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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Fun Fact Friday

  • Your body craves sugary, salty and fatty foods when you’re under a lot of stress.

  • When feeling down, do some cleaning. Straightening out the physical aspects of your life can also bring clarity to the mental one.

 

  • Music is powerful enough to change a person’s perception of the world.

  • Socially anxious people can lessen their anxiety by performing small acts of kindness, a study found.

Happy Friday!
source: @Fact
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License to Sin: How to Dodge a Devilish Self-Control Loophole

You want another slice of cake or glass of wine, but you know you shouldn’t have one.

It’s the classic self-control dilemma.

But luckily there’s a loophole; sometimes we mentally give ourselves permission to indulge: “Well, I’ve worked hard today, so I’ll have another slice of cake or glass of wine.”

Now there’s a ‘license to sin’.

A recent study cleverly demonstrates this ‘license to sin’ and shows how dangerous it can be (de Witt Huberts et al., 2012).

A little snack

To investigate, the researchers tricked one group of people into thinking they’d worked twice as hard on a boring test as another group.

 temptation

Both groups were then asked to do a ‘taste test’ of some rather tempting looking snacks.

The group that thought they’d worked harder now had more of a ‘license to sin’ as a reward to themselves.

And sure enough they ate, on average, 130 calories more in 10 minutes than the other group.

It’s fascinating that the participants did this without being told they’d worked harder or being given any other cues.

Also remember that, on average, both groups had their mental self-control muscles depleted the same amount as they’d both spent the same time doing the boring task.

Avoid the loophole

What this study is showing is that these well-worn mental thought processes can be insidious. The mind has all sorts of tricks it plays so that it can get what it wants.

The ‘license to sin’ is one of them. You want to over-indulge, so your mind creates this little story that says: I’ve worked hard, so I deserve it.

The clever thing is that it can completely bypass all those logical, rational things we’ve told ourselves about healthy eating (or whatever it is) and, non-coincidentally, we get what we want.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t indulge ourselves from time-to-time, but the question is: how often is the license to sin being invoked?

It’s a way of allowing our misbehaviour that is like an exception we all know about, but somehow don’t pull ourselves up on.

Being more aware of, and watching out for this trick may be useful in bolstering our self-control.

source: PsyBlog


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Top 10 Ways To Stop Cravings For Sugar, Salt and Fats

by Dr. Mark Hyman     October 14, 2013

According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Food Corporations Turn to Chefs in a Quest for Healthy Flavor,” Big Food companies like PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, and even fast food giants like Taco Bell are changing their ways in response to the increasing public demand for healthier food options. To improve their image as healthy food manufacturers, Big Food corporations have called upon top chefs to help them create healthy menu makeovers, infusing real, fresh, whole food into old recipe favorites.

Why is this happening now? Intense pressure brought on by politicians and their constituents (you and me!) has given these food manufacturers no choice but to respond to the public outcry for healthier food. It’s no longer enough for these companies to earn a profit by selling food that tastes good. People are beginning to use the power of the pocketbook to show these companies that the food they sell must also be nutritious.

That’s because people everywhere are waking up. They are beginning to see the dangers of genetically-modified ingredients and all the sugar, salt, and fats hidden in our food supply. From fancy restaurants to fast food chains, chefs are catching on that people want their food to make them feel good, not just while they are eating it but hours, days, and years afterward.

Really, this news shouldn’t make the headlines. This is common sense! Paying for food that makes us sick is as crazy as shooting ourselves in the foot. It just doesn’t make sense.

Big Food is finally getting the message and getting on board.

But remember, no processed or fast food option will ever be better than a healthy home-cooked meal. The best way to ensure you are eating the highest quality, most nutritious food possible is to prepare your own food in your own kitchen. We are all chefs. You don’t have to be trained at Le Cordon Bleu to know your way around a kitchen. You just need a little knowledge, some imagination, and a sense of adventure.

A desire for real food is a fundamental part of our basic biological blueprint. Given the chance, our taste receptors will naturally gravitate toward the inherent sweetness found in vegetables, fruits, and even nuts and seeds.


So, how do you reprogram your taste buds to ditch the cravings for sugar, salt, and fats? You can start by eating real, fresh, whole foods. Avoid fake, commercialized foods that come in convenience packages or are made in a lab.

Here are 10 more tips to get you excited about ditching the sugar, salt, and fats:

  • Sauté or roast your veggies to bring out their natural sweetness. Properly searing your chicken or meat brings out the inherent sweetness by way of the Maillard reaction. This is a fancy name for what happens when you create that nice, brown crust on your meat.
  • Play with herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, and oregano to add flavor and phytonutrients! Finish a meal by adding fresh herbs before plating or serving. This last-minute addition kicks the flavor up a notch!
  • Healthy fats found in avocado, coconut, and tahini not only increase the flavor of your meal, they also add that creamy, luscious texture found in many rich foods.
  • Try creating a savory, umami (Japanese for “delicious”) flavor. Add moderate amounts of tamari, umeboshi plum paste, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, dried mushroom, or sea vegetables to your next stew, soup, sauce, or stir-fry.
  • Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and even cayenne or chipotle pepper powder are all extremely flavorful additions to a meal. Spices like these excite your taste buds and grab your attention. This is helpful, because, as studies show, when we are focused on actually tasting our food rather than mindlessly gobbling it up, we actually need less food to feel satisfied.
  • Befriend some kitchen must-haves like real vanilla extract or vanilla bean or coconut butter. Or use common, every-day foods like lemons in some creative ways. For example, use lemon zest to add real zing to any meal!
  • For the most flavor, eat seasonally and locally. Canned or packaged foods or foods that have traveled great distances in the back of a truck just can’t compare to the succulence of a fresh piece of locally grown fruit.
  • Check your hydration. Digestion starts in your mouth with your saliva, which helps us taste all the magnificent flavor in food. If you are dehydrated and not producing enough saliva, you won’t really be able to enjoy your food.
  • Check your medications. Believe it or not, most medications interfere with the body’s ability to taste and smell. Some of them can even create an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth.
  • Got nutrition? Nutrient deficiency is an important cause of improper taste perception. A lack of certain vitamins and minerals can markedly impair your ability to smell and taste food. Most Americans have several nutrient deficiencies, but there is one in particular that can especially keep you from enjoying your next meal: zinc. Try adding foods like oysters, pecans, sunflower seeds, and lentils to increase your daily intake of this important mineral.


