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There are many different hormones found in the body, all with different roles and functions. Leptin and Ghrelin are the main hormones involved in controlling your appetite and impacting your hunger levels. Leptin is considered an appetite suppressant, while ghrelin is considered an appetite stimulant. It’s the role of these two hormones to communicate with your brain, letting you know when it’s time to eat to fuel your body or to stop eating when your body is full.

Read on to learn more about leptin and ghrelin and how you can support healthy hormone function with simple diet and lifestyle tips!

Leptin

Leptin means “thin” in Greek. The role of leptin is to communicate with the hypothalamus, the portion of your brain that controls your appetite and food intake. Lectin is released by your fat cells when your body has had enough fuel, letting it know to stop eating and start burning fat to create energy!

Because leptin is produced by fat cells, the amount of leptin released is directly related to the amount of body fat a person has. Those with more body fat will have more leptin circulating in their blood than a person with less body fat. Leptin levels increase if an individual increases their body fat over time and decreases if an individual decrease their body fat over a period of time.

Unfortunately, our hormones, leptin included, are not always in perfect balance. Diet, sleep, lifestyle, and health conditions can all throw your hunger hormones out of whack.

Tips for Healthy Leptin Levels

  • Consume healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, chia seeds, or fatty fish. Snacking on nuts and seeds throughout the day and switching from butter to olive oil when cooking are easy ways to incorporate more healthy fats into your diet.
  • Try to limit your consumption of inflammatory foods such as sugar, artificial trans fat, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and processed meats. Inflammatory foods can easily hide in processed snacks and fast food. Planning your meals ahead of time can ensure you have healthy meals ready to go, so you are not tempted by unhealthy food options. If meal planning feels overwhelming, but you still want to enjoy fresh, healthy meals, shop our customizable meal plans and get healthy meals delivered right to your door!
  • Eat more anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric, berries, broccoli, green tea, avocados, and mushrooms. Sipping green tea or adding turmeric to your cooking can help lower inflammation, so your body can function as it should.
  • Exercising regularly can help improve leptin sensitivity, as well as improve your overall wellbeing. Exercise will look different for everyone, but even 20 minutes of yoga or a walk around the block can help keep your hormones healthy. You don’t have to visit a gym every day to exercise. Focus on moving your body in a way that motivates you and brings you joy.
  • Manage stress. Chronic stress can cause inflammation in the body, gut imbalances, and hormone imbalance. We all encounter stress from time to time. While stress is inevitable, there are things you can do to reduce stress in your day-to-day. Practicing morning yoga or stretching, meditating, journaling, going for a walk, or calling a friend can all help boost your mood and lower stress, leaving you feeling your best! Find the things in life that help you relax and do them often!
  • Get adequate sleep. Insufficient sleep leads to a drop in leptin levels and increased appetite. Have you ever been up late and all of a sudden needed a midnight snack? Aim to get 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night. This may seem like a struggle if you’re always on the go, but 7-9 hours is ideal for giving your body the rest it needs. If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, try to create a calming environment with low lights and a clean space. Limiting screen time before bed can help keep your circadian rhythms in check, letting your body know when it’s time to sleep. Instead of scrolling late at night, read a book before bed to help you unwind. Work to create a nighttime routine to help you relax and prepare your body for sleep.

Ghrelin

Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite. It is produced and released mainly by your stomach but can also be released in small amounts by the small intestine, pancreas, and brain. Once released, ghrelin travels throughout your blood to signal to your hypothalamus that your body needs fuel and to conserve energy. Ghrelin levels are highest just before eating, lowest about an hour after you have eaten, and remain low for about three hours.

Just like with leptin, your ghrelin levels can get thrown off when your body isn’t functioning optimally.

