Let the Sun Shine

Heading to the beach in the last days of summer? Be sure to catch as many rays as you can.

Ultraviolet B rays from the sun are a great source of Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin that is necessary for bone health and promotes absorption of calcium. In addition, Vitamin D benefits our hearts, lungs, and brains as well as helps fight infection. (1,2)

Low levels of Vitamin D have been seen to occur in babies who are breastfed, older adults whose skin is less adept at absorbing Ultraviolet B rays and whose kidneys are less efficient at conversion to a usable form; people with dark skin, as higher levels of melanin compete for absorption of Ultraviolet B rays; and obese people, as body fat can prevent Vitamin D from being absorbed. (7,8)

Symptoms of low Vitamin D levels include a sweaty forehead, bone pain, depression, fatigue, poor sleep, and getting sick often. (10) People with low levels of Vitamin D are at risk for developing breast, colon, and prostate cancers; high blood pressure; osteoarthritis; and immune-system disorders. (9)

Our bodies do not produce Vitamin D naturally. Instead, we absorb the vitamin from the sun, ingest it in Vitamin D-rich foods, and sometimes take supplements. (1) We absorb Ultraviolet B rays from the sun through our skin. Generally, only about 25 minutes of sun exposure/day is sufficient to maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D and we don’t need to get a sunburn or even a tan. In fact, even if we wear sunscreen most of the time, we can still absorb the necessary amount of Ultraviolet B rays. (35)

Supplements are another good source for Vitamin D, but proceed with caution as too much Vitamin D can be toxic! Our bodies have a system in place to stop too much Vitamin D being absorbed naturally, but we can take too much in the form of supplements. Symptoms of too much Vitamin D include vomiting, constipation, and dangerous amounts of calcium in the body. (9)

Diet is great source of Vitamin D through fatty fish like tuna and salmon, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, yogurt, mushrooms, and foods fortified with Vitamin D (such as milk, orange juice, and some cereals). (6,7)

Try a few of these Vitamin D-Rich Recipes!

  1. http://www.health.com/health/recipe/0,,10000001996452,00.html
  2. http://www.healthyfood.co.uk/recipe/grilled-salmon-burgers-caper-dressing/

 

References

  1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
  2. https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/what-is-vitamin-d/
  3. https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/how-do-i-get-the-vitamin-d-my-body-needs/
  4. http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20504538,00.html#sunlight-0
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/6-things-you-should-know-about-vitamin-d
  6. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/guide/calcium-vitamin-d-foods
  7. https://medlineplus.gov/vitaminddeficiency.html
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/
  9. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/27/health/27brod.html
  10. http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/vitamin-d-deficiency-symptoms/

Big Fish Benefits-Omega-3s

We’ve all heard about the benefits of fish oil through the years: The oils present in the tissues of certain fish which contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3s), the “essential” fats that are said to contribute to the prevention of heart disease and stroke (1,2), lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, and help in the treatment of kidney disease. This “brain food” is also thought to help in the treatment of depression, bipolar disease, Alzheimer’s, and ADHD. Furthermore, fish oil can be used to treat painful periods, breast pain, and studies have shown it to aid in preventing miscarriage. (3,4)

However, these benefits are still being tested. For example, in March 2017, the American Heart Association stated that fish oil may not prevent heart disease in all people as previously thought. Instead, they have modified their stance to say that fish oil may be useful in preventing heart disease-related death in people who recently suffered heart attack or in patients with heart failure. (5)

Our bodies can’t produce omega-3s themselves, so we need to obtain them from other sources. The best place to get omega-3s is straight from the foods we eat. Wild fish that are high in omega-3s include salmon, tuna, anchovies, sardines, and lake trout. Farm-raised fish can also be high in omega-3s, but can contain higher levels of contaminants, so these should be eaten less often. (3) Additionally, soybean, canola, and flaxseed oils, as well as walnuts, flaxseed, basil, dried oregano, and grape leaves all contain high levels of omega-3s. (3,6)

Fish oil supplements are a great option for people who are on vegan diets or who may not be able to afford fresh fish, which can be expensive.

