Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

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


1 Comment

7 Spices Loaded with Serious Flavor—And Incredible Health Benefits

by Michelle Pellizzon for Thrive Market    November 9, 2015 

Cayenne pepper really hit its prime in the early aughts. When Giselle Bundchen credited cayenne with helping maintain her slim, Victoria’s Secret-worthy figure, the spice was suddenly stylish.
It’s almost too easy—just a pinch of some magic powder and suddenly you’re a fat-burning machine? Well maybe not a machine, but fiery cayenne does seem to have an effect on increasing the metabolism. It’s well documented that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that give Advil a run for its money, and cinnamon is coveted amongst those with metabolic disorders thanks to its blood sugar-lowering effect.

The rest of your spice rack isn’t to be overlooked—there are some superfood seasonings hidden in the pantry that are worthy of a little more love. Put down the salt and start cooking with these spices—your blood pressure, waistline, and tastebuds will thank you.

Paprika

Sweet, spicy, smoky—paprika comes in tons of different flavors and varieties, but it’s always a vibrant brick red. Thanks to its plenitude of antioxidants that impart its quintessential color, paprika is also full of vitamins A and E. Together, they fight free radical damage in the body, but vitamin A also promotes cell growth and recovery, which supports anti-aging.

Fennel

With its distinct taste and smell, fennel is often loved or loathed. If you fall into the latter category, this classic Italian seasoning is worth your adoration—full of phytonutrients, fennel has been proven to have anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects. A special phytonutrient called anethole found in fennel has been linked to slowing the growth of cancer cells and apoptosis, or cell death, in breast cancer cells. Additionally, fennel’s antioxidants can help reverse damage to liver cells… So after a really rough night out, look to this spice to help heal your hangover.

Cloves

Especially popular in some of the most beloved holiday foods—gingerbread, hot toddies, and pumpkin pie, to name a few—cloves are a warming and aromatic addition to any dish. Along with their lovely flavor, cloves impart another interesting element to dishes: eugenol. A compound found specifically in clove oil, eugenol is incredibly effective at protecting the body from external toxins found in the environment, like carbon tetrachloride. It’s also a potent natural pesticide, so mixing a little clove oil into your lotion can ward off annoying mosquitos and bugs.

spicerack

 

Bay Leaves

You don’t really realize how important bay leaves are to Grandma’s chicken noodle soup, your favorite bolognese sauce, or classic cooked beans until you accidentally forget to throw one into the mix. When you do overlook these dried leaves, it’s clear that something is missing. Although the pungent, almost bittersweet flavor of bay leaves isn’t necessarily appetizing on its own, when added into dishes and left to simmer, they impart a little extra depth and dimension. Plus, as it turns out, these leaves also bring some pharmacological properties to the table.

Even dried, bay leaves help the digestive system function properly, acting as a diuretic and eliminating toxins. They also contain a plethora of B-vitamins that support the nervous system to increase energy and amp up the metabolic rate.

Thyme

Whether fresh or dried, thyme deserves a permanent place in your pantry, especially during the fall and winter months. The woody and aromatic herb has been used for centuries in aromatherapy to treat illness, but it’s proven over time to be a powerful antimicrobial treatment. In fact, thyme actually encourages a healthy immune system by increasing white blood cell formation. Next time you feel a chill coming on, throw some thyme into almost any savory dish to reap the immune-boosting benefits of this spice.

Black pepper

Try not to roll your eyes. Black pepper—no duh! Of course you already know about this spice. But before you skim to the next incredible ingredient, reconsider black pepper for its fat-burning powers. Yep, you read that right. That freshly ground black pepper you’ve been declining at restaurants for years can actually help your body break down fat cells. Plus, pepper raises core body temperature, forcing the body to eliminate toxins via sweat.

Nutmeg

Too often, nutmeg is relegated to holiday treats (what’s up, eggnog), but there are plenty of reasons to throw nutmeg into your cooking all year round. Nutmeg has long been used as a home remedy for insomnia—and there’s actually something to this old wives tale.

This spice has a high magnesium content, which has been proven to help those who suffer through restless nights fall asleep and relax far more easily than normally. The powerful antioxidants myristicin and elemicin found in nutmeg fight inflammation and pain, and some researchers believe actually slow down the deterioration of neural pathways in the brain. Slow down aging and maintain memory for a long time? Sounds like it’s time to start adding nutmeg to every morning cup of joe.


1 Comment

6 Brain-Boosting Foods That Should Be In Every Kitchen

When you’re retraining your brain — trying to acquire a new habit or pick up a new skill — you’d be surprised by the little things that can have a big impact on your brain’s overall health and function. One of the most important things you can do for your brain’s health is eat brain-boosting foods.
Of course, people who are already taking on a brain regimen of some sort already have enough on their plates without adding meal preparation with exotic ingredients only found in specialty grocery stores. So here are six foods you can find at any neighborhood grocery store that will help you retrain your brain.

1. Coconut oil

Why eat it? There are so many advantages to swapping out the cooking oil in your house with coconut oil. One of the biggest is that coconut oil has a much higher heat tolerance than other oils packed with good-for-you fats (like olive oil). That means it remains stable at higher heats, retaining more of the beneficial fats.

Coconut oil is also a rich source of medium-chain triglycerides, which are broken down into ketones, an ideal brain food, in the liver.

