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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.

Colours

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.

Sounds

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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Why ‘get A Good Sleep’ Should Be Your Top New Year’s Resolution

If getting a good night’s sleep is not on your list of New Year’s resolutions, you might be setting yourself up for failure with the other goals on your list, including health-related ones, according to a sleep specialist from Ryerson University.

“If you’re having poor quality sleep it can actually interfere with some of your weight loss and weight maintenance goals,” said Colleen Carney, director of the Sleep and Depression Laboratory at Ryerson University. “It actually affects your metabolism, your ability to process insulin, and makes you hungrier and makes you feel less full when you’re eating so you’re prone to overeating.”

Not only does poor sleep affect a person’s physical health, it’s connected with mental health problems as well, said Carney, speaking on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.

“Unfortunately, people suffering from insomnia are susceptible to developing depression, so it’s really important for us to understand those links,” Carney said.

Create a routine for winding down

To get 2018 off on the right foot, Carney recommends implementing a routine for winding down that begins one hour before bed.

“You want to make sure that the phone is put away because that’s the device that keeps you plugged in to problem-solving, sometimes bad news or exciting news,” Carney said. “And you want to really cease any goal-directed problem-solving that we regularly do during the day.”

Suitable replacements for looking at one’s smartphone could be any relaxing, enjoyable activity, such as taking a bath, meditating, yoga or hobbies, Carney said. If you use your phone as a wake-up alarm, turn off the notifications so you’re not tempted to pick it up.

Sleeping well makes it easier to achieve other goals such as those for
exercise and weight loss, according to a Ryerson University sleep expert.

Find your perfect sleep cycle

People vary in terms of the times when they typically get sleepy or wake naturally, Carney said. This often changes over one’s lifetime, for example, teenagers generally prefer to go to sleep later than adults, but adults can figure out their natural cycle and plan to sleep accordingly.

“If you typically get sleepy around 11 and your body would actually wake you up around six or seven, then you know that’s pretty much the sweet spot for you and this is largely genetically determined,” Carney said.

As far as how much sleep you really need, Colleen recommends looking at how much you sleep on average over a two-week period. Sleeping nine hours on a single weekend night may not mean you need nine hours of sleep every night.

“Some people are longer sleepers, but you shouldn’t be sort of picking what your longest sleep is and say ‘that’s what I’m going to go for’ because that will create insomnia over time.”

Adults can take a cue from children

While adults push their children to go to bed early and give them routines for winding down before bed, many don’t apply the same rules to themselves, Carney said.

“We know it’s good for how alert they’re going to feel during the day, their emotion regulation and how well they sleep,” Carney said. “But when we become adults we think we outgrow that and we throw all that out the window, and when we feel crappy and have trouble sleeping, we can’t understand why.

“We have to get back to basics.”

CBC News    Jan 06, 2018
source: www.cbc.ca


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8 Small Changes for a Slimmer You in 2018

It’s that time of year again. People are rushing to buy gym memberships and cleaning out kitchen cabinets, swearing that this year will be the year they follow through on their resolution to lose weight.

But reaching that goal doesn’t require a complete lifestyle overhaul. Small steps can make a big difference in your body and health.

Here are eight ways to get started:

Break it down. No matter how much you have to lose, changing your lifestyle to lose weight can seem overwhelming. So, don’t look at it all at once, advises nutritionist Samantha Heller,  from NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

“Look at it one plate at a time, or even one choice at a time, but start right now, and by this time next month, you’ll see good changes,” she said. Instead of thinking about how you need to lose 40 pounds, figure out what 5 percent of your body weight is. For a 180-pound person, it’s 9 pounds.

“If you lose 5 percent of your body weight, you can significantly decrease your risk of many diseases, like prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease. You lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and A1C [a long-term measurement of blood sugar levels], and it’s so much less overwhelming to think about,” Heller noted.