For all the benefits fish oil is said to have, there can be several adverse effects at high doses, including but not limited to an increase in bleeding in patients with bleeding disorders or who are on drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Fish oil may also affect blood sugar levels and those with hormone imbalance or who are going through hormone therapy should use with caution. Additionally, fish oil may cause bad breath, frequent urination, constipation, gas, and dizziness. (7)

The FDA generally regards omega-3s safe when we eat 1-2 servings of fish per week or supplements are taken at a recommended dosage over the course of 2-3.5 years. (7) In general, healthy adults can safely take between 250 and 3000 mg EPA and DHA (the primary beneficial omega-3s) combined per day. (8) However, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should opt for supplements rather than eating certain fish due to their high mercury levels. (3)

Here are some recipes to get your omega-3s naturally!

  1. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-recipe/basil-and-walnut-pesto-quiche/
  2. http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/oil-poached-tuna-salad
  3. http://skinnyms.com/walnut-crusted-chicken-breasts/

 

References

  1. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-993-fish%20oil.aspx?activeingredientid=993
  2. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/omega-3-fats/
  3. http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/omega-3-fatty-acids-fact-sheet#1
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8305926
  5. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2017/03/13/CIR.0000000000000482
  6. https://www.cardiosmart.org/News-and-Events/2017/04/Experts-Help-Clarify-Who-Should-Take-Fish-Oil-Supplements
  7. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/safety/hrb-20059372
  8. http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-omega-3#section8

Gut Bacteria

Bacteria is everywhere. We are hyper-aware of the dangers of E. coli, Staphylococcus, Listeria, and Salmonella, so we try to make our world as healthy as possible by sanitizing and bleaching them away.

However, bacteria doesn’t only exist in the world around us; it’s inside of us all. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

From birth, every one of us will acquire more than 1000 unique species of bacteria in our gastrointestinal systems, or guts. We get our personal mix of gut bacteria from vaginal vs. caesarian section births; breast milk vs. formula; the bacteria on our family members and in our homes, schools, parks, etc.; and the foods we eat. Basically, we gather our gut bacteria from the world around us. Though most people share some of the same organisms, each one of us has a unique cocktail of gut bacteria that can work for and against our personal health throughout our lives. (1, 2)

The Good and the Bad

Our good bacteria is a wondrous thing. At its most basic function, bacteria aids in food digestion, produces vitamins B and K, and acts as a barrier in the immune system to boost health. (1, 3)

Ninety-five percent of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in the gut, keeping an open line of communication with the brain. Pain, anxiety, mood, hunger, and illness are among the things constantly communicated between brain and gut via serotonin. (4, 5)

Gut bacteria is also seen to have an impact on weight. Recent evidence has shown that the gut bacteria in people of a healthy weight is more varied than that of obese people. A study performed on mice shed a bit more light on the phenomenon: Gut bacteria from sets of human twins with one obese and one lean twin were given to baby mice. When the mice were in separate cages and eating the same diet, those with the obese twin’s bacteria gained more weight. However, when the mice were placed in a cage together, the obese mice began to lose weight as they ingested the lean mice’s feces and acquired their beneficial gut bacteria. (6)

Healthy Gut

The best way to have a healthy gut is to promote a wide variety of bacteria… but how?

