Because I’m in fitness, people often assume I eat healthful and know something about nutrition. This reminds me of when I was good at field hockey in high school. People assumed I was generally good at sports. I wasn’t. I’m interested in food and nutrition, but not the way I care about fascia and movement. However, since my book Keep Moving: Take Steps to Relieve Pain & Improve Your Life came out, during interviews I’ve been questioned about nutrition a surprising amount. I don’t think of myself as an expert in that department, and don’t feel a need to be, however, it made me think I should have some of the basics down. I figured I should review the basics on healthy eating.
Two books piqued my interest: The Science of Skinny: Start Understanding Your Body’s Chemistry and Stop Dieting Forever by Dee McCaffrey (an organic chemist and nutritionist) and Why You Eat What You Eat by Rachel Herz (a neuroscientist).
The first was a little older. It came out in 2012, so it has been sitting in my upcoming reading pile for seven years. But she wrote in a way that makes the chemistry of food and nutrition make sense to me. And the second was an incredible quick, easy read. Give me anything by a neurologist and I won’t want to put it down. Neurology is fascinating.
Here are some brief takeaways from these two books. Some of these I already knew and you might too, but often we need to hear things multiple times for them to really sink in. Each time we reread, hear or learn something it helps prep us for when we are ready to bite!
There was a lot of interesting info. I pulled out some of the facts I found most intriguing or ones I thought were good reminders. I’ve tried to somewhat clump them in case you are interested in anything specific.
- Sweets can get a bad rep, but they can also dull pain. That’s a win!
- People with a sweet tooth were reported to be kinder, cooperative and altruistic.
- Aspartame and sucralose (“fake sugars”) are linked with obesity and type 2 diabetes. They alter how our bodies processes sugar. Skip the fake stuff. It’s bad news.
- Sugar gets a bad rap, but it isn’t all bad. Our brain needs it, and it can help us focus.
- Foods taste sweeter on round plates than square plates.
- When our sports team loses, we eat more.
- Women feel guiltier than men when they eat comfort foods.
- For the full effect of nutrients and fiber from a kiwi, we are supposed to eat the skin!!!
- Dolphins like humans have a predisposition to get diabetes. A compound in butter and whole milk, may come to the rescue according to some dolphin studies. This compound is not in skim milk. Full fat all the way for full health.
- Like anything it is about balance. Fat is good, but too much can create inflammation and gut issues.
- Comfort Food was a term coined in 1977 (at least in the U.S.).
Tips for Eating Less
- Distractions can help reduce cravings. One study found that when people stared at dynamic visual noise on a smart phone for 8 seconds when experiencing a craving, they consumed less calories.
- Smelling jasmine reduced chocolate cravings. Criss-crossing certain smells seems to interfere with our food desires.
- Blindfold yourself when you are eating and you might eat 25% less. I assume this is just because eating blindfolded is incredibly frustrating.
- We consume less when food is on red plates. Maybe we have learned red means stop from stop signs and lights.
- We take bigger bites, eat faster and more when we are served larger portions.
- Fiber, fat and protein can make us feel full longer, but how familiar we are with food may play a large role in how full we feel from food. If we eat a lot of rice, we think rice makes us full. So Herz recommends eating celery at every meal until you convince yourself celery makes you full.
- We eat more when we have more variety. A box of assorted chocolates encourages us to gobble more than a box of the same type of chocolates. A study showed that if you envision yourself eating 30 pieces of something you want, you will likely eat less when you eat it. Your brain will already have started getting sick of the same food.
- Most successful weight loss regimes did not have a diet plan. They involved a change of foods, altered approach to eating, and a shift in mentality.
- Watching TV may be the worst distraction of all when eating. People watching television while they ate, consumed double what people driving or engaged in conversation consumed.
Facts it is good to be reminded about
- Cholesterol in food has little to no effect on cholesterol in our blood (I remember first reading about this in 2007). Eggs are currently a perfect food and back on the table.
- We should strive to shop the perimeter in the grocery store—looking for foods in their most natural state and in season.
Info you might be happy to learn
- We may not get all the calories from an alcoholic beverage. Some may evaporate and as our body temperature increases when drinking liquor we may burn some of the calories. In a 12 week study, when men added 210 calories of wine to their regular daily intake, they didn’t gain any weight. The drinks didn’t have added sugars or fruit juice mixed in.
- The Kuna people of Panama have lower risks stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. One reason scientist think this might be the case is because they drink unrefined cocoa (about 5 cups a day). The cocoa has sugar but also flavanols which may be a reason to consume more cocoa!!!
- Chocolate is good for us. It may improve brain function, it has no caffeine but is still a stimulant. IT creates the same chemical in the brain that releases when we are falling in love. I KNEW I WAS IN LOVE WITH CHOCOLATE! It contains a chemical that gives us a sense of well-being.
- Capsaicin has long been used to relieve pain. It’s an anti-inflammatory.
Something to ponder
- What we think about our food seems to influence how our body responds to food. Ghrelin is a hormone secreted when we are hungry and is linked to metabolism. Ghrelin levels should drop after we eat, which should create a metabolism boost. In a study where people were given a shake with the same amount of calories, but one group was told it was healthier and lower calorie and another group was told it was an indulgence and high calorie, the group that thought they were eating a less healthy drink had lower ghrenlin levels and a bigger metabolic boost. This implies that “healthy” and “low calorie” labels actually trick our bodies natural response to food for some reason.
Read about SIBO and gut health.
Laugh with a funny story about eating mussels in Portugal.
What motivates you, food or fear?
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