Which foods contain a lot of dopamine?

To avoid a dopamine deficiency and maintain the positive effects of the neurotransmitter for as long as possible, it is important that the dopamine balance is always in equilibrium. To do this, the body must regularly produce enough dopamine. For this, it needs a sufficient amount of certain nutrients.

Nutrients for dopamine

Essen Dopamin

The finished messenger substance dopamine is not contained in any food. Even if we could supply dopamine from outside through food, it would not be able to cross the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, it is first formed in the body, more precisely in the so-called dopaminergic nerve cells. However, certain "ingredients" are required for this. In this case, these are various nutrients: the amino acids tyrosineand phenylalanine, as well as vitamins B6, B12 and C.

Phenylalanine as a precursor of the conditionally essential amino acid tyrosine, which is the basis for the formation of dopamine, is contained in very many foods, but in very different amounts. Particularly rich in phenylalanine / tyrosine are vegetables such as soybeans and peas, nuts, seeds and kernels, wheat germ, fish, meat, dairy products such as cheese and eggs. In addition, the body also needs vitamins to make dopamine.

Which vitamins are important for dopamine?

Vitamine Dopamin

Three vitamins are particularly important in the formation of dopamine: vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and vitamin C.

Vitamin B6 is involved in many metabolic processes. Among other things, it promotes the conversion of the dopamine precursor L-dopa into dopamine. In addition, B6 is important for a balanced mood, good sleep and the ability to concentrate. It is found primarily in whole grain products, but also in bananas and various vegetables such as cauliflower, green beans, potatoes and carrots.

Vitamin B12 is also important for dopamine production and contributes to well-being by reducing fatigue and feelings of exhaustion, for example. This vitamin is found primarily in milk and egg yolks, as well as in oysters, fish and liver.

Vitamin C plays a major role in many functions of the nervous system. For example, it is not only needed to further convert dopamine into serotonin or norepinephrine, but is important in general for the release of messenger substances in the nerve cells. Particularly high amounts of vitamin C are found in parsley and wild garlic, red peppers, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, as well as rose hips, black currants, kiwi and citrus fruits.

How does dopamine influence our eating behavior?

The neurotransmitter dopamine is not only known as a happiness hormone, but also plays an important role in the brain's reward system. This is because the neurotransmitter is always released when we achieve something (long) desired. This could be passing an exam, or - in the case of smokers - having a cigarette or eating or drinking something delicious.

A scientific study by researchers from Cologne, Germany, for example, shows that the brain already releases dopamine when food touches the tongue and then again when it reaches the stomach [1]. Also, the release of dopamine is related to the subjective desire for food and thus also to our eating behavior. The Cologne scientists were able to show that people with a particularly strong craving for a certain drink have a strong release of dopamine when they have this drink in their mouths, but release only little dopamine when it reaches the stomach.

It is possible that this lack of dopamine release leads to continued food intake in the hope that the anticipated feeling of happiness will soon set in. It may be that the influence of dopamine on eating behavior also plays a role in the development of obesity, but more research is needed on this [2].

Conclusion on nutrients and dopamine

A healthy and balanced diet rich in protein and vitamins supports the production of dopamine in the body. The release of the messenger substance leads to a feeling of happiness, which can also influence our eating behavior.


[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30595479/
[2] https://www.scinexx.de/news/biowissen/wie-das-glueckshormon-unser-essverhalten-beeinflusst