Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

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The Hidden Influences That Shape Our Eating Habits

The New Year has barely begun and already your plans to eat more healthfully are skidding off track. You couldn’t help but devour the holiday chocolates. You’ve nibbled your way to the bottom of a bag of chips, without even really enjoying them. And that kale you’ve been meaning to eat? It’s wilting in your vegetable crisper. But don’t fret. Your willpower is probably just fine.

There’s a whole host of external factors that determine what and how you eat, from what’s written on the packaging and the colour of your dinnerware to the noise level of your surrounding environment. That’s the focus of Dr. Rachel Herz’s new book Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship With Food, which looks at the many influences on the way we consume and experience food.

Herz is a neuroscientist known for her work on the psychology of smell. She teaches at Brown University and Boston College, and has authored the previous books The Scent of Desire and That’s Disgusting. Her latest book offers support for the notion that many of the problems we experience with food, from overeating to picky eating, aren’t moral failings. We can’t simply will ourselves to eat less or expand our palates – our relationship with food is much more complicated than that. Whether we think a food item is decadent or low-calorie can affect how our bodies respond to it; our appetites are often influenced by the people we’re with; and how familiar we are with certain foods determines how filling they seem.

But understanding these factors allows us to manipulate them to our advantage, Herz says.

“This book should make people feel that they have the power. They can take back the meal,” she says. “What I’m hoping is that people can see how they can use this information to change their relationship with food.”

Herz spoke with The Globe and Mail about hidden factors that shape our meals, including a little-known factor that makes airplane food taste so bland.

‘Healthy’ labels

How they influence you: It’s probably no surprise that when a food item is labelled “healthy,” people tend to eat more of it. Might as well have two helpings of ice cream if it’s “low-calorie,” right? But just thinking something is healthy can actually change your body’s response to it – and not necessarily in a desirable way.

The science: Herz describes a Yale University study in which participants were given the same 340-calorie vanilla milkshake, labelled two different ways. For one group, the milkshake was called “Indulgence” and labelled as containing 620 calories. For the other, it was called “Sensi-shake,” and labelled as having zero-per-cent fat, no added sugar and 140 calories.

Those who drank the “Indulgence” shake experienced an immediate surge in the hunger-signalling hormone ghrelin after an initial taste. But a half-hour later, their ghrelin levels plummeted three times more than in those who drank the “Sensi-shake,” whose ghrelin levels remained flat. That means simply believing they were drinking a high-calorie shake made participants’ bodies respond accordingly; they felt less hungry, regardless of the actual calorie content.

The take-away: 

“If … you’re interested in not having your body pack on every calorie that’s in the food, you should approach all food as it being decadent, to the extent that you can,” Herz says.

Familiar foods

How they influence you: What makes food filling? Besides attributes such as being high in fat, providing roughage and being served in solid form instead of as a liquid, Herz says there’s also a psychological factor at play: The more familiar a food is to you, the more satiating it seems.

The science: Herz points to a study from the University of Bristol in which participants were shown pictures of various common foods, all in 200-calorie portions, and asked how often they ate them. Then they were asked how filling they thought each food was. Participants rated the foods they consumed most frequently as most filling.

The take-away: Familiar foods act as a signifier that you’ve eaten or that you’re satisfied with what you consume, Herz says, which explains why individuals accustomed to eating rice may only feel full when they’ve had rice, or why those accustomed to eating meat and potatoes don’t feel a meal is complete without those staples. She suggests you can use this to your advantage to train yourself to feel satisfied with eating vegetables.

“If after your lunch, you have a couple celery sticks or a couple carrot sticks or whatever, then that sort of becomes a psychological marker for being full and being done eating,” she says.


How they influence you: Remember Pepsi-Cola’s failed colourless Crystal Pepsi? Or Heinz’s short-lived green ketchup? Colour has a big impact on how we experience food, and whether we’re willing to consume it. But the colour red, in particular, can influence us in multiple ways, Herz says. Since we associate red with the colour of ripe fruit, it can make food taste sweeter, yet since it is also a signal for danger, it can curb mindless snacking.

The science: Herz describes a German study that invited participants to help themselves to pretzels, presented on either a blue, white or red plate, while they were asked to fill in a questionnaire. Those who were served pretzels on the red plate ate half as many pretzels as those who were offered them on blue or white plates.

“Red works to kind of alert you, first of all,” which can make you more mindful of what you’re eating, Herz explains. “And at the same time, it also makes you potentially question: Should you consume?”

The take-away: If you want to reduce absent-minded nibbling, choose a red plate, Herz suggests. But she says, if your goal is to try to encourage eating, avoid using red dishes and serving vessels.