Fiber. A great way to boost healthy bacteria in your gut is to eat foods with lots of fiber, which can be digested by certain gut bacteria, causing them to reproduce. High-fiber foods to include in your diet could include raspberries, bananas, pears, whole wheats, barley, bran, split peas, lentils, a variety of beans, artichokes, green peas, and turnip greens. (7) Bonus: Eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies can halt the growth of some bad bacteria. (8)

PRObiotics. Probiotics are the good guys! We can feed our guts the good bacteria through probiotic-rich foods as well as with over-the-counter supplements. Some probiotic-rich foods are kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt and other fermented dairy products, and pickles. (9)

PREbiotic Foods. Prebiotics are “selectively fermented” foods that can boost healthy gut bacteria. (10) Basically, prebiotics feed probiotics so that they can multiply in your gut. Some prebiotic foods are Jerusalem artichokes; dandelion greens; raw garlic, onion, and leeks; avocadoes; peas; and apple cider vinegar. (11)

Feed Your Bacteria. We’ve seen that certain foods, like fiber-rich foods and prebiotics, are better at promoting good bacteria because or bodies don’t digest them. But eating these foods, we are feeding the good bacteria in our guts. Alternatively, when we eat foods that are easily digested by our bodies, we are starving our gut bacteria and they need to find other things to eat… like the lining of our guts, which can lead to inflammation and discomfort. Foods to avoid include sugars, simple carbohydrates, and processed foods. (12)

 

References:

  1. http://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/en/about-gut-microbiota-info/
  2. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-gut-bacteria-help-make-us-fat-and-thin/
  3. http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/news/20140820/your-gut-bacteria#1
  4. http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/health/digestive-system-health/
  5. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=5468
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3829625/
  7. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26757793
  9. http://www.drperlmutter.com/learn/resources/probiotics-five-core-species/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17311983
  11. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-18746/18-prebiotic-rich-foods-for-a-gut-friendly-diet.html
  12. http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/ways-cultivate-good-gut-bacteria-reduce-depression/

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are creating a lot of positive buzz lately. It seems everyone is touting their benefits, but how can we tell if the fermented foods craze is more than just a fad?

Foods like dairy, fruit, and vegetables can be preserved by fermentation, which is the chemical process that breaks down glucose molecules when the foods are exposed to bacteria and yeasts. Beneficial microorganisms feed on the carbohydrates in the foods and reproduce and kill off harmful bacteria. The carbon dioxide gas given off during this process causes the frothing usually associated with fermentation, as in beer. (1, 2)

Some common fermented foods are:

  • Yogurt is essentially milk fermented with bacteria; the word means “tart, thick milk” in Turkish. (3) Cottage cheese, kefir, and sour cream are also fermented milk products.
  • Unpasteurized, “Raw” Sauerkraut is cabbage that has traditionally been fermented by salting and leaving in a de-oxygenated environment for several weeks. (4)
  • Kimchi is a Korean dish made primarily of fermented cabbage, but can also include radish, cucumber, lettuce, and mustard leaves. Most varieties are spicy. (5)
  • Some coffees can be fermented if processed through the “washed process”, wherein coffee beans are fermented in tanks of water. (6)
  • Chocolate and Vanilla are both fermented. To make chocolate, cocoa beans are stored together so that the pulp around the beans can be fermented. The beans can be wrapped in plantain or banana leaves, or stored in wooden boxes, for 5-7 days. (7)

Unpasteurized vinegar can be made from carbohydrate-rich foods such as grapes, apples, and rice. (9)

  • Sourdough bread is fermented with a “starter” (the base for sourdough bread created through a fermentation process in order to cultivate wild yeast from flour) for 12-15 hours, which breaks down gluten in the flour. (10, 15)
  • SOME “Pickles” are fermented, while others aren’t. As long as the foods are preserved through fermentation, rather than simply brined in vinegar. (11)

What health benefits can they provide?

Fermented foods are a great source of vitamins such as K2, which distributes calcium throughout your body, and B vitamins, which help to convert food into fuel. Additionally, the good bacteria in fermented foods help detoxify our bodies. (12, 16)

Fermented foods are also a great natural source of healthy bacteria and contain up to 100 times the probiotics as an over-the-counter probiotic supplement. Strains of good bacteria in fermented foods have been seen to destroy or inhibit the growth of bad bacteria: Lactic acid found in sourdough bread by German scientists was observed to kill microbes that are resistant to most antibiotics. (12, 13)

Too much of a good thing?

