Food for Thought: Game Day Cauliflower Buffalo Wings

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Gearing up for a Superbowl party with an epic spread?  These cauliflower buffalo wings from Mark's Daily Apple are a tasty way to add extra vegetables to your diet and not scare your guests away.

Whether you’re looking for a great keto- or Primal-friendly side dish or a game day buffet item, this recipe is a delicious choice. Check it out!

Ingredients

  • 1 large or 2 small heads of cauliflower
  • 1 cup (100g) of almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup (56ml) avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce

Food for Thought: Can You Retrain Your Taste?

While you manage mindful holiday eating, many use this time of year to research new dietary lifestyle choices they are considering for the new year.  Here are some tips from Marks Daily Apple to consider regarding retraining your tastebuds and leaving some of those processed foods behind. (It might be a little long... but it's worth it for those of you wanting to shape up your nutrition)

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Following the switch to Primal eating, people often share curious observations about their shift in taste. After a lifetime of eating sugar, grains, artificial flavors and hydrogenated oils, they’re often taken by surprise at the way their tastebuds react to a low-sugar, whole foods-based diet.

Granted, it doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens. Many say the effect sneaks up on them over the course of several weeks until one day they realize their sense of taste has gone into hyperdrive.

Then they look across the cubicle aisle and watch their coworkers inhaling bags of chips or uninterestingly sucking away on sugary beverages. And it occurs to them: all those wasted years as their tastebuds languished in processed monotony.

It’s one of the unexpected upsides of the Primal Blueprint diet: learning/relearning the nuance of real food flavor. The experience doesn’t just reflect a psychological shift either. Taste acclimatization is a real, measurable thing.

What do we know about the process? Quite a bit actually. Some of it rather surprising….

Sugar Consumption and Your Tastebuds

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A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effect of reduced simple sugar intake on a group of “healthy” men and women. The study broke the participants up into two groups, with one group assigned a low-sugar diet and the other group continuing to eat their usual high-sugar diet. After 3 months of this, both groups were left to eat however they pleased for yet another month. Each month during the study, participants were asked to rate the sweetness and “pleasantness” of vanilla puddings and raspberry beverages that varied in sugar concentration.

After the third month of dieting, the low-sugar group rated the pudding to be around 40 percent sweeter than the control group, regardless of how much sugar the pudding contained. The conclusion was simple: “changes in consumption of simple sugars influence perceived sweet taste intensity.” Meaning that the less sugar you eat over the long term, the more things taste sweeter and, therefore, tastier.

The overall findings are important in that they indicate the inevitability of taste acclimatization, but they also demonstrate just how long this adjustment can take. Researchers found that the low-sugar group took on average two months for their tastebuds to recognize any difference in sweetness and pleasantness—and yet another month for that sweetness to intensify.

The takeaway here? A little patience will yield long-term dividends.

But What About Salt Addiction?

If you’re a bit of a salt junkie, you might be keen on learning how to break the habit. It’s a perfectly reasonable goal to have, particularly if you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension. (You might want to find out if you’re among the “salt-sensitive” in the population—about 50% of those with hypertension by some estimates— before chalking up your high blood pressure to salt intake.)

Similar to sugar, lowering intake of sodium-rich foods has been shown to decrease your reliance on salt. An impressively long 1-year study found that “reduction in sodium intake and excretion accompanied a shift in preference toward less salt.” Researchers surmised that the mechanisms behind this reduction in salt addiction were varied, and included physiological, behavioral, and context effects. Not the ultra-conclusive reasoning you were hoping for, but it looks as if particularly overzealous salt cravings should drop significantly when you switch to a naturally salt-moderated, low processed-food diet.

Still, let’s not neglect some stubborn truths.

While the health and scientific community continues to hate on salt, very few studies have examined the importance of salt for maintaining a healthy body. While these studies may be relatively few, evidence suggests that salt may play an essential role in excreting cortisol (the “stress hormone”) from the body, thereby improving recovery time from stressful events and situations. Possibly an important one to remember, when the in-laws descend for holiday dinner.

Salt has also been shown to decrease strain during exercise by increasing hydration. Studies indicate that knocking back a sodium-rich beverage prior to exercising increases plasma volume, which in turn reduces the strain on your body during exercise and helps you reach higher levels of performance.

And all those other clever uses

And then there’s the point that salt just makes food taste better…. Just make a point of sticking with the good stuff—high quality sources like Himalayan pink salt, Real Salt, and Celtic sea salt. These natural, unrefined versions provide all of the taste of salt and, unlike table salt, still include all the essential minerals your body needs to rehydrate those cells and help to evenly distribute all that sodium.

The Factors Behind Taste

There’s a lot more to taste than just your tastebuds themselves, which were designed to elicit appropriate feeding responses in an evolutionary environment—not the snack aisles of Costco.

If your body has been inundated with sugar-intensive processed foods for the last few years/decades, it may be a little confused as to what it actually wants to taste. Rewiring your tastebuds, then, is no small task for both your brain and your digestive system.