Tips for healthy ghrelin levels

  • Try to limit your consumption of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, which can impair ghrelin’s decline after eating. If you crave a sweet treat after a meal, grab a piece of dark chocolate instead of a sugary snack.
  • Once again, get adequate sleep! Sleep is crucial for almost every function in the body. If you are someone who gets less than 7-9 hours of sleep per night, you may be surprised by how much your health can improve from more rest.
  • Eat balanced meals. Ensuring your body has the fuel it needs throughout the day will help keep your hormones and blood sugar balanced. At Local Foodz, we offer a meal plan specifically geared towards balanced meals. Each meal is packed with a variety of proteins, vegetables, and carbs to keep you energized throughout the day!
  • Stay hydrated! Adequate water intake can improve your health in many ways. It also helps to fill your stomach, turning down the ghrelin signal. Start your day with a glass of water before your coffee and aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day!
  • Manage stress. Just like with leptin, it’s important to manage stress for healthy ghrelin levels. Chronic stress can lead to overeating, poor food choices, increased alcohol consumption, and inadequate sleep. Elevations in ghrelin during stress may be our body’s way of trying to cope. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, do you immediately reach for your favorite comfort food?

If you feel your hunger hormones aren’t working as they should, try these diet and lifestyle tips to get you back on track! 

Drinking water, getting adequate sleep, and ensuring your body is fueled with the nourishment it needs are foundational in controlling your hunger hormones and keeping your body functioning as it should.

Have you noticed that as you get older, you can no longer eat the same way that you did when you were younger? Does it seem that you gain weight just by “looking at a muffin?” This is because your metabolism slows down with age. When your metabolism slows down, this makes it so much easier to gain weight and more difficult to lose weight. So, when does your metabolism slow down and why?

The truth is that there is so much the medical community is learning about human metabolism all the time. Scientists do know that metabolism and aging are closely related. Let’s take a deeper look at how metabolism changes with age.

What Is the Metabolism?

Everyone has a metabolism. Your metabolism is the process used by your body to convert what you eat and drink into energy. Your body is constantly converting the things that you eat and drink into usable energy with the help of oxygen. The energy that is created is used for every single process and system within your body. Energy from food and drinks is used for breathing, balancing hormone levels, circulating blood, repairing cells and tissue and growing new cells. Every person has a base metabolic rate that is needed to maintain essential bodily functions. We generally consider this to be your “metabolism.”

What Influences Metabolism?

We’re still learning a lot about what makes each person’s metabolism unique. In some cases, there may be no clear answer regarding why two people with similar genetic profiles may have wildly different metabolisms. However, there are some general factors that seem to contribute to metabolism. They include:

  • Body size and composition. People with larger builds seem to burn more calories both at rest and during activity. People who are more muscular also tend to burn more calories by default.
  • Gender. Generally, men tend to have less body fat when compared to women. They also tend to have more muscle than women. As a result, men generally burn more calories than women.
  • Age. Yes, metabolism appears to slow down with age. This is likely linked with a decrease in muscle mass that often occurs with age.

While a person’s default metabolic rate plays a big role in how many calories are burned daily, it’s not the sole determiner of how your body manages calories. Something called thermogenesis also plays a role in this. Thermogenesis refers to the process of how food is digested, absorbed, transported through the body and stored. Roughly 10% of all calories consumed from protein and carbohydrates are used by the body to digest and absorb nutrients.

Another significant factor in how the body manages calories is physical activity. The amount of physical activity completed daily dramatically impacts the number of calories burned by the body daily. While some bodily processes automatically burn calories, activities like running, walking, swimming and playing sports can burn hundreds of extra calories per hour above a person’s baseline rate for burning calories.

When Does Your Metabolism Slow Down?

Younger athlete and older athlete jogging together.

“Putting on weight” is a common complaint as people reach their 30s and 40s. Many people feel a “shift” in the way their bodies handle foods that they could eat without problems just a few years earlier. Yes, the evidence does show that metabolism may shift with age. Therefore, eating habits may require adjustment as we age.

According to a study published in August of 2021, metabolism peaks fairly early in life. We are then on a constant trajectory of keeping up with a shifting metabolism. The study also found that our metabolisms operate at “super speed” from the time we are born until the end of our teen years. However, we may not notice that our metabolisms are slowing down by about 3 percent annually until we reach age 20. At age 20, there is generally a significant “leveling off” that occurs as the metabolism reaches a new normal. The metabolism also slowly trickles down from middle age into a person’s “golden years.” A person in their 90s requires 26% fewer calories than a person in middle age.

Metabolism and Weight Gain

The most straightforward formula for gaining weight is taking in more calories than the body needs to function based on your activity levels. However, maintaining a stable weight can be complicated by a number of different factors, including your metabolism. It’s believed that the following mix of factors influences weight:

  • Genetic makeup.
  • Hormonal balance.
  • Diet composition.
  • Sleep.
  • Stress.
  • Underlying illnesses.
  • Environmental factors.
  • Decreased metabolism.

