Category

Healthy Tips

Category

Let’s talk about feel-good foods! Many people associate “comfort foods” with the warm, fuzzy emotions that go along with eating warm, gooey and filling foods. However, many of the comfort foods we grew up with are filled with sugars, extra carbs and unhealthy fats that wreck our moods after the initial “flavor high.” True feel-good food is food that uses nutrients, minerals and vitamins to provide brain boosts. These foods don’t create the “highs” and “lows” associated with many of the foods we all thought were feel-good foods. What are the best foods for boosting your mood naturally? Take a look at the recipe for happiness for both your stomach and brain!

Get a Happiness Delivery From Vitamin D

Breakfast with eggs, greens, and toast.

Yes, simple vitamin D is a big mood booster. Unfortunately, this is the feel-good vitamin that most people aren’t getting enough of in their diets. Researchers estimate that more than 41 percent of American adults aren’t getting enough daily Vitamin D.

What many people don’t realize is that vitamin D is technically a hormone. What’s more, researchers have linked low vitamin D levels with depression. In a 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis on vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults, researchers concluded that the link between depression and vitamin D levels is profound enough to call for more trials to see if vitamin D can be an effective tool for the prevention and treatment of depression.

Fortunately, it’s very easy to find tasty options rich in vitamin D. Fish is an excellent source of natural vitamin D. Salmon, herring, sardines, tuna and cod top the list when it comes to getting the most D in every delicious bite! If you’ve been looking for a reason to commit to enjoying a morning scramble other than the fact that this is a delicious option, it’s helpful to know that eggs are very high in vitamin D. In fact, one yolk contains 37 IU of vitamin D. Mushrooms, oatmeal, cow’s milk and soy milk round out the list of common, delicious foods that are rich in vitamin D.

Bring the Fun Times With Omega-3 Fatty Acids

This is the big category if you’re struggling with mood and energy levels. There’s increasing evidence that a lack of omega-3 fatty acids in a person’s diet is linked with poor mental health. In fact, researchers believe that dietary deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids in humans are associated with increased risks for developing psychiatric disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

The good news for anyone looking to boost physical and mental health is that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids tend to be highly nourishing and filling! In addition to being great for your brain, these foods are also potentially beneficial for heart health, skin health, eye health and weight loss. If you want to go big with omega-3 fatty acids, focus on cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines. Falling into the category of nuts and seeds, goodies like chia seeds, flaxseed and walnuts are all high in omega-3 fatty acids. Plant oils like soybean oil, canola oil and flaxseed oil are all superstars when it comes to getting your omega-3 requirements in!

Do a Turkey Trot Toward a Good Mood With Tryptophan

Tryptophan got a bad rap for being the ingredient in turkey that makes everyone feel sleepy on Thanksgiving. While tryptophan can have a relaxing impact, the reality is that the infamous Thanksgiving sleepiness probably has much more to do with the enormous portions of all types of food being eaten at the table than it does with one little amino acid. What’s interesting about tryptophan is that our bodies don’t produce it even though it’s needed to maintain the body’s muscles, enzymes, proteins and neurotransmitters. The reason why tryptophan makes the list of mood-boosting things to eat is because this amino acid is converted to serotonin in your brain. That after-turkey afterglow may start making sense to you now! Serotonin is the primary hormone for stabilizing our mood. When serotonin levels are balanced, we can expect to have feelings of well-being and happiness. In fact, many of the antidepressants that people use for mood issues are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that increase serotonin levels in the brain.

Studies show that tryptophan may be effective for treating a variety of psychiatric disorders. While adding some extra tryptophan to your diet should never take the place of actual advice from your doctor if you’re currently using SSRIs, it’s helpful to know that many popular foods are packed with tryptophan if you’re simply looking for a mood boost. If you’re looking to tip the mood scales in your favor, try nibbling on oats, bananas, dried prunes, milk, tuna fish, cheese, bread, chicken, turkey, peanuts and chocolate.

Breeze Past Bad Moods With Probiotics

Two bowls of yogurt parfait made with granola and peaches.

According to the latest research, probiotics may help to boost both mood and cognitive function. It all comes down to the discovery that the brain and gut are linked by something called the gut-brain axis. Through the brain-gut axis, biochemical signals are conveyed between the nervous system and digestive tract.

Researchers call the gut the body’s “second brain” due to all of the neurotransmitters produced in the gut. In fact, 90 percent of the serotonin produced by the human body is made in the digestive tract! The gut is also responsible for making other mood-regulating neurotransmitters like dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid.

There are plenty of ways to fit probiotics into your diet! The easiest way to get in your probiotics every day is by simply starting your day off with a yogurt parfait! Foods like tempeh (fermented soybean), kefir, sauerkraut and miso are all great sources for probiotics.

Don’t Forget the Coffee

While it’s not technically a food, coffee enjoyed in moderation can be great for improving mood. Coffee stimulates the central nervous system. That’s why we feel sharper and more alert after starting the day with a cup of java. Researchers believe that caffeine’s ability to block a neurotransmitter in the brain called adenosine is what that feeling of “having the edge” comes from. It’s also known that caffeine influences neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, dopamine and acetylcholine that are known to improve both mood and mental performance. One of the most compelling arguments for using coffee as a mood-boosting tool comes from a 2013 study looking at the link between coffee consumption and suicide. According to the authors that reviewed data from three large studies, the risk of suicide for adults who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee per day was about half compared to people who drank decaffeinated coffee, very little no coffee.

Eating for a Better Mood: How to Make Healthy, Happy Meals Happen Every Day

Being stressed about what to eat to boost your mood can be counterproductive when you’re striving to eat for a sharper, happier brain. That’s why using meal prep is a great way to ensure that you’re getting balanced, healthy meals. This is also a great way to enjoy balanced nutrition that gives you mood-boosting ingredients worked into portions that offer appropriate amounts of healthy fats, protein, calories and more for better physical performance!

Stop Worrying About BMI

Like many, you’ve probably strolled into the doctor’s office for a simple checkup and had a few measurements taken. One of these measurements may have been your Body Mass Index or BMI. This is a measurement that records your height and weight, then categorizes your weight status as either underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese.

The problem with BMI is that it’s very antiquated. This measurement has been used since the 1800’s and doesn’t take very much into account, yet it’s still used today. The amount and location of body fat isn’t even taken into consideration with BMI, which means that an individual with a higher weight, yet lower body fat, may still be categorized as overweight or obese. A BMI this high on an athletic individual is obviously misleading.

So, why is BMI still a thing? Despite there being other, more accurate options for measuring your weight status or health, why is it still used today? That’s exactly what you’re going to be learning more about in this post. You’ll also walk away with some other fantastic options that can be used for checking your health!

A Brief History of BMI

Before dropping into some of the ways that BMI misses the ball, let’s talk about its origins.

The BMI measurement was created in the 1830’s by a mathematician named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. What’s interesting about the creation of BMI is that it wasn’t even created by a physician, yet it’s used regularly in a physician’s protocol. The aim of the number was to determine whether a person is of a healthy weight by dividing their weight by their height squared. This number was then used as a statistic for a general population that would aid the government in allocating resources. What it didn’t do is pinpoint exact measures of health or weight status.

The scale of your BMI runs in ranges and places you into categories, which are still used today. You can see these below:

Below 18.5Underweight
18.5-14.9Healthy
25.0-29.9Overweight
30.0 and aboveObese

Why BMI Misses the Mark

Now, is BMI accurate? In reality, using BMI as a measurement of health or weight status can be misleading. When you have an individual with higher amounts of muscle mass, their BMI may be inaccurate. Due to extra muscle contributing to their overall weight, they may be classified as overweight, even though they’re in great shape with a low percentage of body fat. This is due to the fact that BMI doesn’t take actual body fat percentage (or muscle mass) into account. These numbers are huge variables when it comes to determining the health of someone and they’re totally left out in this form of measurement.

Athlete working out with dumbells

The point of BMI is to keep up with weight and the rate of obesity, but can this really be used as a true indicator if it’s mislabeling healthy individuals as obese? In turn, it becomes an indirect measurement of obesity, and this can be seen in a study measuring trained and untrained individuals. The trained group, even though in better shape, had more individuals categorized as overweight than the untrained group. Therefore, some categorizations of people having their BMI measured are in fact wrong.

Even for an individual who does contain a higher percentage of body fat, BMI can still be slightly misleading. BMI doesn’t take the location of body fat into consideration. It’s no secret that an abundance of fat tissue in the midsection is bad for your health, but what if you carry it evenly throughout the body? When body fat is distributed throughout in an even manner, it’s detriment to your health may be reduced (but not eliminated). If you’re looking at BMI as a marker for health, it could be misleading due to the information it isn’t considering.