Luckily, all that’s required of you is to stay the course of good eating. That said, it’s helpful as always to understand the bigger picture.

Gut Health

There isn’t much it seems the gut isn’t involved in, and taste is no exception apparently. A team at the Department of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine discovered that the taste receptor T1R3 and the G protein gustducin are located in the gut, as well as the mouth. These taste receptors are essential to tasting sweetness in the foods we eat, and we now know that they play an important role in sensing glucose within our gastrointestinal tract.

This role goes far beyond simply “tasting” carbohydrates and other sugary or sweet foods within your gut. When you eat these foods, the sweet-sensing taste receptors in your large intestine activate the release of hormones that promote insulin secretion and regulate appetite. This means that if your gut health is lacking, its ability to sense carbs and produce insulin may be impaired.

Obesity

A 2012 study published in the British Medical Journal found that obese kids develop an insensitivity to taste. Researchers examined close to 200 children between the ages of 6 and 18, half of whom were a normal weight and half classified as obese. Each of the participants was asked to place 22 taste strips on their tongue, simulating each of the five levels of taste at varying intensities.

Obese children found it significantly more difficult to differentiate between the different taste sensations, and were particularly insensitive to salty, umami and bitter tastes. Children who were obese also gave lower intensity ratings to sweet foods, meaning they needed more sugar in foods to achieve the same sensation of sweetness.

The take-away is simple: the more weight we put on, the less likely we are to enjoy the food we eat or to recognize the mounting sugar or salt levels we likely take in for the same taste experience. There may be more of a lag time in rejuvenating full taste sensitivity if we’re reversing obesity as well as shifting our diets, but the end point is the same.

Eating environment and attention

In an interesting wrinkle, researchers at the University of Cornell found that noise generated by airplanes appeared to enhance umami taste while inhibiting sweet taste. Noise, which can reach upwards of 85 decibels inside your average passenger jet, has led many airlines to notice that people tend to gravitate towards savory foods like tomatoes, while straying away from sugary foods. Bloody Mary, anyone?

Beyond the physical adaptations that come over time, we can appreciate the power of attention (as well as quiet) in sensory experience. Do we blunt or confuse our senses by multitasking or watching the nightly news while we eat? Or do we bring our full consciousness to the meal?

Research into eating awareness shows that mindful practices might be powerful enough to help resolve even chronic disordered eating. Knowing that, what can it promise us as we make the transition to taste sensitization and a healthier relationship with food?

Thanks for reading, everybody. What has been your experience in shifting your personal taste as you’ve adopted a Primal diet? What helped you or challenged you? And when (if you’re already there) did you know you’d gotten over the hump?

Food for Thought: 5 Easy Ways to Eat More Vegetables

A post from Well Fed to remind us all that we are never too old to be reminded to eat our veggies...

It makes me giggle when I see paleo depicted as running around barefoot, gnawing on a rib in one hand and a rasher of bacon in the other. I’ve eaten more vegetables since adopting paleo than ever before in my life.

I eat more veggies than most of the vegetarians I know!

But that doesn’t mean getting in all the veggies just happens. I’ve got to be deliberate! Over the years, I’ve developed a few tricks that make it easier—and delicious—to get veggies at every meal. And if you need inspiration to expand your vegetable repertoire—you do have a vegetable repertoire, right?!—you might want to read my post Taste the Rainbow.

Now, on to my tricks…

1. A bed of baby spinach.

A few handfuls of baby spinach taste great under just about anything! Spinach is packed with iron, calcium, anti-oxidants, magnesium, and vitamins C, E, A, and K—and baby spinach tastes so mild, you’ll barely notice it under your food. Just place 1-2 cups of fresh leaves on a plate or bowl and top with whatever hot food you’re eating. The heat wilts the spinach to just the right degree. And bam! instant nutritional wallop. Try it under a stir fry, curry, chili, soup, stew, grilled meat… everything.

2. Smooth veggie soup.

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Smooth veggie soups are my favorite because you can eat them from a bowl with a spoon, or sip from a mug—any time of day. (They’re really nice at breakfast in the winter!) I cook a batch of my Silky Gingered Zucchini Soupwith homemade bone broth every week, then we eat it as a first course at dinner every night. That’s some serious gut-healing and veggie power! My Golden Cauliflower Soup is also a creamy-smooth option. You might also try Stupid Easy Paleo’s Creamy Broccoli Soup from her brilliant The Performance Paleo Cookbook or Nom Nom Paleo Carrot Cardamom Soup from Nom Nom Paleo: Food For Humans.

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3. Snack on raw veggies while you cook.

A bell pepper cut into strips, cucumber slices, some carrot sticks, a handful of snap peas… these are all awesome snacks to nosh on while you make a meal. Just wash and cut your favorite veggie as the first step in making your meal, then snack on it while you prepare your “real food.”