While the “surest” way to maintain a healthy weight is to eat the right amounts of calories and fat for your body type and lifestyle, choosing the right types of foods is also essential. The truth is that not all food is created equal. It’s important to eat whole, nutrient-filled foods that assist with things like promoting better sleep, keeping blood sugar stable, enabling the body to produce the right amounts of hormones and allowing you to stay full and satisfied for more extended periods. 

How Can You Prevent Your Metabolism From Slowing Down?

Focus on Muscle Mass

Dumbells

Muscle mass plays a very important role in metabolism as we age. Muscle simply burns more calories than fat when we are in a resting state. That is because muscle burns more calories than fat. So, even while you sleep, your body will burn more calories. This means that having a lifestyle consisting of muscle-building foods combined with muscle-building workouts is a “metabolism hack” at any age. Being a muscle-minded person becomes non-negotiable as we age if we want to enjoy strength, energy and a healthy weight.

Age-related loss of muscle mass is a well-documented fact. People begin to lose between 3% and 5% of muscle each decade after turning 30. Researchers call the natural decline in muscle mass that occurs with age sarcopenia.

Researchers aren’t completely clear on why muscle declines so aggressively with age. One strong theory is that the natural decline of testosterone contributes to muscle loss. That’s because testosterone is considered a “muscle builder” that stimulates protein synthesis for muscle formation.

Get the Right Amount of Protein to Support Muscle Growth

While eating a muscle-minded diet is essential at any age, it becomes increasingly important as we age. Getting adequate protein levels in our diets is one of the most important things we can do to reduce muscle loss. Resistance-training exercises are also very beneficial for helping to promote healthy muscle mass as we age. Of course, having adequate protein levels in your diet when doing strength training is essential for being able to give your body the fuel it needs to keep up with workouts without becoming depleted.

Protein is pure muscle food. When we consume protein, it is broken down into amino acids used by the body to put on muscle. However, a common phenomenon known as anabolic resistance can throw a wrench in your plans even if you are eating what would be considered a balanced diet. Anabolic resistance reduces the body’s ability to break down and synthesize the protein we consume. The solution is to eat more high-quality protein. Some tips for optimizing muscle protein synthesis:

  • Divide protein equally between meals throughout the day.
  • Use protein from animal sources as the easiest way to get proper ratios of amino acids.
  • Avoid processed meats and foods that are full of additives and saturated fats.

It’s also important to be consistent with protein levels daily. Relying on sugary snacks that are easy to grab often leaves us going hours without a good protein source during the day. A consistent meal plan ensures that you’re getting in the healthy, whole protein sources needed to optimize protein use without significant gaps during the week.

Athlete using a dumbbell for strength training.

Do Strength Training

Along with diet, strength training is one of the most important ways to maintain muscle mass as we age. In addition to helping you burn calories more efficiently, strength training can help keep your bones strong as you age. If you have not been active recently, it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor before beginning any strength training program for guidance on what activities you can do.

Minding Your Metabolism: Everyone Has the Power to Fuel Their Bodies the Right Way

It can feel like metabolism is simply all about the luck of the draw. However, nobody can escape the realities of the declining metabolisms and reduced muscle mass that come with age. The good news is that orienting our diets to work with the natural flow of the human metabolism is an easy way to control weight while nourishing the body to fight back against muscle loss.

At the bare minimum, make sure you’re getting at least .8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight, the recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Remember that quality, lean protein sources are best! It’s also wise to break up protein evenly throughout the day to ensure that your body isn’t “starved” for protein at any point. This could look like starting your day with a whole-egg scramble bowl before moving on to a lunch consisting of a smoked paprika chicken breast salad, a dinner consisting of chimichurri steak and a snack consisting of organic strawberry chia pudding.

Important Points

  • For years, researchers have known that exercise helps prevent or reduce the severity of chronic conditions like heart disease.
  • Now, recent research shows that it is also good for the brain. Exercise may help prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
  • There are many theories as to why exercise is beneficial in this regard. However, one theory has to do with iron.
  • Iron accumulation in the brain is associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Exercise helps the brain better metabolize iron, which may explain its beneficial role in preventing dementia.

