May 15, 2012

sugar freedom: the potato factor

April 29, Sunday

I got back on MOMYS to ask more questions about the potato part of Potatoes, Not Prozac.  It sounds like eliminating sugar provides the wellness benefits, but the potato is what really enables us sugar-junkies to stay away from sugar.  

The author, Kathleen DesMaisons, explains that sugar-sensitive people have a naturally low serotonin level (or possibly, people with a naturally low serotonin level are sensitive to sugar.  See her website and book for more of the science behind this).   What does serotonin have to do with sugar?  Here's an excerpt from the Radiant Recovery website:

When your serotonin is at an ideal level, you feel mellow and relaxed, hopeful and optimistic. You have a sense of being at peace with life. You are creative, thoughtful, and focused. You also have a lot of impulse control, which enables you to "just say no" more easily.
People who are sugar-sensitive have naturally low levels of serotonin. As a result, you do not have good impulse control. It is almost impossible for you to "just say no" because there is such a short time between your getting the urge to do something and then doing it. The insufficient serotonin level in your brain isn't giving you the time you need to make good decisions.
Besides being impulsive, you may feel depressed and find yourself craving foods such as bread, pasta or candy. This craving is the work of your brain, not your ego, because your brain knows that getting you to eat such foods will temporarily raise your serotonin level. Unfortunately, it will also have a devastating boomerang effect and cause all sorts of negative feelings. Having low serotonin can cause these feelings:
• Feeling depressed
• Acting impulsively
• Feeling blocked and scattered
• Having a short attention span
• Feeling suicidal
• Craving sweets and simple carbohydrates

To increase serotonin, Kathleen (affectionately referred to as "the potato lady") recommends eating a potato every night before bed, or about three hours after supper.

How can a potato help?!

According to the author (and again, please excuse my laywoman's language, and check out her website and book for the full scientific explanation), we need tryptophan to trigger serotonin production in the brain.  Tryptophan is one of the amino acids resulting from the breakdown of the proteins that we eat.  Because it is a smaller amino acid, it cannot so easily cross the blood-brain barrier, and gets left behind.  No serotonin.  

If, however, we eat plenty of protein during the day, and then have a potato before bed, the complex carbohydrate in the potato triggers insulin production, re-routes the larger amino acids to the muscles instead of to the brain, and clears the way for tiny tryptophan to enter the brain, produce serotonin, and release all of serotonin's calm, hopeful, creative, impulse-controlling benefits.  And you thought potatoes were bad for you!  (caveat:  Kathleen insists that the potato must be consumed with the skin.)

Hmmm ... it had been a few decades since I'd sat in any biology classes.  I'd have a lot to think about......

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