New research shows that eating certain foods causes the brain to release endorphins, or “happiness hormones.”
Researchers measured participants’ brain activity after they ate pizza. The scans were repeated after participants consumed a liquid meal containing the same amount of calories as the pizza.
Both the pizza and the liquid meals triggered a release of opioids (physical satisfaction hormones) in the brain. However, only the pizza triggered an increase in endorphins.
Basically, while both meals satisfied the brain’s need for fuel, the liquid meal did not make the brain “happy.” Yes, comfort and happy foods are real!
While pizza made the participants’ brains happy, the nutritional factor of the cheesy treat is unfortunately low. There are plenty of foods, however, that make your brain and body happy!
Avocados – Because avocados contain choline, when you eat them, your body’s levels of serotonin are increased. Serotonin impacts the entire body, helping with sleeping, eating, and digestion. It is considered a natural “mood stabilizer” and helps reduce depression, and regulate anxiety.
Bananas – Full of vitamin B6, magnesium and potassium, bananas provide plenty of energy to give your brain and body a boost. They are also high in fiber, making them a natural probiotic. Bananas are also an excellent source of magnesium (a natural stress-reducer.)
Berries –Delicious, nutritious, full of vitamins and a variety of antioxidants, fresh berries are a great “happy snack.” Blueberries and acai berries are especially high in these nutrients and antioxidants.
Cocoa– Yes, chocolate makes you happy (literally and chemically!) The phenylethlyamine in chocolate makes you feel alert and cheerful. Phenylethlyamine is also known as the “love drug” because it can trigger the same feelings of excitement and contentment as being in love.
Chocolate also contains a fat called anadamide which triggers dopamine production, leading to a feeling of intense well-being. Eating chocolate releases endorphins which are known to decrease levels of both stress and pain. Here’s a great chocolate treat that’s low carb and sugar-free!
Coffee – Research has found that drinking coffee in the morning is tied to increased levels of energy, as well as feelings of kindness and pleasure. Coffee enjoyed with friends or family is connected to feelings of affection, friendship, and satisfaction. Even when had only occasionally, a cup of coffee brings on calm and tranquility.
Greek Yogurt – Believe it or not, the type and amount of bacteria in your gut can affect your mood. Dairy products containing active cultures increase the probiotic bacteria in your gut. One study found that women who ate probiotic yogurt twice a day experienced less stress than those who ate none.
Green Tea – A Japanese study of over 40,000 people found that drinking five or more cups of green tea per day reduced stress levels by over 20% compared to those who drank less than one cup. Green tea contains L-theanine, an antioxidant thought to be the bringer of relaxation for green tea drinkers.
Mushrooms – Mushrooms, especially the shiitake variety, are packed with vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression, so upping your mushroom consumption can also help up your mood!
Salmon – This delicious fish is full of vitamins B6 and B12. Vitamin B12 is used by the body for energy, and vitamin B6 is essential to the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleeping and waking cycles. Salmon is also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked with improving symptoms of mood disorders.
Spinach – Spinach contains folic acid which helps to reduce fatigue and improve mood. Spinach is also rich in iron, a mineral that helps deliver oxygen to your cells, giving the body energy on a cellular level. Spinach is also rich in Vitamin C and magnesium which are crucial to the production of serotonin and dopamine – two brain chemicals responsible for making us feel happy and joyful.