 Strive for a negative calorie balance. For years, you’ve probably heard that to lose a pound, you need to eat 3,500 fewer calories (the number of calories in a pound), but research has shown that it’s not necessarily that simple.

Nutritionist Maudene Nelson, from Columbia University Health in New York City, said, “It works mathematically, but it doesn’t work physiologically. The body defends its weight,” she explained.  But you do need a negative calorie balance to lose weight – that means you need to take in fewer calories than you use in activity and exercise to lose weight.

Both Nelson and Heller said very low-calorie diets don’t work in the long term because the body goes into starvation mode. “You don’t want to lose weight too quickly, because it scares the body into thinking there’s no food available,” Heller said.

           Plate it. elson loves the simplicity of the plate method. Half of your plate should be vegetables, one quarter is protein and one quarter is starch. If you finish your plate, and you’re still hungry, she said be sure to refill your plate in the same way. “Don’t just refill on the mac n’ cheese,” she advised. In the morning, you can substitute fruit for the veggies.

Identify trouble times. Nelson asks her clients to think about the time of day they have the most trouble with food. Is it the time just before dinner when the kids are clamoring for food and you’re starving and so tired you don’t feel like cooking, so you stop at the fast-food drive-thru. Or is it at night when the house has quieted down and you can finally sit down, maybe with a glass of wine and late-night snack?

“In these times of day, it’s hard to think about how many calories you’re eating. These are times you don’t want to stop and think about self-denial. So plan for these times. Have healthy snacks ready. Make sure you have ingredients for a quick meal in the fridge so you don’t have to rely on fast-food,” Nelson suggested.

Add protein to every meal. Protein helps keep your blood sugar levels from spiking and then crashing. Without at least a little protein in your meal, you’ll be hungry soon after eating because of a fast rise and fall in your blood sugar.

And, Heller said, be sure to have protein at breakfast, too. “Having protein in the morning can really set the stage for a better day — whether it’s eggs or yogurt, nut butter on whole grain toast or apple slices, or even leftovers from the night before,” she explained.

Track it. Both Heller and Nelson said one of the most important things you can do for losing weight is keeping track of the food you eat.

“It’s not a sexy or exciting thing to do, but it can be informative and helpful,” Heller said, adding that many people are surprised when they write down every bite they take at how much they actually do eat in a day. A food diary can be done with paper and pencil, or you can put technology to work because there are lots of apps for the phone. Examples include myfitnesspal, fitday and seehowyoueat (an app that lets you use pictures to keep your diary).

“You can use your food tracker to see what happened when you did well, or on days you didn’t. If you over-eat one night, you can look back and see that maybe you skipped lunch and were starving. You can use it as a learning tool for the next time,” Heller said.

Don’t drink your calories. 
Both experts said people often get empty calories from soda and juice. “It’s just not worth it to drink your calories,” Nelson said. What about adult beverages, such as wine and beer? Nelson said those can be considered part of the plate method. Each drink replaces a starch from your plate.

Rewards.     
Nelson said to set yourself up for success by planning rewards. Whether it’s for walking a mile, or for tracking your meals for a week, give yourself more than a pat on the back. It doesn’t have to be a big treat – maybe you could buy that magazine you enjoy but usually don’t purchase, or a special body lotion because it’s pricier than what you normally spend.

By Serena Gordon   HealthDay Reporter         Dec. 28, 2017      HealthDay News
       
Sources: Samantha Heller, M.S., R.D., senior clinical nutritionist, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City;
Maudene Nelson, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., Columbia University Health, New York City
 


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Fun Fact Friday

  • Eat slowly. Your body takes 20 minutes to recognize it’s full.

  • Humans cannot walk in a straight line without a visual point – When blindfolded, we will gradually walk in a circle.

 

  • People who regularly eat dinner or breakfast in restaurants double their risk of becoming obese.

  • Oddly enough, people on the Internet are more real than people in real life. The ability to act anonymously makes us much more genuine.