4. Salad for breakfast.

One of my favorite breakfasts is a cold plate of cooked protein—roast chicken, hard-boiled eggs, steamed shrimp, a can of kipper snacks or smoked oysters—arranged with raw veggies, nuts or coconut flakes, a few olives. If I’m feeling fancy, I whirl a batch of Sunshine Sauce for dipping. You might also try a bed of salad greens like spring mix or baby spinach topped with fried eggs (and bacon, for bonus points) and Zingy Ginger Dressing(which is also made of vegetables).

5. The Secret Ingredient in ground meat.

I discovered this trick while developing one of the recipes for our next cookbook, and it’s a winner! To add vegetables to your protein and make a comforting, tender pile of meat, add grated cauliflower to ground meat while you cook it. Just grate the cauliflower in the food processor like you would for cauliflower rice and set aside. Brown and season ground meat, any kind will do: beef, turkey, lamb, pork, bison. I like to season each pound of meat with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic powder. When the meat is no longer pink, add the grated cauliflower, stir to combine, and sauté until the cauliflower is tender, about 5 minutes. Think about the exponential veggie power you can consume if you then plop that meat on top of baby spinach. BLAMMO!

Food for Thought: Pot Roast in the Instant Pot

Were you one of the many who finally got their Instant Pot on Black Friday?  Are you looking for ways to take advantage of its awesomeness and make something you delicious?  Well here is a pot roast recipe from PaleOMG to get you started:

Pot Roast in the Instant Pot

  • Prep Time 20 minutes
  • Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Total Time 1:50
  • Serves 5-6    

Instructions

  1. Press Sauté function on instant pot*. Once hot, add ghee. Salt outside of the chuck roast then place in basin of the instant pot and sear chuck roasts on all sides, about 5-7 minutes a side.
  2. Once chuck roast is completely seared, remove and set aside. Press keep warm/cancel on instant pot. Place all veggies in the instant pot. Use a knife to cut 5 small holes in the chuck roast and press the garlic cloves into each hole. Place the chuck roast on top of the veggies.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the beef brothcoconut aminostomato pastered pepper flakes and a large pinch of salt and pepper.  Pour mixture into the instant pot. Use twine to tie together sage, thyme and rosemary then add that to the instant pot, as well.
  4. Secure lid, close off pressure valve then press manual to high pressure and press the up button until the time hits 90 minutes. Once time is up, quick release to let pressure out then remove lid. 
  5. Remove chuck roast from instant pot, cut twine and use two forks to shred the meat. Strain vegetables from liquid and add the meat to the vegetables. Before serving, pour some of the liquid from the instant pot over meat. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons ghee
  • 4 pound chuck roast, wrapped in twine
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 russet potatoes, rinsed and cubed
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup peas
  • 28 ounces beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 sage leaves, bundled
  • 5 thyme sprigs, bundled
  • 5 rosemary sprigs, bundled
  • fresh parsley, to garnish
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Food for Thought: Thinking About Going Easy on the Big Holiday Meals? Think Again.

Thanksgiving is a time to be with loved ones and express gratitude.  But many of you have expressed anxiety to us as to how to survive the holiday food-pocalypse... which unfortunaly for many, has gotten in the way of enjoying some holiday cheer.  So to help with your game plan and mental prep, I have brought you an article from Renaissance Periodization.  Yes, I know its long... but a few extra minutes of reading is worth a stress free holiday!

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Fundamentally, the upcoming holidays are about one thing: the enjoyment and celebration of life. That means enjoying special times with your closest family, friends, and yes, your favorite holiday foods.  And while no one is going to debate that those special holiday meals are some of the most delicious, they can bring some anxiety about dreaded holiday weight gain.

The big problem is that while this anxiety doesn’t actually help you make logical decisions about holiday eating, it definitely saps you of the peace of mind that’s pretty much a prerequisite for enjoying the holidays to their fullest. What DOES, however, allow you to have that peace of mind about your holiday eating is to form logical decisions that concord with your long term physique and performance goals in advance. Coming to these decisions in advance of the holidays (read: just about now) can allow you to avoid suffering through the uncertainty, doubt, second-guessing, temptation, shame and guilt that has all too often come with holiday eating. By sticking to your decisions, you can get the most out of holiday eating and accomplish the first priority of the holidays; enjoyment. And guilt free enjoyment at that.

As far as the team of expert coaches and scientists are RP see things, there are three possible logical approaches to holiday eating:

A) No Deviation From Strict Dieting

B) Controlled Deviation from Strict Dieting

C) Enjoyment of Maintenance

Let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages of each approach so that you can choose the one that’s right for you.

Option A basically has you sticking to your strict meal plan through the holidays. No stuffing, no turkey, and no Christmas ham. By sticking to your dieting, you bypass any worries of gaining unwanted weight, but you pay for it in getting just about zero food enjoyment out of the holidays. This lack of food enjoyment is in almost every case going to carry over at least a little bit to reducing the fun you have with family and friends, so it definitely comes at a price. We’d only recommend this route if you have a serious competition coming up right after the holidays (for which you need to diet to make weight). Otherwise, this is not the top choice. But it’s not the worst choice for most people, as that one is next.

