If you’re having trouble deciding, you’re definitely not alone. According to Havas Worldwide’s consumer trend research department, about 54 percent of millennials find food to be just as pleasurable as sex. And considering they both create a sense of euphoria, it makes sense that it would be difficult to decide which pleasure is, well, more pleasurable.
Whether you’re eating cake, having sex, listening to a catchy tune, or looking at a beautiful piece of art, the brain’s pleasure sites located in the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, ignite, according to a study published in the journal Neuron. However, it’s important to remember that pleasure is subjective. Which means that one person may find a Chipotle burrito more pleasing than anything that could go ever possibly down in the bedroom, while someone else may opt for sex over a Snickers without a second thought.
But even though everyone has different pleasure preferences, there are still certain foods that have been proven to make all of us feel amazing—junk food junkies and uber-sexual beings, alike. Read on to discover some healthy and some not-so-healthy foods that science has found to elicit feelings of pleasure and desire. Consider them the perfect pick-me-ups for those times your soul simply needs a little TLC. And to discover even more foods that will make you feel euphoric and jovial on demand, don’t miss these 16 Instant Happiness Foods.
If a night in with a piece of icing-slathered cake seems more appealing to you than a steamy session in bed, that’s nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, there’s plenty of research that explains why some people prefer Oreo-flavored frosting to orgasms. Not only does the sugary sweetness of frosting release dopamine, the same reward hormone that floods our bodies during sex, the cake topper’s creaminess elicits feelings of pleasure and desire, according to an article published in Brain Research. As a result, you may crave creamy fare just as much as you might desire that handsome guy that recently moved next door. To indulge in some chocolaty goodness without sacrificing your wholesome diet, don’t miss these 20 Secretly Healthy Chocolate Recipes.
If you love the salty goodness of fast-food French fries, there are some biological reasons why. According to a study published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Review, foods containing corn oil encourage the release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. And where do you find foods filled with corn oil? In the drive-thru lane, that’s where! According to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, an estimated 69 percent of national fast-food restaurants fry their potatoes in corn oil. To see how Wendy’s spuds stack up to Ronald’s don’t miss our special report Every Fast-Food French Fry—Ranked!
Foods don’t have to be high in fat, sugar, or grease to be pleasure- and happiness-inducing. A study published in Molecular Psychiatry found that consuming omega-3 fatty acids releases dopamine and improves circulation, resulting in short-term mood-boosting effects. While studies haven’t been done to confirm the assumption that sex has similar effects, the act releases the feel-good hormones, oxytocin and dopamine, so experts say it’s quite likely. Salmon, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and mackerel are all easy-to-find sources of the nutrient that we suggest you stock up on.
While eating an apple may not make you feel orgasmic, it does cause a release of the chemical phenylethylamine (PEA). This chemical stimulates a rush of dopamine, the very same chemical that floods your system when you have an orgasm. Other tasty and surprisingly healthy foods also contain PEA. These include dark chocolate, tomatoes, almonds, and cheddar cheese. Tomato-topped grilled cheese!? Yes, please!
Alcoholic beverages aren’t the only kinds that can be addictive. One rat study found that sugary beverages (like soda!) stimulated rodents’ brains in the same way an opiate or pain-killing medication would. While more studies are needed to determine if humans brains react in the same way, it’s not too far-fetched to infer that people may have a similar molecular reaction. So no, it’s not your imagination; if drinking a soda seems to do far more than quench your thirst, there’s a legit reason why. But remember, the high comes at a cost. The stuff is overflowing with chemicals and calories that can wreak havoc on your health and waistline so it’s really not worth it.
Chili peppers provide an hurt-so-good S&M-like experience for our taste buds. When you first eat a chili pepper, messages saying “ouch that hurts,” are sent to the pain centers in the brain. As a result, dopamine floods the system—the same hormone that’s released yet again once the pain subsides and the rush of delicious flavor hits the tongue. Remember: dopamine is the same reward hormone released during sex, so it makes sense that people who love hot sauce and other spicy things really, really love them.
Whether deep-dish or thin crust, simply thinking about pizza is enough to stimulate brain activity. In one Behavioral and Brain Functions study, researchers showed participants images of foods like pizza, noodles, and ice cream, and found that simply looking at the pictures was enough to stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain. No wonder those pizza and indulgent treats you see on Instagram always make you crave anything and everything not on your diet. Find out just how diet-derailing those dishes are in our special report, 20 Instaworthy Foods You Shouldn't Actually Eat.
It’s probably not something you should tell your girlfriend, but sometimes your morning Starbucks fix really is more satisfying than a quickie. Caffeine-containing foods like coffee stimulate the central nervous system, according to the University of California, Santa Cruz. This can make you feel euphoric, rejuvenated, and energetic, many of the same emotions many use to describe the afterglow of sex.
Cheesecake has two things going for it: taste and texture. A study published in the journal Appetite found that participants reported greater satisfaction with dairy products when the texture was thicker and cheesecake-like. Cheesecake euphoria came up again in a study published in Nature Neuroscience, when researchers found that rats experienced major surges in dopamine (that sexy time hormone we keep mentioning) after eating cheesecake. Unsurprisingly, the scans of the rats’ brains revealed a love for bacon as well. Obsessed with the sizzling, salty meat? Don’t miss these 25 Bacon Recipes That Get Our Blessing.
Whether it’s mint chocolate chip or rocky road that’s your ice cream weakness, there’s no denying that the cold, creamy treat can make you feel amazing. And that’s because ice cream consumption stimulates dopamine receptors in the brain—so much so, in fact, that the dessert can actually deplete your dopamine stores over time, according to a American Journal of Clinical Nutrition report. The moral of the story: don’t down tubs of the stuff on the regular. Instead, stick to a single scoop, and top it with some fresh fruit and crushed nuts to sneak in some nutrition.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
While it may be hard to believe, cookies may be a better stress-reliever than sex. In one University of California study, researchers found that eating a comfort food like chocolate chip cookies reduced stress-stimulated activity in a portion of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens. While an occasional indulgence in comfort foods like cookies can be a mood-lifting stress reliever, both emotional eating and chronic stress can lead to higher incidences of abdominal belly fat. So while self-soothing with a cookie is fine on occasion, you should find non-food related ways to chillax and use that as your go-to method.
The same study that examined cookie consumption also looked at foods rich in animal fat, like cheeseburgers. According to the report, enjoying a juicy cheeseburger has the power to reduce a person’s stress response, resulting in pleasurable feelings. Because a cheeseburger is often higher in calories, it can also provide a temporary boost in energy. Instead of relying on Big Macs to chill out—a habit that can cause you to gain weight over time— the researchers encourage people to meditate, exercise, and, of course, have sex to unwind, instead. Looking for even more ideas that can help you chill? Check out our report 10 Ways to Relax So Healthy Eating Works.