In Ireland, most people love a good biscuit. You probably imagine you are eating them just because they taste good. Let us explore why they can temporarily be the key to happiness.
Imagine you are watching a race, there are eight competitors in the race. Seven are trained athletes and one of them is a little old man, lets call him Tim even though his origin might suggest otherwise.
As you can see from Tim’s face, he has the grit and determination of a winner but father time has taken its toll and in a race against younger trained athletes, he hasn’t a hope. If Tim won the race, he would be happy, infact he would pass on that happiness to you.
This race takes place everyday within your body and the humble biscuit or cookie can change the outcome of this race and make Tim a champion and you as happy as a pig in piles of excrement.
Ok so it’s time to confess, Tim is just what his friends call him, his full name is Tim Tryptophan and the real race that happens everyday inside of us is between the eight essential amino acids. Now while they are all important in their own right, one is slow and uncompetitive(Tryptophan) and thats the one you need for a boost in your mood.
If you haven’t heard of Tryptophan before, know that its the precursor to serotonin which is the neurotransmitter responsible for making Prozac a household name. Its the main neurotransmitter worked on by the pharmaceutical industry in the treatment for depression and anxiety. In the world of nutrition, products such as St johns wort, 5-htp and tryptophan all owe their popularity to their ability to increase serotonin levels in the brain.
What has this got to do with biscuits I hear you say?
Well, back to Tim Tryptophan, he is running the race, best he can and against fitter competitors, all to cross the blood brain barrier, but, its unlikely he will cross the finish line and remember Tim finishing the race means happiness for you. If only he had a bike.
So here comes the biscuits, maybe you have just hit your afternoon slump, you crawl into the kitchen, open the pack of biscuits and with trepidation insert the first one into your mouth and maybe half a pack later you stop.
So, thats a lot of sugar, but I’m sure you ate all that sugar because you were about to run to the shop or maybe plough a local field, right?
Anyway, Tim Tryptophan is grateful, because all that excess sugar has flooded the body with Insulin. Insulin is Tim’s bike ride straight to the brain resulting in,
Such a lovely story about biscuits, now we can all rush off to the shop and consume our bodyweight in biscuits… Not so fast!
Any food or drink that causes a rapid rise in blood sugar will give the same result, so at the very top end of the scale, we have glucose drinks and not a million miles behind, we have sugar in all its forms such as sucrose, honey,maple syrup etc. Wheat, rice and their by-products such as flours,noodles or breads can also produce that same rapid rise in blood sugar. Thats not to say they don’t have a place in the modern diet, its just some people are carb loading with no marathon to run.
Eat too many quick releasing carbs while sitting on your arse all day will give you a temporary boost but expect an expanding waistline and an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease thanks to the fat storing hormone, Insulin. Not only that, your brains reward centre will be turned on, effectively making you addicted to those carbs. So the only way to feel normal is to keep the cycle going and keep eating those biscuits, bread, cake, milk chocolate bar.
So here is the conundrum, you want your biscuits because they are yummy or because you are tired or because your job sucks and biscuits make it ok for a bit and I’ve just shown you that they literally will change your brain chemistry to give you a boost of Serotonin.
Here is the good news, we know of other proven ways of boosting serotonin. So if you are feeling low, you could:
- Go outside – Light boosts serotonin levels
- Get Some Exercise – Running increases serotonin levels in the brain
- Combine 1 & 2 and run or walk outdoors.
- Reduce stress- Too much stress hormone in the blood stops the production of serotonin.
In an ideal world, we would all be practising QiGong or Tai Chi or mediating our stress with mindfulness practise but time can be short and studies have shown one or two glasses of wine per night reduces daily stress. Put simply, people are coping better on a day to day basis with small amounts of alcohol and even reduce their alzheimers risk in the process.
Taking this approach, means you can get the benefits of Serotonin, without the addiction and weight gain of eating quick releasing carbs.