Everybody knows there are certain natural substances that you can eat or smoke to feel awesome or weird, depending on your perspective. But what about ordinary foods that deliver these same mood-altering or even consciousness-warping effects? We've got ten foods that go straight to your head.
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10. Chili peppers
Chilis contain a substance called capsaicin, which has been proven to work as a topical painkiller for arthritis and other conditions. But there is also anecdotal evidence that people eating extremely spicy foods experience an endorphin high. No scientific studies have validated this claim, but it's fairly common for people to report getting wasted on spice.
Like other poultry, turkey contains tryptophan, a precursor to contentment-generating chemical serotonin. It can make you feel contented and sleepy.
8. Sweet potatoes
Like many starchy foods, sweet potatoes boost serotonin production, which leads to a sense of well-being. Plus the vitamin A in these orange tubers adds an extra oomph. Want to get mellow? Sweet potato fries are like the Valium of snacks.
Popeye taught us many things about science, but most important was his basic lesson in chemistry: If you eat spinach, you'll feel better. Spinach is high in magnesium, which can relieve stress. You won't be able to beat the crap out of your own private Bluto, but a nice spinach salad might mellow you out enough to ignore him.
This tasty fish is high in DHA, which is the structural component of brain tissue. It's a natural smart drug. Studies have shown its crucial for brain development, and some say DHA can make you smarter - or at least keep from getting stupider as you age. DHA supplements are popular in Japan among students studying for exams. If you want to feel smarter and happier, eat some salmon nigiri: You'll get your DHA from the fish, and the carbos in the rice will unleash a little bit of serotonin, the "happy hormone," to make you feel perky. Hate salmon? You can get the same burst of DHA from sardines and many other fish.
Cocoa beans, the main ingredient in chocolate, contain a number of compounds that put you in a good mood. Anandamides in chocolate may target some of the same receptors in your brain that are affected by marijuana. Chocolate also contains theobromine, a mild stimulant. Eating cocoa beans in anything, from spicy Mexican sauces to sugary chocolate bars, will lift your mood - though only for a brief time.
4. Areca nuts
Popular in the Pacific Islands and parts of Asia, these tiny red nuts grow on palm trees and contain several chemicals that act as mild, coffee-like stimulants. These nuts can be chewed on their own - though eventually they'll stain your teeth red - but they're often mixed with sugar, cumin, cloves, and other seeds, then wrapped in betel leaves to make a sweet treat. Many people call them betel nuts because they are so commonly wrapped in betel leaves, which also contain stimulants.
You can get the hardcore white powdered stuff, or you can play it safe and eat it in fruit. Either way, sugar is the basic building block of energy in your body, so lots of it can cause you to feel incredibly energetic. But refined sugar will lead to a rollercoaster affect on your moods - you'll feel super-awesome, and then crash hard into lethargy and depression. You can even get addicted to sugar and go through horrible withdrawal from it, say scientists. To avoid the rollercoaster, stick with fructose. Sugars from fruit take longer for your body to digest, so they don't get you quite as high but they also don't slam you down quite so hard either.
The seeds of the coffee plant contain caffeine, and I probably don't have to tell you that caffeine is a stimulant. You can slurp it up from hot water squashed through ground, roasted coffee beans, or mix the beans into sauces or candies. However you take it, coffee will pep you up - temporarily. It will also cause painful withdrawal headaches.
If you take massive doses of the tasty spice nutmeg, you'll get enough myristicin into your system to barf and get diarrhea - but hey, it might be worth it because in a few hours you'll start hallucinating and generally tripping balls. Yes, nutmeg can make you trip, but it's supposedly an absolutely atrocious high because it makes you so sick and the effects can last for days. Also, too much of it can kill you. So use with care.