Happy Hormones: Are You Eating Food That Gives You Joy?
Image Credit: Dark chocolate is the ultimate comfort food | Pexels

Are you happy? Well, in our fast and stressful lives, a question as simple as that might sound like an existential one. Maintaining a positive and joyful mood is essential for overall well-being and a fulfilling life. The human brain produces various neurotransmitters, commonly known as happy hormones, that play a crucial role in regulating our emotions and happiness levels. Serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins are some of the key happy hormones that can influence our mood.

While several factors contribute to the production of these hormones, nutrition and diet also play a significant role. That explains why we refer to some dishes as our comfort food and why some particular dishes make us feel happy. Let us take a quick look at foods that boost the release of happy hormones and promote a happier, more balanced emotional state.

Serotonin-Boosting Foods

Serotonin is often referred to as the "feel-good" hormone and is associated with feelings of happiness and well-being. Consuming foods that increase serotonin levels can have a positive impact on mood and overall mental health. One of the primary precursors to serotonin is the amino acid tryptophan, which can be found in various food sources. Foods rich in tryptophan include:

Lean meats like chicken, eggs, nuts, and seeds (such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and almonds), bananas, pineapples, tofu, pomfret, spinach, and other fatty fish. All these foods make you feel good and boost serotonin levels. A warm bowl of palak soup, eggs for breakfast, or bananas after working out—if you felt really nice enjoying these meals and wondered why that was happening, you have the answer now!

Recipe -Your Food Lab

In addition to tryptophan, foods high in complex carbohydrates can also support serotonin production. Complex carbohydrates promote the release of insulin, which helps in the absorption of amino acids, including tryptophan, into the brain. Whole grains, brown rice, oats, and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates.

Dopamine-Boosting Foods

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, motivation, and reward. It plays a vital role in regulating moods and emotional responses. Certain foods can boost dopamine levels and contribute to a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. Foods that help increase dopamine levels include:

Tyrosine-rich foods: Tyrosine is an amino acid that serves as a building block for dopamine. Foods like chicken, turkey, fish, and dairy products contain high levels of tyrosine.

Bananas: In addition to being a good source of tryptophan, bananas also contain dopamine itself, which can aid in its production.

Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate stimulates the release of dopamine and induces feelings of happiness.

Recipe - Piyas Kitchen

So, if you crave dark chocolate when you are sad or going through a heartbreak, that is because it boosts dopamine and gives you motivation and pleasure. It feels like a treat after facing pain or lows, and it makes you feel like you can make things better. Cheese also has a similar effect, which would explain why mac and cheese is the number one comfort food.

Oxytocin-Boosting Foods

Oxytocin, often referred to as the "love hormone," is associated with feelings of trust, bonding, and social connection. While oxytocin is primarily released during activities like hugging, touching, and social interactions, certain foods can also promote its production. Foods that may enhance oxytocin levels include:

Dark chocolate: Our old friend makes an appearance yet again! Besides boosting dopamine, dark chocolate also contains compounds that may trigger the release of oxytocin, promoting a sense of closeness and connection. We hope you know what gift you should buy your date next!

Foods rich in vitamin D: Vitamin D has been linked to higher oxytocin levels. Fatty fish and egg yolks are excellent sources of vitamin D.

Endorphin-Boosting Foods

Endorphins are natural painkillers and mood enhancers produced by the body during physical activity and certain other experiences. While endorphins are mainly released through exercise, some foods can also contribute to their production. Foods that may help stimulate endorphin release include:

Spicy foods: Consuming spicy foods can trigger a pain response in the body, leading to the release of endorphins, which act as natural pain relievers.

Dark chocolate: Once again, dark chocolate comes to the rescue, as it contains compounds that can induce the release of endorphins.

So, to release endorphins, you have to function on either zero or 100; on one end of the scale is sweet treat chocolate, and on the other side is super spicy food. Choose one on the basis of your preference, or go for both like a normal foodie!