caught sockeye salmon, grass-fed beef, lamb, bison or buffalo, pasture-raised chicken, turkey and eggs. You can find a great selection of these healthy and tasty meat products at US Wellness Meats.
These foods are rich in essential fatty acids and anti-oxidants that are necessary for reducing inflammatory conditions in the brain and supporting healthy neuron and neurotransmitter connections. The more grass and sea vegetable or algae (in the case of fish) the animals consume the more nutrient dense they are.
Cruciferous Veggies and Aliums:
Cruciferous vegetables like kale, collards, brussel sprouts, chard, cabbage and cauliflower are extremely rich in sulfur compounds, B vitamins and other key antioxidants and trace minerals. The alium family which includes garlic, onions, chives and scallions are rich in antioxidants and sulfur compounds. Sulfur compounds boost glutathione levels which are key for a healthy brain and optimal dopamine release (4).
Cruciferous veggies are best when they are juiced, steamed or fermented in order to break down anti-nutrients and enhance the bioavailability of the nutrients. You can juice kale, steam broccoli and fermented cabbage making a sauerkraut for optimal nutrition.
Dr Jockers Strategy
For individuals with low dopamine, I focus on blood sugar stability, stress reduction and adaption strategies and look to improve thyroid health if it is a problem. I recommend a low-carb diet but will use dark chocolate, organic coffee, nuts and seeds so long as they aren’t dealing with an autoimmune disease.
I use both of the following supplements to help individuals with low dopa. I will also typically include Brain Calm magnesium, which crosses the blood brain barrier and improves overall receptor function and plays a huge role in modulating stress hormone production and allowing it to be used most effectively.
Adapt-Strong: This formula provides clinical dosages of vitamin B6, rhodiola and cordyceps. This formula provides useful support for both hyper and hypofunction of the adrenals. Hyperfunction is when the adrenals are overproducing hormones, such as cortisol, and hypofunction is the opposite, when the adrenals are under producing.
Normal Dosage: Take 1 cap – 2x daily
Advanced Dosage: Take 2 caps – 2x daily
Dopamine Plus: This formula contains clinical dosages of L-tyrosine, DL Phenylalanine, vitamin C and B6 and it contains 5-HTP which helps keep the dop:serotonin balance in order. This product helps improve focus, concentration and reduces cravings for sugar or other addictive behaviors.
Normal Dosage: Take 2 caps – 2x daily away from meals
Advanced Dosage: Take 4 caps – 2x daily away from meals
One of your articles mentioned canned tomatoes on the “do not eat” list. Is this due to their acidity, fructose, oxalic acid, fungus potential, or that they contain glutamates. Does this apply to salsas in glass jars and also how about the tomatoes in deli “fresh” salsa?
Also is it true that all fermented foods free up glutamic acid (MSG) and would not they apply to vinegars, fermented vegies, vitamin supplements made from fermentation and yeast? Don’t all green powdered drinks contain free glutamic acid — the ones with barley grass juice as well as the ones that contain chorella or spirulina? Don’t all protein powders also contain this neurotoxin due to the processing which frees up the glutamic acid? And digestive enzymes and amino acids would also be potential sources of MSG-type reactions for people who are sensitive?
Yep, for those of us trying to avoid excitotoxicity, are not “salmon, grass-fed beef, lamb, bison or buffalo, pasture-raised chicken, turkey and eggs” high in free-glutamates? And doesn’t that need to be the first consideration?
This can be an issue for those with certain gene mutations but it certainly dosn’t pertain to everyone. This is why you want to have a moderate protein diet that is high in good fats. The nutrition plan I recommend uses a healthy meat source 1x per day ideally and lots of raw and liquid foods during the day.
The reason to avoid the canned tomatoes is that research has indicated they are very high in BPA.
Glutamic Acid is not a major problem, it is a necessary precurser for glutathione production and gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) production and is necessary for the body.
I do agree that some individuals are more sensitive – particularly those with GAD (glutamic acid decarboxylase) enzyme genetic mutations or GAD antibodies. But most people will tolerate these great foods very well.
I have been diagnosed with celiac disease a month ago and have had mix connective tissue disease for about twenty years after a long time being diagnosed. These both cause other health issues but I have been dealing well with them and have great Doctor.
I was wondering what are the best foods to eat for a balanced diet, not a spicy food person.
Also what is good food to boost my dapamine levels ?
Hey Grace, as a good starting point for nutrition I usually point people towards this article: https://drjockers.com/healing-diet/
Some of the best foods for dopamine are listed in this article: https://drjockers.com/6-great-foods-increase-dopamine-levels/
My father is suffering for brain disorders disease (may be Parkinsons) and nervous system is not proper works. At present condition is critical. One attender shall require for his daily routine works
Sorry to hear this Tejram. This may be helpful for you: https://drjockers.com/improve-parkinsons-disease/
What diet/supplements would you recommend for ADHD P-I and autism?
I have severe brain fog, low energy, a flat mood, poor concentration and my memory is appalling.
I am trying a vegan Ketogenic diet but it would be great to know if there’s more I can do to improve my brain’s health.
Hey Jake, this article outlines strategies that will help: https://drjockers.com/adhd/. I also recommend that you work with a functional health practitioner that will customize a plan based on your health goals: https://drjockers.com/functional-nutrition-tips-to-find-a-great-health-coach/
Hi Dr J,
I recently ordered the Dopamine supplement for my father. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s recently and has the hand tremor. My question is, does the Dopamine supplement curb appetite? He already has a low appetite and is quite lean, so want to understand the supplement’s impact on appetite.
Hey Savera, I’m sorry to hear about your father. Artificially stimulating dopamine pathways is associated with sugar cravings. This article offers more information on dopamine dysfunction in individuals suffering from Parkinson’s and action steps to take.
I am convinced by the power of the “right” foods..however I eat so many of the foods presented in the article ( except for the fatty fish so it’s entirely possible I don’t have enough of certain omega 3 (but I have linseeds, nuts and seeds ) yet I suffer from brain fog, lack of motivation so much that I let myself down …and it’s been going on for quite sometime..could be “burn out”/ depression following several trauma ..it’s a vicious circle really
Sorry to hear this Marlene. Here is a helpful article for you: https://drjockers.com/depression/
I am wondering if this will help people who used drugs for along time getting their “reward feeling” back pre addiction. I have stopped using for seven months, but I’m on medical maintenance but it feels like I lost my “happy” so to speak. Will this bring that back. I just want to find a natural way to stop the feeling of misery daily. I want to be normal again. I feel like I cant go on another day sober feeling like this at least when I was using i was normal now everyone thinks their is something wrong with me.
Yes eating this way will help and here is another helpful article on dopamine: https://drjockers.com/dopamine/
Hi, I am a 49 yr female, along with the usual issue of pre menapause, I am also a recovering addict. I feel this is important to mention as i suspect the years of consumming meth, coke herion have left my body and mind in a constant state of chaos. I am 2 yrs clean, still take methadone(low dose) my problem is this. In the first 6 mos i gained and still am retaining an extra 70lbs. I have zero energy, heartburn, insomnia and crazy nighttime sugar cravings. I believe healthy eating is the answer, but i feel i am going in circles. My family Dr is of little help, I figured since adrenal fatigue and dopamine deficiency is within your area of expertise maybe you could give me some advice and hope that I can truly recover….still sick of being sick and tired! Thanks Heather
Sorry to hear about this Heather. I would highly recommend working with a functional health practitioner to customize a plan to help you. https://drjockers.lpages.co/long-distance-coaching-dr-jockers/