Option B sounds kind of like a win-win. You get to eat some tasty holiday foods and stay on track for your physique goals… you get to have your cake and have abs too! The big problem with this approach is that while SOME very rare people can pull it off no sweat, for most of us this is by far the worst option. Perhaps the only thing worse than no mashed potatoes with gravy is just enough mashed potatoes and gravy to drive your cravings for more tasty holiday food through the roof. For many very tempting things, “just a bit” only makes cravings worse for most people, and “not at all” is a better approach. If you really think you can pull off Option B, go for it, but we’d recommend you stay away from its illusory promises of “best of both worlds.’ You’ll likely find that its promises in reality quickly turn to extremes of temptation and cravings.

Lastly, there’s Option C, which we at RP consider by far the best. If you don’t have a competition that needs you to weigh much less shortly after the holidays, we highly recommend you choose this approach. If you do choose this route, the goal is to keep your body mass about the same through the holidays or gain just a tiny bit, while eating ALL of your favorite holiday meals and not holding back. And with just a few key tips, you can pull this off no problem.

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Tips for Enjoying Maintenance through the Holidays:

  1. DO NOT Skip Holiday Meals
  2. DO NOT Skimp on Holiday Meal Portion Sizes
  3. Adjust your Non-Festive Meals
  4. Keep Training HARD!

1.) Some folks like to make deals with themselves where they allow themselves to have fun with a few holiday meals, but skip other ones so as not to go overboard on the total holiday calories and gain too much weight. But unless you’re invited to like 10 holiday parties, this is not likely to be necessary. So long as you’re eating no more than about 5-7 special meals during the season, skipping any isn’t even worth considering. A bit later in this blog post we’ll take a look at some basic calorie math to put you at ease if you’re skeptical.

2.) When you’re eating special festive meals (like Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, for example), don’t hold back on portion sizes and food types and ENJOY YOURSELF to the belt-bursting fullest! The whole point of holiday eating is too indulge, so have at it! Worried that this will cause too much weight gain? Check out the next tip.

3.) Because your holiday meals will be so deliciously caloric, in order to keep your weight in check, you’ll have to adjust your non-festive meals during the holiday season. Why adjust these meals and not the holiday meals? Well, you eat the holiday meals with the specific goal of enjoying them. While you might enjoy your regular meals, you don’t exactly eat all of them specifically for maximal enjoyment, but rather to fuel your athletic performance and support your health. Why not let both meals do what they do best and modify your goal-oriented regular meals to support your goals rather than rigging your holiday meals for that purpose and losing out on their very special enjoyment value. For example, if you’ve got extra work to do and then the weekend is full of fun plans, you do more work on the week to finish up and then enjoy without worry on the weekend… you don’t just do your regular work on the week and then do extra work on the weekend… dampening your fun weekend plans. Just the same way, the holiday meals are for all-out enjoyment, and the regular meals are for physique control! So how do we go about modifying our regular meals? All we have to do is make our regular meals higher in lean protein and veggies and a bit lower in carbs and fats. That’s it. This lowers our meal calories while keeping their anti-hunger properties, allowing you to dip a bit below maintenance for your average regular non-festive meals. Your festive meals will be WAY above maintenance calories, but because they are so outnumbered by regular meals, the sum is likely to balance out and no net weight gain is usually the result! Mind you, you DO NOT have to starve yourself on every non-festive meal. Eat plenty! But by focusing on lots of lean protein and veggies and keeping the carbs and fats perhaps to 50% of their usual per-meal servings, you make a big calorie dent while still supplying your body with the fuel and building blocks it needs.

4.) If you stop training altogether or skip a bunch of training sessions during the holidays, we won’t lie to you… weight gain will be likely, and it’s likely going to be fat. But if you hit the gym and hit it hard during the holidays, you’ll not just be treading water… you’ll be building muscle! Sure, lots of cardio is not often a bad thing, and if that’s your thing, hit it hard! But the benefit of weight training is that it not only helps to burn off holiday pounds but it helps you use those very same festive meals as raw materials for building new muscle! With high volume weight training, those holiday meals are working TOWARDS your goals, not again them! That sounds pretty awesome, so when the holidays come… maybe not the day OF Thanksgiving and Christmas, but certainly the many days before and after, our advice is to hit the gym and hit it hard!

So what’s our best advice so far, summed up? Eat all the holiday meals you have planned and don’t hold back. Eat well during the regular meals that surround the special ones and don’t just fall face first off of good eating habits (high protein, high veggie) when the holidays come. Train hard, train with lots of sets and reps and enjoy growing some holiday muscle while keeping your fat in check!

.... to read the rest of the article, click here.

Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me

This weekend is daylight savings. With daylight savings time comes the reality of winter.  The number of warm days have been shrinking away, so it is important to remember to get enough vitamin D.  But you wanna know a secret?  Living in the bay area, people are already likely to be vitamin D deficient.  It is not because we are rarely outdoors, working inside all day.  Nor is it that when we are outside, we wear sunblock which prohibits our own vit D production from UVB exposure in the sun... 

"Except during the summer months, the skin makes little if any vitamin D from the sun at latitudes above 37 degrees north (in the United States, the shaded region in the map) or below 37 degrees south of the equator. People who live in these areas are at relatively greater risk for vitamin D deficiency."

"Except during the summer months, the skin makes little if any vitamin D from the sun at latitudes above 37 degrees north (in the United States, the shaded region in the map) or below 37 degrees south of the equator. People who live in these areas are at relatively greater risk for vitamin D deficiency."

Here is how it works - when UVB rays hit your skin,  Vitamin D3 is produced then transported to the liver where it is converted to Vitamin D – the hormone you need.  "Now, under the right circumstances, 10 to 15 minutes of sun on the arms and legs a few times a week can generate nearly all the vitamin D we need. Unfortunately, the “right circumstances” are elusive: the season, the time of day, where you live, cloud cover, and even pollution affect the amount of UVB that reaches your skin."  Quoted from Harvard Health Publications.  And at our latitude, these circumstances are not optimally aligned.  We try to supplement it in our diets, but the D we get from food (mainly fish and fortified dairy) is very limited.

Why should you care?  Let me tell you.  Much like fish oil, researchers are studying vitamin D as a supporter to your body's fight against many modern day concerns such as bone health, inflammation, digestive health, autoimmune conditions and obesity.   Some research is also looking into aiding you in your quality of sleep - all of this, in my book, makes checking your vitamin D worth a look.

So especially for the winter months, and for those of you who spend much of your waking hours in an office working, supplementing your D is a good idea.  The recommended intake of D is from 600 to 4,000 IU a day.  Because vitamin D is stored in your liver, you don't have to take it every day - so supplementation can be pretty inexpensive.  Just like with any supplement, it is always a good idea to get blood work to see if supplementation is right for you.  But in the meantime, while you are deciding whether or not you want to look into adding a little extra D in your life - check out the short clip below.

Food for Thought: What Are You Really Hungry For? 4 Things Other Than Food You Might Be Craving

This is a worthwhile reminder from Megan Clements of Breaking Muscle

You find yourself standing with the fridge door open wide, pondering what you’re going to eat to quell this insatiable hunger. If you’re lucky there’s some leftover chicken from last night and fresh veggies, but sometimes things turn ugly when you remember that tub of ice cream in the freezer. As much as your hunger is telling you to just grab the food and get it into your stomach, for anyone with a track record of reaching for the ice cream (and possibly even those who go for the chicken), now is the perfect time to back away from the fridge, take a deep breath, and ask yourself what you’re really hungry for. The answer may just surprise you.

Hunger is sometimes just plain old, garden-variety hunger - your body’s way of telling you that it’s been too long since the last time you gave it some fuel. If this is the case, logic will generally drive your decision at the fridge door and you’ll reach for the leftover chicken. But other times, your hunger can be a craving for something else altogether.

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Water

Has your body been telling you for the last three hours that it’s thirsty? Sometimes thirst is easy to ignore, especially if you’re on the go all day. Hunger is often thirst in disguise.Eventually your body gets so sick of its thirst signals being ignored that it changes up its tactics in order to get some hydration. Since you didn’t listen the first time around, your body decides to send you messages that you’re ravenously hungry and this usually has an end result of you consuming something – but possibly not something particularly nutritious. Many people will find they crave foods with high water content (such as fruits for example) when they’re thirsty, or salty food when they’re dehydrated. While there’s nothing wrong with satisfying these cravings sensibly, it’s a means to an end. Walking around dehydrated isn’t doing you any favors from a general health and performance perspective.

Sleep

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Would you actually kill for a quick nap right now, but since it’s not really an option at 3:00pm on a busy workday, you’re after a quick energy fix in the form of food?A lack of sleep changes the way we experience hunger by way of two hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin is responsible for signaling hunger and stimulating appetite, and leptin is responsible for signaling satiety. Lack of sleep has been shown to increase levels of ghrelin and decrease levels of leptin in your blood. So when you’re sleep deprived you’re likelier to be hungrier and less able to tell when you’re actually full. A good way to work out whether you’re actually craving sleep is to ask yourself whether you’d prefer to snuggle up under the duvet and doze off, or if you actually need food right now.

Relaxation

Similar to lack of sleep, stress also changes the way we experience hunger by changing our hormonal balance. Our body produces cortisol in response to a stressful situation. Cortisol not only been shown to stimulate appetite, but packs a double whammy and tells our body to store any energy that’s not needed immediately (that means fat stores). So next time you think you might actually be craving relaxation instead of needing fuel, perhaps consider a soothing cup of herbal tea and a few minutes of quiet time before you crack open the ice cream.

