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Fighting Salt and Sugar Cravings, With Spicy Food

(CNN) There’s no magic pill that will cure you of your cravings. But there is something that may help the effort, and it’s all-natural.

Research has shown that simply spicing up your diet may help you consume less salt and possibly less sugar, while potentially improving your health even beyond the reduction of salt and sugar.

There is more consistent evidence that spicy food helps curb salt cravings than sugar.

In a study involving more than 600 people from China whose brains were analyzed with PET/CT scans, researchers found that regions stimulated by intake of both salty and spicy foods overlapped. Because of similar activities taking place in this shared space (think of the overlapping parts of a Venn diagram), consuming spicy foods effectively enhanced one’s sensitivity to salt, thereby helping people crave and consume less salt.

“We think that spicy food can trick our brain when tasting salty food. It makes us taste the same (level of) saltiness even when a reduced amount of salt is actually consumed,” said study author Dr. Zhiming Zhu, professor and director of the Department of Hypertension and Endocrinology at the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China.

In fact, researchers found that people who regularly enjoy spicy foods consumed 2.5 grams less salt in a day (that’s 1,000 fewer milligrams of sodium) compared with those who typically steer clear of spice. They also had lower blood pressure.

It remains to be seen whether the findings can be replicated in other populations outside China, said Richard David Wainford, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the Boston University School of Medicine, in an accompanying editorial. Still, “a lifestyle intervention that adds taste to the diet, in the form of extra spice and flavor, versus reduction of the pleasure given by the salt we add to our food, may have more success as a public health strategy to promote population-level dietary salt reduction,” he added.

Spice may have the potential to curb sugar cravings too, though the evidence is mixed. In one study involving 40 students from Denmark, when chili pepper was added to sweet, sour and bitter meals, participants experienced a greater desire to eat sweet foods compared with meals without chili added.

In another study, also from Denmark, people experienced a decreased desire for salty and spicy foods when they ate tomato soup with cayenne pepper compared with eating the soup without pepper. But their desire for sweet and fatty foods significantly increased when they consumed the spicy soup.

No pain, no weight gain?

Capsaicin is the compound in chili peppers that is responsible for the burning sensation we experience when eating them. The compound has the ability to suppress sweet taste, which could also explain some findings.

But while some may enjoy the heat that capsaicin produces, it may also come with an unintended consequence.

“Capsaicin helps fight pain. Most of the time, you hear about this as a topical cream, but eating chili peppers also has benefits. It may be that when the pain goes away, you’re stimulated to consume more sweet foods,” said Mary-Jon Ludy, an associate professor of clinical nutrition at Bowling Green State University.

In a meta-analysis, involving more than 70 studies, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the McCormick Science Institute, researchers state that the balance of the literature suggests the capsaicin suppresses appetite, though the magnitude of the effects is small. “Purposeful inclusion of these compounds in the diet may aid weight management, albeit modestly,” the study stated.

(Note that the National Institutes of Health is a federal government agency, and the McCormick Science Institute is an independent research organization that is owned and funded by spice product manufacturer McCormick & Co. Inc. The company said it does not influence the science institute’s research priorities.)

The meta-analysis included the Danish study that found increased sugar cravings among those who consumed spicy meals. But it also included a study that found adding spice can actually curb sugar cravings. In that study, when people added half a teaspoon of red pepper to their lunch, they had a decreased desire to eat sugary, fatty and salty foods, and ate about 70 fewer calories at their next meal. The effects were seen only among those who didn’t regularly consume red pepper.

“I think that there’s something in the novelty of the stimulus that would allow you to eat less,” said Ludy, who authored the study and the meta-analysis. “In terms of the work with red pepper, I think that that’s an important piece of the puzzle. If you are adding a spicy meal every couple of weeks, it might be enough to have an effect … but if you have it every day, the effect goes away, because you get used to it.”

A little dash will do ya

To get started with spice, Ludy recommends sprinkling red pepper flakes into eggs in the morning. You can also use spice when making a rub for meat or when seasoning vegetables, soups, pasta or curry dishes.

She also recommends adding red pepper flakes to a meal in anticipation of a tempting dessert. “It may give you that extra piece of security,” she said. Though not specific to sweet taste, cinnamon, ginger and saffron are other pungent spices with appetite suppressive effects, according to Ludy.

However you choose to use spice, it’s wise to start slowly. “Remember that a tiny bit of spice can go a long way!” Ludy said. If the heat is an issue, you can calm your taste buds by pairing hot spices with healthy fats, such as avocados and nuts, according to Ludy. “They help break down the chemical that causes the burn.”

If you’re new to spicy peppers, she recommends starting with milder varieties, such as jalapeno or serrano, which cause less burn than cayenne or habanero. “These peppers still contain some capsaicin but not as much. Although I haven’t researched it directly, my guess is that there would still be appetite effects (perhaps of a lesser magnitude) … but if you can’t tolerate higher quantities of spice, something is better than nothing, right?”

