I’m one hundred percent positive that I’m not the only person who experienced a less-than-spectacular holiday season this past year. Let’s just say that the novelty of socializing over Zoom/Hangouts/various other video call platforms has definitely worn off. Can I just hug everyone, yet?
Christmas 2020 wasn’t all bad, though. My partner and I got a break from figuring out family-hopping logistics, we forewent the turkey and cooked up some truly amazing local steaks for dinner on the day (try the reverse sear, highly recommended!), and, most importantly, my mom got me a bread machine! Honestly, I’m a bit of a bread snob, so I wasn’t convinced that the bread machine loaves would blow my mind. They didn’t, but they were good! Perfectly acceptable basic bread.
The most important function of my new bread machine isn’t the decent sandwich bread it bakes, and will continue to bake. What I will always credit my bread machine for (and my mom, to be fair), is inspiring me to master the art of sourdough! Long story short, I found a great, easy guide to sourdough starter, an equally easy bread recipe, and after a few sub-par attempts, I’m baking an amazing loaf of chewy, crispy-crust sourdough bread almost daily.
Pulling that first perfect loaf out of the oven made me so happy! I felt like I’d really accomplished something. And the smell! There’s nothing like the scent of fresh baked bread. In fact, some realtors suggest baking bread right before would-be buyers tour a home you’re selling. It’s such a warm, inviting, homey-y smell, one that instantly puts most people in a good mood.
Things that put us in a good mood are always welcome, maybe (definitely) now, more than ever. Today we’re going to take a look at the link between food and your mood. If you’ve been holed up at home lately, or just have more time on your hands, cooking, baking, exploring and eating new foods is a great way to while away some free hours. And hey, if you end up in a great, possibly sexier mood as a result, all the better!
So, Does Food Really Affect Your Mood?
Short answer: yes. The connection between the brain and the gut is strong, and, thanks to some relatively new scientific research, that fact is becoming very well documented. You’ve probably noticed that you feel better or worse after eating certain foods. Here’s a for-instance; a home cooked meal that includes a healthy balance of proteins, carbs and fats will generally make you feel much better than a fast food burger, delicious as that burger may be at the time. Why, what, how?
How we feel after eating certain foods has a lot to do with a magical (okay, biological) substance called serotonin. If you feel like going down a science-y rabbit hole, you can read up on the many functions of serotonin, but to summarize, it’s a hormone that helps to stabilize and regulate mood. In the brain, serotonin is responsible for feelings of happiness, well-being, emotional connection, contentment, and all that good stuff.
More to our food-and-mood point, though, newer studies in the field of nutritional psychiatry have suggested that about ninety percent of all serotonin receptors are located in and along the digestive system. Yes, that is a large percentage! In a nutshell, it means that when we eat foods that support and maintain a healthy gut, our brain and all those gut-located serotonin receptors have a clear path of communication. Better food, better mood, basically.
Blood sugar levels can definitely affect your mood, too. Let’s go back to that burger we mentioned above. When you’re craving a greasy, bread-y, ketchup slathered treat and treat yourself, you’ll probably feel pretty good for a while. Mentally, you’ve just satisfied a craving, which always feels good. Biologically, the carbs from the bun and the sugars present in your toppings will spike your blood sugar, or glucose levels. You’ll feel energized, but then you’ll crash, as your blood sugar levels drop. Crashing blood sugar levels equals tired and cranky, and, obviously, a cranky mood is not a good mood. You can avoid the crash by eating more complex carbohydrates (whole wheat, oatmeal, vegetables), which take longer to break down into sugar. Your body will have more time to deal with the influx of glucose, plus, you’ll feel full for longer.
Obviously, there will always be personal factors that can and do affect your mood, and they’ll be different for everyone. Food is a major player, though, so let’s look at some foods that are renown for their mood-boosting abilities. And yes, we’ll be sure to cover those sexy aphrodisiac foods, too!
Mood Boosting Foods
It probably won’t shock anyone to discover that most of the foods on this list are healthy choices. A nutritious, balanced diet will, in general, make you feel good, body and mind, but some foods are known mood boosters. Here they are, in no particular order.
Tryptophan rich foods
We talked a lot about feel-good serotonin above. Unfortunately, that all-important mood-booster isn’t present in food (it’s a hormone, remember), but luckily, there’s a dietary workaround. Tryptophan is an amino acid responsible for producing serotonin. Our bodies do not produce tryptophan, so guess where we need to get it from? Food! You’ve probably heard that turkey contains tryptophan, and it does, but so do most other protein sources, plant and animal based. Here are some food sources with high levels of tryptophan:
- Whole milk
- Canned tuna
- Chicken and turkey (dark meat has a higher tryptophan count
- Nuts and seeds
Selenium rich foods
Our brains need Selenium to function optimally. Without going into too much detail, selenium is a mineral necessary for metabolizing various hormones, including those from the thyroid. Thyroid function, by the way, is directly related to mood and cognitive function. Many foods contain selenium, but some have a higher concentration. Selenium rich foods include:
- Brazil nuts
- Fish (salt and freshwater)
- Clams, oysters, sardines
- Whole wheat pasta
- Pork, Chicken
- Brown rice
Omega-3 Rich Foods
Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly powerful. These healthy, essential (polyunsaturated) fats are necessary for proper cell function throughout our organs. In terms of our brains and proper mental function (ie: mood!), Omega-3’s are VERY important. Good fats help keep the membranes of the brain fluid, healthy, and receptive to mood-regulating hormones. Omega-3 supplements are a known treatment for depression and anxiety, with some studies suggesting that they can be just as effective as pharmaceuticals. Omega-3 fatty acids are not produced in our bodies, so we need to get them, and their mood-boosting effects, from our food. Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Cold water fatty fish - tuna, sardines, salmon and mackerel
- Chia seeds
- Kidney Beans
This food category has nothing to do with nutrition. Hedonic foods, put simply, are foods that provide us with sensory pleasure. Fun fact: the word ‘hedonic’ is based on the concept of hedonism, which is defined as a state of well-being through the pursuit of pleasure.
