Why Thanksgiving Dinner Will Help You Feel Better

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Emotionally, everyone sitting around the table sharing what you are thankful for helps to produce oxytocin.  This hormone helps us feel good.  I have a great memory of my father sharing about how grateful he was that all of his kids were living close by and able to be together for the holiday with him.  I get emotional just thinking about it.  There’s more than just the warm fuzzies that help us feel good at this holiday.

Thanksgiving turkey is very helpful because of its serotonin and tryptophan levels. Many people have heard that the extremely high levels of tryptophan in turkey are what causes that relaxed tired feeling after a Thanksgiving dinner.

Turkey and white meats are usually more balancing for your body than beef, pork or other red meats.  A balanced metabolism is great for serotonin and dopamine production.

All whole foods have amino acids or proteins in different quantities. For serotonin to be produced you need a higher percentage of tryptophan than other amino acids in your blood stream. A moderate amount of carbohydrates will create the proper percentage. Whole grains have tryptophan and their carbohydrate content also allows the tryptophan to be a high enough percentage so it can get to the brain where it is needed. Whole grains also contain B vitamins which help the tryptophan to be converted to serotonin.

The grain that has the highest percent of tryptophan is buckwheat, but most grains work well. They are complex enough and have enough fiber that the sugars are released into your blood stream slowly. This prevents the energy highs and lows which also affects your moods. Brown rice is one of those properly balanced grains.

Let’s not forget the benefit of horsing around outside.  Exercising with a turkey trot or football game before the festivities.  Enjoying the sunshine and soaking it in.  The sunshine helps with Vitamin D and boosts our mood in several ways.  When there is no sunshine we produce less serotonin.  The pineal gland signals your brain to convert serotonin into melatonin. Normally in the morning the pineal gland then signals to your brain to start making more serotonin.  So don’t neglect the outdoors this Thanksgiving.  Exercise is good for so many things so it’s not surprising it helps with your mood. Research has linked exercise with higher levels of serotonin. Exercise is also linked with increased dopamine levels, which causes relaxation, and endorphins, which take away the pain.


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