Happy Friday!
source: @Fact


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Child And Teen Obesity Soars Tenfold Worldwide In 40 Years: WHO Report

GENEVA (Reuters) – The number of obese children and adolescents worldwide has jumped tenfold in the past 40 years and the rise is accelerating in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Asia, a major study said on Wednesday.

Childhood and teen obesity rates have leveled off in the United States, north-western Europe and other rich countries, but remain “unacceptably high” there, researchers at Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

“Over 40 years we have gone from about 11 million to a more than tenfold increase to over 120 million obese children and adolescents throughout the world,” lead author Majid Ezzati of Imperial’s School of Public Health, told a news conference.

This means that nearly 8 percent of boys and nearly 6 percent of girls worldwide were obese in 2016, against less than one percent for both sexes in 1975.

An additional 213 million children aged 5-19 were overweight last year, but fell below the threshold for obesity, according to the largest ever study, based on height and weight measurements of 129 million people.

The researchers called for better nutrition at home and at school, and more physical exercise to prevent a generation from becoming adults at greater risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancers due to excessive weight.

Clear food labels on salt, sugar and fat content are needed to help consumers make “healthy choices”, the study said.

Taxation and tough restrictions on marketing of junk food should be considered, it said. WHO has already recommended a 20 percent tax on sugary drinks to reduce consumption.

RAPID TRANSITION

South Africa, Egypt and Mexico which had “very low levels of obesity four decades ago” now have among the high rates of obesity in girls, between 20-25 percent, Ezzati said.

“The experience of east Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean show that the transition from underweight to overweight and obesity can be rapid,” the study said.

If current trends continue, in 2022 there will be more obese children and teenagers worldwide than underweight ones, who now number 192 million, half of them in India, the study said.

Polynesia and Micronesia had the highest rates of child obesity last year, 25.4 percent in girls and 22.4 percent in boys, followed by “the high-income English-speaking region” that includes the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Britain.

Among high-income countries, the United States had “the highest obesity rates for girls and boys”, 19.5 percent and 23.3 percent, respectively.

“Children are not getting physical activity in the school days, there is poor food opportunities in many schools, walking and cycling to school is going down in many countries, unsafe in many other countries, and parents are not being given the right, sufficient advice on nutrition,” said Fiona Bull of WHO’s department of non-communicable diseases.
“It’s the changing environments, food, behaviors, portions, consumption patterns have completely changed over the last 40 years. Highly processed food is more available, more marketed and it’s cheaper,” she said.

 

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay Editing by Jeremy Gaunt     OCTOBER 10, 2017 
source: reuters.com


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40% Of Cancers Diagnosed In U.S. Related To Obesity, CDC Says

Add cancer to the many good reasons to strive for a healthy weight

The rates of 12 obesity-related  cancers rose by 7 per cent from 2005 to 2014, an increase that is threatening to reverse progress in reducing the rate of cancer in the United States, U.S. health officials say.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 630,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with a cancer linked with being overweight or obese in 2014.

Obesity-related cancers accounted for about 40 per cent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States in 2014. Although the overall rate of new cancer diagnoses has fallen since the 1990s,  rates of obesity-related cancers have been rising.

“Today’s report shows in some cancers we’re going in the wrong direction,” Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC said on a conference call with reporters.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, 13 cancers are associated with overweight and obesity.
They include:

  • Meningioma.
  • Multiple myeloma.
  • Adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
  • Cancers of the thyroid, postmenopausal breast, gallbladder, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, ovaries, uterus and colon and rectum (colorectal).

In 2013-2014, about two out of three U.S. adults were considered overweight or obese. CDC researchers used the U.S. cancer statistics database to see how obesity was affecting cancer rates. Although cancer rates rose in 12 of these cancers from 2005 to 2012, colorectal cancer rates fell by 23 per cent, helped by increases in screening, which prevents new cases by finding growths before they turn into cancer.

Cancers not associated with overweight and obesity fell by 13 per cent.

