(Monday night’s dinner: Whole wheat noodle’s with marinara, chicken and mushrooms, rosemary carrots and two thin slices of garlic bread).

What do carbs, serotonin and overeating have in common?

Anyone?  What you’d like me to tell you, or what you’d expect me to say is that carbs inhibit the release of the feel-good brain chemecal, serotonin, thus causing us to overeat.

Think again!

It’s the opposite that’s true!  According to Cynthia M. Bulik, PH.d and Nadine Taylor, M.S., R.d, authors of “Runaway Eating: The 8 Point Plan to Conquer Adult Food and Weight Obsessions,” eating carbs plays a huge role in the release of serotonin, and serotonin plays a part in the regulation of our appetite!

Not only is serotonin a “happy” chemical our brains produce naturally, it is also “…a powerful modulator of mood, appetite, pain awareness, and sleep” (186).  People with depression or anxiety often have abnormal serotonin levels, and many people with eating disorders (anorexia, bulemia, binging) often are suffering from a form of depression or anxiety.

According to Bulik and Taylor, high levels of serotonin can result in “appetite suppression, food restriction, anxiety and obsessive behaviors.”  Low levels can actually result in depression and an increase in appetite!

So what about Carbs?

Carbs are bad aren’t they?  No!  Where in the world did you get that idea?  Oh maybe from diets like South Beach or Atkins, or from eating lunch with a friend who refuses to even touch a role for fear of getting fat.

The consumption of healthy, whole wheat Carbs can actually help curb your appetite and control some overeating episodes.  How?  Well, carbs help to release serotonin.

Biology 101

Here’s how it works in your brain…

>Serotonin: A feel good/regulating chemical produced in our brain. “Serotonin is synthesized [means made complete or whole] within the brain from tryptophan” (p. 189)

–>Tryptophan: An amino acid found in animal protein.

—->Tryptophan needs to get to the brain by piggy backing with a carrier molecule…but so do lots of other amino acids.  Being an amino acid is a highly competitive job.

——->We need Tryptophan to get to the brain so that more serotonin can be released.

———->With carbohydrates, insulin is released.  Insulin is like tryptophan’s big bro.  Insulin rounds up all the other amino acids and makes them wait their turn for once.

————>Now, tryptophan gets the first piggy back ride, which means it gets a trip to the brain, which means more serotonin

So everyone is happy!  Tryptophan gets his piggy back ride and we get to experience the bliss of serotonin secretion!  Woohoo.  🙂

The lesson being taught is not about amino acids or molecules, it’s about carbohydrates and how they are actually pretty darn good for you.

Remember: The key to regulating serotonin levels is a balance in carb consumption.

Try these tips:

  • Limit amount of white, sugary, starchy foods in your diet.  These foods do release serotonin, and help you feel better in the short run, but they’re not worth the calories, the energy crash, or the guilt.
  • Try to eat a protein (egg, beans, dairy, meat), a whole grain (bread, cereal, pasta, rice), fruits and veggies with each meal.
  • Try to eat five small meals a day, on a schedule, until your satiation (hunger) levels regulate (means you’ll actually know when you’re hungry).
  • Once your satiation levels are normalized, continue to eat hearty whole grains, but only eat when you feel hungry.
  • If you have problems with overeating or binging “substitute a serving of carbohydrates for the protein both in your breakfast and in your afternoon snack” (195).  Make up for the protein substituted in your other meals.  Document how you feel while you do this.  If it helps, continue.  If it makes you feel sick, light headed or shaky, stop and go back to your regular eating.
  • Exercise:  Exercise helps to release serotonin too!

So there you have it!  Consider yourself taught!

Your homework, eat a hearty serving of wholewheat pasta!  Don’t go overboard though.  I suggest checking out to find out how much of each food group you should be eating.  For healthy weight loss, I should be eating about 7 ounces (aka, 7 servings).  Remember, 1 serving of pasta is 1/2 cup.

Today’s Meal Plan


Breakfast: Whole wheat cereal w/ ½ c. berries, milk and coffee

Snack: fruit and yogurt

Lunch: PB and Jelly Sandwich, fruit, veggies

Snack: Granola Bar, fruit, coffee

Dinner: Huevos Rancheros

Hasta Manana chicitas!

–Shawnee, The Ex-Perfectionist

‘Cause life isn’t perfect, but with a little planning and preparation, you can almost come close!

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15 Responses to Carb-a-licious!

  1. simply Life says:

    Looks like the perfect dinner combo to me!

  2. Dinner looks great! Thanks for the lesson….I love my carbs and could never go on one of those diets that makes you get rid of them!

  3. Good info, girl! My coffee hasn’t fully kicked in enough yet to digest all the info, so I’ll stop back by later to learn something 🙂

    The pasta looks great though!

  4. Haha, yeah this was quite a post. I call these ones novels. But when a post is long, you know I’m being passionate about the subject! Thanks for reading.

  5. Yes, I think it’s important to eat enough healthy carbs. I think the refined carbs are the ones that can get us into lots of trouble…

    Your dinner looks great!

  6. Heather says:

    I’ve totally been craving pasta lately, and that picture makes me think I’m going to have to make it tonight, that looks so delicious!

    And great tips too!

  7. Kelly says:

    Really interesting information…thanks for sharing. That dinner looks awesome!!

  8. Kate says:

    very informative post. i hate how some foods get tagged as “bad.” thanks for showing us the science!

    and no, we didn’t eat the walnut thing. it was uber slimy, gross looking. bluck!

  9. Great info! I know that when I limit my carbs TOO much I end up overeating big time when I finally do have a piece of toast or a granola bar or a bowl of cereal. Moderation is the key for me!

  10. hahaha. You said yum, so I wasn’t sure. I have been having a really hard time with sarcasm in text and over the phone. Not a good thing since I work with people all day long. :/

  11. Tes says:

    Very good info! I can never get rid it of carb… we grow up eating rice and noodle, so carb is the part of life.
    The pasta and garlic bread looks so amazing. I want to make dinner just like this 🙂

  12. mmm….carbs. i knew there was a reason i loved them so 🙂

  13. Very good info! Looks like a delicious meal!

  14. Xannon says:

    It’s great to read something that’s both enjyaoble and provides pragmatisdc solutions.

Comments are closed.