BMI may categorize you as overweight, or even obese, in cases where you may actually be in great shape. While it may be an accurate measurement for some scenarios, it doesn’t take everything into account, which limits the credibility of it.

So, why is it still used today?

BMI is a fast way of coming up with a supposed range of health in regard to weight. The number can be found out quickly and it’s been used for so long that it’s just stuck. It’s also still used because there is a large proportion of the population that isn’t athletic. Due to this, the ranges given can have some indication of actual weight status.

This, however, doesn’t mean that it’s an accurate measurement and there are much more effective ways of measuring your body composition, weight loss, and overall health.

Other Ways to Measure Health

DEXA Scans

DEXA scans are imaging tests that measure your bone density. While these are used to look for things like osteoporosis, they also show your body composition. This means that you get to see your other tissues like body fat and muscle mass. Using this information, you can differentiate what your weight is actually comprised of. Whereas with BMI an athletic person could be classified as overweight, a DEXA scan might show quite the opposite.

The only downside to the DEXA scans is that they can be slightly pricey. However, if this isn’t a concern for you, it’s a fantastic way to get an accurate read on your body.

Calipers

Body fat calipers being used to measure a women's body fat.

Body fat calipers are tools used for physically measuring the amount of fat present on your body. The process can range from just a few measurements to a full-on exam. This process requires assistance to reach all the locations, and they measurements are often taken from places such as your arms, legs, and stomach. These measurements are put into an equation that eventually produce your body fat percentage. When compare this method to BMI, it may offer you a much better idea of proportion of your weight is actually fat versus lean tissue.

The more places you have tested, the more accurate this outcome can be. There is, however, the chance of a user error in this test so this should be taken into consideration as well!

How Your Clothes Fit

While not an actual test, it can be extremely helpful. As you’re trying to see if things are changing for your body, you can always keep tabs on how your clothes fit. Let’s say the scale hasn’t changed for you, but you’ve been hitting the gym and eating better. However, you have noticed that you had to go down a belt loop for your pants to stay up! This is a good sign and shows that you’ve lost inches. Losing inches is often attributed to a loss in body fat that may accompany a gain in muscle mass. These changes may not show up with a BMI measurement, when in reality a lot is changing.

While not numerical data to use, it’s a great way of self-measuring some changes to your body.

Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

If you really just want to keep up with your health markers, this is where you should be checking. While BMI may give you some inclination of your weight status, these are measurements that can truly make a difference for your actual health. In many cases, some individuals may have a high BMI but be in fair health when looking at blood pressure and cholesterol. This isn’t always the case, but it can be a reality.

You’ll more than likely have these checked at the same time as your BMI, but maybe keep an eye on these instead of worrying about the outdated BMI you just received.  

How You FEEL!

Happy woman after working out.

At the end of the day, no matter what that BMI says, how do you feel? Do you have energy? Can you do the things you enjoy doing? Are you happy? These are great measurements of health that often don’t get the recognition they deserve. We may look at an odd BMI measurement and completely forget that we were able to run a mile today. If you’re on a health journey, this is also a great place to focus your attention. Are you feeling better as you make these changes? While not a statistical date point, it carries a ton of value when actually tracking your wellness.

Conclusion

There are a ton of different ways in which you can measure your weight, body fat, muscle mass, and health. However, you still get the same old BMI score at the doctors office. It’s an outdated measurement that is still in play today, but don’t let it get you down. That number doesn’t carry as much value as you would assume it does. There is a lot that goes unrecognized in that measurement and this can make it inaccurate. BMI is outdated and isn’t something to fret over. You can always try something like a DEXA scan or body fat test that will provide you with an accurate measurement. In addition, you can try things that aren’t number based and truly go off how you feel!

Use what is relevant to you and your situations and keep moving forward!

Does life feel like a stress factory? It turns out that the way to slow down stress is to rev up your gears. While it may seem counterproductive, doing more is the best stress-management technique if that “more” involves your workout. Yes, regular exercise is the stress-busting secret that everyone needs to remember when they feel tense, anxious and overwhelmed. Do you need a stress escape plan? Take a look at the secret to managing stress with exercise.

Your Brain Supplies You With Your Own Stress-Management Coaches: Meet the Endorphins

Most of us know how good that post-workout glow feels. It can feel like we’ve discovered the secret switch for suddenly feeling more energized, confident and motivated. However, we can just as easily forget how good working out feels once our schedules fill up with work commitments, home-life commitments and distractions. Once you know the science behind why working out leaves you feeling like you’re on top of the world, it’s pretty hard to skip a workout.

It’s all thanks to endorphins. Endorphins are your body’s feel-good neurotransmitters. You’ve definitely already met endorphins if you’ve ever worked out hard, went for a run or simply danced around! Endorphins are natural analgesics that help to diminish pain. Your body releases them during workouts because it knows that you’re “feeling the burn.”

Because endorphins act on the brain’s opioid receptors, they create the feeling of a natural “high” that can reduce pain, increase pleasure and leave you with a general sense of increased well-being. Researchers have known about the link between exercise and the stress-reducing benefits of endorphin release for decades. However, the stressful pace of modern life has more and more researchers looking at the benefits of exercise for stress relief. If you really want to ramp up the feel-good, stress-busting hormones, you may need to ramp up your workouts. While any form of exercise can positively affect mood, people going hard against stress are going hard in the gym. Next, take a look at the emerging research on moderate versus heavy exercise for stress relief.

How Heavy Exercise Can Help With Stress Reduction

First, it’s helpful to know the baseline recommendation for using exercise and physical activity for wellness. The current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest that adults should strive to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise weekly. If you’re doing vigorous-intensity workouts, the recommended time drops down to 75 minutes weekly. Keep in mind that this is the recommendation simply for improving and maintaining physical health. People seeking to use workouts to improve mental health may want to tweak this suggestion a bit to create more of a “therapeutic” schedule. In fact, research supports this.

In a 2018 study, researchers looked at opioid release after high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to gauge the positive effects of physical exercise on mood and stress levels. They found that HIIT leads to a strong endorphin release in the brain that likely alleviates both physical and emotional stress. Here’s a closer look at the data roundup:

  • HIIT substantially increased the release of endorphins and opioid peptides in areas of the brain that control pain and emotion.
  • HIIT’s ability to reduce “negative feelings” actually boosted endorphin release. Consider this confirmation that the no-pain-no-gain theory might be more valid than we thought!
  • Researchers were left to conclude that both negative and positive feelings created by physical exercise impact the opioid system.

The most exciting part of this study comes next. The impact of HIIT on the brain’s opioid system was compared to regular aerobic exercise. Researchers concluded that a traditional one-hour session of aerobic exercise did not produce the same endorphin release as HIIT. Of course, that’s not to say that “normal” aerobic exercise isn’t helpful for stress relief. While traditional exercise did produce feelings of pleasure and euphoria associated with endorphin release, the intensity of the results could not touch what study participants who endured HIIT experienced.

Tweaking Exercise Intensity Levels for Stronger Stress Relief

Photo of athlete performing rope climbs in the gym.

Let’s back up to cover precisely what the correlation between high-intensity workouts and endorphin release means for people trying to learn how to use exercise for stress relief. First, the thought that some exercise is better than no exercise still applies. Someone who cannot participate in high-intensity aerobics for any reason should not assume that they should skip working out because it doesn’t offer any benefits. Any mildly intense physical activity should get you a decent-sized endorphin release that can take the edge off. If you’re looking for intense stress relief, the answer is intense physical activity.

Knowing that high-intensity workouts lead to better stress relief is half the battle. The irony of using intense workouts for stress relief is that the endorphin rush that you’re trying to invoke in your opioid receptors can only be created by creating unpleasant feelings. That’s because your body releases endorphins in response to pain and physical stress during workouts. To stay on track with using exercise for meaningful stress relief, you have to get in a mindset of getting rid of the bad feelings caused by stress by taking on even more bad feelings during a grueling workout before reaching the point where the pain turns to pleasure.

Getting the motivation for this can be challenging for anyone. Negative feelings associated with intense exercise discourage exercise in a considerable percentage of the general population. This is where consistency and planning become so important. You need to build a mindset that allows you to take on the physical and emotional demands of putting in a workout.

