The Art of Eating: Embrace the Nap

Celebrating Thanksgiving Copyright: rawpixel / 123RF Stock Photo
Celebrating Thanksgiving Copyright: rawpixel / 123RF Stock Photo

In the United States, Thanksgiving Day originated as an opportunity to give thanks for blessing of the harvest and to toast to a plentiful harvest the next year. Fitting with its origins, the modern Thanksgiving holiday is centered on food. Although we are grateful for this day of eating, why does it have to make us so sleepy?

L-tryptophan, commonly known as just tryptophan, is an amino acid found in many of the foods typically found at a Thanksgiving feast. You’ve probably heard one of your relatives cite it as the reason they fell asleep during the football game. Tryptophan is essential for the normal growth in infants and to balance nitrogen levels in adults. It is mostly found in proteins like turkey, chicken, dairy products and brown rice. Once the amino acid is consumed, the body converts it to 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP), which is then turned into serotonin. Serotonin is the biochemical messenger that is associated with naps.

But tryptophan can’t do it alone. Tryptophan is not an essential amino acid, and it has to compete to get to the brain. Most of the time it gets kicked out of the way by other essential amino acids also traveling to the brain. So, why does it zip up to the brain on Thanksgiving? Carbohydrates. Continue reading “The Art of Eating: Embrace the Nap”

Science Confirms What We’ve Always Suspected: Potato Chips are Irresistible

RatI love potato chips. There’s something very satisfying about the crunch of a good chip. The problem with chips, other than the obvious effect they have on my waistline, is that I can’t eat just one. Neither can my husband, who loves to open a bag of potato chips while I’m preparing dinner! To explain the disappearance of the potato chips, we joke that the chip-eating culprit in our house is not my husband but a giant mouse that has developed a taste for salty snacks.

Recent research presented by Tobias Hoch at a meeting of the American Chemical Society shows that not only do rodents love potato chips but that this attraction may not be due solely to the high ratio of fats and carbohydrates, which is one proposed explanation for the “bet you can’t eat just one” phenomenon. There is something else that makes potato chips irresistible. Continue reading “Science Confirms What We’ve Always Suspected: Potato Chips are Irresistible”