Love and food: Old friends

kelseyBy Kelsey Albright, Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow

Food is a cornerstone of love. Think of all the ways we use food to bond. Cooking for people we care for, eating together as a means to share conversation, giving food as gifts. I grew up in a family for whom food was a material form of love, and while this might not be every person’s experience, I think we can all understand the association. This Valentine’s Day, couples will flock to restaurants, cookies will be baked for families, and young valentines will exchange candy at school. It has me thinking about what are our most loving/loveable/love inducing foods.

Some foods that we associate with love are comforting. Peanut butter and jelly, for example, might have been what your mom made you for lunch every day growing up. Other foods, commonly called aphrodisiacs, supposedly evoke passion. As defined by Webster’s Dictionary, aphrodisiacs are “something that excites” but scientific evidence doesn’t necessarily prove that aphrodisiacs work as we intend. Despite their somewhat ambiguous nature, many aphrodisiacs have other positive health effects.

  • Some of the most notorious aphrodisiacs are oysters. They are known to have high levels of zinc, a mineral proven to increase testosterone in men, and iron, which can increase energy in people with an iron deficiency (most commonly women).
  • Hot peppers, another common aphrodisiac, are packed with vitamins and an antioxidant called capsaicin which may fight cancer, suppress appetite, burn calories and relieve pain.
  • Honey is known for its antibacterial properties (one of the many reasons a hot toddy is so good for a cold) and it contains boron which aids in estrogen and testosterone regulation. The term honeymoon comes from an old tradition of giving mead, fermented honey, as a gift to newlyweds.
  • Strawberries, cherries and pomegranates are all juicy red fruits packed with vitamins and anti-oxidants. Both strawberries and pomegranates have plentiful vitamin c which improves blood flow and cherries are high in melatonin, an antioxidant that’s helps to regulate the heart.
  • Chocolate is a Valentine’s Day favorite and has been proven to release phenylethylamine and serotonin, two brain chemicals that produce a euphoric feeling like that of falling in love.  Keep in mind it doesn’t take very much chocolate to reap its antioxidant and mood enhancing benefits so try to keep consumption to a minimum.

So friends if you’re looking for food to get in the mood this Valentine’s Day, I can’t make any promises but these might help. Even if they don’t, each has positive health benefits — and you really can’t argue with that.

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