Hedonic foods look good, smell good, taste good, and feel good in our mouths. They’re usually creamy, sweet, smooth, rich, exotic, or spicy. We eat these foods because they make us feel good. Full stop. Think about that gooey, melty piece of chocolate cake you can annihilate, even after just finishing an enormous meal. Basically, if you’re craving a tasty treat, even when you’re not hungry, chances are, you’re hankering for a hedonic food.
Speaking of chocolate, it’s a food that’s commonly thought of as a mood booster. You’ve heard, we’re sure, that eating chocolate can simulate feelings of being in love? That might be a myth. While chocolate, especially dark chocolate, does contain caffeine, theobromine and N-acylethanolamine, all chemicals that can make you feel energized, euphoric and lovey-dovey, research tells us that chocolate doesn’t generally contain enough of those chemicals to make much of a difference. It does rate high on the hedonic scale, though! Hey, happiness is happiness.
Aphrodisiac Foods - Myth Vs. Reality
Finally, the sexy stuff! There are definitely correlations between food and sex, but as for the science of aphrodisiac foods goes, it’s probably all in our heads. Some foods, to be fair, can have an effect on things like blood flow and increased bodily sensation (you might have to eat tons of those foods to really feel the effects, though), but the most commonly known edible aphrodisiacs simply look, feel or smell erotic. We’ll get to the big three below, but first, a little background.
Historically, many foods thought to have aphrodisiacal powers were expensive and rare. Being able to access, let alone eat something exotic probably felt really good to our old-timey counterparts. If they were able to offer that hard-to-source delicacy to a partner, chances are, they’d get an enthusiastic, possibly sexy thank-you out of it!
Curvaceous fruits like the apples and pear were considered erotic edibles at one point in time, same goes for heavily seeded (fertile!) fruits like figs and pomegranates. In 16th century Europe, the humble potato had it’s sexy day in the sun, as potatoes were new to the region. Phallic fruits and veggies like carrots and asparagus, and even onions were tough to possess sexual powers at some point in history.
Moving into our modern age, let’s look at three foods that can boast an aphrodisiacal reputation.
Oysters are notoriously sexy. First off, the act of eating them is extremely sensual. We slurp them down straight out of the shell. They’re slippery, they’re a little salty, and, let’s be real, they look a little genital-esque. While oysters do contain high levels of zinc, which is an essential nutrient for testosterone and sperm production, they do not actually contain any type of magical substance that can possibly stimulate us sexually. If, however, eating oysters makes you feel sexy, have at them!
Like the oyster above, eating a slice of watermelon just feels sexy. It’s sweet, it’s juicy, it’s pink. Plus, the reward center of our brain gets triggered when we manage to carve open that huge green ball and gain access to the treat inside.
Watermelon is a source for a substance called citrulline. This amino acid has the effect of relaxing and dilating blood vessels, which, FYI, is also something Viagra does. Increased blood flow and relaxed blood vessels combined with arousal could, theoretically, equal sexual desire. However! All that sexy citrulline is highly concentrated in the rind of the watermelon, not the fruit inside. Gnawing on a watermelon rind doesn’t sound super sexy, does it? Slurping down a juicy slice while staring your partner dead in the eye, however, could definitely have some arousing benefits!
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The spicy chili is one of a few foods that could have a real effect on sexual desire. Chili peppers, and the recipes that call for chili peppers contain a compound called capsaicin. It’s colorless and it’s odorless, but it’s powerful! Capsaicin stimulates the tongue's nerve endings, which triggers a release of epinephrine (adrenaline) and feel-good endorphins. A quick burst of energy at just the right time could definitely lead to sexiness! Go easy with the peppers, though. Too much of a good thing could cause pain and digestive upset. Not sexy!
When all is said, done and eaten, the placebo effect probably has more to do with our perception of a certain foods’ sexiness. The mind is powerful! If we think that slurping down an oyster or two will ramp up our sex drive, it probably will. We say, just go with it!
If your sex drive has been sufficiently ramped through any of these foods (or for any other reason, they’re all good!), maybe you’d like to have a look through our many sex toys, accessories and tools for some erotic insiration? Here are our top Toys for Couples, but don’t pass by our Beginner perfect collection, either! As for our New Arrivals, they’re as fresh as (hopefully) your oysters!
Before we send you off on some mood-boosting food adventures, one last thing. Please don’t try to fix any prolonged feelings of depression or anxiety with food! If you’ve been feeling under the weather for longer than average, or are experiencing new feelings of depression, talk to a qualified medical pro.