The origins of Valentine’s Day are surprisingly unclear. It was first recorded in relation to the day birds chose their mates, as observed in the Middle Ages in England and France. Some theologians have linked Valentine’s Day to the remembrance of St. Valentine, a Roman saint martyred on February 14th 1. However, one of the most popular origin theories makes a connection to an ancient pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia1. Although the origins of Valentine’s Day are a bit hazy, it is clear that this annual celebration of love has evolved and become increasingly popular over the years. But did you know that Valentine’s Day can also be a time to boost your mental, physical and social wellbeing?
Many people choose to go out for a meal (usually dinner) with their loved ones to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This may be a gesture of love but also a chance to spend quality time with friends or significant other. In fact, it’s been observed that people form more valuable relationships over evening meals compared to midday meals2. So maybe it’s a good thing that social events and celebrations often happen in the evenings! The same study also found that engaging in a social eating experience made people feel happier and more satisfied with their life2.
Indulge a little
A box of chocolates is the classic Valentine’s Day gift. Dark chocolate, in particular, is a great source of phenolic compounds and antioxidants which have been linked to a number of positive health outcomes including improved cardiovascular and metabolic health3. Research has found eating dark chocolate might help to boost your mood4. So go ahead, indulge a little this Valentine’s Day. But remember, as is the case for most things, moderation is key!
Valentine’s Day is a celebration of not just your loved ones but also YOU. So do something for yourself this Valentine’s Day! Here are some ideas: engage in an activity that brings you joy, take time to de-stress, maybe take a social media break or cook a nice meal for yourself (here are some recipes for inspiration – https://loveyourgut.com/getting-gut-healthy/recipes/
- Groom (2018) Hallowe’en and Valentine: The Culture of Saints’ Days in the English-Speaking World. Folklore. 129(4): 331-352
- Dunbar (2017) Breaking Bread: the Functions of Social Eating. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology. 3(3): 198–211
- Katz et al. (2011) Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxidants & redox signaling. 15(10): 2779-811
- Shin et al. (2022) Consumption of 85% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Improves Mood in Association with Gut Microbial Changes in Healthy Adults: a Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry99: 108854–108854