A recent research conducted by Israeli scientists, leads to the conclusion that the chickpea was cultivation because of it’s special effect on mood. In a way, chickpeas are the ancestors of Prozac.
It is a known fact that chickpeas, as well as other legumes, are rich in Tryptophan, an amino acid which is a precursor of serotonin. The latter is a neurotransmitter strongly connected to well being and mood. Anxiety and depression, for instance, are known to correlate with serotonin deficiency.
Most modern anti-depressant medicine, works by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, and that includes the highly popular SSRI drugs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Drugs such as Prozac, Seroxat, Cipralex etc.).
So yes, a tryptophan rich diet may improve mood (up to some point) – and the scientist claim that this is why chickpeas became so popular in the ancient world.
The Cicer Arietinum (a.k.a “chickpea”) is the specie richest in tryptophan throughout it’s genus of plants.
The researchers (Professor Avi Gopher, Dr. Zohar Kerem, Professor Simcha Lev-Yadun, Dr. Shachar Abbo.) believe that cicer ariuntum was probably cultivated due to its’ rich tryptophan content. Ancient men were better skilled than us in recognizing healthy foods and getting their nutritional needs from foods – very much like we can see in animals.
Thousands of years later, hummus is a common dish in a growing number of countries because it tastes good – but also for it’s undisputed nutritional value. Ironically, in both cases, people tend to say eating hummus makes them “feel good”…