We all know that food can make us feel all the feelings, good and bad, happy and sad. Sometimes indulging in a sumptuous meal will make us feel satisfied, comfortable, and warm, but other times food produces feelings, guilt, and unease in the stomach. So imagine if we could eat things that are delicious and make us feel good at the same time!
Little do we know that some foods produce endorphins, which Laura Cipullo, registered dietitian of Mom Dishes It Out calls “the feel good hormones.” Deborah Enos, motivational speaker, certified nutritionist, and One-Minute Wellness coach, explains that these endorphins “are similar to morphine — they help to relieve pain and put you in a lovely mood.”
Endorphins are produced in the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus, and other parts of the body at various times, like during sex, exercise, food consumption, or moments of pain and excitement. They are a response to certain stimuli, generally stress, fear, or pain, but they mainly interact with receptors in the region of the brain most responsible for blocking pain and controlling emotions. Our bodies release at least 20 different kinds of endorphins, ranging from the most potent beta-endorphin, which gives off that sugar- high feeling and can dampen pain, to dopamine, which boosts mood, to serotonin, which contributes to emotional well-being.
Eating chocolate or ice cream almost always lifts our moods and brings us happiness, and there’s a reason for that — these two tasty treats in fact help our bodies to create those “feel good hormones.” Some spicy food, like chili peppers, can set our palates on fire and make our noses run, but also make us feel great because they generate endorphins. There are many more endorphin-inducing foods, so you can definitely feel good about chowing down on some of these.
Who can ever resist chocolate? It’s just one of those treats we can never really get enough of, but Deborah Enos says that “consuming chocolate will help your body to release endorphins. This is one of the reasons that people associate chocolate as a comfort food.” Laura Cipullo says that the sweet indulgence “also contains caffeine which gives us a boost of energy and likely affects our mood.” But, she adds “remember too much chocolate or too much of any food can also make us feel “hung over” or lethargic.”
Believe it or not, that spicy taste of your salsa, wasabi, or other spicy foods, is not a taste but actually a feeling of pain. Great, so that sriracha is actually causing us pain? But that pain is offset by our body’s natural reaction, which is to release endorphins, the messengers of well-being. Maybe it’s those good feelings that attract so many people to the fire brought on by spicy foods.