Tuesday, 25 October 2016 16:41

How To Stay Young and Hot Forever

Hello, fountain of youth! Beat the clock with these amazing, completely natural age erasers that boost brain power, stop stress, and smooth skin. Staying young and beautiful forever used to be science fiction, but fiction is rapidly becoming reality, thanks to new research.  Yesterday’s interest focused on disease management; today’s new frontier is averting sickness and aging altogether.  Getting older — without being doomed to wrinkle-dom and jiggly thighs — does not require a high-priced trainer and a bucket o' Botox. I swear it.

Thursday, 20 October 2016 11:07

Should We Worry About Cholesterol?

Belief in the high cholesterol myth has caused us to take our eye off the ball when it comes to preventing heart disease. This belief has caused us to ignore the real causes of heart disease while obsessively focusing on a harmless molecule that’s essential for life and has only a minor role in heart disease.

And you should care about all this for two reasons. One, the cholesterol myth has been the basis of dietary advice people have been saddled with for the past thirty years, “official” dietary advice that has directly contributed to the greatest epidemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in history.

8 Cholesterol Myths Your Doctor Still Believes

Here are eight of my favorite cholesterol myths.

MYTH: High cholesterol is the cause of heart disease.

FACT: Cholesterol is a fairly insignificant player in heart disease.

MYTH: High cholesterol is a good predictor of heart attacks.

FACT: High cholesterol is a lousy predictor of heart attacks. Half the people admitted to hospitals with heart disease or for heart surgery have normal cholesterol, and plenty of people with elevated cholesterol have perfectly healthy hearts.

MYTH: Lowering cholesterol with statin drugs will prolong your life.

FACT: There is no data showing statins have any impact on longevity. In virtually all of the studies, the people taking statins have a couple of less deaths from heart disease and a couple of more deaths from other causes like cancer, making the total number of lives saved… let’s see.. that would be zero.

MYTH: Statin drugs are perfectly safe.

FACT: Statin drugs have significant side effects, including loss of memory and libido, muscle pain and fatigue, and approximately 65% of doctors don’t report those side effects.

MYTH: Statin drugs are appropriate for men, women, children and the elderly.

FACT: The only group in which statins have been shown to have even a modest effect is in middle-aged men who’ve already had a heart attack. If you’re not in that group, you’ve got no business on a statin drug.

MYTH: Saturated fat is dangerous.

FACT: Saturated fat is mostly neutral and may even have some health benefits. Recent peer-reviewed studies have shown no association of saturated fat with heart disease.

MYTH: The higher your cholesterol, the shorter your lifespan.

FACT: In the Framingham Study, the people who actually lived the longest had the highest cholesterol.

MYTH: A high carbohydrate diet protects you from heart disease.

FACT: Diets that substitute carbohydrates for saturated fat actually increase the risk for heart disease.

What is cholesterol?

Total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides are the blood fats commonly viewed as risk factors for heart disease. To our minds, the only two important ones are triglycerides and HDL. The most meaningful lipid value predictor of heart disease risk is clearly the ratio of triglycerides divided by HDL. A number over 5 warns of increased risk; a number below 5 is a good sign, and the further below, the better. As to total cholesterol numbers, even in people with extreme levels of cholesterol, the incidence of heart attack is not worse than in people with lower numbers, making it questionable to worry about total cholesterol or LDL.

The common practice of putting everybody on a statin who has an LDL reading over 5 mmol/L is insanity. That’s particularly true for women, in whom not a single shred of evidence exists that lowering cholesterol with a statin does any good whatsoever. Moreover, cholesterol is a molecule of critical importance, produced by the liver, the gut, and every single cell in the body. If it were the evil you’ve probably been led to believe it to be, why would every cell in the body produce it?

Cholesterol is a very misunderstood molecule

And though many people might not be aware of it, there has long been a vocal minority of doctors, researchers and health professionals who believe that cholesterol and fat have been wrongly convicted as the primary promoters of heart disease.

Along with a growing body of fellow health professionals, I believe that this emphasis on cholesterol has caused us to take our attention off what I believe to be the true promoters of heart diseases – inflammation, oxidative damage, stress, and sugar.

Cholesterol is needed for life

It’s the parent molecule for all the major sex hormones, including estrogen, progesterone. and testosterone. It’s needed for the immune system, and it’s needed for the brain. (In fact, one of the most serious side effects of cholesterol-lowering medication is memory loss.)