While there are many benefits to eating fermented foods, we should always look for the risks. In a 2011 study, researchers found that eating fermented soy products lead to a higher rate gastric cancer while unfermented soy contributed to a reduced rate of the same disease. (14)

People who do their own fermentation should also be aware of the threat of botulism from contaminated food. (14)

Here are a few ways to include fermented foods in your diet:

https://www.fermentedfoodlab.com/apple-cider-vinegar-and-honey-drink/

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/kefir-oats-nuts-maple-breakfast-jar

http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/lacto-fermentation-recipes/lacto-fermented-kosher-dill-pickles/

Fermented Food
A set of fermented food great for gut health – cucumber pickles, coconut milk yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, red beets, apple cider vinegar

References

  1. https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/54958/that-coffees-rotten/
  2. https://www.britannica.com/science/fermentation
  3. http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/yogurt/what-is-yogurt-history/
  4. http://pickledplanet.com/faqs
  5. https://cultureglaze.com/what-is-kimchi-fadfa73fe5cd
  6. http://www.thekitchn.com/yes-coffee-is-a-fermented-food-208726
  7. https://www.icco.org/faq/59-fermentation-a-drying/132-how-does-the-fermentation-process-work-on-the-cocoa-bean-and-how-long-does-it-take.html
  8. https://paleoleap.com/what-about-vinegar/
  9. http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-your-own-sourdough-starter-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-47337
  10. http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/the-crucial-difference-between-pickled-and-fermented/
  11. http://articles.mercola.com/fermented-foods.aspx
  12. https://www.drdavidwilliams.com/gut-health-and-the-benefits-of-traditional-fermented-foods
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21070479
  14. http://www.dietnutritionadvisor.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-fermented-foods
  15. http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/long-fermented-breads-for-the-gluten-sensitive-taste-great
  16. https://authoritynutrition.com/vitamin-k2/

 

Health Benefits of the Golden Spice: Turmeric

It sounds almost like something a witch in a fairy tale would instruct: Just eat this spice and it will cure all manner of ailments! Add it to your food or drink it as a tincture, rub the extract onto your skin, rinse your mouth with it, even use it in an enema — Turmeric, “the golden spice,” will cure what ails you.

Turmeric is a golden yellow spice in the ginger family and is well-known as the main flavor in curry (1). Native to southern Asia, turmeric has been used for thousands of years in cooking (2). In India, use of turmeric in Ayurvedic medicine goes back more than 4500 years, where it was thought to alleviate congestion, wounds, and even diseases like smallpox and chickenpox (3). Today, India produces nearly 90% of the world’s turmeric (4).

Curcumin (not to be confused with cumin) is the active chemical in turmeric that may decrease swelling, making it a useful treatment for conditions related to inflammation (1). Reports suggest that turmeric may aid in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, assist in balancing blood sugar and boosting kidney function, soothe indigestion, help people with ulcerative colitis stay in remission, and lessen the severity of certain forms of arthritis (2,5). Turmeric may also be a natural liver detoxifier, reduce the effects of some forms of heart disease, help wounds to heal, lessen aches and discomfort, and kill bacteria and viruses (5,6,7). Interestingly, studies have shown that turmeric may boost some chemo medicines and may also make cancer cells more vulnerable to chemo and radiotherapy (7). Furthermore, turmeric has been shown to slow the growth and spread of cancers such as melanoma (7) and to help prevent prostate, breast, colon, stomach, and skin cancers in rats exposed to carcinogens (5,8).

Turmeric is natural and has no toxic effects on the body, so it is generally considered to be safe. However, turmeric may interfere with drugs that reduce stomach acid and may cause stomach upset and GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) (1,5).  Turmeric may also strengthen diabetes medication, which increases the risk of low blood sugar (5). Gallbladder problems could be exacerbated by the use of turmeric, large amounts of turmeric may reduce iron absorption, and blood clotting may be slowed, so doctors recommend that patients stop use of turmeric two weeks before surgery(1). Men who take turmeric may have lowered testosterone levels and sperm count, which reduces fertility (1).

