It’s hard to think of anything more synonymous with cannabis use than the famous munchies. The phenomenon has been depicted in countless films and television shows and stoners everywhere will be familiar with the heartbreak of realising you have no snacks in the house after lighting up. There is evidence that people were aware of the hunger-inducing effects of cannabis as far back as 300 BCE, but how many of us know what actually causes this strange reaction?
What are the munchies?
When looking to understand why cannabis gives us the munchies, we have to start with THC – the most common and arguably still the most popular cannabinoid. THC – also known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol – is the compound that causes the euphoric “high” that is widely associated with cannabis. But that’s not all it is responsible for. It turns out, THC is also largely to thank (or blame) for that time you devoured a whole share bag of Doritos in under five minutes.
THC is able to trigger a number of responses in our bodies, largely through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). By binding to cannabinoid receptor 1, it is thought that THC can cause a spike in certain chemicals that are associated with hunger. For example, exposure to THC may trigger an increase in ghrelin, which is commonly known as the “hunger hormone”. There is also evidence that THC may fit into receptors in the brain’s olfactory bulb which increases our ability to smell and thus make food seem more delicious.
So, what foods are the most likely to satisfy this intense hunger?
Dealing with munchies the healthy way
While your go-to snacks for a smoking sesh may sway toward the unhealthy side (cookies, pizza, and crisps, anyone?) there may be some healthier alternatives that can leave you feeling just as satisfied.
Who doesn’t love hummus? It’s a versatile dip that can be made at home or purchased in virtually every supermarket in the country – and in a wide range of flavours, too! While its typical partner in crime – the tortilla chip – may not be the healthiest option, you can switch these out to a healthier home-made equivalent or keep it simple and opt for carrot and cucumber sticks, instead.
This chickpea dip is a filling but surprisingly nutritious option that is high in fibre and protein as well as unsaturated fat, antioxidants, magnesium, potassium, and iron – what’s not to like?
Sweet potato fries
Chips or fries are another favourite when it comes to tackling the munchies. They are filling, satisfying, and can be combined with any condiments that take your fancy. But let’s face it, they’re not the healthiest choice. Depending on how they are cooked, they can contain high levels of fat in addition to the high carbohydrate content, and that’s before we even consider seasoning.
Sweet potato fries are an alternative that offers the same satisfaction as well as added nutrition. Sweet potatoes are high in antioxidants, fibre, beta-carotene and more, and unlike the humble potato, they count towards one of your five a day!
If you have a bit of a sweet tooth and find yourself reaching for the chocolate or ordering in a decadent dessert when the munchies strike, chocolate-dipped strawberries might be the snack for you. You’re still getting a hit of chocolatey sweetness but with the fruity juiciness of strawberries to boot. Dipping strawberries in chocolate is a great way to sneak in some extra nutrients and make your munchies attack that little bit healthier.
While fruit can taste delicious at the best of times, it can be downright incredible when you’re high. And yet, it’s not often that you find yourself wanting to reach for an apple straight after a joint. However, making sure you’re stocked up on grapes, berries, and oranges (or whatever your preferred fruit) can be an ideal solution to improving the health rating of your post-smoke fridge raid.
Fruits can be jazzed up in countless ways (including dipping them in chocolate, as mentioned above). You can make your own frozen fruit and yoghurt lollies, or simply pop some grapes in the freezer for a cold and refreshing snack.
This might not sound like the most exciting option, but introducing popcorn to your munchies repertoire has its perks. First of all, when it is air-popped, popcorn is a whole-grain that is low in fat and high in fibre. Whole grains like corn have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers.
But the most appealing thing about popcorn is the endless options when it comes to seasoning. Ditch the supermarket brands that are high in salt and/or sugar and get a little creative with your own flavours. We’re thinking paprika, curry, cocoa powder, cinnamon – you name it, you can probably put it on popcorn.
So, if you always find yourself reaching for the crisps or looking up which pizza place is delivering near you, you may want to consider switching these habits out for a healthier antidote to the munchies. Stock up on fruit, get popping popcorn, and get those chocolate-dipped strawberries in the fridge before your next cannabis binge – you won’t regret it.