Do you crave for a cup of coffee early in the morning? And a chocolate bar makes you feel good when you feel low? Now a study from Ohio University tells you why certain foods affect your moods.
Just like alcohol or drugs, food and spices can excite, calm or rattle the brain. "The distinction of what is a drug and what is food is blurring completely. Natural things are also drugs," The New York Post quoted Gary Wenk, a professor at the Ohio State University and Medical Center and the author of the new book Your Brain on Food, as saying.
Different foods stimulate different regions of the brain, releasing chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that promote well-being. On the flip side, a lack of certain amino acids can cause depression and, in severe cases, madness.The glow created by chocolate and coffee isn't just caused by caffeine, but also by a rush of dopamine that triggers the brain's pleasure receptors, Wenk said. Chocolate also releases a form of opiate that causes that la-la feeling, along with a small amount of a substance akin to marijuana. With all that pleasure packed into a Hershey bar, it's a miracle the feds don't regulate the stuff, he joked.
Potatoes calm people down by releasing glucose into the blood, as does milk, especially in babies.
The downside is that the brain always wants too much of what is bad for the body, like sugar, to communicate with other neurons and is particularly ravenous for it in the morning. "Things that are often good for the brain aren't good for the body. You can't just live on Twinkies and doughnuts and beer," said Wenk.
What different foods do to your brain:
Nuts, eggs, milk: produce the amino acid tryptophan, which produces the happy-inducing substance serotonin. Without enough tryptophan, you tend to feel depressed and angry.
Fava beans: In high doses, they enhance mood by helping to produce dopamine, the brain’s reward chemical.
Nutmeg, saffron, fennel, dill, cinnamon, and anise: They contain properties that are chemically similar to mescaline. In big quantities, the spices can cause feelings of euphoria.
Sugar: Vital to feed your brain, and helps you pay attention and learn new things. Its absence causes sensations of craving and desire.
Chocolate: Contains compounds that contribute to a good mood, while also soothing and mellowing.