Scientists have known for a long time that physical exercise offers a range of health benefits. It reduces the risk for chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.

In recent years, researchers are revealing that exercise is good for the brain, too. Physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of issues like depression and anxiety.

Now, there is strong evidence that people can reduce their risk of later developing dementia by making key lifestyle changes, including exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a disease that affects more than 55 million people worldwide. In most cases, it is progressive and leads to a deterioration in cognitive function. This deterioration goes beyond normal aging and affects memory, comprehension, and analytical skills.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is one of the most common causes of death among adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It currently ranks 6th as the leading cause of death among all adults. It is projected that the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease will continue to increase. According to the latest estimates, as many as 100 million more people will be diagnosed by 2050.

People tend to believe that Alzheimer’s Disease occurs later in life, but that is not necessarily true. Although the risk increases with age, symptoms can develop as early as when a person is in their 40s.

What We Know: Physical Activity Can Help Protect the Brain from Alzheimer’s Disease

Regularly exercising appears to be one of the best lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Just like our muscles can become more fit with exercise, so can our brain.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, regular exercise can reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Over one-third of dementia cases are preventable through lifestyle changes, including physical exercise.

Why is that? Let’s take a look at what science says. 

What Does the Research Say?

A recent study found that exercise may prevent Alzheimer’s by helping the brain better metabolize iron. The study found that Alzheimer’s, and aging in general, are both associated with changes in the way the brain metabolizes iron. Researchers theorize that the accumulation of iron in the brain contributes to the formation of plaques found in Alzheimer’s and other dementias. These plaques contain a toxic protein called beta-amyloid, which is found in autopsies of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

How does exercise help the brain better metabolize iron? Researchers know that regular exercise improves iron metabolism and prevents iron buildup in the brain, but they are uncertain why this is the case.

Scientists don’t fully understand how physical activity lowers dementia and Alzheimer’s risk. There are probably a combination of factors that contribute. Experts suggest that aerobic exercise can help reduce the risk of dementia by improving vascular health. This likely lessens the damage of Alzheimer’s effect on the brain, encouraging neuron growth and survival.

Medical research demonstrates that dementia starts affecting the brain many years before symptoms show up. Experts suggest that making lifestyle changes and healthy choices in your 40s may make a big difference in your dementia risk down the road.

What Kind of Exercise Should I Do?

Cardio 

Aerobic exercise, in particular, may be especially beneficial for guarding against dementia. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease compared the cognitive function of two groups of sedentary adults aged 55 and older with dementia symptoms. The goal of the research was to find out if aerobic exercise would reduce brain atrophy and plaque buildup, which are both early markers of Alzheimer’s.

The control group performed aerobic exercise for 30 minutes at least four times a week, while the other group only did flexibility exercises. Although both groups experienced some cognitive benefits, the group that performed aerobic exercise lost less volume in the hippocampus area of the brain, which is a region that tends to deteriorate as dementia worsens.

What Kind Of Cardio Should I Do To Get Brain Benefits?

While you should always talk to your doctor about how much and what kind of cardio exercise is right for you, we recommend aiming for 30-minutes of aerobic exercise at least four days per week. Try:

  • Aerobic Dance or Zumba Dancing is especially great for the brain as it requires you to learn complex choreography, which keeps the brain working. Dancing is also a social activity, and studies have found that social connection has been linked with a lowered risk of developing dementia.
  • Swimming – Swimming incorporates both cardio and strength. This is a great way to get both types of exercise in at once. It’s perfect if you struggle to find the time in your schedule to commit to both cardio and strength training.
  • Gardening – When people think of exercise, they often forget about gardening. But, this activity is a great way to get your cardio in. It counts as moderate to high-intensity exercise. Not only can it help guard against dementia, but spending time outdoors gardening can be a great way to de-stress after a particularly stressful day at work.
  • Walking – Walking is great for anyone. It suits all fitness levels and abilities. You don’t need any special equipment, and it can be done anywhere. Walking outdoors also provides unique benefits, including improved mood. Walking outdoors has been shown to reduce the risk of depression compared to walking indoors. So, it can be an excellent exercise for protecting against Alzheimer’s disease and reducing symptoms of depression.

