Happy by inner feeling, not through the analytic mind
It is not about happiness through the mind where one would claim that he/she is happy because of reduced weight, better body shape, or acne reduction, and smoother skin or because of other physical conditions.
I mean to ask: “Do you FEEL happiness while on keto diet?”
Dopamine, along with serotonin are hormones which regulate a number of brain functions, and could be called as hormones of happiness, satisfaction and joy. All would be great, but when imbalanced – could be a source of sadness, depression, or even degenerative brain diseases.
In my article about junk food for the brain (1), the definition of dopamine, its natural sources, reward dependence based on excessive usage of dopamine triggers and its main side effects while overdosing were described.
Dopamine is the natural hormone which regulates our mood and emotional well-feeling. There are natural sources of dopamine to boost its level if sadness or a kind of depressive mood fill in the day for unknown reasons.
Specific food, as well as healthy life style activities increase dopamine levels naturally and contribute to well-feeling.
Hormone dopamine regulates brain functions and affects our mood and emotional well-feeling.
When dopamine is too high or too low – the condition could provoke addictions, depression, mood swings and even degenerative brain diseases. See also my previous article about junk food for the brain (1).
Natural sources of dopamine. Is everything clear?
I would agree with Erica Julson, MS (2) that activities like regular exercise; getting enough sleep; listening to melodic music; meditation; and getting a good dose of sunlight may boost dopamine naturally. It is not a secret – while performing the abovementioned activities we feel really good.
However, dopamine-boosting foods according to Erica now raise doubts in my mind.
Velvet beans (which contain high levels of L-dopa, the precursor molecule to dopamine) seem to be ok.
But the examples of protein-rich food (which supposed to raise dopamine levels as well) are doubtful and here is why:
Food like beef, eggs, and dairy are assumed as protein-rich. However, the same food has high levels of fats, SATURATED FATS. And saturated fats are known TO DECREASE OR IMBALANCE dopamine levels and its expression.
So here is a stick with two ends: on the one hand, protein-rich food like beef, eggs, and dairy supposed to boost dopamine and raise our mood. On the other hand, the same food is rich in saturated fats and actually contributes negatively to our mood.
Scientific studies show that the risk to develop a degenerative disease like Parkinson disease could be associated with the consumption of saturated fatty acids (3, 4).
Piece of advice: It is in fact advisable to lower the regular daily consumption of food rich in saturated fatty acids, because of its actual negative impact on mood and mood swings.
Heathy activities like sports, walking, sunlight, good sleep, meditation raise levels of dopamine naturally though ensure our feeling of happiness and great mood.
Food sources for natural dopamine are tricky. Some food products like velvet beans contain the precursors of dopamine thus raise dopamine level naturally.
Protein-rich food is known to raise dopamine levels as well, however protein-rich food of animal origin also contains saturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids disrupt and suppress dopamine production and therefore may lead to sadness, depression, and in long term even to degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson disease.
Is there food rich in proteins but low in saturated fatty acids?
Yes. This food is basically of plant origin: soy and legumes.
Legumes include variety of beans: chickpeas, Adzuki, Anasazi, Black, Fava, Kidney, Lima, Pinto beans, also black-eyed peas, split peas and lentils.
My great recipe of appetizer with Adzuki beans
What are fats?
In chemical terms, all fats are generally saturated or unsaturated fatty acids. In their turn, unsaturated fatty acids could be described as mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated. That‘s it (5).
Both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids are those of animal and plant origin.
Saturated fats of animal origin are butter fat, meat fat; and of plant origin – tropical oils (palm oil, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil).
Unsaturated fats come from fatty fish like salmon and mackerel and plants (nuts and seeds, avocados, olives and olive oil, vegetable oils, such as sunflower, etc (6).
Why eating extra fats?
One could consume extra fats because he/she knows the theory on internet, but others may feel an extreme relentless pull to it. I will explain using my own experience.
I remember, this summer, any time I over-exercised (daily running, long distance walking, stretching) I felt a slut for butter.
There were days when I could ate up to 100 g of butter alone, cutting it slice by slice, without any other food. I felt like obsessed, but body called for butter.
Now I understand it was me under body’s chemical reactions: too high doses of naturally-created dopamine by sports induced the body‘s need to lower high levels of dopamine by extreme desire to eat butter – a source of saturated fats. In that way, the body probably was trying to regulate and lower a bit the level of dopamine.
I have an evidence that my lentil soup (7) causes bliss feeling – it is not only my own observation, other people (even meat eaters:)) tell me the same: “This soup makes me feel like in heaven!”.
Lentils are protein-rich food (which elevate the level of dopamine naturally) and are low in saturated fatty acids (that means there are no hidden contra-reaction to lower a dopamine level).
Are you happy on keto? Do you FEEL HAPPINESS?
In my next post about fats, I will try to review as much particular FAT foods as possible to see where we could find the golden middle. Stay tuned! This type of articles comes on Fridays in the rubric “Alchemist on Fridays”.
- Impressive photography as a junk food for the brain. Prophylactic self-isolation series. Day 247th (on this website)
- 10 Best Ways to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally by Erica Julson, MS on May 10, 2018; online source: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-dopamine#TOC_TITLE_HDR_11
- Schommer J, Marwarha G, Nagamoto-Combs K, Ghribi O. Palmitic acid-enriched diet increases α-synuclein and tyrosine hydroxylase expression levels in the mouse brain. Frontiers in neuroscience. 2018;12:552
- Bousquet M, St-Amour I, Vandal M, Julien P, Cicchetti F, Calon F. High-fat diet exacerbates MPTP-induced dopaminergic degeneration in mice. Neurobiol Dis. 2012;45(1):529-38
- Rustan AC, Drevon CA. Fatty acids: structures and properties. e LS. 2001
- Types of Fat. Harvard T.H.Chan. School of Public Health, available online: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/
- Latest sketch of lentil soup could provoke a joyful whoop! – my recipe on this website!