Emotional Expression

Most of us, at some point in time, have experienced emotional eating, otherwise known as eating your feelings. The science behind this emotional eating shows that consumption of certain foods (particularly sweet foods) sets off a chain reaction resulting in the release of serotonin, your “happy hormone.” When you’re feeling anxious, depressed, bored, and surprisingly sometimes even happy, you can end up delving into a tub of ice cream in an attempt to even out your hormones. Physiologically it might work, but the feeling of a bloated belly full of ice cream is probably not going to make you feel any better, plus the fact that you haven’t actually expressed the emotion that started this whole thing. It’s a tricky one because the last thing you feel like doing when you’ve had a terrible day is sitting down and actually dealing with your emotions. So it may be the perfect time to do something active that will give you the serotonin hit you’re craving, and deal with the underlying emotion when you’re riding the post-exercise high.

It sounds simple, but sometimes taking a few seconds to step away from the fridge, breathe, and actually think about what you’re hungry for will tell you a lot about your body, habits, and emotions. Not only is that going to help you get a long way towards your performance and body composition goals, but it will also help you avoid that disappointed, “Why did I do that?!” moment gazing at the empty ice cream tub.

 

Food for Thought: 4 Surprising Ways Other People Affect Your Health

The following is an oldie but goodie from Mark's Daily Apple.

Jean-Paul Sartre in one of his famous plays said, “Hell is—other people.” I think most of us might sympathize with that claim depending on the day and the person we’re dealing with. On the flip side, people can be the source of our greatest joys. His sentiment, regardless, speaks to the strong impact others can have on us. Whether we like it or not, we all live (and need to live) in some relation to others. None of us exist in a vacuum, and research on extreme isolationsuggests the real hell on earth might be exactly that. So make no mistake—how people make us feel is not just the stuff of poetry and philosophy. Other people can and do influence our immediate physiology as well as our ongoing health. What does this process look like though? How does it play out in our lives? Let’s examine a few examples.

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Evolution shaped us to be intricately social creatures. From the time of infancy, we’re innately directed to be highly attuned to those around us—first to our mothers and/or primary caregivers and later to our peers and larger community. Complex neurological patterns guide our instinctual process of observation and emulation. Researchers have long studied “mirroring,” the subconscious mechanism that moves us to adopt the subtle behavioral signals of someone whom with we’re likely to establish rapport, trust and empathy—the cornerstones of human connection. Interdependence and the social tools to support it are written into our DNA.

But the effects go even deeper than observational behaviors.

Studies show that people’s brain waves begin to oscillate in the same rhythms during verbal exchanges they deem as positive. This goes for group settings and even with strangers.

Likewise, our heart rates synchronize with loved ones during personal exchanges or when we see them experiencing stress.

Communal rituals may hold the same sway. Participants in choir performance, for example, have been shown to synchronize heart variability.

So it shouldn’t surprise us to know that the company we keep has the power to influence our daily choices and, by extension, our overall well-being. This isn’t to let us off the hook. None of us is operating from a pure monkey see, monkey do mentality. But we can understand (and at times harness) the latent proclivity to go with the flow, whether its leading where we want to go or not.

Here are just a few ways the company we keep can affect our bodies and minds.

Weight/Body Composition

For better or worse, studies have shown that the kinds of folks you associate with can affect your waistline. A New England Journal of Medicine study found that having one friend who was obese raised the risk of obesity by 57% over the course of 30 years. Friends, the study showed, were more influential (even long-distance) than family members. This is enough to make anyone sit up and listen.

In fact, some research suggests that the social network model can be exploited to actually prevent or dial back the onset of obesity across groups. Offering weight management support for random members of a social cluster may have reverberating effects.

In other words, if one person (or several people) take charge of their body composition, the effects can effectively spread to other members of the social group.

Be the change, as they say, seems to apply here. Wearing a Grok shirt to family picnics or gifting a Primal book to your neighborhood’s Little Library may not hurt either. Share the message and connect with others who reflect the healthy “norm” you want to embody in your life. The effects can spread wider than you may know.

Mood Disorders

Some years ago there were headlines claiming that depression was contagious. As most sensationalist headlines do, it got big attention at the time, but it only told part of the story. Indeed, some research does indicate a social clustering of depressive symptoms, particularly among women. Oddly, the study above found that the onset of depression in a spouse didn’t impose the same heightened risk of depression in his/her partner to the same degree as having a friend with depression did. This contradicts other research that revealed 40% of those living with a diagnosed depressed person met clinical criteria for depression as well.

Other findings, however, demonstrated the flip side of this phenomenon, showing the “spread” of happiness. The closer you live to, and the more you interact with, happy people, the findings suggest, the more potent the effect. Having a sibling or friend who experienced happiness and lived within one mile raised the probability of being happy by 25%. Living with a spouse who was happy showed a similar effect. Other research on adolescents also affirmed the spread of happiness, showing that having happy friends raised the probability of recovery from depression.

