Most people will agree that the consumption of food and alcohol is an inherently pleasurable experience, and with good reason! The boon of happy feelings that course through our systems after indulging in a particularly satisfying meal, maybe with a glass or two of wine, is impossible not to enjoy. But, where do these feelings come from?
We all know that certain chemicals produced in the brain (such as serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin) are responsible for intense feelings of love and joy, and play important roles in our daily lives. While oxytocin is considered the “love hormone” because it inspires nurturing and loving feelings (which builds and bolsters strong and healthy personal relationships), serotonin and dopamine are considered pleasure and happiness hormones; it is no surprise that these last two can be triggered by a nice glass of wine, or released by the intake of certain foods!
There’s a reason people become addicted to alcohol: the consumption of drinks like wine or beer increases the release of dopamine and seratonin in our brains. If we over-indulge for an extended period of time, these hormones become imbalanced and depleted, causing feelings of depression.
However, a glass of wine or two with dinner (especially if it’s expertly paired with the meal) can cause a wonderful surge of pleasure and happiness. Whether you prefer an oaky Chardonnay (like Toasted Head) or a playful red (like 100% Carignan Pleasant Peasant), you’ll find yourself having a delightful time.
Now that the drink is taken care of, onto the food! The key to a truly “happy” meal doesn’t lie in a trip to McDonald’s, or in greasy, high-sodium-and-fat foods; while indulging in these foods may cause you to feel happy in the moment, frequently partaking in them can be as dangerous to your mental health as it is to your physical — this is how emotional eaters come about.
Rather than eating yummy foods when you’re feeling sad or depressed to make yourself feel better (which can easily lead to serotonin depletion and, in turn, obesity), you can turn to foods that naturally increase and boost the amount of serotonin produced in your brain. It’s important to note that foods don’t contain serotonin, they contain compounds that, if combined correctly, can trigger the release of the happy hormone in your brain.
Tryptophan, the Thanksgiving Day favorite, is one of these compounds. Beans, eggs, and cheese are rich in tryptophan, along with chicken and fish — since most of these ingredients have been used in Mexican dishes as far back as 2000 years ago, it makes sense that we feel intense feelings of pleasure when we head to our favorite local Mexican restaurant! Seafood and dairy products are also rich with the stuff, so that gives you one more reason to pick lobster when you see it on the menu.