Foods That are Actually Addictive Because Science.

I’m constantly discovering new favourite foods, snacks and candies, while frequently and casually throwing out the phrase “this is SO addictive!”, or another common one, “is there crack in this?”

The word addictive is thrown around casually, but it’s serious business. Are these foods really addictive? What’s a regular craving versus an actual addiction related craving when it comes to food?

When something is truly addictive it tends to lead to us overeating, and we’re often quick to blame our own will power. For example, myself and Rice Krispie Squares? I don’t even stand a fighting chance.
ilovekrispies

 

Certain foods actually contain a chemical called exorphins. These are like the opposite of endorphins, which come from the inside and are the source of feelings like that “runner’s high”.

Exorphins come from external sources, like our diets, while still providing the same feel-good satisfaction. These chemicals are powerful. To give you some perspective, drugs used to block their actions are the same as ones used to treat heroin addiction. So if you’ve ever said that a particular food is like crack, you aren’t that far off.

There are certain foods with higher levels of exorphins, many of them are what we crave and associate as comfort foods, and now I know why.

lovecheese

  • Dairy
    One word. Cheese. Cow dairy contains exorphins and actually bind to morphine receptor sites in the brain. These are especially concentrated in cheese, which we probably all figured… because cheese.
  • Wheat
    Or more specifically, gluten. I don’t know how many of you have tried going gluten-free but it’s a challenge, and was a short lived one for me. Gluten containing foods have five known “gluten exorphins”, which exert this opioid effect, activating pleasure and reward centers in the brain. Many people who have given up gluten find they have less food cravings and have lost weight. But must suffer sad snacks for a while.
  • Coffee
    No surprise here, coffee is well known for its addictiveness. Beyond the caffeine we already know and love, it also contains something called cafestol, found in both regular and decaf coffee.  The morphine like effect is potent, so even decaf coffee can become / remain just as addictive.
  • Chocolate
    lovechocolate
    Epicatechin is the natural flavonol in cocoa beans doing most of the work in all the dark chocolate research. It’s been studied to protect the heart and is increasingly being added into supplements. So I guess this is actually a good one! While a little bit of dark chocolate might be good for you, it sadly doesn’t mean a lot is, too. Studies using the opioid-blocking drug naloxone, have been shown to reduce chocolate cravings, suggesting that part of the reason we love chocolate so much has to do with the opioid response in the brain. Obviously.
  • Fructose
    Fructose is widely found in packaged foods and is prominent in the American diet. It increases brain levels of endogenous morphine and stimulates the hedonic pathway, like booze! This is why it creates habits and dependancies.

If cravings or overeating is an issue, try removing these foods from your diet for 4 weeks to reset your system, or at least avoid as much as possible. It might will totally suck at first, but afterwards you’ll find you have less cravings. Also, now you know these cravings are not always about a will power battle, there is often a real, physiological explanation for them. So don’t feel so bad.

science

 

Can green bananas really help you lose weight?

drnick

Let’s be completely honest… Dr. Oz is a little weird, no? I mean is he even a real doctor? Now you may be thinking, if you hate Dr. Oz so much why were you watching the show? Well you see, I don’t have cable and my antennae allows me only a few channels, which includes the network that plays the Dr. Oz show.

oz

It really caught my attention when I overheard him saying that green (completely unripe) bananas can attribute to weight loss. Eating 2 a week, to be exact. His reasoning was that ripe bananas have a higher sugar content, which makes sense. But even with that considered, how would green bananas help? Wouldn’t it be the same thing to just eat something else – anything else – with less sugar than a ripe banana? If they truly do play some role in weight loss then there must be more to it than just being better by sugar comparison…

First of all, the reputation of a perfectly ripe and yellow banana need not be tarnished by their greener infant state. They still help you lose and maintain weight and offer plenty of nutrition benefits. They’re loaded with potassium and magnesium, both good for keeping blood pressure in check. Generally, fruit isn’t the best source of vitamin B6, but bananas are the exception with more than 30% of the recommended daily amount in a single serving.

bananadance

After looking into it, the difference it seems, is resistance starch. It’s the natural resistance starch in green bananas that give them that slightly tart, starchy taste. And, along with these other resistance starchy foods, they may actually enhance fat burning by breaking down stored fat to be used as an energy source. HUH.