What we can take from this? Above all, we can understand the need to actively and selectively attach and detach from others’ feelings. When the mood is high, and people around us are happy, we can let ourselves soak it in. When it’s low, offer empathy and support, but stay vigilant to maintain your own emotional independence.

When it comes to depression, given our human propensity to be influenced by others’ behaviors, we must take charge of our own feelings. Meditation techniques around detachment can help fortify our own emotional boundaries. Likewise, taking responsibility for our lives (being selfish) means ensuring we don’t become fixated on another’s situation. The more problems there are around us long-term, the bigger life we need to live.

Fitness

One study of 3000 students from the U.S. Air Force Academy showed that a student was three times more likely to fail basic fitness requirements if more than half of his/her friends fell out of shape. (PDF)

On the other side of the coin, direct support from others can spur us to exercise more consistently and to make more of our workouts. A study of 1000 women commissioned by Virgin Active found that over 30% of respondents called their friends their “main motivation” for staying fit. Sixty-four percent of participants said they train harder with others than if they go it alone. The study found subjects worked out longer and went to the gym more often if they went with a friend. Other research found that people benefit from others’ fitness only when they perceive support for their own exercise efforts as well.

Here’s where community might just be essential. Even if you’re an introverted exerciser who’d rather hit the gym or the trail alone, you’ll benefit from a supportive set of friends. Accountability and encouragement might come over social media for some of us as well as it does in paired workouts for others. Choose the support you want for your fitness, and go get it.

Immunity and Heart Health

Have you been seeing red lately? Maybe it’s the times, but this one’s been on my mind lately. Anger, as anyone can imagine, doesn’t do our health any favors, and research confirms that assumption. Just recalling an angering experience suppresses immunity for six hours.

Not surprisingly, the effects can be much more deleterious. Angry outbursts can triple your risk for stroke within the next two hours. And if anger is a chronic problem for you, research suggests you’ll earn yourself double the risk for cardiovascular disease.

What does anger have to do with other people? (I can hear the snickers through the screen.) There’s a post unto itself, but let me just highlight the impact of anger on social media. A team from Cornell University cycled through 70 million tweets, observing user interaction and assigning each tweet one of four emotional labels (sadness, joy, disgust and anger). Of all the emotions, anger, they found, was more contagious than any other response. Anger had the widest span as well, lasting through three degrees of separation.

What’s the take-home here? It may not be a bad season to cull your social media feeds or take an outright break if you find the collective fury is disturbing your peace. Keeping yourself on an even keel isn’t selfish. It constitutes good self-care—and just may be a wise act of public service that keeps immune systems and tickers strong.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the influence of others on your daily health, well-being and peace of mind. Have a great end to the week.

Food for Thought: Food Renegade on Collagen

Are you savvy to the benefits of collagen in your diet?  This is a straight forward read from Food Renegade to help educate you.

Many people are now looking for natural sources of collagen so they can reap its benefits and the benefits are many!  As the most abundant protein in our body, collagen is important for:

  •         Fighting signs of aging like wrinkles
  •         Improving joint health
  •         Healing Leaky Gut Syndrome
  •         Boosting metabolism
  •         Improving mental health
  •         Reducing the appearance of cellulite
  •         Strengthening hair and nails (see this gelatin hair mask recipe)
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WHAT IS COLLAGEN?

In the body, collagen is mostly found in the skin, bones, and joints.  It also is found in the lining of the gut. We now know that gut health is incredibly important for overall health!

Collagen in the body is made up of amino acids which wrap together to make a triple-helix structure.  The helix structure is why collagen is so strong.

The amino acids which make up collagen are:

  •         Glycine: Makes up about 33% of collagen
  •         Proline: Makes up about 10% of collagen
  •         Hydroxyproline: Makes up about 10% of collagen
  •         Hydroxylysine: Makes up about 1% of collagen (12)

WHY YOU NEED COLLAGEN

Our bodies are able to make collagen out of amino acids we consume through food.  However, as we age, our bodies aren’t able to produce collagen as well.  Thus, around the age of 30, collagen production begins to diminish by about 1% to 2% yearly.  By the age of 40, we have lost 10% to 20% of our collagen! (3)

Don’t forget that our bodies first need to have amino acids to produce collagen. If you are eating a diet which is lacking in those crucial amino acids, your body won’t be able to produce enough collagen!

To make things worse, naturally-occurring enzymes in our bodies also break down collagen.  Environmental factors like pollution, free radicals, and the sun can also break down collagen.(4)

THE #1 SOURCE OF COLLAGEN: GELATIN

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When it comes to sources of collagen, you won’t find anything better than gelatin.  Why? Because gelatin IS collagen.

Gelatin is basically a cooked form of collagen.  It is usually made by boiling down the connective tissues of cows or pigs.  The collagen is released, extracted, and dried.