Trying to prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol is like trying to reduce calories by taking the lettuce off your double cheeseburger. It’s not that the lettuce doesn’t have any calories – it’s that lettuce is the wrong target.

And cholesterol is the wrong target if you’re trying to prevent heart disease.

Neither cholesterol nor fat is the major villain in today's diet – sugar is. The case against cholesterol, which was made nearly 30 years ago, was based on faulty evidence. Continuing to believe that saturated fat causes heart disease, cholesterol clogs your arteries, and statin drugs are the 21st century’s version of penicillin—costs all of us. The belief in the dangers of cholesterol allow doctors to continue to practice medicine as a paint-by-numbers affair, allows them to continue treating numbers rather than patients, blood tests rather than diseases, and symptoms rather than causes.

Your cholesterol is high? Get out the script pad. Never mind the fact that statin drugs have only been shown to be beneficial (and modestly so at that) in middle-aged men with previous heart disease. Never mind that there’s not a single research study showing a single woman’s life has ever been extended by statin drugs. Never mind that research shows that higher cholesterol is protective in older people. Never mind that we’re measuring cholesterol with old-fashioned, out-of-date tests. Never mind that several major studies published in conservative journals like the Annals of Internal Medicine and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  have exonerated saturated fat of any involvement in heart disease.

And never mind that the side-effect profile of statin drugs includes memory loss, muscle pain, fatigue, and loss of libido. (Is it really a coincidence that we have an epidemic of “erectile dysfunction” in middle-aged men precisely when millions of those same men are on statin drugs? Maybe it is. But it doesn’t pass the smell test.)

We’ve been on the wrong track in our attempts to extend life by lowering this critical, vital molecule. The dietary recommendations of the last forty years have been built on a house of cards that crumbled when saturated fat was found “not guilty”.

The true promoters of heart disease—and practically every other degenerative disease you don’t want to get—are inflammation, stress, and oxidation. By obsessively focusing on cholesterol, we’ve taken our collective eyes off the things that really matter when it comes to health.

Sugar—not fat—has always been the culprit in the modern diet.

 

To understand the cholesterol myth, check out: Heart of the Matter Part 1 Dietary Villains https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGIGXfIDaJo and Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AY4eTGMe-EY  

For much, much more, check out “The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease and the Statin-Free Plan that Will” written by Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, aka “The Rogue Nutritionist”™, and co-authored with cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD of “The Great Cholesterol Myth”.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016 20:48

2-Ingredient Chocolate Pudding

This 2-Ingredient Chocolate Pudding couldn’t be easier to make. All you need is dark chocolate and coconut milk. This chocolate pudding is rich, thick, and incredibly mousse like. You can use any dark 70 to 85% chocolate and sweeten with stevia or xylitol, if you wish.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

1 can full-fat coconut milk

1 cup chocolate chips or dark chocolate pieces 70-85% (5 ounces)

Instructions

In a saucepan, heat coconut milk and chocolate over very low heat

Stir constantly until chocolate is melted

Divide mixture between six ½ cup mason jars

Refrigerate for 3 hours

Recipe adapted from Elanaspantry.com

 

 

Friday, 14 October 2016 11:10

5 Surprising Side Effects of Not Pooping!

We all poop but we hardly ever talk about it. When was the last time you sat down and talked to a friend—or even your doctor—about what your poop looks like? If you're like most people, the answer is never.

That silence hasn't just left us in the dark about our toilet-time activities, but constipation is something that you and I should really talk about.

After all, 63 million Americans report having sluggish bowels. Chronic constipation affects 15-30% of Canadians and is commonly found in young children and the elderly, occurring more frequently in females than in males. So odds are that you - or somebody you know and care about - may be having problems in the poop department!

In addition, constipation isn’t merely a painful inconvenience. It can affect many areas of your health and wellbeing, sometimes in very unexpected ways.

Find out five of the top, unexpected side effects of constipation, and how you can take measures today to get your bowels back in good working order!

First, What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Constipation?

There is a broad disparity in what is considered to be ‘normal’ in terms of bowel habits.

As a very general rule, constipation is classified as having less than three bowel movements per week. Other warning signs can include:

Straining to pass a bowel movement,

Feelings of incomplete defecation (i.e. feeling like you may need to go a bit more, even once you’ve finished),

Having small, dry and/or hard stools,

Experiencing a feeling of ‘fullness’ in your rectum.

