Falling in Love With Food: The Connection Between Oxytocin, Love, and Food
Oxytocin is one of many hormones in the body and is commonly referred to as the “love hormone”. It is the hormone that surges when a mother gives birth or during the skin to skin bonding that many mothers refer to as euphoric while breastfeeding. A simplistic way to describe the role of oxytocin in human evolution is that it has helped create bonds that motivate mothers to care for their offspring and has encouraged humans to congregate in large groups which creates a level of security protecting us from predators. From a biological perspective, the release of oxytocin creates a positive and relaxed feeling that promotes the desire to keep or build on those interpersonal relationships which allow us to feel the benefits from the release of oxytocin.
Oxytocin is primarily released when people interact with physical touch or engage in a positive communication, but there are components of nutrition and food that impact our abilities to produce oxytocin. Maintaining a well-balanced diet and consuming foods that promote the production of oxytocin will help you optimize energy levels, mood, and your ability to form loving and interconnected relationships.
Potential Signs of Low Oxytocin
What are some indicators that you may need to boost your oxytocin?
- Lack of interest in social interactions
- Decrease in experiencing day to day pleasures
- Difficulty with communication
- Depressed emotional state
- Changes in normal social interactions
- Increase in stress (this can also suppress oxytocin production)
- Alterations in other hormone levels
Low levels of oxytocin may lead you to feel some of the things as described above, but they can also be signs of other underlying mental health concerns. Please coordinate with a medical professional if you feel these symptoms are inhibiting you from functioning at your normal capacity. For some people a change to more than just dietary routines might be necessary to treat an imbalance in hormones and other mental health concerns.
What Foods Increase Oxytocin Levels?
There are no foods rich in oxytocin, as it is a hormone made by your body. But there are many foods related to oxytocin that contain nutrients which stimulate or feed into the pathway that produces the “love hormone”
The foods that increase oxytocin are usually rich in a few specific nutrients. These include:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
- Healthy Dietary Fats
Each one of these nutrients plays a specific role in helping support normal oxytocin levels.
Vitamin D is different from other vitamins, as it functions as a precursor to many hormones, including oxytocin. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to an increased risk of depression which is one sign that oxytocin might be too low.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that has many important functions in our bodies. One of these functions is to stimulate oxytocin production.
Magnesium is an important mineral that plays over 300 roles in the body. It is required for oxytocin receptors to function properly, so the hormone can get to the areas that need it.
Dietary fats are required to make hormones. Additionally, eating fat may help trigger feelings of satiety and the release of oxytocin. A simple way to put it is that the human body has biologically been designed to enjoy having a full stomach. If you think of it from a primitive perspective, humans have learned to seek and enjoy the process of eating in order to motivate us to continue nourishing are bodies for proper function and survival.
Oxytocin Component Foods
If you want to include foods that increase oxytocin in your diet, here are a few that are essential:
|Vitamin D||Vitamin C||Magnesium||Healthy Fat|
Tuna, mackerel, salmon, foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, cereals, beef liver, Cheese, egg yolks.
Citrus fruit, such as oranges and orange juice, peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants.
Broccoli, brussels sprouts, potatoes.
Nuts, legumes, tofu, seeds, whole, grains, fish, bananas, leafy greens. Leafy greens are
|Salmon, avocado, nust, seeds, olive oil, Fish, cheese, eggs, Chia seeds.|
Although a focus on foods that promote the production of oxytocin can have a positive impact on your mental and social health, the best way to support overall health is to eat a well-balanced diet filled with whole foods. Hormones are interconnected, therefore if one hormone is off balance, then they all are.
How to Boost Oxytocin in Other Ways
Since there are oxytocin is made in the body and not in your food itself, you might want to look for other ways to boost your oxytocin levels in addition to a healthy diet. One of the best ways to do so is to hug someone (with their permission, of course). Physical touch immediately increases oxytocin. A hug, a handshake, or something more intimate can work as well.
If you don’t have any loved ones around, a pet is a good stand-in. Petting a dog or cat also boosts oxytocin. A fun fact is that dogs have evolutionarily developed the instinct to make eye contact in order to further their bond with an owner. This also works out in their favor because who can resist offering up a treat to a furry friend with puppy dog eyes.
Any activity that improves your mood can increase oxytocin as well. Exercise and spending time outdoors (also great for vitamin D) are great ways to increase levels of all the feel-good hormones.
A good diet and personal connections with other humans are the best way to help your body naturally boost oxytocin.
- Parker GB, Brotchie H, Graham RK. Vitamin D and depression. J Affect Disord. 2017;208:56-61.
- Luck MR, Jungclas B. Catecholamines and ascorbic acid as stimulators of bovine ovarian oxytocin secretion. J Endocrinol. 1987;114(3):423-430.
- Gaetani S, Fu J, Cassano T, et al. The fat-induced satiety factor oleoylethanolamide suppresses feeding through central release of oxytocin. J Neurosci. 2010;30(24):8096-8101.