The great thing about gelatin is that it is easy for the body to digest and absorb.  A lot of people report quick results by consuming gelatin.  Don’t expect your wrinkles or joint pain to disappear overnight, but a scoop-per-day of gelatin could do miracles for your health!

Quality matters when buying gelatin!  The stuff you find in the supermarket is so highly-processed that it isn’t likely to deliver any benefits.  Instead, choose pasture-raised, grass-fed gelatin.  You can read How to Choose a Gelatin Brand.

#2: BONE BROTH

Bone broth is made by boiling down the bones and connective tissues of animals.  When these tissues are boiled, the collagen is released into water.  That is why bone broth will gel.

Making bone broth is very easy and cheap! I like to sip on a hot mug of bone broth each morning. 

Just be warned that if you are following a Low FODMAPs diet for IBS or SIBO, some of the carbs in bone broth might bother you.  In this case, it is better to opt for gelatin powder, which is FODMAPs-safe.

#3: EGG WHITES

Egg whites are very rich in the amino acids glycine and proline, which are the main components of collagen.  By eating egg whites, you’ll give your body the amino acids it needs to build collagen.

#4: SPIRULINA

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Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae which is really popular as a health supplement.  In addition to containing lots of iron, a single teaspoon of spirulina contains more glycine and proline than a large egg white.

Spirulina is also a good source of copper, and copper is one of the minerals important for forming collagen.(5)

The only downside is that spirulina supplements can be a bit pricey, and they don’t exactly taste very good.  I personally stick to gelatin instead.

#5: COD

Cod, as well as other types of white fish, are loaded with glycine and proline.  Even if you aren’t worried about getting more natural sources of collagen into your life, you should still be eating more cod.  It has a great Omega 3:6 ratio – something important for reducing inflammation in the body.

I personally take fermented cod liver oil (FCLO) as a supplement every day.  It’s the only supplement that I take and is a great source of vitamin D plus it’s a natural sleep aid.

#6: CITRUS FRUITS

While citrus fruits like grapefruits and lemons don’t contain glycine or proline, they do contain high amounts of vitamin C.

Our bodies need vitamin C to produce collagen.  According to dermatologist Dr. Dimitry Palceski, the antioxidant properties of vitamin C also prevent enzymes and free-radicals from breaking down collagen.(6)

#7: SULFUR FOODS

Sulfur is a trace mineral which is important for collagen synthesis.  Studies have shown that animals fed a sulfur-deficient diet produced less collagen.  The scary thing is that many people are likely deficient in sulfur, yet the mineral gets hardly any attention.(7)  

Animal foods like beef, eggs, poultry, and dairy are all good sources of sulfur for collagen production.  However, it is also important to eat vegetable sources of sulfur too.  As Mark Sisson notes, vegetable sources of sulfur contain potent organosulfur which animal foods do not.(8)

Good vegetable sources of sulfur include:

  •         Garlic (which is also contains allicin – a potent natural antibacterial)
  •         Onions
  •         Broccoli
  •         Cabbage
  •         Brussels sprouts

Food For Thought: How to Cook a Week of Healthy Meals in No Time

The following is a great post from the Whole Life Challenge to help you organize your healthy living!

Imagine if you could make all your meals for an entire week in just two hours. And, on top of that, imagine all those meals were both healthy and enjoyable (and cost less than what you usually spend).

That would be pretty awesome, right?

Well, you’re in luck. I’m going to drop a series of three lessons on you that will teach you how to do just that.

First, you’ll learn how to plan your healthy meals for the week so you can grocery shop efficiently and economically. In lesson two, you’ll learn how to cook without recipes (which makes the process a whole lot faster). And then finally, we’ll put it all together and teach you how to make all your meals for the week in a single two-hour session.

Lesson 1

Learn how to shop like an executive chef to buy exactly the right amount of food for the healthy meals you plan to home cook. Let’s start with two important questions: what is a plate of food and how many plates are we going to shop for? Have some paper and a pen ready, because we’re going to make some simple charts to map this all out.

 

Lesson 2

In this lesson, you’ll unlock yourself from the “rules” of cooking. Learning to cook without recipes will free you up to move confidently and quickly, making meals like a pro. We’ll go over some basic, universal ingredients and a simple seasoning system that will allow you to make flavorful, healthy meals without complication and exactly to your liking.

 

Lesson 3

Now we’re going to bring all this knowledge together and make all our meals for the week in just two hours. We’re going to work through three essential steps — chop, sprinkle, and poke. Make sure you have a kitchen timer on hand because you’re going to do this all on the clock!

At first this process is likely to feel awkward, but with a little practice it will become routine. It’s a bit like learning to ride a bike, but in this scenario, you always get a hot meal in the end.

If you find yourself worrying about getting things “right” or wishing you had a recipe, stop for a moment and take a breath. Just focus on making food you enjoy and learning to enjoy the process. Having a closer relationship with your food and the preparation of your food is the basis for a healthier life.