How they influence you: The loud, continuous hum inside an airplane dampens your perception of saltiness and sweetness, which contributes to the lacklustre taste of airplane food, Herz says. Yet the volume doesn’t alter your sense of bitterness, so bitterness may be amplified, and it actually intensifies the taste of umami, or savoury brothy flavours, which explains why tomato juice is such a popular inflight beverage choice.

The science: There are three cranial nerves that innervate our perception of taste, Herz explains. One in particular, the chorda tympani, also innervates our perception of hearing. It transmits taste information from the tongue to the brain, and crosses through the ear along the way, she says.

“Loudness actually influences the degree to which our taste buds are able to communicate with the brain and it alters our taste in specific ways.”

The take-away: Cranking up the volume can make an umami-rich meal more delicious, but you may want to turn it down in time for dessert.

WENCY LEUNG             JANUARY 8, 2018

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This Vegetable Will Make You Look 50% More Attractive

…or try the supplement that contains the same critical pigment.

Yellow and red skin pigments are perceived as 50% more attractive in Caucasian people, new research finds.

Although these pigments in the skin are supposed to be signals of good health, they can be faked.

Taking beta-carotene supplement, for example, will have the same effect.

Beta-carotene is the pigment that gives carrots — and other fruits and vegetables — a strong red/yellow colour.

For this research 43 Caucasian men were given a beta-carotene supplements for 12 weeks.

Below you can see the effect of the supplementation on their skin tone.

The left hand picture shows a typical face before supplementation, the right-hand one shows afterwards.

Notice the slightly more red-yellow hue in the right-hand face.

The supplementation group were compared with a placebo group who were given a dummy pill.

Women were then asked to rate men’s pictures before and after supplementation.

The results showed that beta-carotene supplementation increased the overall redness and yellowness of the men’s faces (but did not change how light or dark they were).

Women were 50% more likely to choose men who had taken the supplementation.

This was all despite the fact that taking beta-carotene did not make the men any healthier — it only changed their appearance slightly.

Mr Yong Zhi Foo, the study’s first author, said:

“Carotenoids are known to be responsible for the striking mating displays in many animal species.
Our study is one of the first to causally demonstrate that carotenoids can affect attractiveness in humans as well.
It also reaffirms the results of previous studies showing that what we eat can affect how we look”

The study was published in the journal Behavioral Ecology (Foo et al., 2016).

FEBRUARY 16, 2017  source:  PsyBlog

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Fun Fact Friday

  • Hitting snooze on your alarm can make you more tired than if you had gotten up right away.

  • We are subconsciously more attracted to people who have the same taste in music as we do.

  • Warm colors such as yellow, orange and red make you hungry – Which is why many fast food restaurants are yellow, orange and red.

  • Couples who spend at least 10 minutes a day laughing together are more likely to have a stronger relationship.

Happy Friday!
 source:   factualfacts.com   https://twitter.com/Fact   @Fact

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Why We All Need Green In Our Lives

(CNN) It’s the color of the Emerald Isle, the hue of sickness and envy, and a shade associated with grotesque monsters. And its most universal interpretation conjures imagery of nature, a vibrant symbol of the environmental movement and healthy living.

Green, the mixture of blue and yellow, can be seen everywhere and in countless shades. In fact, the human eye sees green better than any color in the spectrum.

This, along with many other facts about this earthly color, makes it an essential part of our everyday lives.

But why is that?

Helping you see

We see green with ease because of how light reaches our eyes; the human eye translates waves of light into color.

When we see a green frog, the color that we see is the light reflected off of the surface of the frog’s skin, perceived by our eyes as green.

When we see these colors, the cones in our eyes are able to process the wavelengths and tell the brain what color is being observed.

Humans are trichromats, meaning we perceive three primary colors: blue, green and red. The retina in a human eye can detect light between wavelengths of 400 and 700 nanometers, a range known as the visible spectrum.

Each primary color corresponds to a different wavelength, starting with blue at the lowest (400 nanometers) and red at the highest (700 nanometers).

In the middle of the spectrum resides the color green, at around 555 nanometers. This wavelength is where our perception is at its best. Because of its position in the center of the spectrum, both blue and red light waves are enhanced and better perceived with the help of green waves.

Knowing your environment

Green space sweeps the planet. Before skyscrapers and suburbs popped up, our ancestors resided in forested regions full of greenery.

As they scavenged for food, the ability to differentiate between colored berries against the backdrop of green foliage was critical for survival.

The evolution of eyesight and the increasing ability to detect color with fine detail gave our primate ancestors an evolutionary advantage over other mammals who could not discern such differences as well.

Color changes in leaves, fruits and vegetables can indicate age or ripeness and even offer a warning that something may be poisonous or rotten.

Today, we continue to use this ancestral instinct at a farmers market or grocery store.