(If you notice any of the above symptoms or a change from your usual bowel habits, it’s always best to get this checked out.)

This is clearly an unpleasant situation to deal with in the bathroom, but did you know that constipation could be affecting your life and health in other ways as well?

1. Constipation Can Trigger Headaches (Or Is At Least Associated With Them)

Headaches can be caused by many things, and specialists have now included constipation to the list of possible underlying factors.

Why? The first probable reason is stress. Being able to poop properly is an essential human function that’s very easy to take for granted...until it’s taken away from you.

The pain, inconvenience, worry and pressure of being constipated - and feeling your insides continue to fill up, obstruct and bloat - can truly cause a lot of stress. This anxiety, can in turn, trigger tension headaches.

Also, a very frequent cause of constipation is dehydration. Your bowels need an adequate supply of water to produce soft stools. When you’re not drinking enough water, fecal matter can become dry and compacted, creating the hard ‘rabbit pellets’ of poop that are common with constipation.

In this instance, while constipation does not directly cause headaches, the related dehydration can. So by drinking more water, you may get a double relief from constipation and headaches!

Finally, there is some confirmation that headaches may be induced from toxin buildup during constipation. Your bowels are a key channel for your body to eliminate toxic materials; if this waste is idle for longer than it should, it may be reabsorbed back into the body and trigger headaches.

2. Constipation Can Cause Breakouts!

Experts recognize the link between what happens in our gut and what shows up on our skin.

Essentially, constipation can be a sign that your inner eco-system of gut flora is a little strained. And when our friendly flora isn’t in tip-top shape,  it can reveal more than just constipation. Eventually, your skin can suffer too.

Skin conditions such as puffiness, acne, dark circles under the eyes and even rashes can be set off from internal gut issues.

Your skin is your body’s largest organ and is involved in some function of elimination. So, toxins that enter the body through unhealthy foods, or accumulate during constipation, can cause zits and other blemishes.

As a result, if your body can’t get rid of toxins through the normal route (i.e. the bowels), it may break out via your skin instead!

3. Constipation Can Make You Lose Your Appetite

It is common for many people with constipation to lose their appetite.

But please let it be known that this is not an effective weight-loss strategy! (Besides, constipation often causes a bloated and distended abdomen, which probably doesn’t go hand-in-hand with the goals of dieting!)

The type of appetite loss that goes along with chronic constipation is not an enjoyable form of hunger suppression. Rather, it is a persistent dissatisfaction that makes eating food feel like a total ‘turn off’ and real effort. Kinda like that weak, ‘off-food’ feeling you get after being sick - it’s not an energizing experience!

You see, the digestive system is a finely-tuned, well-honed machine of interrelated parts that is continually feeding messages back to the brain and your organs. Every time you eat a meal, special nerves that line the inside of your stomach are stretched, which triggers something called a mass movement.

A mass movement?! “What Is THAT?”

Well, have you ever noticed that, often, you feel the urge to poo within half an hour of eating a big meal? That is the magic of a mass movement in action! As you eat, nerves in your stomach stretch and neuronal signals are transmitted to your bowels to say,

“Hey down there! We’ve got another load coming through - it’s time to move things along.”

Your intestines are intended to react by propelling food further through your digestive tract, hence the need to visit the toilet.

With constipation, this feedback loop is interrupted. Instead of clearing space, your brain and stomach get signals that things are backed up. Just like any production line, it’s unproductive to keep adding more into the mix until congestion has cleared.

In other words, your body can shut down the urge to eat (i.e. put more in) until it’s taken care of the other side of the equation (i.e. what’s going out). 

4. Constipation Can Give You Hemorrhoids (Ouch!)

Constipation is characterized by a straining feeling when you attempt a bowel movement.

Just like any muscle that is trying to carry a workload that is heavier than its capacity, there’s going to be some wear and tear.

The span of our intestines is covered by smooth muscle fibers that push food and waste along our digestive tract. When these muscles are put under pressure (such as during prolonged constipation), they also exert additional force on the veins which line the rectum.

During constipation, these veins can be extended beyond their normal ability, so that they are no longer able to hold their shape. From time to time, they no longer can stay within the internal cavity and stick out from the anus.  This can be painful, indeed!