How To Stay Motivated

Here are some tips for staying motivated to get your workouts in — even if you know they might make you wince:

Set of workout clothes ready to go.
Keep your workout clothes ready to go!
  • Get your workout in early. If your schedule allows, make your workout the first thing you do every morning. Scheduling your workout for later in the day gives you most of the day to try to talk yourself out of doing it. What’s more, unexpected things can pop up during your day to rob you of the time you’ve set aside for your workout. Exercising first thing also gives you the confidence boost and optimism that come with accomplishing something very hard before more people have even rolled down the top sheet! If you’re having a hard time getting started in the morning, you can gradually adjust your workout time to be earlier and earlier every day until you can get there.
  • Make sure there’s a “treat” waiting. Don’t put yourself in the position to be desperate for anything you can get your hands on after you finish an intense workout. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be a treat, giving yourself a snack or meal to look forward to when your workout is complete can be a big motivator. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that the food or beverage you select will replenish and restore you without undoing any of your hard work. If you’re planning morning workouts, consider having something like healthy banana pancakes or a keto egg scramble waiting for you in the fridge!
  • Keep your workout clothes ready. The goal is to make sure you never have excuses. Following each workout, prepare your workout clothes and gear for the next workout! This will ensure that they are always waiting for you.
  • Discover exercises you enjoy. HIIT workouts come in many forms! You don’t have to commit to just one option. In fact, many HIIT workout programs out there combine traditional cardio with yoga, boxing, ballet and more!
  • Bring a friend along. If you’re desperate to relieve stress, there’s a good chance that the people you live or work with also need some stress-busting tools. Why not get a partner or group? Studies show that having a workout partner increases the amount of time spent working out!
  • Just remember that even a small amount of exercise helps. Exercise in almost any form or intensity level can be a stress reliever. So, if you are out of shape, start by gradually building up your fitness level. You’ll still get the stress relieving benefits of exercise while slowly becoming healthier.

The research is becoming more apparent on one thing. Pain may be the only way to gain peace of mind when it comes to your workout. If you’ve fallen into a sedentary way of being, the argument for getting out there to feel the burn has never been stronger. If you’re already exercising without getting the stress-relieving benefits that you want, the answer may be to ramp things up.

Let the Stress Reduction Begin!

If you’re feeling motivated to reduce stress using high-intensity workouts, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. It’s essential to get proper nutrition through complete, healthy meals when doing intense workouts because your body needs the right fuel to perform—as always, using a meal prep service is an excellent way for busy health-minded people to stay on top of things without feeling vulnerable to hunger, cravings and low energy.

Choline, the Brain Booster

When you start learning about anything health-related, there are numerous vitamins and minerals that start showing up. You have your typical vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, and much more. However, there’s one crucial nutrient that you may not hear much about – Choline. You may not have heard much about choline because it was only recently discovered! It wasn’t even acknowledged as a crucial nutrient until 1998, which wasn’t that long ago. Choline is a special nutrient that is often referred to as vitamin B4. However, this vitamin is actually an essential dietary amine that we can both make internally and consume in our diets.

While, yes, we can make this nutrient on our own, we don’t create nearly enough needed for optimal health. Thus, we need to consume it in our diets to ensure the proper amounts!

In this post, we’re going to highlight the numerous benefits of choline and how you can get more of this nutrient in your diet!

What Choline Does for the Body

Your body makes choline mainly in the liver, and then you get the rest from food. As you consume or create this nutrient, it works on helping out your brain and nervous system. This means that it has a role in your movement, memory, and even mood! Without it, you might run into some trouble surrounding all of these mentioned functions.

In addition, you may find that choline helps with the formation of certain cell membranes. This is crucial for the protection and proper function of some critical processes that your body is constantly working on.

Our bodies are also made up of DNA. DNA basically writes the script for how we look, function, and grow. Choline actually has a role, along with other vitamins, to help aid in the synthesis of your DNA. You can only imagine how important this process is, as it’s going to play into the proper expression of your genetic code!

Choline and the Brain

As previously mentioned, choline is awesome for your brain health! Your brain uses an important neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which is paramount for proper brain function in regard to memory, muscle control, and even mood. Without the necessary amounts of choline in your body, you can’t create the right amounts of acetylcholine. Therefore, the less choline you have, the less your brain can do its job the right way!

Choline and Mood

Choline also has an impact on something called dopaminergic function. Meaning, higher amounts of choline can lead to an increase in dopamine receptor densities. To put it plain and simple, it makes the things that uptake dopamine better. If you’ve heard of dopamine, you know that it plays a role in your overall mood regulation and much more. Certain imbalances here could lead to the development of certain mood or mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. In one study done with choline, there was evidence showing an increase in anxiety among those with lower levels of choline. While this study showed a link to anxiety, it didn’t give a link to depression in those with lower levels of choline, however, it hasn’t been ruled out as a possibility. Mental health is extremely important for quality of life, and it’s something that a large majority of people struggle with. Therefore, if you can benefit in this area by getting the right nutrients, it’s worth the effort!

Choline and Brain Development During Pregnancy

While your brain health is important, when it comes to having kids, the development of their brain can be influenced by choline. As a mother is carrying through pregnancy, the state of her nutritional intake is crucial! There are multiple vitamins and minerals that go into the development of a child’s brain during pregnancy. While there aren’t many studies on humans in relation to choline and fetal brain development, there are currently studies showing a benefit to choline intake on mice and their fetal brain development. These mice are given choline supplementation during pregnancy, and this helped to improve the brain development in the growing fetus.

Choline and Your Memory

Memory and cognition are important for advancing into life, as well as keeping it long and fulfilling. We spend our lives creating memories and we never want to let those things go! So, it’s important that we take steps to make this happen in whatever ways we can. One great way is through nutrition and choline intake. Choline intake has been shown to help improve memory and cognition, and even has some promise for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. This makes it a potent nutrient that we need to take seriously.

It also needs to be considered that choline is a fairly new nutrient and is still being studied extensively. The research on its use for memory is still ongoing, and some results show it to be beneficial while some show it to have no effect. Regardless, we do know that it plays a role in brain health, which can improve memory all together!

What Happens Without Choline?

As with any nutrient, you need a certain amount. When that minimum amount isn’t reached over a period of time, you can end up with some adverse health problems. Being deficient in choline is no different.

While choline deficiencies can be hard to achieve, they do happen! When one is present, you can see symptoms and risks such as anxiety, fatty liver disease (non-alcoholic), muscle damage, kidney problems, some increased risk for heart disease, and an increased risk for some cancers.

In addition, while more research is needed, there could be associated risks for brain health, memory, and cognition without the proper amounts of choline in your diet.

Again, extreme deficiencies are rare when it comes to choline, but there is evidence to suggest that many people in western countries aren’t hitting the mark. Thus, it’s important that you take some steps to get that extra choline into your body!

Below you can find a table from the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements listing the recommended intakes of choline based on age!

The Brain Booster, Choline

Choline is a powerful nutrient that not only does good for your body and nervous system, but also your brain! It’s a precursor for some important compounds that are created in your body, and this makes it paramount for proper function. While still a fairly new nutrient in terms of discovery, its importance is profound. We can consume it to boost our natural levels of choline, and this is how you’ll avoid being deficient in it!

Great Sources of Choline

While your body can synthesize some choline naturally, most of it needs to be consumed from the diet. If you miss out on including it, you could see some trouble when trying to keep up with an adequate intake. So, let’s talk about some great sources of choline that you can easily get in your diet.

Beans

All kinds of beans are a great source of choline. This includes soybeans, lima beans, and even kidney beans. Any kind of legume is going to be a big part of the choline game. Not only do they contain tons of this essential nutrient, but you’re also getting high amounts of protein and fiber. You can easily mix these in with other foods containing choline to get your daily intake.

Quinoa

This grain has become a staple in healthy meals. Not only is it packed with fiber and lower in calories, but it contains protein. This makes it great for someone trying to pack some muscle or lose some body fat! Luckily for you, quinoa is also a fantastic way to get in more choline. This is another one of those foods that can be paired with other choline boosters for a supercharged meal.

Nuts

Foods like almonds are a natural, easy to get source of choline. They can be carried around for convenient snacks or even turned into something like a butter for toast. This makes getting choline in super easy, as you can just take them with you!

Cruciferous Veggies

You can get up to 13% of your daily choline needs with just a cup of cooked cauliflower. The same can be done with other cruciferous veggies like broccoli or Brussel sprouts. They pair well with other foods that contain choline, and you can easily make a great tasting meal with them. Not to mention the numerous other health benefits that these veggies come along with!

Poultry

Turkey and chicken are great ways to get a lean source of protein. They’re low in calories, high in protein, and packed with choline. They’re often used as the base for a healthy meal and can easily be adapted for tons of flavor and meal prep options!

Beef

While most tend to shy away from beef, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a place in a well-balanced diet. Beef is packed with tons of nutrients, of which are extremely bioavailable. Beef also touts some of the highest amounts of choline in animal foods! In addition to your normal cuts of beef like steak or roast, other parts of these land animals are great sources of choline. Beef liver and other organs are packed full of this essential nutrient. You can eat just 3 ounces of cooked beef liver and get 65% of your recommended intake of choline. While beef liver may not normally be on the menu, this is a great opportunity to try some new things!