How to eat it: Use coconut oil in any of your recipes that call for oil. If you don’t care for the flavor, just a little bit of salt goes a long way in cutting that tropical taste.

2. Turmeric root

Why eat it? One reason brain function declines is the oxidation and inflammation of the neurons in your brain. A compound in turmeric called curcumin inhibits a neurotoxin that’s been linked to neurodegenerative disorders and shows promise as both an anti-oxidation and anti-inflammatory agent.

How to eat it: Fresh turmeric root probably isn’t the most grocery-store friendly, but you’ll definitely find it in the spice aisle. It’s got a peppery, almost mustard-like flavor and will turn just about anything it’s in contact with a lovely golden color. You’ll see it used in Indian and African cuisine, so choosing recipes from those areas of the world is a good way to start experimenting with turmeric.

turmeric

3. Blueberries

Why eat it? You’re probably already heard that blueberries are high in antioxidants, which certainly helps promote brain health. They also contain flavonoids, compounds which are thought to enhance memory. Flavonoids have been shown to enhance spatial memory in both animals and humans, and fruit-derived flavonoids are thought to be especially potent, making blueberries a perfect choice.

How to eat it: Blueberries are great for breakfast in oatmeal, yogurt, a smoothie or part of a fruit salad. They’re tasty tossed in a salad at any time of day and you can make some decadent desserts using these little brain-food bombs. You can even toss them into a container and bring them along as a snack food.

4. Broccoli

Why eat it? Broccoli is one of the most popular vegetables in the US, so hopefully you already know that it can be delicious when it’s not boiled within an inch of its life. It’s also contains lots of lignans, which have been shown to benefit assorted brain functions such as thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining and learning new words. They’re also high in glucosinolates, which help promote levels of acetylcholine, a vital neurotransmitter in the central nervous system.

How to eat it: Don’t boil broccoli until it stinks up your house. It’s delicious lightly steamed, roasted in the oven, sauteed with some healthy oils or even finely chopped and served raw in a broccoli salad.

5. Green Tea

Why drink it? We’ve known for a while that green tea is another food high in antioxidants, but recent research also indicates that a green tea extract enhances cognitive function, particularly in the working memory of the brain.

How to drink it: Unlike black tea, green tea is best made with not-quite-boiling water and steeped only for one to two minutes. Green tea mixes and blends are also available: green-and-white blends or jasmine green tea are smooth options that will tolerate boiling water for tea novices. And if you don’t like hot tea, you can always drink it iced and infused with some honey, mint or both.

6. Black Pepper

Why eat it? Black pepper is the most widely used spice on the planet. And in the past couple of years, we’ve learned that it can also have significant benefits for your brain. Piperine, an active compound in black pepper, can help inhibit the breakdown of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters crucial to brain health and mood regulation. Piperine also appears to help control the flow of calcium in the brain, which gives the compound anti-seizure effects.

How to eat it: Fresh-cracked black pepper is much tastier and more beneficial than the already-cracked versions you can buy in stores. So buy a pepper grinder if you don’t already have some and keep it on your table. Crack fresh black peppercorns over anything that strikes your fancy.

by Lisa Wimberger       November 30, 2014                     source: www.mindbodygreen.com

 


Leave a comment

5 Spices That Should Be In Every Home

Maria Marlowe    November 28, 2012

Ditch the table salt and irradiated ground black pepper! It’s time to improve your spice rack with delicious and aromatic flavors that will not only enhance your dishes, but improve your health, too.

Here are 5 spices you should add to your table and sprinkle daily:

1. Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

Table salt has gotten a bad rap, and with good reason: It’s chemically cleaned and stripped of its minerals, leaving just sodium chloride, which is hard for our bodies to break down and leaves us with excess fluid in our body tissue.

Pink Himalayan Salt, on the other hand, contains 84 essential minerals, alkalizes the pH of your cells, balances electrolytes, and is anti-aging. Many doctors and nutritionists believe an acidic pH is the cause of many diseases, so a sprinkle of this may help thwart disease by neutralizing your pH. Get the coarse crystals to grind fresh over your meals. The taste is phenomenal and will certainly enhance any dish or salad.

2. Fresh Cracked Black Peppercorns

Did you know most ground black pepper is blasted with radiation before it lands on store shelves? That’s done to keep the pepper fresher for longer, although it has the unfortunate side effect of making it less nutritious.

Instead opt for a whole black peppercorns and grind over a dish just before serving for the best flavor and the highest nutritional value. Black pepper improves digestion, promotes intestinal health, and has antioxidant properties.

Black Pepper

3. Turmeric

What can’t this spice do? Turmeric is a powerful detoxifier and anti-inflammatory that also exhibits antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activity, which helps protect you against many diseases, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and other chronic illnesses. Add to soups or sprinkle over salads.

4. Cinnamon

This aromatic and warming spice stabilizes your blood sugar, and helps lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol. In Ayurveda, cinnamon is used to treat indigestion, colds, and diabetes. Sprinkle over oatmeal, cereal, or in your tea.

5. Cumin

Cumin is high in iron, a mineral needed for energy and immune function. You get 15% of your daily suggested value in just 1 teaspoon. It also helps digestion and has anti-carcinogenic properties. A potent antioxidant, research shows it can even help prevent cancer. Sprinkle over legumes, brown rice, or salad. Cumin pairs well with turmeric and black pepper.