5. Can Constipation Give You Bad Breath?

According to one study, yes!

This study explains that almost one-quarter of bad breath may be credited to constipation! Other reports point out that people with constipation frequently notice a bad taste in the mouth or persistent episodes of bad breath.

The reasons for this link are not fully understood. However, one hypothesis is that constipation may lead to the propagation of toxic gut bacteria, which produce stinking gasses. Kinda weird to think of these gasses floating up into your mouth, right?

Ways To Treat Constipation

As you can make out, there are many things that can cause constipation. As with any multifactor health issue, there are many aspects which can help.

Once you’ve ruled out any underlying medical issues or food intolerances, here are some diet and lifestyle approaches that can be very helpful at treating constipation:

Don’t Hold On:  Don't ‘put off’ going once you feel the urge.

Exercising Regularly: Physical activity drives blood flow to the entire digestive tract and can also encourage a bowel movement.

Lower Your Stress Levels: Stress and your emotional condition as a very real influence on digestion. If you think about it, we even recognize this such as feeling ‘butterflies in your tummy’ and being ‘sick to the stomach’. Chronic stress can produce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and disagreeable digestive disorders such as constipation. Meditation, yoga, massage, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, aromatherapy, and homeopathy are great stress reducing tools.

Dial Up Your Fiber Intake: It is believed that our ancestors ate up to 100g of fiber per day, whereas the average modern human consumes less than 14g daily. Increase your daily intake with high-fiber foods such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, chia, (soaked and activated) quinoa and brown rice, organic prunes, soaked legumes and fresh produce. Just start bit by bit, though, as the bowel often doesn’t like an abrupt change in fiber intake!

Stay Well Hydrated: Hydration is one of the influential factors as to how soft your stool will be.

Mind Your Medications: Certain antidepressants and NSAID medications can set off constipation. In fact, some supplements can, too! (Particularly iron and calcium carbonate.) It can be useful to check if any pills you currently take may be contributing to the problem.

Take a Probiotic and Eat More Fermented Foods.  One study found that levels of the good bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria were considerably higher in people who didn’t experience constipation. Therefore, you can top up your levels of good bacteria with a high-quality probiotic supplement and a regular hit of fermented foods!

Constipation shouldn’t be a taboo subject; it affects a lot of people and can seriously impact your health.

 

 

Friday, 07 October 2016 11:38

Coconut Curry Soup

Fall is upon us in the northern hemisphere, and many of us are noticing an extra chill in the air. This scrumptious and savory coconut curry soup includes a warming mix of spices: ginger, curry, chili, and garlic. The combination is both sweet and savory, and the extra kick makes this dish particularly unique.

Ingredients

1 young Thai coconut (flesh and water, about one cup of flesh and 1 1/2 cups of water) or 1 can of organic Thai coconut milk mixed with 1 can of water

1 thin carrot, cut into chunks

1 small clove garlic

1 tsp fresh ginger

2 tsp curry powder

1/2 Thai chili pepper, seeds removed

2 Tbsp green onion, chopped

2 Persian cucumbers, julienned to form noodles

1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks

1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

1/2 cup water (more or less to desired consistency; if using fresh coconut)

(optional) 1/2 Tbsp lime juice

Instructions

 Fill two medium bowls with the sliced vegetables (bell pepper, cucumber noodles, and cilantro).

Blend remaining of the ingredients in the blender. For warm soup, blend about two minutes, pour over vegetables and serve immediately. For chilled soup, blend until creamy, pour over vegetables and refrigerate until cool. Serve at desired temperature.

Right before serving, sprinkle soup with cilantro.

Coconut - the Good Food

You’ve likely heard buzz about the nutritional value of coconuts, and for good reason. Coconuts are excellent for boosting immunity. They have antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial and anti-parasitic qualities, which means they fight harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Consuming coconuts in any of its various forms — raw coconut, coconut oil, coconut milk or coconut butter — can help treat many ailments brought about by pathogens.

Coconut is also excellent for oral rehydration. Full of electrolytes, coconut is especially useful for hydration in patients who have had their colons removed, or those with colitis, Crohn’s Disease or gastroenteritis. Furthermore, coconuts are a delicious source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, calcium, and fiber.

This coconut curry soup can be served chilled or warm. A bowl of soup makes a refreshing and light lunch, or serve it alongside a crisp salad for a full meal. Consider adding a splash of lime for an extra citrus boost. It’s a delicious way to welcome fall!