Take advantage of the health benefits of turmeric! Try some delicious and healthy recipes featuring “the golden spice” and see how it works for you.

Salmon with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce and Carrot Salad 
Turmeric Masala Curry
Turmeric Tea

 

 

References

  1. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-662-turmeric.aspx?activeingred ientid=662
  2. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78
  3. http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/turmeric-history/
  4. http://www.turmeric.co.in/turmeric_spice.htm
  5. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/turmeric
  6. http://www.globalhealingcom/natural-health/8-impressive-health-benefits-turmeric/
  7. http://www.mindbodygcom/0-6873/25-Reasons-Why-Turmeric-Can-Heal-You.html
  8. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/turmeric

Foods That Support Naturally Gorgeous, Glowing Skin

As the cycle of the seasons change, so does our skincare routine. Autumn’s dryer air, cooler temperatures, and whirling gusts of wind calls for seriously upping our moisturizing and exfoliation game. And just as what we put on our bodies affects skin health, what we put in our bodies can make a difference in our complexions as well.

That’s right: instead of getting a chemical peel or collagen injection, you may just need to stop by the farmer’s market. As you read on and find out the science-backed ways we can use food to transform our skin from the inside and out, you might want to grab a notebook and start making your grocery list now.

Skincare Culprits

In many ways, the question of if or how diet affects skin is one that has left dermatologists a little stumped. Some studies are inconclusive, calling for more research to fully understand the surprisingly complex relationship before making conclusions. However, the good news is that we aren’t left completely empty-handed, because recent studies are finding more reason to support the link than oppose it.

You may suspect that it’s chocolate that’s the offender identified in these latest studies, but don’t fear – your daily dark indulgence (for heart health of course!) is safe. Lately, it’s dairy and carbs that are drawing the negative dermatological press. [i] More specifically, researchers suspect that the hormones in dairy, especially non-fat milk, may contribute to skincare woes. (Scientists believe the lowered fat content leads to higher relative hormonal content, which is why skim milk is especially exacerbating.)

And as for carbohydrates: the high glycemic impact of certain carbs (think: white bread, instant oatmeal, pretzels, etc.) is being increasingly associated with acne flare-ups. Glycemic impact may sound familiar because of the “low GI” diet plan that has garnered some weight-loss buzz as of late. Nutritionists are quick to point out the complexity of GI ratings and the uncertainty of their role in losing weight,[ii] but the evidence linking them to acne is much more compelling.

Healthy Skin Helpers

Okay, so we can skip the skim and eschew the oats. But using nutrition to promote healthy skin is as much about what we do eat as what we don’t. For example, vitamin A plays an essential role in skin health; particularly it’s moisture balance and integrity.[iii] Additionally, nutrients such as omega- 3 and -6 fatty acids, as well as vitamins D and E are known to be integral to the activities of skin cells, including hydration, inflammation, and metabolism.

Direct evidence linking supplements to improved skin is a bit lacking, so it’s best to get these nutrients straight from the source (i.e. via the foods you eat). To get more omega-3 and -6 you can sprinkle a handful of flax, chia, and sunflower seeds on salads or sandwiches. The sunflower seeds pack a double-skincare-punch because they’re also high in vitamin E. And if you want to eat something that is basically a skincare powerhouse, salmon provides not only omega-3 and -6, but also vitamin D.

Foods That Work Beyond the Plate

Some food is so skin-friendly that in addition to eating it, you can slather it right on your skin to reap the benefits. For example, in Ayurveda (the healthcare system often called the “sister science of yoga”) using plant oils to nourish and moisturize skin is part of a regular skincare routine.[iv] Coconut oil, with its seemingly endless list of health miracles it can perform, is a popular choice for many modern adopters of this practice. So are other natural oils like hemp seed or sunflower oil – which contain skin-loving vitamins and fatty acids to help keep skin youthful and hydrated.