Mushrooms

Fungi are a great way to add flavor and texture to dishes. They’re also powerhouses when it comes to nutrients. Mushrooms are rich in vitamin D, B vitamins, and choline. They’re a great option for the plant-based choline seeker.

Fish

Most fatty fish will come with a whopping amount of choline. This includes salmon, tuna, and cod which are also full of other essential nutrients. Most individuals who consume lower amounts of fish tend to have lower levels of choline as well. This goes to show that there’s some relationship between the two! There’s a lot that you can do with these kinds of fish when it comes to meal prep, which makes them a perfect protein source.

Whole Eggs

While you may hear that the whole egg is bad for you, this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, the yolks of eggs are packed with multiple nutrients needed for good health. Of these nutrients is of course choline! If you tend to only eat the egg whites, you’re actually missing out on one of the highest sources of choline you can find. Egg yolks contain up to 147mg of choline, which means you can eat 2 whole eggs to hit 54% of your recommended intake.

Conclusion

Alright, you’ve been given the run down on choline and what it can do for not only your body but your brain. It’s a crucial nutrient for your nervous system, memory, and even mood. While a deficiency in choline can be rare, it does happen, and many people miss the mark. Your body can only make so much of your needed choline, once you hit your cap you need to consume more in your diet.

Luckily, there are numerous ways of finding and consuming choline in foods. Plus, it’s what we do best here at LoCal Foodz! We create personalized meals for your needs, and most of the foods we have to offer contain choline naturally. So, not only can you find something to fuel your workouts or lifestyle, but you’ll also be getting a boost to the brain!

What new ways are you going to get choline into your diet?

Many of us have been there before— trying out another fad diet, feeling restricted and unsatisfied, and finally giving up and feeling guilty, only to start the cycle over again. Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of health. We need to fuel our bodies to function our best, but dieting doesn’t always leave us feeling that way. Intuitive eating teaches us to let go of restrictions and rules and listen to what our bodies and minds need. It helps us build a healthy and positive relationship with food and our bodies. Gentle nutrition is the final step in intuitive eating. It focuses on taking care of our bodies and minds and feeling satisfied while eating a balanced diet that gives us all the nutrition we need.

Nutrition should be a lifelong commitment, not a fad. To build these lifestyle changes, they need to be not only healthy but also sustainable. The fact is food is meant to be enjoyed and is not just there for survival. We need a balance. So, how can we be sure we’re supplying our bodies  proper nutrients in adequate amounts without counting, measuring, or obsessing? Cue gentle nutrition. Here are some ways to better understand gentle nutrition and how to get started.

Understand Your Food

Before we can eat intuitively and make healthy dietary choices without needing to read labels, we need to have at least a basic understanding of our food choices. For example, whole grains are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates, while white bread is a simple carbohydrate that is not as rich in fiber and micronutrients. Take note of some healthy sources of fats and good protein sources, understand antioxidants, and so on. Learn about fiber and probiotics. You don’t need to get into the details, but you should have a general idea of what different categories of foods have to offer. Once you understand that, it’s easier to eat a balanced diet without paying attention to the nutrition label. Try our Balanced Meal Plan to make meals easier for you. We do the macro calculations, and you sit back and enjoy your food!

Take Note of How Foods Make You Feel

Friends enjoying a run

With intuitive eating, we try to let go of the idea that there are good and bad foods. As soon as you set limits on yourself, labeling foods as “bad” or off-limits, you start to feel restricted and fall into the pattern of dieting. Take notes of how you feel after eating your meals. It helps to write it down— what did you eat, and how did you feel afterward? You can use a food diary. This makes it easy to identify whether certain foods make you feel bad or good afterward. Everybody is different, and that is why no one diet works for everyone. You might have some intolerances or allergies that make you bloated or sick. Some foods might make you feel sluggish and heavy, while others give you energy and make you feel good. Write it all down until you notice patterns. That way, you’re not eliminating or restricting foods because someone told you to, but because you know they don’t make you feel good, and you don’t want them. You may still choose to treat yourself, and that’s fine! The reasons behind your food choices should always be positive and come from a place of self-care. You can still avoid certain foods or choose to eat plant-based, keto, or sugar-free, but your “why” is what makes the difference between dieting and gentle nutrition.

Differentiate Between Being Full and Satisfied

A big part of intuitive eating is tuning into your hunger cues and honoring them. If you’re hungry, eat. However, sometimes we eat a full meal, and while we no longer feel the physical hunger, we still aren’t satisfied. Intuitive eating focuses on both feelings because we don’t eat to simply be full— we also eat for enjoyment.Honor your cravings and eat in a way that leaves you satisfied both physically and mentally. When we don’t honor cravings, feelings of restriction start to pour in, and we don’t want that. If you eat a bowl of veggies but feel unhappy and want some pasta, then go for it! Pay attention to your food, try not to multitask while eating, and truly enjoy the experience of mealtime. This will also tremendously help with understanding and listening to your body and what it needs.

Zoom Out

Stop stressing about each meal and trying to balance out every plate with enough carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Look at the bigger picture. You can reflect on your food choices at the end of the day— did I eat a balanced diet today? Put all the meals together. Maybe your breakfast was primarily carbohydrates, but your dinner had lots of protein and veggies. As long as you feel good, that’s what matters. You may even wish to assess weeks at a time so that it feels less intimidating. Nobody’s perfect and intuitive eating embraces that. The goal of gentle nutrition is to eat a balanced diet overall, which means you don’t need to stress over each thing you eat but rather look at the big picture.

Prepare and Plan

Grocery Shopping

Although intuitive eating focuses on listening to your body, sometimes the easiest way to start with any lifestyle change is to plan and prepare. Have a rough idea of what meals you’d like to eat throughout the week or month, or at least what ingredients you want to have in your kitchen. Not only will this help you stay organized and save you time, but it will also help you plan balanced meals. When you go to the grocery store, try to cover all your bases— fruits, veggies, carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. That way, you have everything you need to make your nutritious meals. If you don’t have enough ingredients, eating intuitively while balancing meals can be tricky and intimidating.

Try New Things

The easiest way to eat a balanced diet and ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need is to diversify your grocery list. Every week, or however often you go grocery shopping, pick out a fruit or vegetable that you haven’t had in a while (or maybe ever). Not only will this allow you to get creative in the kitchen, but eating a variety of produce helps you get all the different vitamins and minerals that you need. Try to pick a variety of colors when you choose fruits and veggies, as the colors often correlate with different antioxidants and micronutrients. Eating the rainbow will brighten up your plate and is a fun way to ensure you’re getting a broad list of micronutrients. Aim for at least three colors on your plate. Try to incorporate different sources of protein, as well. Instead of having chicken every night, get creative and make a plant-based dinner with tofu or chickpeas. Our Plant-Based Meals can inspire you to try some new foods you may not have had before.

Cook At Home More

Cooking at home

While we don’t want to restrict anything, it’s a known fact that homemade meals are generally healthier than eating out constantly. You shouldn’t be afraid to eat at a restaurant with friends, but you should get to know your kitchen well. When time and your schedule allows, cooking can help build a healthy relationship with food because you can put love, time, and creativity into everything you eat. The why of intuitive eating and gentle nutrition is the most important part— if you’re doing something to care for your body and mental health versus having the mentality of restricting and guilt, then you’re on the right track.

Add to Your Favorite Meals

Instead of restricting, switch your mindset to adding. What can I add to this meal to make it even more nutritious while still tasting delicious? If you don’t like the taste of your new dish, feel free to stick to the original. Remember, it’s all about balance. One chocolate ice cream dessert won’t change anything, but if you can make it with bananas or avocado instead of heavy cream and still love the taste— why not? Get adventurous and find your love for cooking and improvising in the kitchen. Add some green peas to your mac and cheese, blend some spinach into your morning smoothies, or add some nuts and seeds to your muffins for some added omega-3 fats and protein.

Be Easy on Yourself

Enjoying ice cream

Remember that eating intuitively should make you feel good and improve your relationship with food. The principle itself is called “gentle” nutrition. You shouldn’t feel guilty for eating that piece of chocolate cake, eating white bread instead of whole wheat, or not having any protein in your dinner. The point of gentle nutrition is to guide you to a balanced diet and to help you let go of any negative feelings towards food. This is the final step in intuitive eating for a reason— if you’re stuck in a “diet” mentality and haven’t fully fixed any negative relationship with food you may have, focusing on nutrition can be a step backward.


