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

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In different articles of Psychology and Mind we have already dealt with issues related to Nutrition Psychology.

A field that becomes essential today, since the culture of aesthetics requires the support of psychology to avoid pathologies or disorders of eating behavior such as anorexy wave bulimia.

What is neurogastronomy?

In the treatment of obesity, no one would doubt its usefulness, since individuals with this condition often suffer from comorbidity problems with certain psychological disorders that can interfere with the evolution and treatment of your improvement program and, therefore, it is necessary to detect them. Psychologists may work with other nutrition and dietetic professionals in certain circumstances, as some patients who perform a diet therapy treatment, they need to be referred to a psychologist in order to be able to successfully materialize the treatment in the nutritional intervention.

But psychology applied to nutrition is not only important for pathological treatment, it is also useful under normal conditions.

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In recent years, interest in neurogastronomy has grown, since scientific and technological progress has allowed us to investigate in greater depth the processes that develop in our body and our mind around food. Eating is not only an instinctive act, but the five senses come into play, in addition to certain psychological aspects such as The expectations, the memory or the emotions.

Eating with the palate, an act of the brain

Eat with the palate it is an act of brainThat is why each one has a different and subjective interpretation of the flavors. But first of all, to understand the concept of palate, you have to be clear about the difference between taste Y taste.

Differentiating between taste and flavor

The taste It is one of our five senses such as smell, hearing, sight and touch, and it is what we experience when we Food comes into contact with our tongue and other surfaces of the mouth, and can be five: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. Now, recognizing the taste is more than recognizing the taste. Although there are only five basic taste modalities, they combine in different ways and are influenced by the other senses (for example, smell and sight) providing a wide variety of experiences sensory.

In summary, it can be said that taste information is collected in the language, an organ specialized in its reception, specifically in their specialized nerve receptors for this task, which are the taste buds. These transform the sensory stimulus (taste) into an electrical impulse, called the action potential, which is transmitted to neurons connected to these receptors and carry it to the brain through their nerve pathway specific. In the brain this information is received and processed, becoming conscious. But also, in the brain it integrates and compares the different properties of food: its taste, its flavor, its smell, its texture... So when we eat a chocolate ice cream, we feel the temperature, the texture or the shape.

Memory, emotions and expectations also play a role in the experience of eating

Not only that, but when we taste food, we also other areas of the brain related to memory, expectations or emotions are involvedThat is why we are able to remember our childhood when we go back to taking those cookies that we used to eat as children at grandmother's house.

And it is that eating is not only an act of survival. Chefs and gastronomy experts, who are aware of the importance of all the senses in the taste experience, have taken note of this. they know that if it weren't for the interpretations our neurons make of external stimuli, gastronomy would not even exist.

In the line of research of neurogastronomy, science in recent years has made different findings, such as that the culture influences our perception of flavors, or that appearance is decisive when tasting food: the shape of the utensils with which we are going to eat, the presentation and color of the dishes, and even the price of food or drinks (for example, the wine), affect our perception of flavors.

The role of nutrition in emotional balance

The psychologists They have not only been interested in neurogastronomy, but they have been interested in its relationship with emotions and well-being for more than a decade. Nutrition affects our minds in different ways: our ability to concentrate, our memory, our emotional well-being or our state of mind. A healthy diet, along with healthy habits, are important to maintain the emotional balance.

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

But our diet can also affect our mind indirectly, for example, helping us to 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 carry out a healthy diet.

Mood Food: Happy Foods

For a few years a gastronomic trend has been having success. It is the "mood food" (or kitchen of happiness), then 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 within the brain and to through the nervous system, and participates in many processes such as regulating mood or appetite. Since the body does not produce tryptophan, it must be obtained from the diet. It is found in different foods: chicken, milk, cheese, fish, eggs, tofu, soy, nuts, chocolate ...

Science claims that low levels of this neurotransmitter are associated with negative moods and depression. For this reason, individuals with depressive disorders or emotional problems often go in search of food, especially chocolate, to feel better and calm your mood.The lack of serotonin causes various negative effects on the body, such as anxiety, sadness or irritability. It is often said that foods rich in this amino acid act as natural antidepressants.

This neurotransmitter has an important function in the brain since establishes the balance between other neurotransmitters such as dopamine or norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are important as they are related to distress, anxiety, or eating disorders.

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