Honey, too, is often touted to have topical benefits for your complexion, due to its antioxidants and natural antibacterial properties.[v] Honey is also classified as a humectant – meaning it traps and locks in moisture – making it a wonderful moisturizer. And did you know that avocado isn’t just healthy and delicious on toast, but also makes a great moisturizing mask? Because of its antioxidant and skin-penetrating oil content,[vi] it promotes smooth, soft skin that may cause you to spread it on your face as much as a slice of whole grain.

The skin is the largest organ we have, protecting the whole rest of our body and weathering the elements for us. It deserves some extra TLC, so why not thank it with a little honey mask or salmon dinner every once in a while?

 

[i]https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/growing-evidence-suggests-possible-link-between-diet-and-acne
[ii]http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/glycemic-index-diet/art-20048478
[iii] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836431/
[iv] http://www.wellandgood.com/good-looks/ayurvedic-beauty-tips-for-great-skin/
[v] http://www.livestrong.com/article/112833-benefits-honey-skin-care/
[vi] http://www.livestrong.com/article/407893-are-avocados-good-for-your-skin/

Intuitive Eating: Why Ditching Your Diet May Be the Key to a Healthier, Happier You

By around age six, American girls start expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies.[i] By age ten, 80% of them will have already been on a diet. Yet more than two-thirds of US adults are overweight or obese, about one-third of US children are overweight or obese, and about 20 million women suffer from clinically significant eating disorders at some point in their lives.[ii]

As these numbers suggest, dieting doesn’t work, despite what the multibillion-dollar weight loss industry may profess. This is not a matter of faltering willpower; it’s a principle of our physiology. Neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt[iii] studied dieters and found that five years after their dieting began, they were heavier than before they ever started. When you look at the facts, you could argue that the result of dieting is actually weight gain and disease, not weight loss or health. What then, are we to do?

There’s No Such Thing As “Bad” Food

First of all, the way we speak about food is problematic. I was good today; I didn’t cheat on my diet. I was so bad last night; I went wild and ate too much of whatever. This vernacular sounds more like we’re speaking about a rocky relationship than a plate of nachos. The problem with labeling food “good” and “bad” (or ourselves as such for abiding by or deviated from our food rules) is that it sets up an ethical hierarchy where none exists. Sure, some food is healthier and better supports your body’s functions, but this has nothing to do with morality. This false connection between virtue and eating gives food a powerful emotional charge that leads to disordered eating and negative body image.[iv]

We shouldn’t feel guilt, shame, or even pride in our food choices. In fact, doing so may sabotage our best intentions: studies find that people eat more calories when they categorize the food they’re eating as “healthy.” Eating should – and can – be pleasurable: an experience of delicious tastes, appetizing aromas, delectable textures, and (if you’re occasionally so inclined) ingenious wine pairings. And when it is enjoyable, research shows that people feel more satisfied with less food.iii

The conclusion? Eat real food. If you want chocolate, don’t buy some low fat, chocolate-like packaged product that’s been processed to the point of becoming a food-like edible object. Have a piece of the best, richest chocolate you can find and enjoy every bite.

How to Bring Mindfulness to the Dining Table

So when you do go for that chocolate, how do you keep from eating the whole bar? (Hint: it’s not a matter of willpower.) How do you make the switch from shameful indulgence to pleasant experience? The answer is mindfulness.

Dieting disconnects us from our body by telling us to ignore signs of hunger or desires for certain foods. But this divorce is indiscriminate: it also tunes out signs of fullness or nutritional deficits, leading us to not know what and when to eat, and often, therefore, overeat.