Sources:
https://colleenchristensennutrition.com/getting-started-with-gentle-nutrition/
https://karalydon.com/intuitive-eating/practice-gentle-nutrition-intuitive-eating/
https://nourishrx.com/6-strategies-for-embracing-gentle-nutrition/
https://www.rachaelhartleynutrition.com/blog/how-to-practice-gentle-nutrition-in-intuitive-eating

How do you eat like a champion? From watching the Olympics in Tokyo, many people are feeling inspired by the endurance displayed by the world’s top athletes to begin fueling their own bodies a bit differently. For top-tier athletes, diet is closely tied with peak performance. The truth is that the “average person” doesn’t necessarily need the same caloric intake as athletes who spend hours training each day. For instance, the 12,000 calories that Michael Phelps consumed during training leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing would do more harm than good for nearly everyone else. It’s not uncommon for Olympic athletes to consume double or triple the number of calories recommended for “ordinary” people during peak training periods.

While it’s easy to get caught up on the number of calories top-level athletes take in, the lesson is really found in the types of calories these athletes consume. There are plenty of eating tips that everyday people can borrow from Olympians for peak life performance. Let’s explore what we can learn from how Olympians eat.

Keeping Your Eye on the Prize Starts on the Plate: Modeling Your Diet After Olympians

You may know Laurie Hernandez as an Olympic gold medalist for the U.S. gymnastics teams. Laurie is also a big advocate of sharing tips for healthy eating. After competing in the Olympics for the first time at age 16, Laurie became committed to ensuring that she was fueling her body properly. This commitment to staying fueled both on and off the mat helped the gymnast become the youngest celebrity ever to win a top place on “Dancing with the Stars.” She recently shared a sample menu of her eating habits on a typical day with USADA. Here’s a look:

Keto Egg Scramble
  • Breakfast: Breakfast for Laurie typically includes a protein-rich mix of scrambled eggs, turkey and cheese. Something like a keto egg scramble fits in nicely with this type of plan. If she’s in a rush, she’ll choose some fruit or yogurt on the go. She’s also a fan of sitting down with a warm bowl of oatmeal on slower mornings. The one thing that Laurie has every morning is almond milk. In fact, the athlete swears by using almond milk in her coffee and cereal in place of regular milk.
  • Lunch: The middle meal of the day is usually a sandwich with grilled chicken or turkey. On days when she’s eating lighter because she’s headed to the gym, she’ll opt for a salad that contains fruit, meat and nuts to create a light, quick way to get a balanced meal without feeling overly full.
  • Dinner: For dinner, Laurie peppers in a mix of carbs, protein and vegetables. Her favorite dinnertime proteins are grilled chicken and salmon. Her carbs of choice are quinoa and brown rice.
  • Snacks: Yes, this Olympian does snack! However, don’t picture this top-level athlete shoving her hand into a bag of chips each night just yet. Laurie uses snacks to fill in any gaps her meals may have left to get various nutrient requirements in her diet. That means that her snacks are always intentional and meaningful. A typical snack for Laurie might include nuts, berries and bananas. Interestingly, she prefers fresh, whole foods over things like protein bars because she doesn’t like the uncertainty of the ingredients in prepackaged, mass-produced snacks. Laurie is a fan of homemade granolas that might include honey or chocolate chips for some wholesome sweetness.

The one meal tip that is true every single day for Laurie is that she never skips meals. The athlete recognizes the need to give the body complete, balanced nutrition that rests on her ability to plan ahead for each meal period of the day. While Laurie doesn’t track calories, she is consistent with having appropriate portions of nutrient-rich foods every day.

What Do You Need in Your Diet When Training Like an Athlete?

Let’s start with protein. Olympic athletes live for protein. However, anyone who works out or trains regularly should also prioritize a protein-rich diet. Just how much protein do you need when training? The answer can vary based on how you’re training. According to the USADA, this is how much protein is needed for various types of training:

  • Endurance: 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
  • Strength (Muscle Gain): 1.6 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
  • Strength (Muscle Maintenance): 1.6 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
  • Weight Restricted: 1.8 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Next, it’s time to focus on fat. It’s recommended that athletes consume 20 percent to 35 percent of their calories from fat. Some sources of healthy fat that are recommended in the official USADA guidelines include dairy products, cooked meats, fish, nuts and avocados.

It’s also recommended that athletes use their diets to promote gut health. To achieve proper gut balance for optimal health and performance, athletes can consume foods rich in probiotics. Getting the right balance of healthy bacteria in the gut via probiotics helps prevent illness and boost the body’s natural immune system. The easiest way to get probiotics in your diet is simply by eating yogurt. However, probiotics are also found abundantly in fermented foods like miso or keifer.

Hydration is also a big part of the Olympic diet. As you may know, 60 percent of body weight is water! When we train vigorously, we lose fluid at a rapid pace through our sweat and breath. It’s essential to replenish the water that is lost throughout a training session to ensure that we don’t decrease blood circulation in a way that leads to poor performance, tiredness and injury. Here’s a look at the hydration protocol outlined by the USADA:

  • Athletes should drink 7 ounces to 12 ounces of cold water before working out.
  • Drinking should not be restricted during workouts. Drinking 4 ounces to 8 ounces of a cold fluid is recommended every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Athletes should not wait to drink until they feel thirsty because dehydration begins before thirst forms.
  • Beverages with caffeine, alcohol and excessive carbs should be avoided.

What If You Want to Eat Like an Olympian Without Training?

You may be simply looking for some diet tips from Olympians even though you don’t necessarily need the hundreds or thousands of extra calories per day that are required when you’re in the midst of intense training. Many of the tips offered by top-level athletes still stand. The big point to walk away with for “ordinary people” looking for Olympic-level nutrition is that balance and consistency are the keys. The one thing that all Olympic athletes have in common is that they are never “surprised” by mealtimes. They know that being caught hungry at the last minute can lead to cravings that throw their eating plans off balance. If you’re wondering how to create a balanced meal plan, the goal is to keep a constant rotation of interesting and tasty vegetables, fruits, healthy grains and lean proteins on hand.

One thing that’s notable about Olympians is that they don’t shy away from snacking! While snacking has a bad reputation in popular culture, athletes view snacks as essential tools for making up for any nutritional gaps in their meals while also providing fuel between meals. When you plan to eat healthy, appetizing snacks, these foods can become “fuel boosters” that contribute to a healthy diet instead of sources of temptation that leave you feeling lethargic due to wonky blood sugar.

The final thing to remember is that it’s not necessary to always eat like you’re in training mode if you’re not an Olympian. Many nutritionists recommend using something called the 80/20 rule when planning your diet:

Following the 80/20 rule, you can “freestyle” your food plans 20 percent of the time as long as you’re sticking to a balanced, disciplined food plan 80 percent of the time.

An easy way to stick to the 80/20 rules is to have all of your meals planned out for Monday through Friday using a meal prep service before allowing yourself to enjoy time out with friends on the weekends. Planning ahead will help you avoid decision fatigue, which can sabotage your Olympic eating goals.

Just remember: Olympians don’t become Olympians without a plan. The easiest way to gear up for better mental and physical performance is to make a solid, no-fuss plan for healthy meals and snacks that allows you to be a champion of life!

Think peak fitness is yours to keep forever? Think again! It’s common for fitness levels to plummet after just a few short weeks of inactivity. No, it’s not your imagination if you swear that you feel and look different after taking a week off from the gym. Your body may have reverted significantly during that brief window. Why is it so easy to become unfit? Blame entropy.

Our bodies need to be in constant motion to maintain fitness levels.  If we “slack off” for any amount of time, our bodies are quick to become “deconditioned.” Even people who have been training for years can see significant decreases in fitness  if they take just a few weeks off. That doesn’t mean that you should never take a day off from training. However, you should be aware of the role that consistency plays in helping you to enjoy prolonged fitness without the need to start from scratch every time life gets busy. The good news is that knowing why our bodies want to get back to a very unfit base can help us build routines that promote sustained fitness. Take a look at everything you ever wanted to know about why it’s so easy to get unfit!

First, Here’s How We Get Fit

Everything that we put our bodies through helps us to adapt, toughen up and become more tolerant. That’s why an exercise that seems complicated one week may be downright breezy the next. Our bodies are working towards higher and higher fitness levels while we’re consistent with exercise. If we’re adding in healthy meals full of complete nutrition for feeding our muscles with lean proteins, leafy greens and healthy grains, we often see even better results because we have the energy to get through our workouts without battling cravings.

How Does Fitness Fall Apart?

Even fitness that feels like it’s peaking at higher levels can go bust. Pursuing a fit life doesn’t leave any room for resting on your laurels because your body needs to stay in motion to keep that fitness momentum. Just ask science.

