IT’S interesting observing the refrigerator at the moment as pressure mounts on both students in the house — my HSC daughter and myself (Masters degree). I start getting cravings around midday and by late afternoon I’m at the kitchen counter, eating slice after slice of cheese or piece after piece of chocolate.
Having studied nutrition, I can attest we are ravenous for a reason. The human body is a clever machine. And the news is, sin food is often good for you.
Cheese and dairy foods contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that functions as a biochemical precursor for serotonin (a neurotransmitter), which is needed to ward off depression.
Tryptophan is found in most protein-based foods. It is particularly plentiful in chocolate, milk, yoghurt, cheeses and red meat. As I don’t eat meat, I know my tired body is trying to tell me something.
Chocolate also promotes the release of endorphins and the stimulant phenylethylamine (PEA), which mimics feelings of being in love. It helps to reduce heart disease. Endorphins can lift one’s mood.
The British Medical Journal lists the cocoa plant as the No 1 food source on the planet. It contains more vitamins, minerals and enzymes — including theobro- mine, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, iron, sodium, carbohydrates, proteins, thiamine, vitamin A, mag- nesium, riboflavin, zinc, copper and chromium — than any other plant. There are also free radicals, which are anti-cancer agents.
Compound chocolate found in most commercial brands is made with vegetable fat and requires the addition of a lot of sugar to mask the bad taste. It’s thus very fattening. But good quality dark chocolate contains cocoa fats that are similar in nourishment value to avocado and olive oil, and are very good for you.
A coffee or two a day can also kick-start the system for many people who suffer metabolic sluggishness, as it stimulates excitory chemicals. While chronic fight- or-flight caused by the release of norephedrine, cortisol and other stress hormones is bad for the body, a short, sharp kick up the chemical bum is not a bad stimulant for the tired student.
As for other indulgences, I recently attended a longevity conference where the anti-ageing and anti- oxidant properties of certain ‘‘distressed’’ fruits and vegetables were discussed. Red wine, for instance, is rich in resveratrol, an immune system booster. Blueberries and other deep purple fruits are also recommended.
The bottom line is, let your body talk to you above the cacophony of media hype. And remember: every- thing in moderation.