Thursday, 06 October 2016 21:38

Why It's So Freaking Hard To Eat Healthy

Most people have a hard time shifting to a healthier diet, and they don’t realize what’s going on.

Why? Because many of us use foods to meet many of our needs, and taking the food away means that you have no way of dealing with some difficult issues.

Food is a coping mechanism for most people, and to improve our health, we need to adopt new ways of coping.

Some examples of how we use food to deal with life:

  • We eat when we’re stressed.
  • We eat when we’re sad or depressed.
  • We eat as a reward when we’ve done something good.
  • We eat to socialize.
  • We eat because we’re bored.
  • We eat because we’re angry
  • We eat for pleasure.
  • We eat for love. We often associate food with love (our moms might have given us food lovingly as kids, or our lover used it to romance us), and so eating becomes a substitute for love.

All of these (and more) are real desires. We all need love and pleasure and rewards, and ways of dealing with stress, boredom, sadness, loneliness, anger and frustration. For many of us, food has become the easy way of meeting all those needs — and we can’t just take away the food without finding a healthier replacement. If we do, we’ll quickly plunge back into our old habits.

It takes a lot of self-awareness to figure this out and to slowly build new, healthier habits to deal with all of these needs. We have to consciously build up some standby methods that will work better for you and without the self-sabotage and the guilt.

Some things that have worked for me (your mileage will vary):

  • Exercise – a great way to deal with stress, boredom, anger.
  • Meditation – excellent way of calming the mind.
  • Tea – also great for stress, boredom, and anger.
  • People – I’ve learned to get my love from friends and family, and to use them as ways of dealing with my tougher emotions — talking with them, working out with them, simply spending time with them.
  • Cleaning – decluttering.
  • Solitude – Solitude is a great way to deal with tougher emotions (you learn to work out your problems instead of avoiding them by eating food), and solitude can be a reward as well.

These are just a few suggestions, and what works best for you will be highly personal. The notion is to figure out what you’ll do beforehand — before the need arises, or it’ll be too late — and then learn to be aware of these emotional triggers as they happen. When they do happen, very consciously do the new habit instead of the old. It’ll take practice to form the new habit, especially as you’ll probably forget sometimes.

Food has become so many things to us, as individual people and as a society. It’s how we socialize, celebrate holidays, watch sports, show love, find comfort, and deal with pain. And yet, that’s not always healthy: we are getting fatter and fatter because of this addiction, and it’s time we rethink this strategy for coping and loving.

I should note that this idea is the same for any other addiction: biting your nails, smoking, drugs, alcohol, etc. We use them as crutches to cope with our demands, and to beat them we need to find healthier methods of coping and meeting our needs.

Women shouldn't be afraid of their body’s naturally produced hormones! Your hormones are a vital element of your overall biological makeup. Hormones travel throughout the body coordinating complex processes like growth, metabolism, body temperature, hunger, moods, calcium regulation, blood sugar levels and fertility.  They are necessary to the healthy functioning all of your body systems, not just your reproductive system.  

Monday, 12 September 2016 19:51

Red Pepper and Coconut Soup

This is the tastiest soup I have ever eaten in my life. It’s really sophisticated and unusual. I whipped this up this weekend in my pressure cooker. Ready in 20 minutes. Honestly it’s delicious, but don’t be tempted to increase the curry paste as it will spoil the delicate flavour.

 

Wednesday, 07 September 2016 19:24

Lemony Cashew Parsley Dip

This awesome recipe is adapted from HEMSLEY + HEMSLEY. They recently released their second cookbook – which is available worldwide.  For anyone who lives on hummus and needs a change, this recipe is for you! This creamy dip makes a great snack or starter served with plenty of fresh vegetables or scooped into crisp lettuce leaves. It’s perfect as part of a mezze-style platter or thin it out with extra oil and lemon juice to toss through salads and drizzle over baked fish and roast chicken. Parsley and lemon are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, while protein and fat rich cashews make this dip deliciously filling. Stick to unroasted and unsalted cashews and soak for at least a couple of hours to make them not only easier to blend but easier to digest.

Wednesday, 07 September 2016 15:20

8 Ways We Sabotage Weight Loss

Do you eat well most of the time, but just can’t seem to lose those stubborn pounds especially if you are over 50? It could be that you are not eating the right foods. From long experience I can tell you that it is difficult for many women to lose weight in the peri- and post-menopausal years, especially the peri-menopausal years, without some hormonal balancing.