A person who builds up strength and fitness over a long period of time can experience reduced fitness in just a few weeks of no training. One study examined the effects of de-conditioning on a female master athlete after an injury. In that study, it took just four weeks of de-training for the participant to experience a significant decrease in fitness, as evidenced by a reduction of VO2max scores of 25.7 percent. VO2 max scores represent the maximum volume of oxygen that your body can use during exercise. This score is frequently used to measure cardiovascular fitness in athletes. 

The simple reason is that the body doesn’t have a need to stay fit once the stress of training is lifted. The average person can expect to see their cardiorespiratory fitness return to pre-training levels in just eight weeks. Yes, that means that months or years of hard work will put you right back where you started in terms of the amount of oxygen your body uses during physical activity. We also know that blood, and plasma volumes can dip by as much as 12 percent within four weeks of a person ending their training routine. Those declines are simply due to the reduction in stress being placed on the heart and muscles. When researchers looked at 21 runners who participated in the 2016 Boston Marathon, they found that four weeks of using reduced routines caused cardio fitness levels to drop significantly. However, researchers noted that maintaining a decreased routine helped the runners avoid even larger drops in fitness. Let that be a lesson that something is better than nothing if you’re trying to maintain some level of cardio fitness during a period where things like time restraints or life obstacles are making it difficult to work out at full capacity.

What About Muscle Strength?

According to researchers, athletes will begin to lose muscle strength in just three weeks if they aren’t working out! That means that just a month away from your fitness routine can create a very noticeable difference in muscle strength and appearance. The big deal about losing muscle strength is that muscles are very important for overall health and leanness. Muscles burn more calories than fat, even outside the gym. That’s true even when you’re simply sitting on the couch watching television. As a result, a person with higher muscle mass will typically burn more calories than a person with lower muscle mass throughout the course of an average day. When muscles are allowed to atrophy, this opens the door for sudden weight gain. 

Why Don’t Our Bodies Just Stay Fit?

The human body is smart. It’s not in the business of maintaining all kinds of “expensive” muscle just so that you can look good. In truth, our bodies will default to the easiest baseline when we don’t put them through the wringer in training. If it’s just about preserving calories for survival, the body doesn’t “care” about putting energy into cardiovascular performance or lean muscle. The default is to build fat that doesn’t burn off as many calories as lean muscle. This is why keeping muscle on takes so much work. Of course, the catch to this is that it becomes much easier to stay inactive once we are inactive. When we decrease in fitness, we have less energy. All it takes is an excuse like being too busy, not wanting to drive to the gym or saying that we’ll go tomorrow to get even deeper into the cycle of reverse fitness.

How to Maintain Fitness

The best way to stay fit is to never fall off the fitness wagon. Once you understand how easily your body will revert back to your pre-training performance level and appearance, it’s hard to ever want to let yourself slide backward. Here are some tips for how to preserve fitness:

#1 Customize a meal plan that fuels your body based on the workouts you’re doing. You’re more likely to give up on a fitness routine if you feel hungry, deprived or weak. You may also sabotage all of the hard work you’ve done by grabbing for comfort foods at the end of a long day. The best way to combat this is by using meal prep to ensure that a balanced, proportioned and satisfying meal is always waiting at every mealtime of the day.

# 2 Remember that doing something is better than nothing. As researchers point out, athletes were able to avoid considerable dips in fitness by keeping up with some level of training. This created much better outcomes than if they had stopped running “cold turkey.”

#3 Adjust your diet based on your fitness levels. If you’re eating more calories when you’re training hard, don’t forget to adjust your diet for the times when you’re not as active. It’s not necessary to eat like you’re training when you’re not training. When your muscles aren’t burning those extra calories, you may be more likely to put on fat instead. Focus on healthy meals that are the right size based on your daily intake needs.

#4 Create fitness plans that actually work for your life. If you find yourself constantly committing to rigorous workout plans that you abandon after a few weeks, this may be a sign that you’re taking on too much all at once. A better approach may be to design a fitness plan that’s more sustainable for your lifestyle. You may find that doing workouts that you enjoy helps you to avoid the need to constantly “start from scratch” after your fitness levels reset with every lapse.

The bottom line is that it’s not a matter of you against your body. Yes, your body wants to get back to baseline. However, consistency that’s powered with a positive mindset can help you to enjoy long-term fitness.

Don’t Forget to Get Support

One of the reasons why so many people fail to maintain fitness after achieving it is that they don’t have support! It’s very easy to fall into a four-week funk that sets our fitness level back to zero when we don’t have support. To boost your chances of staying consistent, things like a trainer, fitness class or workout buddy should all be considered. If you’re constantly getting off track with eating properly for fitness, consider signing up for a meal prep service that delivers balanced, tasty meals that you select right to your door. In fact, researchers are very clear about the fact that nutrition has the most significant impact on fitness.

For people focused on getting fit, it’s essential to know about the benefits of improving diet and exercise at the same time. In one study designed to measure methods for improving health, researchers found that only participants in the group that received simultaneous nutrition and exercise counseling reached their goals when compared to participants in the nutrition-only and exercise-only groups.

Final Thoughts on Avoiding Fitness Entropy

The only real guard against reverse fitness is consistency! Making it as straightforward as possible to fit the right diet and exercise into your life is as close to a “hack” as anyone can get. Of course, the freedom to look and feel your best is the best inspiration for staying on track!

Cravings have a bad rap for those looking to live a healthier lifestyle. This is often because the types of foods people tend to crave are typically found on their “naughty” list. Rarely do people complain of their out-of-control broccoli cravings. Instead, it’s the sugary, fatty, salty, overly-processed foods that tantalize our craving taste buds.

Gaining control of these cravings, however, begins with understanding what our cravings mean. Is the cause physical or emotional? Is it a genuine hunger, boredom, or the routine of eating that sparks a specific craving?

What Are Food Cravings?

The intense, almost insatiable desire to eat a specific food or flavor has been termed Food Cravings. For some, this craving may feel uncontrollable, as if the craving will not be satisfied until the food is consumed (sometimes in excess).

But not all cravings are caused by the same triggers. Both internal and external factors play a role in what you crave. For example, daily habits, brain chemistry or hormones, dehydration, lack of sleep, and more are all possible causes for certain cravings.

Many times, our brain is the culprit, as it aims to keep us alive and healthy by ensuring everything remains in balance. However, our brains don’t always go about it the right way. Cravings for food can be triggered by brain regions that are responsible for memory, pleasure, and reward. When you have a food craving, the hippocampus, insula, and caudate (parts of our brain linked to memory and pleasure sensing) are active.

Additionally, daily habits and stress are major contributors to food cravings. From poor sleep to a poorly managed stressful situation, every moment has the ability to impact the foods we crave.

Are Cravings a Sign of a Nutritional Deficiency?

It’s often assumed that we crave foods to fill nutritional deficiencies, however, this is a common misconception. External factors such as emotions and habits frequently play a larger part in influencing the foods we crave than internal bodily processes and hormones.

Although minor, hormonal imbalances may occur throughout our life, leading to certain cravings. This is most common during pregnancy and menopause in women, leading to low serotonin levels in the body. Serotonin impacts many bodily functions from motor skills to mood and is made from the essential amino acid, tryptophan, which enters our body through foods.

Many times, when people crave sugar or simple carbohydrates, the brain is actually craving a burst of serotonin. However, as sero­tonin returns to its normal level, you experience the ​“crash” and the cycle starts over. And thus, the popular belief of food cravings causing a desire for those “naughty foods” was born.

Are Particular Cravings Specific to Certain Bodily Needs?

Another widely held belief is that cravings are caused by nutrient deficiencies. Many individuals view cravings as the body’s way to correct deficiencies and imbalances in our daily food intake.

Others argue that, unlike hunger, cravings are mostly driven by what our brain wants rather than what our bodies require. While in some cases, cravings may reflect an insufficient intake of certain nutrients, more often than not, the particular craving is just that — a desire for something the body may or may not need.

Pica is a condition in which a person seeks nonnutritive substances like ice, dirt, soil, laundry, or cornstarch, among other things. Pica is more common in pregnant women and children, and the reason is unknown at this time. However, nutrient deficiencies are thought to play a role.

In other (more common) circumstances, people tend to crave high-carb, high-fat foods, rather than nutritious whole foods. Consequently, the craved foods are often not the best source of the nutrient commonly associated with the craving. Below are some common cravings and the most logical reasons for why we crave them.

Sugar

Sugar, such as glucose, is our brain’s favorite fuel and something we’ve been biologically trained to seek, so it’s no surprise that sugar is at the root of so many cravings. Unfortunately, our biology hasn’t caught up with the fact that sugar is readily available these days, thus sweet desires require special consideration.