Strength Training

Many strength training exercises, like boxing, can benefit brain health. Scientists say that just six months of strength training can help protect brain areas vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease long term. They say that the beneficial results of regular strength training on the brain can last up to one year later.

What Kind Of Strength Training Should I Do to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

  • Weight lifting – Weight training is especially beneficial when it comes to dementia. Animal studies have found that weight training helps promote the creation of new neurons in the brain’s memory centers.
  • Boxing – This exercise is helpful because it incorporates both strength and cardiovascular exercise.
  • Dancing – Like boxing, dancing is great because it enhances strength, cardio fitness, and flexibility.
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)-  The fitness giant CrossFit conducted a case study on the effect of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) combined with memory training and a ketogenic diet in treating mild dementia. They found that HIIT, together with memory training and a keto diet, had a beneficial impact on cognitive function and overall metabolic health.

Like exercise, eating healthy also reduces the risk of dementia. Research has shown that nutrition and dementia are related. A diet high in vegetables, fruits, and seafood can reduce the risk of dementia. A healthy diet plus exercise is the path to better health. These things can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol, two factors related to heart issues, which can cause dementia. Therefore, a lifestyle that incorporates a healthy diet plus exercise is best.

How Often Should I Exercise?

All that it takes is just one workout to make our brain’s memory more fit. Of course, to get the most benefit, you should exercise regularly. Studies have shown that the cumulative effects of exercise can lead to long-term improvements in how our brains work and remember information. Therefore, coming up with a long-term exercise routine is best to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Final Thoughts

Although exercise or a healthy diet alone will not prevent Alzheimer’s disease, there are lifestyle factors that you can make to reduce the risk. The research on exercise and dementia shows that physical activity lowers the risk of developing dementia. It also helps improve dementia symptoms in people who have mild cognitive impairment. It is likely a combination of factors, including a healthy diet and regular physical activity, that is the most beneficial for dementia prevention.

We’ve all had that moment of realizing that we’re mindlessly shoveling in another forkful of food. Some of us might not even realize that we’ve been eating on autopilot until our crumb-dusted hands feel the empty inside of a party-sized chip bag. Rote eating is something that many of us fall into because of life’s fast pace. How many times have you gobbled up a sandwich in four bites just to be able to walk into a meeting on time? “Netflix eating” is also a real problem. Eating while binging on the latest season of Ozark causes us to attune our senses to what’s on the screen. This is great except that we then no longer pay attention to our taste buds. During the holidays, many people fall into the trap of distracted eating. The sheer volume of food put in front of us can cause us to feel pressure to try everything. As a result, we’re in a frenzied state of eating without savoring our food. So, how can we practice mindful eating this holiday? Read on for some tips. But first, let’s first talk about distracted eating. 

The Problem With Distracted Eating

The problem is that eating without intention causes us to eat more. “Distracted” eating can be especially dangerous when it comes to consuming larger portions unintentionally. An extensive analysis done by researchers on the topic of “eating awareness” a few years ago sheds some light on this problem. It showed just how much more likely we are to overeat when eating under the influence of distraction.

How Likely We Are To Overeat When Distracted

When looking at 24 studies, researchers found that eating when distracted consistently produced a moderate boost in immediate intake. When we begin a meal in a distracted state, we tend to start eating extra straight out of the gate. Furthermore, starting a meal while distracted causes us to increase intake as our eating continues. Think of it like a “snowball effect.”

Is there anything that can stop it? According to this review, there are three key takeaways to combat distracted eating. Here they are:

  • Enhancing memory of food consumed reduced later intake. That means that slowing down to pay attention to what you’re eating can prevent you from overeating at subsequent meals.
  • Removing visual information about the amount of food eaten during the meal increases immediate intake. Luckily, this is one of the easiest oversights to fix. We’ll cover the tips in just a minute!
  • Incorporating attentive-eating principles into one’s lifestyle may aid both weight loss and maintenance without the need for conscious calorie counting.

Distracted eating can happen anywhere. However, many people have concerns about losing perspective about what’s on their plates with the holidays approaching. The stress of holiday shopping and worries over holiday finances can cause us to not pay attention to what we eat. Even good things like spending time with family or the carefree joy that comes from having time off can cause distracted eating.

That’s not to say that a little bit of indulgence isn’t welcomed on big feasting days like Thanksgiving. However, the goal should be to enjoy some controlled indulgence instead of distracted indulgence.

