Amino acids are a relatively unsung hero of creative life. Without them, your brain would struggle to function in an inventive, original way. As we saw in Neuroscience for creatives: why you should organise a board games party tonight, proper levels of serotonin and dopamine are essential to creativity and focus. To help ensure you are producing enough vital neurotransmitters, it’s a good idea to know which foods are full of their precursors.
You are what you eat, or more precisely, you cook up what you cook up. So dig into this Creative Boom banquet of some of the most creative ingredients nature has to offer.
Know Your Creative Amino Acids
Tryptophan is the primary precursor to serotonin. Phenylalanine, tyrosine, L-dopa are the building blocks of dopamine. Where this piece refers to ‘creative amino acids’, it means the former three, as they commonly appear in the same foodstuffs, and contribute to building reserves of both crucial neurotransmitters at the same time.
1. Spirulina Seaweed
Not that delicious crispy stuff you get down the Chinese takeaway, this 56% protein seaweed is crazy high in creative amino acids and thus eating it is a forerunner to excellent levels of serotonin and dopamine, and therefore, good ideas. Or ideas, at least.
Aztecs ate it straight up, but you’re probably limited to getting it dried from giant superstores, or pills from Holland and Barrett, unless you’ve got green fingers and you grow your own. The raw stuff tastes a bit buttery. And as you’d expect from seaweed, high in salt.
2. Cod / White Fish
There are ridiculous amounts of creative amino acids in Atlantic cod. Low in saturated fat, cod is a whopping 93% protein and superb for vitamin b12, which plays a vital role in maintaining the function of the brain and nervous system.
Available in all good chip shops, as well as frozen food outlets. But don’t go mad, cod is high cholesterol – even without batter or deep-fried breadcrumb.
Cheese is a reliable source of creative amino acids, but not all cheeses are created equal. Creative Boom’s League of Extraordinary Cheeses is thus:
- Mozzarella: stonking levels of dopamine precursors (in fact, it’s only a few milligrams behind cod) with twice the serotonin creation potential of white fish.
- Cottage: great for dopamine, good for serotonin and a super fat option.
- ** Low-fat cheddar:** half the serotonin precursors of Mozzarella but right up there for dopamine.
Pork is the most creative of all meats. Well, certainly the highest in amino acids. We’re talking lean supermarket cuts here. Bacon has way more fat than protein and thus, isn’t cutting it in the amino acids stakes. Most lean meats, however, are dependable sources of protein and creative amino acids.
5. Broad Beans (aka Fava Beans)
The don source of L-Dopa, a significant forerunner to dopamine, which will give you drive, tenacity and focus. Often served with chorizo, which is a tasty, but shockingly uncreative meat – so save that for a treat. Buy fava beans frozen in your favourite supermarket and chuck them into whatever ‘big pot’ creations you’re cooking up. It apparently goes well with a nice Chianti.
Soy protein is an incredibly high source of phenylalanine and tyrosine, from which your body makes dopamine. Soy protein is a food additive found in breakfast cereals – but the amount you’ll consume from a daily bowl will be very low impact. Still, soybeans, soy milk, tofu and even soy sauce have outstanding amounts of creative amino acids, so probably better to go for them.
7. Egg Whites
Go to work on an egg-white omelette. Egg-whites have phenomenal amounts of dopamine precursors, phenylalanine and tyrosine, and are 91% protein. They lay on an awesome balance of all kinds of amino acids, relatively inexpensively. Please buy free-range eggs, if you can afford to.
Sesame and pumpkin seeds are massive winners for amino acid intake – and are particularly impressive contributors to the serotonin pot. Quite a high-fat choice, though, so go easy.
Shrimp, crab, and mainly, lobster are high contributors in the dopamine production process. It makes a good old-fashioned fish pie with cod, prawns and a sprinkle of melted cheddar on top of creamy mash potato a dinner fit for a creative champion.
Milk is an excellent source of creative amino acids, and amazing for rehydration too. Research by Loughborough University’s School of Sports and Exercise Sciences, entitled 'Skimmed milk better than isotonic for post-sport rehydration?', found that athletes recovered quicker from drinking skimmed than any other post-sport beverage. Staying hydrated is a keystone of a productive day, so milk is a two-for-one solution to two creative nutrition issues.
Unfortunately, you can't just eat your way to success; other scientific hacks can help you get your amazing creative brain in gear, as you can see in Neuroscience for creatives: why you should organise a board games party tonight.
As ever, everything in moderation: if you’re thinking of making sweeping changes to your lifestyle, or you wonder whether you might be overdoing the pumpkin seed smoothies, please seek the advice of a qualified physician.