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Don’t be a dope…raise your dopamine.

Dopamine is a natural hormone produced in the human brain that plays an important part in regulating your mood, emotions, ability to deal with stress, anxiety levels and sleep patterns. Dopamine levels also enhance your decision-making ability and control cravings. Related to the amount of pleasure a human experiences, higher dopamine levels may be beneficial in developing social skills. While over-the-counter supplements are popular, you can increase your dopamine levels naturally.

Here’s How…

Include ripe bananas as part of your daily diet. As a banana matures, it produces dopamine quinine, a naturally occurring form of dopamine. Although small brown areas on the fruit indicate bruising, these portions also contain the highest levels of dopamine.

Supplement your diet with foods rich in antioxidants. Free radicals lower dopamine levels in the body, and antioxidants eliminate free radicals. Most vegetables and fruits contain some antioxidants, with red beans, blueberries, cranberries, artichokes, prunes and strawberries topping the list.

Reduce your intake of sugary foods and saturated fats. Not only will these products reduce dopamine levels in your bloodstream, saturated fats will clog your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease. You can still enjoy your favorite foods, but cut out as much sugar as possible and substitute olive oil or another polyunsaturated oil in food preparation.

Switch to decaffeinated coffee and reduce alcoholic drinks to one or fewer per day. Caffeine boosts the neurotransmitters in the brain and increases serotonin temporarily, but after the spike, dopamine levels sink. People who suffer from depression should avoid caffeinated coffee. Likewise, alcohol limits neurotransmitter function and creates a false sense of security that the user comes to depend upon.

Pack a handful of raw almonds or sunflower seeds for your morning break instead of eating a candy bar. In addition, sprinkle sesame seeds on salads and sandwiches for a jump-start to your dopamine levels. Purchase natural amino acid supplements to get a dopamine boost. Available at health food stores or online, these products offer a concentrated dose of the amino acids naturally found in a healthy brain.

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