How to Stay Present During Holiday Meals

Take a look at some smart tips for being more aware and paying more attention to what you eat over the holidays.

Mindful Eating Tip #1: Focus on Nutrition First

Thanksgiving dinner table setting with healthy food.

Before you approach a spread packed with all kinds of starchy, sticky and sweet foods, make a deal with yourself: to focus on nutrition first. Choose to load your plate first with nutritional foods rather than ones that are simply “yummy.” You should also eat the most nutritious things off your plate first. This will help you fill up on goodies like steamed broccoli or lean turkey before diving into the buttery biscuits. You’re not restricting what you can eat. Instead, you’re prioritizing foods that nourish you. The bonus is that you won’t be quite so ravenous when you do finally work your way to the desserts. Starting your meal by being mindful about what you’re eating will set you up to remain mindful.

Mindful Eating Tip #2: Don’t Grab the Big Dish

Pay attention to the size of your plate! While this may seem simple enough, the reality is that most of us have been programmed to “fill our plates” regardless of the size. In fact, we rarely stop to even consider the way that plate size impacts portion size. According to some experts, it’s not uncommon for a person to end up eating 25 percent to 50 percent more food from a bigger dish! There’s a way around this. First, if you are at a gathering, try to grab a dish that’s close to the size you use for your meals at home. If the dishes only come in one size, estimate the size of your “normal” dish within the larger dish. Only fill your plate to cover your regular portion size from home!

Mindful Eating Tip #3: Don’t Socialize Near the Food

This little hack is helpful for holidays, parties and work meetings! Proximity to food makes us more likely to dip our hands in! In a study looking at how visibility and convenience influence candy consumption, researchers placed candy dishes in work settings to see if proximity influenced how much candy study participants would eat. The results of this study were surprising. People ate nine candies when a dish was on the desk. When the candy was placed in a drawer, they ate six. When participants had to get up from their desk, they ate only four pieces!

It’s easy to see how being able to simply “reach” for food makes it more challenging to practice mindful eating. When the food is further away, it gives you more time to think about whether or not you really want that food.

Mindful Eating Tip #4: Start the Day With Your Own Breakfast

Getting your day off to a rocky start that includes grabbing for whatever is available can set you up for a day of distracted, mindless eating. We can’t always control what others are going to serve at events like holiday gatherings. However, we can control what we eat before we get there. Pay special attention to breakfast if it’s the only meal of the day that you can control. By practicing mindful eating earlier in the day, you can better avoid distracted eating later in the day. You are setting yourself up for mindful eating all day long!

Here are a couple of ideas for a mindful breakfast. Prepare a hearty egg scramble that keeps you feeling full and energized. The healthy proteins will get you in the mindset for healthy meals without a sense of deprivation for the rest of the day. If you stay at someone’s house overnight before a big holiday, take along something easy and convenient like overnight oats.

Mindful Eating Tip #5: Keep Your Plate Away From the Television

This might just be the most important tip of all! Being distracted by shows, movies and videos may be one of the most significant unknown health risks people face today! Eating while watching television around the holidays can be especially dangerous! Want to know why? This is a time of year when holiday baking shows flood the airways and streaming services. A study from University of Surrey found that watching cooking shows and videos can cause us to eat more.

Of course, eating while gathered around the television for any reason can cause us to eat more. What many people don’t realize is that eating while watching television makes food less satisfying. As a result, we keep going back for more because we aren’t satiated quite as easily.

Having our senses occupied by the screen can also cause us to miss critical cues that tell us we’ve eaten enough! There’s also a “time” component. Making the decision to eat while watching a television show locks in our “eating time” for the duration of that show. This may cause us to go back for “seconds” several times to remain in a state of eating until the end of the program we’re watching!

What to do instead? Practice mindful eating by making the decision to start a show or movie after eating for the evening.

Final Thoughts: Mindful Eating Makes the Holidays More Enjoyable

Mindfulness elevates the experience of eating. It’s important to remember that mindfulness isn’t a punishment designed to stop us from seeing food as a means of enjoyment. The opposite is true. Mindfulness allows us to live in the moment with our plates instead of feeling like we’re always chasing the pleasure that’s dulled by distraction.

Couple enjoying Thanksgiving dinner.

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!