Okay, so perhaps there is something to be said for the green banana. But at the end of the day, I feel bananas in general are a great addition to your diet.

And side note, if you have any ripe bananas you no longer want to eat, I recently made these sugarless banana breakfast cookies and they are sooo good. I added natural peanut butter and protein powder. If you do want them to have a kick of sweetness you can add chocolate flavoured protein powder.

Adrenal glands make a difference and you should probably know what they are

Before a naturopath told me my adrenal glands were all wonky, I had no idea what those even were or what they did, I thought she was just making words up. But when I followed her advice and corrected the issues, I noticed huge positive differences.

Look how big they are! How did I miss em.

Look how big they are! How did I miss em.

So basically, your adrenal glands are your stress organs, responsible for producing cortisol, adrenaline and DHEA. Keeping these glands healthy is extremely important for overall hormonal health and balance, and can even be the hidden cause of certain issues. Problems like headaches, digestive upset, PMS, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, even infertility issues. C’hyea.

In turn, stress can rile up other health conditions like arthritis, asthma, allergies and IBS. Your adrenal glands and stress hormones are one of the most neglected systems in conventional medicine! And yet simply addressing adrenal related issues can have a huge effect on your wellbeing.

OM

If you’re like me and have no idea whether or not you need some adrenal support, skim through this list. If you say yes for 3 or more of the following (regularly), you probably want to look into your adrenal glands more carefully.

  • Chronic pain of any type (including migraines, joint pains, etc)
  • Anxiety / panic attacks
  • Emotional stress (work, relationship, family, public transit, etc)
  • Feeling tired or exhausted that isn’t relieved by more sleep
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Dizziness from standing up too quickly
  • Low tolerance for stress (stressing out over little things)
  • Worsened allergies
  • Weight gain in the mid-belly area
  • High blood pressure / heart palpitations
  • Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep at night
  • Salt cravings
  • Achy or twitchy legsIf you’re a lady:
  • Any change in menstrual cycle
  • Chronic menstrual pain
  • Symptoms of premature menopause

The test is just done with spit, so it’s a little gross but easy. You can ask any naturopath about it, and it will tell you if your symptoms are related to the adrenals. Your personal diagnosis will vary, obviously, but will probably include:

  • Changes in nutrition orange
  • Stress reducing techniques like yoga, whatever works for you
  • Balanced exercise – this goes either way, you may need to ease up or you may need to start moving
  • Supplements to support adrenal function

Healthy adrenals mean more energy and more happy moods! Imbalances are very treatable, making a huge difference. So check your shit out.

The Paradox of Protein Choice

proteinlineup

If you like to take a protein supplement, you’ve probably found yourself – at some point or another – wondering which kind is right for you. There are just so many different options. Is whey more effective than soy? How many grams should you be taking? What’s the difference between all of them?!

First of all, let’s complicate things and assume you’re vegetarian or vegan. Veggie peeps might be even more likely to take protein supplements since they aren’t eating meat, and sometimes not any animal proteins at all, which eliminates eggs and dairy protein. There are vegan options that  contain all the muscle-building essentials so that you can still Hulk out and be green.

  • Soy
    soy-protein_1

Pros: Easily digestible, lactose and gluten-free, and mixes smoothly if you add it to foods or other shakes. It’s got isoflavones, fiber and all of the amino acids you need for muscle growth.

Cons: Phytoestrogen content (stuff that mimics estrogen). While there are benefits to it (read the science), some fear that eating too much soy could have harmful effects on men due to the estrogen content.

