Sweet and Stress-free, “Let them eat sesame”

Most people have a sweet tooth. Well, that is not surprising. Science has long shown that we are predisposed to like sweet things because sugar equates cheap energy. When we consume sugar, which is a form of simple carbohydrates[1] (sucrose), our bodies enter into something called an insulin spike. A “spike” means that insulin levels rise and fall rapidly. As a result, we experience a quick burst of energy. Eating sweet things make us happy. So what’s wrong with feel-good, easy-to-get energy? What’s wrong with being happy?

You see, carbohydrates are found in a wide array of foods, commonly sugars, fibers and starches.

  • Healthy sources of carbohydrates: whole grains, vegetables and fruits
  • Unhealthy sources of carbohydrates: white bread, pastries, soda and other highly processed or refined food

Bad carbohydrates sound a lot like what I like — cakes, pies, cookies and other sweet treats. Can a girl eat her dessert and stay healthy at the same time? 

You bet! Say hello to black sesame!

2014-02-12-01-18-56_deco[1]2014-01-27-19-00-10_deco[1]

Sundaes and Cones (95 E 10th St.) has the best black sesame ice cream hands down. Creamy, rich, sweet but not too sweet, each mouthful is simple perfection!

Another great choice is Cha An‘s black sesame creme brulee (230 E 9th St.). Topped with black sesame ice cream and a delicious, sweet wafer (also sprinkled with black sesame), the concoction screams sesame-paradise (!!!)

Sorry, I am raving. I have a weakness for black sesame.But why do certain foods make us happy? I am not talking about comfort foods, which make us happy on a psychological level, but foods that contain mood-affecting chemicals. To answer this question, we need to understand how the brain works.

A neuron is a functional unit of the brain. The brain use neurotransmitters[2], electrical signals and chemical messengers, to communicate with our bodies and issue commands. Neurotransmitters produce feelings of pleasure, reduce anxiety, induce sleep and form memories. Many foods contain compounds that affect our mood. By eating good compounds, such as spinach and bananas (increase serotonin production) or fish (omega-3 fatty acid), we feel better. A major neurotransmitter called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is responsible for regulating and stabilizing our mood. It is often referred to as “nature’s Valium” because of its tranquilizing effects. GABA-rich foods include pork, beef, sunflower seeds, and… sesame seeds.

Voilà, the answer to having your cake and eating it too. For this upcoming Valentines, relax and treat yourself to something sweet.

 

Works Cited:


[1] Rinzler, Carol Ann. Nutrition for Dummies. 5th. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing Inc. 2011. Print.
[2] “Neurons, brain chemistry, and neurotransmission.” National Institute of Health. Web. 11 Feb 2014. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. <http://www.science.education.nih.gov/supplements/nih2/addiction/guide/lesson2-1.htm&gt;
“Carbohydrates.” Harvard School of Public Health n.pag. Web. 11 Feb 2014. <http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/&gt;.
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One thought on “Sweet and Stress-free, “Let them eat sesame”

  1. Pingback: Stress influences taste perception — Start your day right | Stress-free NYC

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