If you’ve ever smoked a strong indica, you know the munchies. They’ve been a thing since humans first began using cannabis. In fact, people in ancient China and India drank cannabis tea as an appetite stimulant, and this remedy shows up MANY TIMES in medical and pharmaceutical texts throughout the ages.
We’ve known for thousands of years that ingesting cannabis can inspire hunger. Only recently, though, have we begun to understand why—and it comes down to THC, the cannabinoid (chemical compound) found in cannabis plants responsible for the psychoactive properties. THC stimulates dopamine production, making eating more pleasurable. Scientists have also found that THC acts on receptors in the hypothalamus to produce the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin. In a 2014 study published in Neuroscience Nature, researchers found that THC fit into the olfactory bulb of mice’s brains, enhancing the smell—and therefore taste—of food, causing the rodents to eat more.
So, we can take heart. It’s not our fault when we devour an entire bag of Paqui Spicy Queso chips with queso dip, a package of Milano double-milk chocolate cookies, a carton of Häagen-Dazs chocolate peanut butter ice cream, two Diet Cokes, and a box of glutenfree cheddar cheese crackers (because they were the only things left). We can’t control the THC that’s controlling our brains.
The only thing we can control is how we react to this phenomenon, a welcome effect for people who have lost their appetite to wasting disease or chemotherapy but a scourge of varying degrees for those watching our waists and our wellness (most of us).
First, be informed. THCV, a close cousin to THC, isan up-and-coming cannabinoid because scientists have discovered it has appetite-suppression capabilities.
Real Housewives star Bethenny Frankel is using that information to develop Skinnygirl diet conscious cannabis (announced in 2015 but still not launched), and GW Pharmaceuticals has filed a patent to use THCV to control insulin levels.
To prevent the munchies, find cannabis with the highest THCV content you can (strain suggestions in article). Appetite-suppressing THCV is most abundantin landrace African sativas, but cannabinoid content varies from grower to grower and harvest to harvest. To ensure THCV-rich cannabis, seek out strains that have been lab tested.
Second, be prepared. When the munchies hit, there is nothing more heavenly than a visit to 7-Eleven, with its gleaming cases of high-fructose corn syrup and pizza rolls, shelves stuffed with pork rinds and Hot Tamales.
The snack-filled store would be paradise if it weren’t for the inconvenient truth that the food there makes you fat and sick. Just because the quickie marts are considered “essential businesses” does not mean a quick run over there is essential. Resist the temptation and #staythefuckhome. Keep yourself out of the aisles of temptation by ordering your groceries online when you’re of sound mind…or as sound of mind as one can be while sheltering in place or during the immediate aftermath. Cleanse and restock your kitchen with good-for-you snacks. You’ll thank yourself when this is all over.
Anton Chekhov said if there’s a pistol in the first act, it will be fired in the second. It’s the same in your kitchen. If there are Hot Pockets in the freezer, you will eat them when you’re high. Stock up instead on healthy whole-food snacks that satisfy 7-Eleven-caliber cravings without the sweet-salty pistol whip of guilt.
Healthy Snacks YOU WON’T HATE
Eating popcorn keeps your hand moving and your mouth chewing with a lot fewer calories than a bag of chips. Skip the butter and spritz with a little olive or sesame oil instead, then keep it interesting with creative seasonings: chili or curry powder, garam masala, dill weed and lemon zest, cinnamon, Sriracha and lime zest, truffle oil, malt vinegar, bullion powder, white vinegar and sea salt, Mexican hot chocolate mix, or matcha green tea powder.
The vegetable is fun to crunch, great for cotton mouth, high in fiber and vitamins C, A, and K—and has six calories per stalk. Celery’s a great vessel for all sorts of delicious dips and toppings. Peanut butter is the classic, as long as you don’t mind its 16 grams of fat per serving. Try these alternatives instead: toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds, olive oil and capers, horseradish and lemon zest, feta and mint, hummus, baba ghanouj, miso paste, tapenade, bean dip, or salsa.
The ultimate natural popsicle, frozen grapes are simple to make and fun to pop in your mouth. Remove the stems, place grapes on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper or aluminum foil, and freeze for four to five hours. One cup has 100 calories.
Get your veggies and a salt fix, too. You can pay a fortune for low-calorie, low-carb potato chip alternatives at Whole Foods, or you can make them yourself in minutes. Toss two handfuls of chopped kale, spinach, cabbage, ultra-thin radish slices, or another slivered vegetable (go wild!) with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 300˚ F for 20 minutes.
Low-calorie, high-protein Greek yogurt has a thick, creamy texture and is a great source of calcium, potassium, protein, zinc, B vitamins, and robiotics.You can also use it in place of sour cream and mayonnaise.
Nuts are way better for you than chips, and they provide heart-healthy fat, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants—but you won’t lose weight if you down a bag every night. Eat nuts judiciously. Almonds, cashews, and pistachios are lowest in calories. Macadamias and pecans are high in fat and low in protein. Nuts roasted in oil may contain hydrogenated fats and fewer nutrients.