Intuitive Eating (also called Mindful Eating or The Non-Diet Approach) is the process of bringing back awareness to what, when, and why we eat. It calls for nonjudgmental observation of our hunger, fullness, cravings, and emotions surrounding food, as well as focused attention on the experience of eating itself. It encourages you to eat whatever you like, as long as it’s to satiate physical hunger. And the results are pretty profound: multiple studies found that this way of eating is related to positive signs of health, including lower body mass and higher feelings of wellbeing.[v]

You Don’t Need to Fear Your Own Hunger

The notion of giving yourself permission to eat whatever you’d like when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full seems simple enough, but for many of us it is anything but. Especially for those who’ve spent years – maybe even decades – shaming their body and food choices, covering pangs of hunger with thoughts of bikini season, and guiltily stuffing down unpleasant emotions with snack food; the thought of releasing this control is terrifying.

You may think that all your white knuckling around food is the only reason you’re not a million pounds, and loosening up would lead to never-ending junk-food binge fest. And at first, it may be a struggle: it takes time to re-learn how to listen to your body’s eating cues and dispel the emotional charge of certain foods. But eventually, balance can be restored and healthy choices naturally crop up (it turns out un-foreboding the forbidden fruit causes it to lose a lot of its appeal). As you become reintegrated to your innate biological rhythms, research shows that this intuitive way of eating leads to healthier weights than dieters and long term weight maintenance.[vi]

In short, hunger isn’t something to fear and ignore: it’s a sign it’s time to nourish yourself. Similarly, fullness isn’t a sign of failure: it’s a signal your body has all the sustenance it needs for now. The more attuned we can become to hearing these signs, the better off our health – and waistlines – will be.

 

[i] https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders
[ii] http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx
[iii] https://www.ted.com/talks/sandra_aamodt_why_dieting_doesn_t_usually_work?language=en
[iv] http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/the-problem-with-cheat-days/
[v] http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/cou/53/2/226/
[vi] http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S0002-8223(05)00322-6/abstract

Going Gluten-Free: Is It Right for You?

Gluten FreeCeliac Disease affects a little under 1% of the US population, but research estimates that about 6x that number of Americans has non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). On top of that, many others without Celiac Disease or NCGS have chosen to eschew gluten for various health reasons – from clear skin to weight loss – despite little evidence to support this choice. Check out the topics below and let us know in the comments if you’re a gluten-free devotee or proud bread head!

Disease vs. Sensitivity       

 Celiac Disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disease. It is characterized by a specific physiological response by body’s immune system, triggered by the ingestion of gluten. Left undiagnosed, it can lead to further health consequences such as osteoporosis and infertility.

NCGS, conversely, has a non-specific immune response and is considered clinically less serious than Celiac Disease. Yet the two conditions have some similar symptoms, including abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, and brain fog.

Gluten vs. FODMAPs

 Adopting a 100% gluten-free diet is currently the only known treatment for Celiac Disease. Those with NCGS also often find relief from eliminating gluten; however, emerging research suggests that gluten itself may not be the culprit. Instead, symptoms may be due to a group of poorly digested carbohydrates called FODMAPs.

 A Gluten-Free Diet Can Be Challenging & Unhealthy

Going gluten-free is easier said than done: many people report trouble sticking to the diet, for reasons ranging from social circumstances to accidental exposure, and feelings of anxiety and isolation can accompany this lifestyle. Luckily, awareness is growing and there are many helpful resources available to you! (Find some here.)

Eliminating gluten means removing many sources of dietary fiber, heart-healthy whole grains, B vitamins, and folic acid. Additionally, many gluten-free packaged foods sold at grocery stores make up for the removal of gluten ingredients by adding excess sugar, salt, and calories. A recent study even found a link between gluten-free diets and Metabolic Syndrome (a combination of diseases that includes diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity).

If you chose to or have to go gluten-free, it is important to take extra care to eat a well-balanced diet that provides you with the nutrients your body needs. We found a delicious gluten-free recipe to support you in this process. We especially love this recipe because it’s made with whey protein, which has numerous health benefits: it helps satisfy appetite, supports a healthy immune system, aids in weight loss, and helps build lean muscle mass. (You can order FemmePharma Whey Protein Powder here.) Even if you aren’t gluten-free, we think this one’s a winner! Give it a try, and let us know what you think.