Here are a few common issues you need to understand about your metabolism to start revving up your fat-burning furnace. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016 09:36

Kale, Candied Bacon & Roasted Beet Salad

This unique salad is absolutely delicious. You seriously have to try this.  The recipe is adapted from Juli Bauer at www.PaleOmg.com.  I purchased her second fabulous cookbook -  The Paleo Kitchen co-authored with George from Civilized Caveman, which boast great breakfast, lunch, and dinner entrees.   

 

  • I½ pound bacon 
  • 3 tablespoons maple or coconut sugar 

  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon 

  • 9 beets (3 red, 3 golden, 3 Chioggia), peeled and thinly sliced 

  • 2 tablespoons ghee, melted 

  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt Hepp's Roasted Garlic Salt 

  • 1 bundle kale, ribs removed and leaves thinly sliced (the thinner sliced, the better) 

  • ½ cup sliced almonds 

  • 2-4 ounces herb goat cheese (optional) 

For the dressing 

  • juice of 1½ lemons 

  • zest of ½ lemon 

  • ⅓ cup olive oil 

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 

  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard 

  • pinch of salt and black pepper 

Instructions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a cooling rack on top and spray or grease with coconut oil. Place maple/coconut sugar and cinnamon in a dish and mix. Place strips of bacon in the sugar and completely coat then place on the cooling rack. Put in oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, until crispy. Keep an eye on it since oven temperatures can range. Once crispy, remove from oven and set aside. 

  1. Turn oven temperature up to 400 degrees and line another baking sheet with foil. Brush each beet slice on both sides with melted ghee, place on baking sheet then sprinkle with garlic salt. Place in oven to bake for 15 minutes, flip side then bake for 15 more minutes. 

  1. When the beets are almost done cooking, place thinly sliced kale in a large bowl. Place all ingredients for the dress in a jar and shake until completely combine. Pour dressing over kale and massage with your hands to completely coat the kale and help break it down. 

  1. Chop bacon and top the salad with beets, bacon, almonds, and goat cheese! 

 

You know the triggers. The pint of Ben and Jerry ice cream screaming your name. The Oreo cookies tormenting your self-control.  The nacho tray and the pint-sized cold beer melting your willpower during happy hour.

No matter how much you try to muffle the image of the food you are craving out of your mind, the picture grows bigger and more insistent. Within minutes, your stomach feels empty even though you just ate an hour ago.  In fact, everyone suffers under the spell of food cravings at one time, or another, with some feeling it more often and more profoundly than others.

But do we really understand why? You probably already know that food cravings can have little to do with hunger pangs, but you may not be aware of how they work. Cravings have both natural and emotional mechanism.

The most frequent foods we crave are sugar, carbohydrates (hello, chocolate covered pretzels!), chocolate, salt and, for some, cheese. First, let’s address the main reasons for these cravings, and then I’ll share a few useful tips for defeating them.

Studies have proven that junk food can be just as addicting as heavy recreational drugs.  In fact, the same part of the brain that is stimulated by these drugs is triggered by the sight, smell, and taste of those appetizing foods you crave. To make the problem even trickier, food marketing companies take advantage of our obsessions by mingling fats and sugar in ways that intentionally fire-up our brains, which activates the release of natural opioids and give us a sense of pleasure—a kind of mini-high.  Indeed, areas of the brain linked with drug craving light up when people crave a specific food. 

If cravings have a spell on you, let’s look at some causes for food cravings...

The facts of Food Cravings

Leptin Resistance

Meet leptin - the "master hormone" that regulates body weight, is a hormone your body manufactures in your fat cells.  Its main job is to arouse your appetite and tell you when you’re full. It is often referenced as the “satiety hormone” or the “starvation hormone.”

Leptin’s main target is in the brain, predominantly an area called the hypothalamus.

Leptin is supposed to tell the brain that we have enough fat stored, that we don’t need to eat, and that we can burn calories at a normal rate. However, leptin’s main role is long-term regulation of energy balance…determines how many calories we need to eat and expend, and how much fat we store on our bodies. This system evolved to keep us from starving or overeating.

