Food Is Not Your Enemy

Are You Addicted to Food?
March 3, 2015, 11:24 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Sweets, weight loss | Tags: , ,

Why is it that no matter how much we want to eat healthier, we can’t resist those treats passed around at work? You reach for a cookie offered by your co-worker, knowing that you don’t really want to eat it, that you really want to lose weight and that this cookie will make you then want another, and maybe another. But you feel like you can’t help yourself. It’s just so dang delicious for those 30 seconds it takes to scarf down…

The guilt sets in afterwards. But that, as you well know, won’t necessarily stop you from doing it again tomorrow.

Maybe cookies are not your undoing. Maybe it’s pizza. Maybe fries. Or ice cream. Or burgers. Whatever your trigger food, though, it’s likely that it contains sugar, fat, or both.

Sugar and fat and the high-calorie foods they tend to appear in have been shown to be physically addictive, in studies involving both rats and humans. Our brain lights up from consuming sugar and fat in much the same way it would if we were to use drugs. “It looks like the habitual consumption of calorie-dense food can elicit changes in brain responses that mirror drug addiction,” Kyle Burger, a researcher at the Oregon Research Institute’s Eating Disorders and Obesity Prevention Lab, told Nutrition Action Healthletter in 2012.

Due to the effects they have on the brain, the more we eat sugar, fat, and junk food, the more we’ll want them. So there’s nothing wrong with you for feeling so drawn to these foods—most of us feel this way, at some point or another. You’re not weak for experiencing these cravings.

So what to do about it? Your best strategy is to eat more whole foods found in nature that don’t contain added sugar and are not fried or otherwise swimming in unhealthy fat. Your palette will adjust—when your body and brain become more accustomed to eating fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, beans, and whole grains, then fast-food fried chicken and Oreos won’t be such a temptation. Try it—it really works.

Your waistline will thank you.

Sugar, Not Fat, Causes Heart Attacks
February 11, 2014, 12:48 pm
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Eggs, food politics, Food/Health Blogs, Sweets | Tags: , , , , ,
I totally love the work done by Dr. Mark Hyman. He’s a firm believer in fixing the causes of our health problems, not just the symptoms. The latest newsletter from him said the following:

“It’s over. The debate is settled.

It’s sugar, not fat, that causes heart attacks.

Fifty years of doctors’ advice and government eating guidelines have been wrong. We’ve been told to swap eggs for Cheerios. But that recommendation is dead wrong. In fact, it’s very likely that this bad advice has killed millions of Americans.

A rigorously done new study shows that those with the highest sugar intake had a four-fold increase in their risk of heart attacks compared to those with the lowest intakes. That’s 400%!”

Eye-opening, right? But depressing that we’ve been led down a bad path by some specious government recommendations.

When in doubt, choose the whole, natural foods that humans have been eating for generations (like eggs). And question the “wisdom” that we’d be better off eating a food made in a factory.

Don’t Fear the Fat
November 12, 2010, 9:59 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Meat, Oils | Tags: , , ,

Not all oils and fats are created equal. Heavily processed, hydrogenated, trans-fats and oils that are used in prepared, packaged foods can be extremely damaging to the body. However, fats and oils from whole foods and other high-quality sources can steady our metabolism, keep hormone levels even, nourish our skin, hair, and nails and provide lubrication to keep the body functioning properly. Our bodies also need fat for insulation and to protect and hold our organs in place.

A healthy percentage of high-quality fat in a meal satisfies and leaves feelings of energy, satiety, and warmth. When there are excess fats and oils in the diet, however, especially heavily processed fats, symptoms can include weight gain, skin breakouts, high blood pressure, liver strain, and an overall feeling of mental, physical, and emotional heaviness. Signs of insufficient high-quality fats are brittle hair and nails, dry skin, hunger after meals, and feeling cold.

There are many sources of healthy fats and oils. For sautéing and baking, try butter (organic is best), ghee (clarified butter), or coconut oil because they do not break down when used at high temperatures. When sautéing foods at moderate temperatures, try organic extra virgin olive oil. Oils like flaxseed, sesame, toasted sesame, walnut, and pumpkin seed are best used unheated in sauces or dressings on top of salads, veggies, or grains. Other healthy fats are found in whole nuts and seeds and in their butters like almond butter or tahini. Whole foods such as avocados, olives, and coconuts are great sources of healthy fat, along with wild salmon and other small, non-predatory fish like sardines, sole, cod, black cod, and herring. Experiment with these healthy fat sources and see which work best for you and leave you satisfied.

When selecting oils, buy the highest-quality organic products you can afford, since cooking oils are the backbone of so many dishes. Good words to look for on the label are organic, first-pressed, cold-pressed, extra-virgin, and unrefined. Products to avoid are ones called “refined” and “solvent extracted.” And definitely pass by anything containing trans-fats, which are called “partially hydrogenated oil” on ingredient labels. Trans-fats will raise your risk of heart disease way more (about 30% more, according to the Harvard School of Public Health) than lard and other animal fats. Speaking of which, you should feel okay about including some animal fat in your diet, especially if it’s coming from organic and/or pasture-raised meat that isn’t shot up with hormones or antibiotics.

So don’t fear the fat. Total fear of fat led to the production of a spate of bogus, low-fat and no-fat junk foods over the past couple of decades, foods that were high in sugar and calories and ended up actually causing weight gain rather than preventing it. As far as healthy foods go, no-fat cookies are no match for a nice fatty, filling, and nutrient-dense avocado.

Lard Is Not the Devil
May 11, 2009, 11:18 am
Filed under: Meat, Oils | Tags: , , , , ,

If there’s one food you should absolutely avoid, it would be lard, right? Straight-up animal fat–what could be worse?

But research (from such institutions as the Harvard School of Public Health) has now shown that saturated animal fats are not nearly as bad as trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oils) when it comes to raising your risk of heart disease. In fact, some researchers, such as Sally Fallon Morell of the Weston A. Price Foundation, have concluded that animal fats are actually critical to good health.

All of which means I can now enjoy things like my husband’s homemade pork enchiladas, the recipe for which calls for something like a half a cup of lard, without much worry. One caveat: we bought leaf lard (a.k.a. kidney suet, the fat surrounding a cow’s kidneys, and the stuff that helps make Peter Luger’s steak so unbelievably good) from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats (which we rendered ourselves), and not the box of cheap lard from the supermarket. If you’re going to cook with lard, go for the quality stuff that doesn’t have chemical additives or partially hydrogenated oils added.

Why Americans Are So Overweight
May 8, 2009, 9:18 am
Filed under: Food/Health Blogs | Tags: , , , ,

There are many, many reasons why Americans are so overweight: Huge portions served at restaurants, bigger and bigger bottles of soda sold in stores, and the ready availability of high-calorie fast food everywhere we turn are just some of them. Another, advertising by the food industry, was discussed in the Huffington Post this week. Check out the blog post by Irene Rubaum-Keller, and prepare to be disturbed by the maps showing our country’s rising rates of obesity.