Our bodies can break down many types of food into glucose for fuel. So when you find yourself craving sweets, try to stick with things like fruit to not only satisfy the desire but also provide dietary fiber, nutrients, and minerals.

Pairing sweet things with some protein or healthy fats, like a handful of nuts, helps stabilize blood sugar as well, keeping more of those cravings at bay.

Fat

Speaking of fat, many of our cravings for this macronutrient are for greasy, processed foods. However, that is often not what our bodies need. Our bodies depend on essential fatty acids for many vital functions, and we need some fat to help absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

But, the type of fat matters. Opt for more natural fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, olives, seeds, coconut oil, or MCT oil. These types of foods provide the vitamin absorption qualities our bodies may need while satisfying the craving our brain wants (without additional gut issues or guilt).

Salt

Much like sugar, salt can become a very addictive and easily craveable substance. While necessary for survival, it is far too common to see individuals over-consuming salt on a regular basis. Most people who crave salty foods are not deficient in this nutrient. A craving for salt is often a sign that our electrolyte levels are out of balance, not that we need salt in particular.

It could also indicate that dehydration is on the way. It’s no accident that pregnant women want salty foods as their water needs increase, as do their mineral requirements, which are commonly met by salt.

Adding a tiny pinch of salt to drinking water may help maintain hydration, as well as keep cravings for salty foods at bay.

Chocolate

As one of the most craved foods, chocolate deserves a special mention. With so many positives surrounding cocoa (decreased inflammation, improved heart and brain health, blood sugar, and more) it is often easily over-consumed and craved.

Seeing as many veer off their healthy lifestyle with chocolate, it’s important to pay attention to the type and quality of the chocolate consumed. for a square or two of dark chocolate when the craving hits.

Tips to Manage our Cravings

Before giving in to those cravings, try these tips to avoid over-indulging in anything that might hinder those nutrition goals.

  1. DRINK WATER: Try drinking a large glass of water and wait a few minutes. Oftentimes, food cravings fade away as the body was actually just thirsty. Furthermore, drinking plenty of water may have many health benefits. For instance, drinking water before meals can reduce appetite and help with weight loss.
  2. MANAGE STRESS: Food cravings are often triggered by stressful situations and used as a coping mechanism. Stress can impact the way our body functions and our overall health, but learning to manage stress may reduce the impact we feel in our food consumption. Regular physical activity or practicing relaxation techniques can help you manage stress and reduce blood levels of cortisol, a hormone that can make you gain weight, especially in the belly area.
  3. MEAL PREP: Skipping meals increases the chance of craving convenient snack foods while eating smaller healthy meals throughout the day maintains satiety and curbs cravings. If possible, try to plan meals for the day or upcoming week. Thankfully meal prep can make it easier to follow this tip. Whether following Keto, low-carb, high protein, or a simply balanced meal plan, there is a plan for you!
  4. MINDFULLY EAT: Keeping track of the foods/practicing mindful eating is a helpful way to observe our dietary habits. One 6-week study in binge eaters found that mindful eating reduced binge eating episodes from 4 to 1.5 per week. Journal food entries and include information around specific cravings such as the time of day, emotions, and the foods craved. This will provide valuable insight to identify patterns that are connected to specific habits and cravings.

Kicking the Cravings—Our Final Note

Cravings are very common. In fact, more than 50% of people experience cravings on a regular basis. They play a major role in weight gain, food addiction, and binge eating. It is much easier to resist cravings and their triggers once we are aware of them. It also makes eating healthy and losing weight a lot easier.

Following the tips on this list, such as drinking more water, planning our meals, and practicing mindfulness, provides the ability to take charge next time cravings try to take over.

Cravings Infographic

Weight maintenance is a part of health maintenance for many people. Setting weight goals can be an important way to reach health objectives based on your personal goals for fitness and well-being. However, understanding how to set weight goals can be challenging. When creating a weight-loss plan, there are two prevailing theories to know about called the set point theory and the settling point theory. Knowing the science behind both can put you in a good spot for understanding how to craft a way of eating, exercising and living that’s ideal for your body.

What We Know About How Our Bodies Use Food

Most people understand weight loss as a simple formula that’s based on calories in versus calories out. That means that we tend to gain or lose weight based on what we’re eating versus how much energy we’re expending. Is it really that simple? The answer can depend on which scientist you ask.

The truth is that your body’s relationship with food is complicated. While it makes sense that excess fat storage occurs when there is an excess amount of calories taken in without being expended, it’s also very likely that a variety of physiological factors also determine how the body uses food. This is where the understanding of setting point versus settling point comes into play. Let’s dive in for a crash course on the things nobody ever told you about what your body thinks of your diet.

What Is the Set Point Theory?

The foundation of the set point theory is that the human body has an “internal control mechanism” that wants your body to maintain a certain body fat percentage. This “set point” varies by person based on physiological factors. In fact, scientists even know where this “set point” mechanism is located. It is believed to be nested in the brain’s lateral hypothalamus that is responsible for regulation each person’s metabolism. The hypothalamus communicates directly with your body’s fat cells to release insulin and hunger-related hormones. At the core of the set point model is the idea that we each have a genetically preset weight range that our bodies are actively trying to get back to regardless of our behavioral changes. While we may see temporary changes in weight, our bodies are working behind the scenes to override our efforts to get us back to that preset weight range by resetting our metabolic function.

If you’ve ever felt like you gained or maintained weight when eating less, it may not have just been your perception. Your “set point” regulators may have triggered a slowing of your metabolism to ensure that you don’t dip below your “set” percentage of body fat. In fact, studies have shown that severe caloric restriction can depress resting metabolism by 23 percent.

What Is the Settling Point Theory

The settling point theory focuses on behavior over biology. First proposed by a researcher named James Hill of the University of Colorado, the settling point theory hinges on the idea that we settle into habits for diet and physical activity based on several factors. However, it does assign some importance to biological influence when determining weight-related habits. This is where the confusion between set point and settling point comes in for some people. The big difference here is that the settling point theory cites genetic predisposition as an influence on behavioral choices instead of being responsible for actually setting your metabolism. Here’s a look at some factors other than genetic predisposition that are believed to impact weight based on the settling point theory:

  • Learned behaviors.
  • Environmental cues.
  • Sensitivity to food-related cues.

Researchers who back the settling point theory point to evidence that health interventions focused on incorporating physical activity into a weight-loss plan have the greatest success rates. It’s very important to note that the settling theory doesn’t “blame” people for their weight problems because it assumes that weight gain comes down to “bad” behavior. This theory simply recognizes that a combination of genetic and learned behaviors influence eating behaviors. For people trying to lose weight, the settling point theory can be more encouraging than the set point theory because it means that obstacles to weight loss are technically removable with behavioral changes. By contrast, the set point theory is based on the idea that our bodies essentially have internal “weight clocks” that are set for a certain percentage of body fat that cannot be undone.

Separating Fact From Fiction: Is the Set Point Theory True?

The answer is that we aren’t sure yet. The set point theory is something that researchers are still studying. The set point theory may have some validity. However, the exact amount of power that our body’s internal “weight clock” has on our ability to lose weight has yet to be determined. Many researchers are quick to point out that our “set point” might not be as set as we think, even if this theory turns out to be true. In fact, we can actually sabotage our personal set points if we create long-term habits for excessive eating paired with a lack of exercise. Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard point out that it’s actually possible to create a higher set point beyond our original predetermined set point through long-term habits.

Of course, the risk with only subscribing to the set point theory is that there’s a lot of discouragement wrapped up in this theory. The set point theory is not permission to “give up” on healthy eating simply because the science says you have no control over your weight. By contrast, this information should be used to craft a tailored, highly personalized diet plan that takes into account your specific nutritional needs.

Tying the Two Theories Together

We know that “starvation” diets can slow the metabolism and lead to weight gain. We also know that exercise is one of the most effective tools for lowering body weight. In addition to burning calories in the moment, exercise also turns us into calorie-burning machines even when we’re not actively working out because it builds muscle that passively burns more fat. This is where the theories of set point and settling point intersect. What may seem like two conflicting points of view clashing is the marriage of two aspects of how the body maintains a healthy weight.

Let’s do a roundup of what we know based on what was covered so far. The settling point theory pushes the idea that physical exercise can help us “hack” our predispositions to get within our desired weight range. Next, even researchers who follow the set point theory agree that unhealthy behavioral patterns can actually increase our set points. It seems that the answer is a healthy, balanced lifestyle regardless of which theory we follow. More importantly, we need to understand the importance of using the right fuel if we try to use exercise and activity as a balance to whatever our genetic predispositions might be. With the understanding that not consuming enough calories can lead to weight gain under the set point theory in mind, we know that consuming enough healthy calories is essential for reducing our set points.