Sourcing your food

Bananas, though widely considered to be a yellow fruit, start off as green due to the presence of chlorophyll. Just as grass and leaves have chlorophyll to give them color, so do fruits.
Located in the cells of plants, chlorophyll plays a crucial role in photosynthesis, allowing plants to harvest energy from sunlight and convert it into energy that the plant can use to grow.

The molecule absorbs blue and red light well while reflecting the green light that we see.

The peels of bananas are bright green in color until the chlorophyll inside the peel begins to break down. As the fruit ripens, the molecule in the peel breaks down and we observe a color change from green to bright yellow – and we prefer to eat yellow bananas because they are sweeter.

While the chlorophyll in the banana breaks down, the starch in the peel is converted into sugar, so more yellow means more sugar – until it begins to rot.

Because of their high starch content, greener bananas are sometimes favored as a cure for upset stomachs.

This change in color also applies when glancing over an aisle of bright bell peppers. Our eyes help us find our favored ripeness and sweetness. Green peppers, with more chlorophyll, are less sweet. As they turn yellow and red, the peppers become sweeter.

When we’re enjoying a salad, a brown piece of wilted lettuce or kale is almost always discarded. And our eyes tell us the lawn is overdue for some maintenance when the color darkens.

So although we may not reside in the forests anymore, our keen perception of green continues to play a significant role in keeping us healthy.

Keeping you calm

Some scientists and researchers also believe that because our eyes are at the peak of their perception to detect the wavelengths corresponding with the color green, the shade may calm us down.

With less strain to perceive the colors, our nervous system can relax when perceiving the tone.

This sedative quality of green may explain why there is so much of it in hospitals, schools and work environments. Historically, actors and actresses would recess to green rooms after so much time looking into bright lights on stage, though modern “green rooms” are rarely painted green.

Helping you live longer

Natural environments, full of green vegetation, might help you live longer.

A 2016 study found that living in or near green areas can was linked with longer life expectancy and improved mental health in female participants. Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital compared risk of death with the amount of plant life and vegetation near the homes of more than 100,000 women.

After the eight-year study was completed, the data revealed that participants who lived in the greenest areas had a 12% lower death rate than women living in the least green areas.

With more green space, study authors said, came more opportunity to socialize outdoors.

Additionally, the natural settings – compared with residential regions where plants and greenery were sparse – proved to be beneficial to mental health.

“We were surprised at the magnitude of the mental health pathway,” said Peter James, study author and research associate at the Harvard Chan School’s Department of Epidemiology.

Of those who did not live in greener areas, respiratory issues were the second highest cause of death. The study indicated that less exposure to polluted air may have been one of several reasons for increased life expectancy among for those who lived in green areas.

Our ancestors lived their entire lives outdoors. The benefits we stand to gain from adopting an outdoor mindset, James says, could have a positive impact. “We know already that vegetation can help mitigate the effect of climate change. Our study suggests the potential co-benefit for health.”

Article by Robert Jimison, CNN        Mon June 5, 2017
source: www.cnn.com

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Fun Fact Friday

  • Optimistic people are 23% less likely to die of cancer and 30% less likely to die from heart diseases.
  • Porphyrophobia is the fear of the color purple.
  • When people feel physically cold, they seek out psychological warmth, like watching a romantic movie that will make them feel warm inside.
Optimistic people are 23% less likely to die of cancer
and 30% less likely to die from heart diseases.
  • Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per day.
  • Eating mangos one hour before smoking marijuana can heighten the effects.
  • 85% of people have experienced a dream so real that they were not sure if it happened in real life or not.
Happy Friday!
 source:   factualfacts.com   https://twitter.com/Fact   @Fact

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Fun Fact Friday

  • It takes about 7 minutes for the average person to fall asleep.
  • A “gut feeling” is a chemical signal that your stomach creates to warn the brain of danger.
  • Fast food restaurants use yellow, red, and orange because those are the colors that stimulate hunger.
  • In the next 30 seconds, you will, on average, produce 72 million red blood cells, shed 174,000 skin cells, and have 25 thoughts.
  • Studies show those who don’t eat breakfast, or eat it only sometimes, are twice as likely to be overweight as those who eat two breakfasts.
  • It only takes 0.2 seconds to fall in love.


Happy Friday  🙂
source:       factualfacts.com       https://twitter.com/Fact       @Fact

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Fun Fact Friday

  • Coffee improves short term memory, creativity and alertness.

  • Bees are directly responsible for the production of 70% of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts that we consume on a daily basis.

  • Faking a smile will actually boost your mood.


  • Chocolate, sex and laughter are all key to a healthy brain.

  • North American school buses are yellow because humans see yellow faster than any other color, which is important for avoiding accidents.

  • Eating strawberries can improve vision and also help to reduce cancer risk.


Happy Friday  🙂
source:       factualfacts.com       https://twitter.com/Fact       @Fact