The problem starts when continuous surges of leptin trick your brain into feeling hungry, even when you’re not. What causes this? One offender is having too much body fat— more fat means more leptin is produced. Another reason is eating a diet high in sugary foods and processed carbs. Whatever the reason, continuous surges of leptin can lead to leptin resistance. Regularly consuming a healthy, unprocessed diet is the optimum way to keep a normal balance of leptin in your body and, therefore, reducing your chances of succumbing to your cravings.

Another hormone that plays a role in cravings is ghrelin - the hunger hormone which yo-yo's up and down before and after a meal.  Evolutionarily, ghrelin is still living from our hunting and gathering days—we still prefer sugar which explains our likelihood of giving in to cravings for comfort foods. 

Ghrelin may also keep us from stopping at just one serving of Haagen Daz rich and creamy ice cream bar. Studies found that ghrelin levels followed a usual rise-and-fall pattern after eating a moderately boring meal, but shoot off the charts after eating yummy deliciousness (specifically, cake with rum syrup, custard, and Nutella) even after the participants were full.  This suggests that ghrelin drives what researchers call “hedonic food consumption,” which is what’s happening when your chocolate croissant feels suspiciously like pastry-wrapped crack.  In a hormonal double whammy, eating for pleasure also went along with decreased levels of the hormone that influences satiety.  This might have been helpful in past millennia, but is not helpful when you work across the street from Krispy Kreme.

Low levels of serotonin

Serotonin is a “feel-good” neurotransmitter produced mainly in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It’s directly linked to our mood, appetite, and digestion. Eating carbs and sugar raises the levels of serotonin, making us feel great, for the short term. So, when our levels are low, that littlie voice in your head thinks, “Oh! That chocolate bar or that bagel smothered in cream cheese is going to fix this!” A low serotonin level can be caused by an array of issues, including poor gut health (90% of serotonin is produced in the gut), alcohol use, depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I don’t know about you, but I’m much more attracted to sugar and crappy junk food when I’m feeling down in the dumps.

Endorphins and Food Addiction

Wolfing down sugary foods, and even salt (hello chips!), amplifies the production of endorphins in your body. Endorphins are in essence, opiates that make us simmer down. So when we feast upon these foods and experience this feeling, we want more––similar to the way drug users get addicted to narcotics. In fact, latest studies suggest that sugar can actually produce the same powerful reaction of gratification as cocaine. Another interesting study examined the addictive qualities of highly processed foods filled with trans- fats and sugar which can set off addictive eating patterns because of their speedy rate of absorption. So the more you can stay away from packaged and processed foods, you will be less likely to have food cravings.

A wonky gut

As previously pointed out, low serotonin levels are associated with cravings, and your gut is the headquarters of serotonin production. With regards to sustaining your warm and fuzzy levels of serotonin, your gut needs to be in tip-top condition so it can soak up nutrients and pump out serotonin through your gastrointestinal tract. This process is significantly dependent on the proper balance of good bacteria. Nourishing your body with vegetables, fruits, fermented foods and taking probiotics can create intestinal "zen" required to calm your cravings.

Emotional Triggers

This is a biggie. Sadness, boredom, stress, poor self-esteem, negative body image (and the list goes on) can set you off scurrying to the pantry. Who doesn’t want a bag of Oreos when you look back on the fight with their partner, a bad, stressful day at work or a painful breakup?   But since food cravings are often short-lived and fade away within 10 minutes, recognizing your mood and emotional triggers and distracting yourself by choosing a better food choice or deciding on a mood-boosting activity will give you enough time while the craving passes.

Better Ways to Outsmart your Cravings

Cravings spell trouble for the most committed of healthy eaters and that’s why you need a more effective strategy than “willpower.”

Take a look at this list of 8 better ways to tackle a craving:

1. Stay hydrated

Make sure you’re drinking at least 8 cups of water a day. Drink water throughout the day to help you stay hydrated and control your hunger.

2. Avoid sugary foods and processed carbs

To avoid leptin surges and blood sugar crashes that increase your appetite, it is important to stay away from very addicting processed carbs and sweets. You can still enjoy yummy treats; just whip them up with lower sugar, higher fiber and higher protein ingredients, like dark chocolate, almond flour, and bean flours. These ingredients won’t spike your blood sugars, trigger a craving and you won't need to fight your appetite. My Super Charged Chocolate Nut Bars and Cocoa Bliss Smoothie recipes are great examples of this strategy.