About half of Americans are not aware of this link, according to Schuchat. The findings suggest that U.S. healthcare providers need to make clear to patients the link between obesity and cancer, and encourage patients to achieve a healthy weight.

“The trends we are reporting today are concerning,” Schuchat said. “There are many good reasons to strive for a healthy weight. Now you can add cancer to the list.”

She said the science linking cancer to obesity is still evolving, and it is not yet clear whether losing weight will help individuals once cancer has taken root.

What is clear is that obesity can raise an individual’s risk of cancer, and that risk may be reduced by maintaining a healthy weight, Schuchat said Tuesday.

Oct 04, 2017
source: www.cbc.ca   Reuters


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Portion Size Versus Serving Size

Sometimes the portion size and serving size are the same, but sometimes they are not. Over the past few years portions have grown significantly in restaurants, as has the frequency of Americans eating out. Learn how much to put on your plate to help control how much you eat.

Big portion sizes can mean you’re getting more food than your body can stomach to maintain a healthy weight.

Do you know how much you’re really eating? Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the portions we are eating are the right serving size for our nutritional needs.  Portion sizes have increased drastically over the years, contributing to the rising obesity rate.

So how did it get this way?

Consider these statistics from the American Heart Association and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation study “A Nation at Risk: Obesity in the United States”:

  1. Adults today consume an average of 300 more calories per day than they did in 1985.
  2. Portion sizes have grown dramatically over the last 40 years.
  3. North Americans eat out much more than they used to.

Understanding healthy portions can be hard. Here’s why:

  • Many of us don’t know what a healthy portion is.
  • Restaurants offer extras like breads, chips and other appetizers that add extra calories, sodium and fat but lack any nutritional benefit.
  • Some meals have portions that are enough for two or more people.
  • Many convenience foods and drinks are priced lower but packaged in larger sizes to sell more.
  • Clearing up the confusion.

 

Here are a couple of important definitions from the National Institutes of Health:

  • Portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time, whether in a restaurant, from a package or in your own kitchen. A portion is 100 percent under our control. Many foods that come as a single portion actually contain multiple servings.
  • Serving Size is the amount of food listed on a product’s Nutrition Facts label. So all of the nutritional values you see on the label are for the serving size the manufacturer suggests on the package.

Once we understand the difference, it’s easier to determine how much to serve and easier to teach kids the difference between the two. Learn some suggested servings from each food groups you and your kids can eat at mealtime or between meals.

How can we eat and serve smaller portions?

  1. When cooking at home: Offer the proper “serving” to each member of the family, then put the extra food away. Save leftovers for another meal.
  2. When dining out:  Skip the appetizers and split a large salad or main dish with a friend.
  3. When ordering takeout at home: Eat one slice of pizza instead of two, and order a small instead of a medium to split among the family so the pieces are smaller.
  4. Watching movies at home or at the theatre:  Don’t eat while watching TV or a movie or when you’re on the computer. It’s harder to control how much you’re eating if you don’t pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth, and when. At the movies, share a box of popcorn, and avoid the free-refill tubs and skip the candy.
  5. At snack time: Never eat straight from the bag or box. Measure out snacks, including fruits and veggies, into appropriate portion sizes before giving them to your kids.
  6. All the time: Tracking your calories helps you monitor your weight. It helps to know what the appropriate serving size is so you can correctly estimate the calories in your portions, especially if you dine out a lot. Using a food diary can help you pay closer attention to what you’re eating, how much and how often.

You may be surprised to learn these are serving sizes:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • ½ cup rice or pasta (cooked)
  • 1 small piece of fruit (super-large apples are 2+ servings)
  • 1 wedge of melon
  • ¾ cup fruit juice
  • =1 cup milk or yogurt
  • 2 oz. cheese (about the size of a domino)
  • 2-3 oz. meat, poultry or fish (this is about the size of a deck of cards)
 March 21, 2017