Making Sense of Set Point and Settling Point From a “Whole Picture” Standpoint

When looking at these two theories, we should really be focusing on set point, and settling point instead set point versus set point. That’s because both theories ultimately boil down to the idea that healthy, nourishing foods paired with a good amount of physical activity make it easier to maintain a healthy weight. While not everyone has the time or means to pay someone to design a genetically specific diet plan for them, we can all focus on high-protein foods full of healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants and essential minerals in appropriate portions.

One of the best ways to avoid that “creep” toward a higher set point is to be conscious about meal planning to avoid the urge to reach for whatever is fast and convenient. Unfortunately, grabbing for the nearest thing when we don’t have healthy meals and snacks waiting for us often means grabbing for calorie-dense, nutrient-void foods. Research shows that meal planning is associated with a healthier diet, a better variety of foods, weight loss and reduced obesity. That could mean that opting for something like a complete high-protein meal plan tailored to meet your daily calorie goals could be ideal for making sure you’re getting the calories you need for energy and health without the perils of being short on time. If one time of the day is your weak spot due to a hectic schedule, you may want to focus on just making sure you always have a high-powered, energy-boosting breakfast waiting for you.

Do these insights about set point versus settling point ring some bells about your own experience with trying to maintain a specific weight? Let us know if you can relate to feeling like your weight has been “set” by genetic factors. You can also let us know what you plan to do with this information now that you know more!

Summer is just around the corner, but Spring and the annoying sneezes, sniffles, and other allergy symptoms that come with it are still a daily annoyance for many of us. But we have good news for you! Did you know some foods can help alleviate allergy symptoms?

Yup, you read that well! As crazy as it sounds, your nutrition plays a significant role in the prevention of allergy symptoms. So, get ready for your allergy season meal prep because it’s time to discover which foods will become your spring allies. 

What are allergies, and what causes them?

An allergy is an inflammatory response of the immune system triggered, among other substances, by histamine, responsible for the main symptoms (itchy eyes, rhinorrhea, etc.). These symptoms begin to appear when an allergen overcomes the first defensive barriers of our body: the skin and the mucous membranes.

Any natural substance can cause allergies, either through breathing, ingestion, or contact. These substances are known as allergens.

So, to prevent allergies, the best thing you can do is pamper your digestive system since 70% of our immunity comes from it. It is also important to make sure we are providing our liver with ample support before allergies appear.

According to a recent article published by the Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology Associates of Tampa Bay, if the liver can’t process a substance, the immune system becomes overstimulated. Hence, recognizing it as an allergen. The liver then produces antibodies (immunoglobulins). These antibodies set off a reaction, releasing many inflammatory chemicals or histamines, causing an allergic reaction.

Therefore, as you can see, our diets are just as crucial as avoiding such allergens. Thus, healthy meals can do more to prevent allergies than you’d think. So, let’s see which foods boost the immune system and minimize the effects of an allergic reaction.

13 Foods that prevent seasonal allergies

Healthy foods are essential to take care of the intestinal wall, the digestive mucosa, and the microbiota (our healthy gut bacteria). When our intestines perform their function correctly, it produces beneficial substances. And so, we must promote liver function.

With that said, there are, of course, some foods that may harm you, especially irritating foods such as coffee, gluten, dairy, or sugar. However, everybody is different, and what causes you an allergic reaction may not cause an allergic reaction to others.

Remember, it is crucial to talk to your health care provider if you suspect you might have an allergy, so you can determine the source of the allergy.

The following foods are beneficial when it comes to preventing season allergies. Make sure to incorporate them into your diet to help your body be better prepared for seasonal changes.

Apples

An apple a day keeps the doctor away! Apples are rich in quercetin, a flavonoid that tones the immune system and helps minimize the allergic response. An apple a day (raw or cooked) is enough to reap its benefits!

Onions

Onions are not just delicious and can enhance any dish, but they also support liver function thanks to its rich content in sulfur amino acids, necessary for liver function. But, that’s not all, just like apples, onions are also rich in quercetin, a powerful natural antihistamine antioxidant. And, on top of that, onions are potent prebiotics, which helps feed the good bacteria that live in our intestines and promote our immunity, which helps us prevent allergic reactions.

Green tea

Green tea contains a substance called epigallocatechin gallate, which helps neutralize a receptor involved in the production of the allergic response. In addition, green tea is rich in antioxidants with anti-inflammatory action. We recommend drinking 1 cup of green tea a day to make the most out of it.

Carrots

Rich in beta-carotene, a type of pigment responsible for the vibrant orange color of carrots, these substances help prevent allergy symptoms. In addition, carrots are a great source of vitamin A, which is a key vitamin to treat skin conditions caused by allergies.  Whether cooked or raw, carrots and all other vegetables rich in beta-carotene (all orange and yellow vegetables) and vitamin A have a protective function on the immune system.

Garlic

Garlic

Keep away vampires and allergies! Garlic is known for its powerful capacity to strengthen the immune system. For years, garlic has been a part of traditional and holistic medicine for its many health properties. Among these benefits, we find the prevention of allergies and the strengthening of the immune system.

Garlic contains substances that inhibit certain inflammatory enzymes that can cause allergic reactions. To make the most out of this superfood, try our Garlic Celery Chicken.

Cabbage

Cabbage is rich in glutamine, an amino acid that helps heal the intestinal wall when hyperpermeability. This amino acid promotes the functions of the digestive system. Therefore, cabbage is a natural ally for your immunity, which plays a key role in the prevention of allergies.

Moreover, cabbage is rich in vitamin C. In fact, did you know that cabbage is the single most rich in vitamin C vegetable out there? Vitamin C is necessary for liver function and to aid the digestive system, which we know are two main factors that can improve the symptoms of seasonal allergy.

Spinach

Widely known for its benefits to detoxify the body, spinach also aids liver function. Thus, its consumption may be beneficial to treat symptoms of seasonal allergy.

Besides, its power to detoxify the body also promotes better management or prevention of symptoms of allergic reactions. What’s more, the greener the leaves, the richer in chlorophyll, which helps purify the blood.

Cruciferous vegetables

Some people with allergies struggle to remove toxins through the liver and kidneys. If the toxins get into the body, it raises the chances of inflammation, which leaves an allergic person even more sensitive. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage can assist the process, thus, preventing or reducing symptoms.

Turmeric and hot water

Turmeric and ginger

On one hand, the curcumin present in turmeric is a powerful antioxidant with strong anti-inflammatory properties. And, on the other hand, ginger improves digestion and boosts our natural defenses while reducing inflammation. These factors play a significant role in the prevention of allergic symptoms.

Fermented foods

Fermented vegetables, such as pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi feed the gut microbiota. But that is not all, beverages like yogurt or kefir are also great alternatives.

In particular, the families of bacteria that help alleviate and prevent rhinitis symptoms the most are the Lactobacillus, found in yogurt and milk kefir, and Bifidobacterium, which have been shown to be important allies in alleviating the symptoms of all sorts of allergies.

Chia seeds

The seeds of chia are essential to prevent and improve allergies because they are a good source of omega-3, a potent anti-inflammatory.

According to a recent study published in the Japanese Society of Allergology, omega-3 fatty acids show efficacy in the prevention or amelioration of asthma and allergic diseases, as well as benefits in inflammatory responses.

Salmon

Just like chia seeds, salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which as previously mentioned, can improve asthma and symptoms of seasonal allergies.

What’s more, a 2005 study from Germany published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that the more fatty acid people had in their bloodstream, the less their risk of allergic sensitivity. The American Heart Association recommends consuming 8 ounces of fish per week. 

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Although when we think of vitamin C, we instantly think of all citruses, such as oranges and lemons, the truth is that tomatoes are an outstanding source of vitamin C.

In fact, a medium-size tomato contains 26 percent of our recommended daily value of vitamin C. But that is not all; tomatoes also offer lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that prevents the symptoms of seasonal allergies, such as sneezing and excessive mucus. This compound called lycopene is more easily absorbed by the body when it’s cooked.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of your diet, if you believe you suffer from any type of allergy, you should always consult with your physician. However, remember that during springtime, it is common to have some type of allergy. In fact, according to the Washington Post, 24.4 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies, which is 14 percent of the population.

Now that you know what foods might help reduce allergy symptoms or could even help prevent them, we recommend you build your own Custom meals based on your allergies and what you want to prioritize. By building your own custom meal, you can remove food allergens (for example, if you’re allergic to shrimp), and  also build meals that are nutritionally focused on   boosting your immunity. Choose the foods that will address your allergies and enjoy the benefits of proper nutrition.

While no food is a replacement for any treatment for seasonal allergies, the food and nutrients you supply your body with can help tremendously!