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

 

The “Ice Cream” You Can Eat Pounds Of without the pounds showing up on you

Let me tell you about a recent discovery that I’ve been calling “fake ice cream” at home. First of all, let’s get one thing straight, I’m not saying anything bad about real ice cream. It’s undoubtedly one of the most wonderful things in the world. But if dairy makes you feel like throwing up, or if you’re like me and just want big scoops for dinner all the time, it’s probably not amazing to have it every single day. Though temping.

So hard to look away..

So hard to look away..

Now, if you are craving an ice creamy delicious dessert but don’t want to setback a diet or workout, OR even better – if you’re lactose intolerant and don’t want to feel like garbage, prepare your mind for blowage. Your key ingredient is frozen bananas.

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Aside from bananas being the quarterback of this recipe, there are also many other benefits if you’re still skeptical.

  • Bananas have high levels of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin – the happy-maker!
  • Bananas before a workout gives you added energy helps keep up blood sugar
  • Bananas can help prevent muscle cramps
  • They can improve your mood and reduce PMS symptoms
  • Bananas reduce swelling, protect against type II diabetes, aid weight loss, strengthen the nervous system, and help with the production of white blood cells, all due to high levels of vitamin B-6.
  • Strengthen your blood and relieve anemia with the added iron from bananas.
  • High in potassium and low in salt, bananas are officially recognized by the FDA as being able to lower blood pressure and protect against heart attack and stroke.
    -via foodmatters.tv

And before I get into, let’s just acknowledge that it goes even further than this ice cream recipe. People are doing a lot of shit to frozen bananas these days. You can make so many treats, who knew! Chocolate bananas, frozen banana yogurt pops, and this thing! But back to the “fake ice cream”.

Take a couple frozen bananas, depending on how much ice cream you want to make. It’s safe to say 2 frozen bananas will give you 2 hefty servings.

Use a food processor to puree the bananas, I use a Magic Bullet which works but takes way longer.

careful

Before you blend, don’t forget to seal it tight. But second-most importantly, this is where you can get creative with flavours! If you don’t feel like adding anything, that’s fine – banana ice cream is delicious on its own. But if you want to mix it up, here are a few ideas.
Cocoa powder = Chocolate
Frozen strawberries = Strawberry (add some extra milk to help break up the added frozen fruit)
Vanilla extract and/or Vanilla protein powder = Vanilla + protein boost
Honey = Also goes good with Vanilla
Cinnamon = Self-explanatory
Cinnamon and nutmeg = Spicier cinnamon
Nut butter = Probably the most delicious, also goes great as an addition to chocolate.

For something even more simple, you can just add chocolate chips to the plain banana mixture to make banana chocolate chip! And of course, these are just ideas – not rules. There are no rules with fake ice cream. And that’s how I like it. You can mix and match whatever flavour additions you want in order to create your own concoction!

This is so easy to make, so delicious and ice cream-like, and it’s healthy! Assuming you don’t go crazy on the chocolate chips, but hey, sometimes you gotta.

Ice cream

This is bananas! Get it? Because it’s literally bananas. Image via fancyhouseroad.com

Enjoy!

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.

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]

“Everything in Moderation” is Easier Said Than Done

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It seems like the simplest, easiest thing to do – and we hear it constantly, “everything in moderation”. The concept is great, but in practice it isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Especially during the holidays. Offices fill up with cakes and cookies and delicious treats,  parties start popping up in our calendars, which means boozing and floating appetizer trays aplenty. When food and drinks are free and seemingly endless, it’s easy to go crazy. I’ve noticed a lot of people tend to become really diligent about their diet and exercise routine during the weeks approaching, and the ones immediately following the holiday season. Likely in an attempt to undo the damage. Dieting in spurts and then going on benders is the total opposite of moderation, but admit you’ve done this right before a vacation or holiday season…

“I’ve got to work out and eat right so I look good in my bathing suit, so that I can drink my face off and live at a buffet for 7 days!”

SO… What to do. I think the easiest way is eat real and organic foods as often as possible, and avoid stuff that was made in a lab:

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If this becomes routine, then portioning, calorie counting and dieting aren’t even factors anymore. What screws us over is too much restriction, but there are some ways to make all this easier and eliminate “dieting”.

Treating yourself is not cheating, and if you think about it that way, you’re totally changing the psychological aspects of your eating. Just work treats into your regular plan, you’ve earned it. You’ll also be making it something that’s normal and not something to feel guilty about later, lessening the chances of bingeing.

Even better, is finding healthier versions of foods you love. Bake cookies and desserts sweetened with maple syrup. Or if you crave savory over sweet, make your own sweet potato fries with olive oil and sea salt (so good).

Sidenote from my naturopath:

“If sugar is your main craving that you struggle with maintaining moderation, it may also mean that there is an imbalance in your intestinal flora, in particular too much yeast. In this case, a yeast cleanse to re-balance, will greatly minimize your need for sweets, and help you to find a better balance.”

And here are a few healthy but-might-not-seem-healthy recipes, the best kind:

Halloween Detox

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I will be the first to admit, I effing love candy. I love it so much. And the thought of giving it up is scarier to me than the scariest elements of what Halloween is supposed to be about, (evil clowns, mostly).
Pro tip: visit a drugstore or grocery store the day after Halloween and you’ll discover a world of joy. They’re practically giving it away!… But that’s not what we’re here to talk about, dammit.

After Halloween, we’re getting kind of used to a couple mini-chocolate bars a day, or maybe you just ate a bag of them all in one day, either way sugar has likely become a habit. It’s also getting darker earlier and colder outside if you’re in Canada like me. This makes it way more appealing to just hibernate and snuggle up with a bag of sugar and Netflix, just not moving at all.

However you frightened your body this Halloween and rejected candy-sale-aftermath, here are a few tips to help you get back on track.

1. Water water everywhere: You’ve heard this before. Definitely make amping up your water consumption a priority. It will help re-hydrate you and flush out toxins from too much sugar, booze, and my favourite – sugary booze. You’ll have more energy too. It’s just a good idea.

2. Get more shut-eye: Whether from partying or just not eating right, exhaustion can sneak up on you. Making sure you’re getting a decent 8 hours of sleep actually help undo damage. Eating the right foods will help too. There are certain foods that help to fight fatigue like:

  • Those high in magnesium
  • Inulin (found in stuff like oatmeal and energy bars)
  • Whole grain carbs to help keep your mood in check
  • Lean proteins like fish (I’ll post some healthy fish recipes soon!)
  • Dark chocolate – yes.. chocolate. Just a little bit! Gotta be dark, though
  • And finally, citrus fruits. Just the scent of them can help perk you up. When life gives you lemons, sniff em.

3. Get moving: I believe that you truly can “sweat it out”.  Whatever your “it” may be, to a certain extent at least. A good workout revs up your metabolism which will give you more energy. If your energy levels are too low to go hard at the gym, you could always try some detoxifying yoga.

4. Break the habit: The more sugar you eat, the more you’ll want. And I’m not just talking about candy and cookies, refined carbs count, too. According to Jackie Warner, super awesome trainer, it only takes 5 days to break a sugar habit. You can make this slightly easier on yourself by just removing the temptation from your fridge/cupboards, and replacing them with fruits.

Good luck, and good day.