By Lisa Drayer, CNN   Fri November 17, 2017
 

Lisa Drayer is a nutritionist, an author and a CNN health and nutrition contributor.

 
source: www.cnn.com


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4 Foods That Can Improve Your Metabolism

A magic bullet solution does not exist, but there are some things that can encourage your body to burn a few extra calories.

Don’t listen to the Internet. There’s no such thing as a miracle calorie-burning food that will allow you to vegetate on the couch while melting off the pounds. If there were, gyms would go out of business instantly. According to registered dietitian Ellie Krieger, however, there are a few things that can help one’s metabolism work more efficiently, though this should not be considered a replacement for hard sweaty work.

In an article for the Washington Post, Krieger sifted through the “overhyped, over-extrapolated half-truths” that dominate millions of articles and podcasts to identify those items that might actually have metabolic value. She ended up with four – green tea, cayenne pepper, protein, and whole grains – but benefiting from them isn’t as simple as chowing down.

Green tea gets a lot of well-deserved attention, for it contains polyphenols (specifically, one called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG) and caffeine that increase the calories and fat your body burns. Studies show that a minimum of 250 milligrams of EGCG must be consumed in order for it to work. This translates to three cups daily of the highest-quality green tea, which isn’t too difficult for tea-lovers. Just be sure to buy the good stuff.

Cayenne pepper is a tough one because studies recommend consuming 10 grams a day; this works out to nearly 2 tablespoons. As anyone who’s eaten cayenne pepper knows, it’s nearly impossible to ingest that much, even if it’s spread out over three meals. But a small amount can help a bit, too:

“A 2011 Purdue University study looked at more palatable quantities of cayenne and found that even about half a teaspoon in one meal worked to increase energy expenditure, but only by 10 calories, which, incidentally, is the number of calories in one peanut.”

Protein is notable for automatically burning 20 to 30 percent of its own calories through the process of digestion. Krieger compares this to fat (0 to 3 percent) and carbohydrates (5 to 10 percent), though these are still crucial components of a well-rounded diet and should not be neglected in favor of excess protein.

Whole grains are similar to protein in that their digestion burns more calories than when you eat refined carbohydrates. Plus, you get the added benefit of fiber, which is sadly lacking in the typical American diet and is desperately needed for healthy guts.

Katherine Martinko     @feistyredhair       Living / Health       May 24, 2017


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5 Foods To Rev Up Your Metabolism

The problem with many diets is that they focus on what you shouldn’t have instead of on what you should have!

“I felt like they were telling me everything I couldn’t have, which left me completely deprived,” my friend confessed, recalling a particular diet she’d adamantly adhered to until finally she got frustrated with all those restrictions.

Instead, think about it this way: before you dump sugary, highly reactive foods that stall fat loss and leave you feeling lousy, fuel up on healthy, crave-busters that edge out bad foods and keep you from feeling hungry and reaching for the junk.

You know, the usual appetite-curbing add-ons like lean protein, fiber-rich veggies, and green tea. these work great. But I’ve also picked up some unique, off-the-beaten-path ones that rev up your metabolism so you blast more fat. Best of all, they taste good and become easy to incorporate into your diet.

Add these five things to your diet and see if they don’t become your needle movers for easy, lasting fat loss:

1. Lemon Juice

You may have heard of having hot water with lemon in the morning to support good digestion. I did this when I lived in Japan years ago.

Turns out, a few tablespoons of lemon juice just before or during a meal may also help lower your blood sugar response from that meal. You might also have a glass of sparkling water with lemon juice during your meal or squeeze on some lemon onto your salad or your fish.

2. Cinnamon

What’s not to love about this delicious spice that helps balance blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity?

cinnamon

Cinnamon also tastes so darn good and helps curb your sweet tooth.

3. Kefir

Speaking of a sweet tooth kefir, or other sour cultured foods, can help zap sugar cravings. The sour taste of cultured or fermented foods kills your sweet tooth and feeds the good bacteria in your gut.

Too much bad gut flora means you can extract more calories from the foods you eat and store them as fat. Not cool! My favorite kefir is made form coconut water (this is available in many health food stores). You can also shop online for culture starter kits to make your own!

4. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne can help you burn more calories and curb hunger. You can also get the same effect with some hot sauce or hot peppers.

One of my favorite snacks is blending non-dairy, non-soy, plant-based or defatted beef chocolate protein powder with avocado, coconut milk, and a quarter-teaspoon cayenne pepper (you can always increase the amount of cayenne per your personal taste, but a little goes a long way). Cayenne can really provide that get-up-and-go morning kick!

5. Coconut Oil & Coconut Milk

Coconut oil and milk remain kitchen staples for everything from cooking to shakes. Both the oil and milk are antiviral and antibacterial, making them perfect to keep that good balance of good bacterial in your gut.