Which foods do you find most addictive? which foods make you lose control over how much you eat? Which ones are hard to limit? All the aforementioned questions do matter for sure, but the question you should be asking yourself is: which foods do you genuinely crave, or which foods leave you feeling good, nourished, energized and satisfied?
I reckon many of you will agree with me that eating a bowl of cauliflower or cucumbers doesn’t have the same anxiety-relieving effect as freshly-baked bread with butter and Swiss cheese. Sad but true; we have become victims of the processed food industry that uses crazy amounts of salt, sugar and fat in foods and beverages to keep us coming back for more.
There are certain foods that bloat us, make us feel lousy and seduce us to eat too much of them. Yet, we stay attached. I will talk about that in the rest of the article. But I should highlight;the only way to know what is good for us; individually, is not by reading a million articles and searching different topics on the internet, it is by tuning in to ourselves and what foods serves us right The body has a natural way to sending us subtle messages to what is best for us.
The three main reasons for that attachment to certain foods that we have a love-hate relationship with are: Salt, sugar, and grease. French fries, salted peanuts, pretzels, and other salty foods are hard to resist, and food manufacturers know that adding salt to a recipe will make them sell more. Don’t get me wrong – Your body does need some salt; about a gram and a half per day. But because we normalize that bag of chips or those salted nuts and have them always available with appetizers or snacks; your neurological circuitry is set up to detect it, crave it, and jump in when you’ve found it.Your tongue is very sensitive to the taste of salt. Deep inside the brain, in the “reward center,” brain cells make the feel-good neurotransmitterdopamine, and in certain situations it floods out of the cells, stimulating other cells and so on. If you find a particularly abundant source of food, your brain releases dopamine and hence the happy feeling. If you were going on a date or a romantic encounter, your brain has a similar reaction. It gives you similar feelings. Dopamine rewards you for doing things that help you or your progeny to live on. And research proves that dopamine plays a role in our desire for salt, sugar and fat.
Let us take pizza for an example; Pizza is greasy, and that greasy-salty combination seems to get us hooked, same goes for chips, fries, and that cheese platter. An interesting thing I have found out recently about Casein <i “=””>casein, the protein that is concentrated in cheese. Casein is an unusual protein. It breaks apart to release individual amino acids, and it also releases longer chains of amino acids. These casein fragments are called <i “=””>casomorphins; that is, casein-derived morphine-like compounds. They act as a histamine releaserwhich is also why so many people are allergic to dairy products,and they can attach to the same brain receptors that narcotics and even heroin attach to. That is why dairy products might have a calming effect, and they cause the brain to release dopamine, leading to a sense of reward and pleasure.
Dairy products have found their own ways to keep you coming back. There are a lot of benefits to going dairy-free, but there are some downsides too. You’ve probably been taught, since you were young, that you must have milk with dinner and get your dairy in for the day according to the food pyramid. Dairy nourishes our bodies with protein, vitamin D, calcium, and potassium – yes. Those nutrients are super important! Would you die if you stop drinking milk and eating cheese?
No, you won’t!! But if you decide to stop having dairy, keep in mind that you’ll need to make up for the loss of dairy’s nutrients in other ways. Because if you want to have strong, healthy bones and not get osteoporosis, you better start taking a calcium and vitamin D supplements, and of course load up on the greens!
I do not recommend any extreme diets, cutting out this and cutting out that. I think moderation is key. But we all need to be aware of our habits and how they are controlling our lives and our thoughts. We tend to obsess about what we should eat and is “good” for us. When in reality you are the only one who would know what is suitable for you. However, one thing I urge to you to do is look first at the front of the packaging when you are grocery shopping. That’s where they hit you with things like “fat free” or “low sugar” or rich in vitamin this and vitamin that. Those are alarming. When they say low fat for instance, it’s actually loaded with sugar to make up for the absence of dietary fat or low salt is often loaded with sugar and fat to make up for the low salt. When you see “added calcium”, that’s often a signal that it is loaded in one or all of these three sneaky pillars.
Spend some time with the nutrition facts box. It has to be on every package now. It can be really revealing as to what exactly is in the package.
Pay attention to the number of servings per container, because the companies know that people will typically eat the whole bag of cookies that is meant to serve four people, all at once! You must be aware and do the math yourself, because they will list the nutrient content based on one serving.
Zein Nimri is an AFPA certified sports nutritionist, NESTA kids nutritionist, long distance runner, cyclist and traveller with big dreams. Follow her on Instagram @Zeinutritionist she is currently an Eating Disorder Recovery Coach.