3. Exercise and stay rested

Rather than relying on French fries and cookies to help you feel relax, energized and happy, go for an invigorating walk and get into bed a little earlier in the evening. These practices create endorphins just like the best tasting caramel corn on the planet!  And exercise will boost your serotonin levels—something that should help you pass over sugar and extra carbs more easily, too.

4. Practice meditation and get your sunshine vitamin

Taking a few minutes every day to meditate and getting 10-15 minutes a day of sunshine or light therapy will spike up your serotonin levels so you’re not reaching for Coffee Crisp bar to turn your mood around.

5. Avoid your food addition trigger for 21 days

 Your brain has an incredible memory! If you aspire to break-off your relationship with food cravings, one of the best behaviors to adopt is to steer clear of eating those foods for a while. Find healthier alternatives to grab when you’re craving candy, cheese or chips— choose healthy fares like low-glycemic smoothies and desserts, fresh berries, guacamole or hummus with veggies or rice crackers and nuts.

6.  Distract Yourself 

A study showed that playing Tetris helped decrease food cravings. But even though it sounds silly, it’s true: if you get a craving out of your head for just a few minutes, you can break its hold on you.  Once you forget about your craving, they rarely come back. So, read a book, watch your favourite television series, look through old photos that make you smile, chat with a friend – and talk about anything but food, do some stretches or yoga, write down your health goals in your success journal, knit, crochet, sew, paint, draw, or do something else to keep your hands busy, clean your house or car, organize a folder on your computer (you know it needs it!), find someone who needs your help and make their day, take a nap.

Any activities will work; the goal is to distract yourself for a while. You will eventually lose the edge of that craving.

7. Make Yourself Happy

One study authored by AJ Hill titled - The psychology of food cravings, discovered that food cravings were not linked with hunger but with depressing moods. People crave sugar when they’re bored, anxious, lonely, or stressed, and it’s not just in your head: munching on junk food does actually make you feel less bad, but just momentarily. Get into the habit of recognizing your negative funk and discover a healthier frame of mind.  Again, don't concentrate on filling the void with food but do something fun just because you want it.

8. Sit With It

This one isn’t easy to do, but can be very liberating. It helps sometimes to just sit quietly and let yourself feel the craving without cutting yourself down or feeling shame. Often, being upset and feeling guilty about the craving is more disappointing than the craving itself; if you can stay calm and accept that it’s happening, suddenly it becomes much more manageable.

Look at the craving with indifference, and repeat to yourself that the craving isn’t you; it’s just a fleeting emotion that you happen to be experiencing right now. It doesn’t make you a bad person or inadequate; it just makes you awesome human being.  Embrace it, don’t try to fight it, and then let it go.

9. Visualize

Visualizing is the well-kept secret of all times. One of the tricks that athletes utilize to gear up for an event is to visualize themselves winning. You can use the same technique to give yourself a little boost: just play a video in your head of yourself the way you would like to be in the face of this craving (strong and committed, completely capable of resisting, confidently walking on the beach in your swimsuit), and focus on what that version of you would be. How would the "perfect-you" cope with this?

Write yourself into a "superstar" role, and you will find that you do have control and the power to choose.

10. Remove Yourself

Sometimes, it helps to just get up and physically remove yourself.  Go somewhere else – preferably somewhere where there is no unhealthy food to prey on you, and then sit down to do something else.

This helps by removing the need to keep fighting that “I-want-to/I-shouldn’t” battle. It’s not even a concern anymore since the food you’re craving is physically unavailable anyway. Now you can use your spiritual energy on other things, and re-examine the situation from a calmer point of view. It’s amazing how much easier it is to turn down pizza when you don’t have to smell it!

11.Work it Out

A surprisingly helpful trick is to promise yourself that you don’t have to make a decision about whether or not you’re going to eat this food right now – you’ll do it when you get back from your walk. Don’t worry about giving in forever; just make an agreement that you’ll put it off for an hour or so while you work out.  While you're exercising, you're releasing those feel-good endorphins.

 

Bear in mind that these recommendations will not help everyone: we’re all individuals, and each person experiences cravings differently. You might have to test a few different tactics before you discover the one that works for you. But even if you struggle the first few times, just take it as an opportunity to learn from that experience - dust yourself off and get right back on the horse!

What’s your favorite tip for busting a junk-food craving? Let me know.