  • Hemp
    hemp-protein-powder

Pros: Highly digestible (good as a pre-gym supplement that won’t cause tummyaches), offers complete amino acids, and it’s got healthy omega-3s and omega-6s

Cons:
The fat and calorie content can be higher than other proteins

 

 

 

  • Whey (non-vegan)

whey

Pros: Whey protein isolates are very low in fat, carbs and lactose. Concentrates are cheaper but they have higher fat and lactose contents. I would reco the complete whey. This powder also has a great amino acid profile. W00t.

Cons: It can be confusing as there are several different types, between whey isolate, whey concentrate or complete whey.

Concentrate is a good starter, and can be used both pre and post workout, or even just as a protein boosting snack between meals.
Isolate absorbs quickly and are good for people on low-carb diets, and to take immediately after your workout.
Casein Breaks down slowly over several hours so that you feel fuller longer, it’s also a better choice if you’re taking it before bed. Since it takes longer to digest, your body stays absorbing nutrients even while you sleep.

  • Brown Rice / Pea Protein

brownrice

Pros: It’s high in fiber, gluten-free, lactose-free, full of B vitamins (which can help muscle metabolism and growth). It’s also hypoallergenic, so it likely won’t irritate your system or cause a reaction.

Cons: It isn’t a complete protein by itself. This just means you need one with enhanced amino acids, or alternatively, pair it with something like eggs, lean turkey, or if you’re avoiding meat – tofu, quinoa or beans.

 

 

 

 

And that’s not even every kind. Obviously, the best way is – with exception to allergies – try different options and see what agrees with you. Consider how long the product has been around and what kinds of reviews it has, look at your labels and try to pick one with under 10 ingredients (no science experiments). And don’t buy into hype. Too many supplements manufacturers hype up their product or claim “added ingredients” to promote faster results.

And remember, you can always get plenty of protein from FOOD!

But if you supplement…

Take your time
Read the label
Pick ingredients you can pronounce

Winter sucks, so amp up your Vitamin D

snowman

We’ve got a bit of a wait until the days start getting longer again, and after the holiday season is over there’s little to look forward to. While there’s some debate over the legitimacy of Seasonal Affective Disorder, (or more fittingly, SAD) I believe it is definitely real. And carb craving is actually a symptom! So don’t worry – it’s not you, it’s winter.

He gets it.

He gets it.

When it’s pitch black at 5 p.m. and frigid winds turn your face numb after being outside for 2 minutes, how can we not get a little down? Besides a vacation, there are a few things you can do to help yourself out during the winter months. Exercise of course helps, but what also makes a huge different is with what you put in your body – like vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. More specifically, vitamin D3.

In fact, SAD itself is caused by lack of vitamin D3, so this is definitely one you want to add. The best source is the sun, but since it’s early to bed and late to rise at the moment, here are your best options:

  • Still the sun
    Even though we don’t see as much of it, you can still get your vitamin D on a sunny wintery day. A short walk is all you need.
  • Salmon
    The most vitamin D of any food (and wild salmon has even more than the farmed kind).
  • Tuna
    A serving of tuna has a healthy dose of Vitamin D – more than one-third of a daily dose. (Light tuna in oil has the most).

  • Milk
    Fortified milk has one-fifth a day’s worth.
  • Cereal
    The vitamin D amounts vary by brand so read your labels carefully!
    (Here’s a list of good, D-filled options)
  • Oysters
    On top of D, oysters also get you vitamin B12, zinc, iron, just to name a few. But also cholesterol, so watch yoself if heart disease or stroke are concerns.
  • Eggs
    Another one with multiple benefits, eggs offer vitamin D, B12 and protein.
  • Mushrooms
    The only reason I ever agreed to eat mushrooms was because I thought I’d grow taller like Alice in Wonderland. That didn’t happen, but they did give up high vitamin D, and B5.

If you can’t manage to get enough vitamin D from food or able to be outside very much, you can take a supplement. Look for options that contain vitamin D3 rather than vitamin D2 (D3 is more potent).

And of course, discussing it with your personal health care provider is a good idea, and they can give you recommendations for doses.

Healthy fish recipes
More recipes high in vitamin D
Some more winter vitamins to add

sunhair

[image by Liam Heng Swee]