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What Milk Shakes Teach Us About Food Addiction

By Alexandra Sifferlin  June 27, 2013

Have you ever craved a piece of chocolate? Or felt the lure of a hot slice of pizza? And been convinced that the force responsible wasn’t your stomach hoping to quell hunger but your brain, desperately seeking to satisfy something more like an addiction? A new study provides the strongest evidence yet that certain foods trigger addictive behavior just as drugs can.

Nicotine is addictive. So are drugs like cocaine and heroin. All can rewire the brain to crave the progressively elusive “high” or satisfaction that these agents produce. The desire is so strong that it overtakes all reason and need to satisfy it becomes an all-consuming mission, at the expense of your physical, emotional and social health.

Some would argue that certain foods hold the same power over people, monkeying with the brain’s normal appetite system and resetting the satisfaction threshold so it’s always just out of reach, meaning you can never eat enough. Others point to the fact that food is essential for survival so it can’t be addictive since satisfying hunger is part of, and isn’t supposed to interfere with, physical and mental health. “The concept of food addiction is very provocative and rightly so,”says Dr. David Ludwig, the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Unlike drugs of abuse, food is necessary for survival.”

But with obesity rates still at worrisome levels, Ludwig and his colleagues decided to take an objective look at what effect food has on the brain, to see if certain foods do indeed trigger cravings as some abused substances do. Specifically, they focused on the dietary glycemic index, a measure of a food’s ability to raise blood sugar levels, on brain regions associated with cravings in a group of obese men.

“Prior research has shown the tasty high calorie foods can trigger the pleasure center of the brain. That supports the idea of food addiction, but the significance of those studies has been challenged because they typically compare grossly different foods like cheesecake versus boiled vegetables,” says Ludwig. “Yes, certain foods are tasty and enjoyable, but is that so different from a audiophile listening to beautiful music?”

Ludwig took MRI scans of the brains of 12 obese men after they consumed two milk shakes. Both had the same amount of calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates and tasted equally sweet. However, one milk shake had a much higher glycemic index from the carbohydrates compared to the other.


After the men consumed the milk shake with the higher glycemic index, their blood sugar levels surged as expected, then crashed a few hours later, leaving them feeling hungry. But with the brain scans, Ludwig was able to show that these  shakes activated the nucleus accumbens, which is also triggered by addictive drugs and behaviors like gambling. Previous work also hinted at a connection between food and dependence; a 2012 study found that obese people lose their sensitivity to leptin, a hormone that is released by fat cells in the body and regulates feelings of hunger and fullness. Leptin may also play a role in substance addictions by modifying the body’s reward responses to things like alcohol or cocaine.

“These results suggest that highly processed carbohydrates trigger food cravings for many hours after consumption independent of calories or tastiness, and that limiting these foods could help people avoid over-eating,” says Ludwig. When the glycemic index drops, the nucleus accumbens may signal for more, in order to produce another surge, similar to the way that addictive drugs prompt cravings, he says.

But does that mean that food is addictive? One key difference between food and drug addictions involves the body’s ability to signal that it is “full,” or had enough. With drugs, there is less of a biological threshold. But the common brain patterns activated by food and addictive drugs suggests that each may inform the other. As TIME’s Maia Szalavitz reported:

Basically, regulation of food intake is more complex than drug use. That may help explain why there have been so many failures of anti-obesity drugs. But the similarities between hunger for food and for drugs suggest that if we do develop a drug that fights obesity, it may also help treat other addictions — and vice versa.

While the is-food-addictive debate shows no signs of ending, the label itself may not be that important. What matters most is finding ways to adapt our brains and behavior to the modern environment, one that contains intensely attractive food and drugs — along with highly politicized arguments about how to regulate them.

Understanding how some elements of eating may be driven by the same processes behind addictive behaviors could help to explain over-eating, for one. “By definition overweight and obese people habitually over-eat. They are eating more calories than they need,” explains Ludwig. “That raises this fundamental question, why do overweight people continue to overeat when they know intellectually that reducing calorie intake would be healthier and they’ve tried, often many times, to do so? Is it simply lack of willpower or could there be aspects of food that are driving overeating at a biological level?”

If there are biological factors at work, there may be ways to intervene to make dieting, and weight loss, easier. Eating fewer foods with high glycemic loads like white bread, for example, may keep surges of blood sugar to a minimum, which in turn could modulate the activity of the brain’s reward system and lessen cravings. Ludwig says that more research is needed to better understand the complex way that the brain sees food; even if food isn’t addictive in exactly the same way that drugs of abuse are, exposing the connections between eating and satisfaction could lead to more effective ways of managing, or even avoiding, the lure of our favorite foods.

The study is published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

source: Time