8 endorphin-releasing foods to make every meal happier

8 endorphin-releasing foods to make every meal happier

Eat yourself happy

Text: Rachel Ng

You heard us right, it's endorphins without the exercise

Endorphins: that glorified happy hormone pitched at the finishing line of all workouts. Responsible for generating feelings of pleasure and relieving pain, this fabled hormone is so commonly associated with a runner's high — meaning you need to exercise before attaining this grand reward. It turns out, however, that endorphins are not all that exclusive. We dig deeper and find out how you can get hold of them — pain-free — with these eight endorphin-releasing foods.

1. Chocolate

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Ever wondered how this dark specimen works to brighten up your day? According to Malley’s Chocolates, chocolate’s main ingredient, cocoa, causes the brain to release “feel good” chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. Endorphins work to reduce the perception of pain, and trigger the same positive feeling derived from exercising, while serotonin has anti-depressant effects responsible for maintaining mood balance. But hold your horses, chocolate fanatics. The not-so-good news is, not all chocolates are equal. According to the Journal of Nutritional Health & Food Engineering, a higher content of cocoa results in a greater production of endorphins. This might mean having to steer clear of the sugar-rich white and milk variants if a quick, healthy fix is what you are after.

2. Strawberries  

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Bitter about the dark chocolate situation? Well, sweeten it up with nature's sweet treat. Strawberries are not only rich in vitamin C, but are an effective mood booster thanks to pelargonidin, the flavonoid responsible for the berry's red hue. 

3. Grapes

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Likewise, grapes are another fruit rich in vitamin C, which stimulates the production of endorphins. The skin of red grapes also contains resveratrol, a potent antioxidant which increases serotonin, the other “feel good” chemical. 

4. Spicy foods

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Spicy foods, despite its heat-inducing properties, aren’t entirely that menacing. As Paul Bosland, co-founder and director of New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper finds, the body produces endorphins in response to the heat which it senses as pain. No wonder the queer use of chilli peppers as stimulants back in ancient Mexico. They weren’t (that) high after all.

5. Nuts

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Rich in vitamin B and commonly regarded as the best weight-loss snack, here’s another reason for you to go nuts over nuts — these superfoods contain selenium, a mineral known to have positive mood-influencing properties. Brazilian nuts are one of the richest sources of selenium, and according to nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik, just three of these nuts a day provides your recommended dietary allowance of selenium. 

6. Ginseng

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Ginseng, one of the most popular herbal medicines in the world, offers a list of health-related benefits more palatable than its taste. Improving blood sugar control and weight loss aside, ginseng enhances the production of endorphins, making it a perfect pick-me-up for lethargic individuals out there. It is also an adaptogen, a group of herbal ingredients used to improve the body’s hormonal response to stress. This works to enhance the body's ability to cope with fatigue, complementing the Endorphin Effect for that much needed energy boost.  

7. Vanilla

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A study published by the Memorial Sloankettering Cancer Center stated that the MRI of depressed patients showed a significant decline in anxiety upon smelling the aroma of vanilla. Try to include a drop or two of vanilla extract to the pot before the coffee brews, or light some vanilla-scented candles or add vanilla essential oil to your bathwater. You could also do all three and send those endorphins through the roof. 

8. Lavender

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Lavender, another scent which stimulates endorphin production, has calming properties known to help with insomnia. Use a diffuser or simply apply the oil onto your temples, wrists, or on the feet for immediate quick diffusion into your nasal passage.