Neurogastronomy: eating with the palate, an act of the brain

In different articles from Psychology and the mind we have already dealt with topics related to the psychology of nutrition.

An area that is becoming essential today, because the culture of aesthetics requires the support of psychology to avoid pathologies or eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

What is neurogastronomy?

In the treatment of obesity, no one would doubt its usefulness, because people with this disease often suffer from concomitant problems with certain psychological disorders that can interfere with the progress and treatment of their improvement program and therefore must be detected. Psychologists may work with other nutrition and dietetic professionals in certain circumstances, as some patients undergoing diet therapy must be referred to a psychologist in order to successfully transform treatment into nutritional intervention.

But the psychology applied to nutrition is not only important for pathological treatment, but it is also useful under normal conditions. In recent years, there is a growing interest in neurogastronomyScientific and technological advances have allowed us to deepen the processes that take place in our body and mind around food. Eating is not only an instinctive act, but all five senses come into play, in addition to certain psychological aspects such as expectations, memory or emotions.

Eating with the palate, an act of the brain

Eat with the palate it is an act of the brain, which is why everyone has a different and subjective interpretation of flavors. But first of all, to understand the concept of a palate, you need to be clear about the difference between taste and flavor.

Differentiate taste and flavor

the I appreciate it is one of our five senses such as smell, hearing, sight and touch, and it is what we feel when food comes in contact with our tongue and other surfaces of the body. palate, and it can be five: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. However, recognizing the taste is more than recognizing the I appreciate. Although there are only five basic taste modes, they combine in different ways and are influenced by other senses (e.g. smell and sight) providing a wide variety of sensory experiences.

In short, we can say that the taste information is collected in the language, an organism specializing in its reception, More precisely in their nerve receptors specialized for this task, which are the taste buds. These transform the sensory stimulus (taste) into an electrical impulse, called an action potential, which is transmitted to neurons connected to these receptors and carries it to the brain via its specific nerve pathway. In the brain, this information is received and processed, becoming conscious. But in addition, the brain integrates and compares the different properties of food: its taste, taste, smell, texture … Thus, when we eat chocolate ice cream, we feel the temperature, the texture or the form.

Memory, emotions and expectations are also involved in the food experience.

Not only that, but when we taste the food, so do we other areas of the brain related to memory, expectations or emotions are involvedThis is why we can remember our childhood when we collect those cookies that we used to eat in grandma’s house.

And it is that eating is not just an act of survival. This has been noted by chefs and gastronomic experts, aware of the importance of all the senses in the experience of taste, such as they know that if it weren’t for the interpretations that our neurons make of external stimuli, gastronomy wouldn’t even exist.

In the context of research in neurogastronomy, science has made various discoveries in recent years, such as culture influences our perception of flavors, or that appearance is decisive for the savoring of food. the color of dishes, and even the price of food or drink (eg wine), affect our perception of flavors.

The role of nutrition in emotional balance

Psychologists have not only been interested in neurogastronomy, but have been interested in its relationship to emotions and well-being for more than a decade. Nutrition affects our mind in different ways: our ability to focus, our memory, our emotional well-being, or our mood. Healthy eating and healthy habits are important for maintaining emotional balance.

What we eat directly affects our mind. For example, providing the nutrients and macronutrients (omega 3, tryptophan, carbohydrates, etc.) necessary for a good nutritional balance. An unbalanced diet can produce specific deficiencies manifested by symptoms or sensations such as listlessness, reluctance, irritability, nervousness, fatigue or inattention.

But our food can also indirectly affect our mind, for example, by helping us see ourselves better. On the other hand, emotional balance also makes it easier for us to follow healthy habits. If we are stressed or sad, it becomes more difficult to lead a healthy diet.

Mood Food: Good food

In recent years, a gastronomic trend has followed one another. It is the “food of the mood” (or the kitchen of happiness), since its followers claim that it contributes to greater general well-being and increases mood.

Mood food is made up of different foods that increase the production of chemicals (called neurotransmitters) that influence our mood, such as endorphins or serotonin.

Serotonin, a key neurotransmitter

Serotonin, which is derived from an amino acid called tryptophan, sends messages to the brain and through the nervous system, and is involved in many processes such as regulating mood or appetite. Since the body does not produce tryptophan, it is necessary to achieve it from the diet. It is found in different foods: chicken, milk, cheese, fish, eggs, tofu, soy, nuts, chocolate …

Science says low levels of this neurotransmitter are linked to negative moods and depression. Therefore, people with depressive disorders or emotional problems often go in search of food, especially chocolate, to feel better and calm their mood. Lack of serotonin causes various negative effects on the body, such as anxiety, sadness or irritability. Foods rich in this amino acid are often said to act as natural antidepressants.

This neurotransmitter has had an important function in the brain since it balances other neurotransmitters such as dopamine or norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are important because they are linked to anxiety, anxiety, or eating disorders.

Leave a Comment