I want to spend some time on this post talking about serotonin and its impact on your hunger before starting with the Serotonin Power Diet book review.
Your body is an amazing machine. There are so many checks and balances regulating your hunger from hormones like leptin to brain chemicals like serotonin. But it is also a slow bloated bureaucratic machine that takes months, if not years, to bring itself back into balance.
What is Serotonin?
Serotonin is a brain chemical that suppresses your appetite and makes you happy (it is your body’s natural Prozac). There is a reason why happy people tend to have fewer problems with addiction. In a previous post about sugar addiction, I mentioned that children or grandchildren of alcoholics tend to have lower levels of serotonin. People on anti –depressants tend to have extreme low serotonin levels.
Serotonin Power Diet
This diet is based upon the idea that if you eat more serotonin boosting foods, then you can naturally increase your serotonin level. Unlike the Atkins diet (which I absolutely hate!), this diet tells us to bring carbs back.
What does carbs have to do with serotonin? I notice that when I eat a potato or a muffin, I tend to feel a little happier than if I have eaten a steak. I always thought this correlation is because of my Asian decent (I love rice!). According to the Serotonin Power Diet book, eating carbs allow more tryptophan (an amino acid) to pass through the membrane of your brain. And tryptophan is a key building block of serotonin.
Not to say that tryptophan is not available when you eat protein. Protein has much more amino acids than carbs. Imagine a door way. When you eat protein, there are approximately 20 amino acids shoving each other trying to squeeze through the doorway at the same time to get to the brain. With this kind of crowd, less tryptophan gets through when you eat a protein. But when you eat a carbohydrate, there are less amino acids available so it is easier for tryptophan to stroll through the doorway to increase your serotonin.
Chapters in the Serotonin Power Diet
Here is a quick summary of the chapters in the book. I did not comment on the chapters that have self explanatory titles.
Chapter 1: Solving the carbohydrate riddle
A more detailed explanation of the serotonin and carbohydrate connection that what I mentioned above.
Chapter 2: Appetite, Hunger, and Eating Triggers
3 short quizzes to see if you are eating due to hunger or due to low serotonin
Chapter 3: If you want to change your weight, you have to change your mind, too
Some strategies to help with overeating and the importance of changing your mindset about weight loss.
Chapter 4: Before you begin
Some planning tips to make sure you succeed with the serotonin diet. Ideas include lining up your cheerleading squad and getting rid of temptations in the home.
Chapter 5: Snack your way to serotonin power
A whole chapter on types of snacks, when to eat the snacks, and the amount of snacking you do in each phase of the serotonin diet. In phase 1, you get to eat 3 carb snacks per day. In phase 2, you get to eat 2 carb snacks per day. In phase 3, you get to eat 1 carb snack per day.
Chapter 6: The Serotonin Power Diet
The serotonin diet consists of 3 phases. Phase 1 (Serotonin Surge) is 2 weeks long. The goal is to load your body with more carbs than you have been eating to get you off the low serotonin wagon. Phase 2 (Serotonin Balance) is 6 weeks long. Phase 3 (Serotonin Control) starts on the 9th week.
You eat the same breakfast for all 3 phases. Here is a quick summary of the diet plan:
Phase 1: 3 snack/day. Lunch is the main protein meal. Dinner is a mix of complex carbs and vegetables.
Phase 2: 2 snack/day. Lunch is the same as Phase 1. Add some protein for dinner, no more than 80-100 calories (about 2 ounces for women).
Phase 3: 1 snack/day. Lunch and dinner are the same. Add 2 cups of vegetables to lunch and dinner.
If you are lifting weights, I think you might need more protein than the amount the diet is telling you to eat.
Chapter 7: Change your body
This chapter discusses the importance of exercise and the different types you would need (strength, aerobic, and flexibility).
Chapter 8: Now what do I do?
This chapter offers some guidelines on how to follow the serotonin diet while eating out at restaurants (includes some suggestions for eating ethnic food that I think are good).
Chapter 9: The 12-week guide
Chapter 10: Troubleshooting
Chapter 11: Maintaining your weight loss
Chapter12: The kitchen list for a meal in minutes
Chapter 13: Basic meals and quick kitchen tricks
Chapter 14: Recipes
Is the Serotonin Power Diet worth reading?
I think this book might be worth reading, especially if you are a fan of Atkins. One of my bowling teammate has been on and off Atkins for the last two years. He keeps gaining and losing the same 12 pounds (probably from his low serotonin level from eating mostly protein). In his mind, he thinks Atkins is the solution. I don’t think eliminating an entire food group is a solution to permanent weight loss.
The eating plan is not too outrageous; it is not advocating that you eat only carbs and eliminate protein. I am not sure I agree with the idea of eating most of your protein for breakfast and lunch and going more carb heavy for dinner. And the idea of picking snacks that have less than 4 grams of protein to boost your serotonin level contradicts the idea of eating a snack with protein to stay satisfied longer. But the Serotonin Power Diet does provide some interesting arguments on why carbs are an important component of a balanced diet.
Until next time and thanks for stopping by.
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