Category Archives: Foods

Soza Health Guide to “The Science Behind Junk Food”

junkfood

Junk foods are full of empty calories with little nutritional value. Junk food can contribute to obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

So why do we crave these foods and find them hard to resist?

There’s a staggering amount of science being utilised by junk food manufacturers in order to create food that is irresistible to all but the strongest willed. If we understand the science behind junk food, we may just be able to outsmart it and resist the urge to eat it.

Melt in the mouth foods: Many fast foods have been engineered to have ‘vanishing caloric density’. The less time food spends in the mouth before it is swallowed, the more rewarding the eating experience. This confuses the body into thinking fewer calories have been eaten as it spends very little time in the mouth and subconsciously encourages overeating. Examples of ‘melt in the mouth’ foods include; ice cream, cheese puffs and popcorn.

No specific taste or aroma: We are programmed to become tired or bored with food if we eat too much of one taste or aroma. To get around this, junk food is often manufactured to be either deliberately bland tasting, such as in vanilla ice cream or lightly salted crisps, or to contain a highly complex array of tastes and aromas that are not discernible and therefore confuse the brain. Eating these foods can override sensory burnout allowing us to eat more.

Sensory contrasts while eating: Our brain releases endorphins when we eat foods with new and exciting sensory contrasts in tastes, temperatures, textures and visual contrasts. Foods that are both sweet and salty, or crunchy and smooth are designed to give us a thrill and intensify the pleasure of eating them.

Food memories: The smells and tastes of certain foods are almost universally loved and induce cravings when we come across them. The smell of bacon is a prime example for many people. Food companies covertly use many of these smells and tastes within their offerings at once, often without you being able to consciously discern that they are there, thus promoting strong cravings.

Its packed with energy: Our brains are wired to prefer high calorie foods. This is a survival mechanism for when food is scarce, but it is detrimental to health in a society such as ours, where food is largely abundant and easily accessible. Fat is the most calorie dense of nutrients and our brains produce a pleasure response whenever we eat it. Fast food manufacturers look to create foods with close to 50% fat content. This fat content increases their desirability and activates pleasurable ‘reward’ pathways in the brain after eating.

They condition the brain towards addiction: After eating, the constituents of fast food go on to activate many of the same ‘reward’ and pleasure pathways in the brain as recreational drugs. This can create a preference for these foods and encourage addictive behaviour.

Encourage saliva production: We taste food better when there is enough saliva in the mouth to help liberate the flavour compounds and moisten the food ready to swallow. Junk food often contains added acids such as lactic or citric acid. These acids promote saliva production and enhances the taste.

Huge portions: Energy dense junk foods become even more desirable if given in larger than normal portions. If you have a large tub of popcorn or ice-cream in front of you, mindless eating is encouraged, and you will eat on average 34% more than you would with a more normal portion.

Casin: Fast foods often contain the milk protein casin. Casin is broken down during digestion into morphine like molecules called casomorphins that can make the food more addictive. These molecules inhibit the gut hormone enterostatin. Enterostatin functions to tell the brain when we have eaten enough fat. So foods with casin mean you can eat more before you feel full.

They have a high Glycemic Index (GI). High GI foods get broken down quickly by the body into simple sugars which are quickly utilised by the body for energy. This is far more rewarding for the brain than slow release, low GI foods, so the body is wired to crave these ‘instant gratification’ foods over far healthier alternatives.

Soza Health guide to the risks of taking sweeteners as a replacement for sugar

sweetner

Adding sugar into your diet can be detrimental to your health as it can contribute to the risk for diabetes.

To combat this risk, many people choose to drink beverages containing artificial sweeteners as a ‘healthy’ alternative to sugar, but beware, as these sweeteners often contain other hidden health risks.

Sweeteners – Sweeteners make you hungrier. In fact, many people who take sweeteners as part of a diet to lose weight, actually end up eating more food!

 

Some common sweeteners and their health risks:

  • Aspartame –  Aspartame has been linked to high blood pressure (hypertension). It also blocks an enzyme in the gut called intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP). This enzyme helps prevent obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
  • Acesulfame-K – Acesulfame-K has been shown to cause DNA damage.
  • Cyclamate – Cyclamate has been shown to cause reduced male fertility and may increase the risk for bladder cancer.
  • Saccharin – Saccharin can cause bladder cancer.
  • Sucralose – Sucralose is a laxative and can dehydrate you by causing water to be drawn from the body into the colon where it is excreted.

 

Gut bacteria – Many sweeteners have also been shown to negatively affect the balance of gut bacteria, leading to a more harmful phenotype that can decrease digestive efficiency and increase inflammation in the gut.

Sugar – The best advice with sugar is don’t try to replace it.  Slowly wean yourself off it instead.  If you get used to a diet that is less sweet in general, your taste buds will soon become accustomed to not needing sugar and you will find that you enjoy the full array of tastes in food again, not just sweet.

Best Sweeteners – If you choose to use a sweetener in your drinks the healthiest options are:

  • Date sugar
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Erythritol
  • Etevia

Soza Health guide to Weight Management

One of the keys to managing one’s weight, is controlling how much we eat. If your daily intake of calories is greater than your daily expenditure of calories through exercise and general movement, then any excess calories will be stored as fat.

weight_management

Over eating can be difficult to control, but there are generally three overeating categories that people can fall into. Each category requires a slightly different strategy to overcome.

 

  1. Eating more than is necessary at mealtimes.

 

  • Many people do not produce enough of a hormone in the stomach that indicates to the brain that it is full.
  • A low Glycaemic Index diet can fill you up more quickly and encourages production of these hormones. Choose sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, brown rice instead of white rice and brown wholemeal bread instead of white bread. Also try and reduce the consumption of carbohydrates such as pasta and heavily processed foods.
  • Using smaller plates to control portion sizes is also advisable. Also waiting 20 minutes after eating before having seconds, will give your brain a chance to receive signals from the stomach indicating that you are full.

 

2. Cravings.

  • Some people feel as if they are constantly hungry between mealtime,s leading to frequent snacking and consumption of excess food. For these people, the 5:2 calorie restricted diet has been found to be very successful.
  • For 5 days a week, you can eat as much as you like, even between mealtimes, but preferably on healthy snack options such as; nuts, seeds, carrots or berries.
  • For the other 2 days, you should eat a set number of calories throughout the day: 600kcal for men and 500kcal for women and stick to it.
  • Many people find it is a lot easier to stick with a diet, when its only 2 days a week!

 

3. Stress eating.

  • It is not uncommon to eat more when emotional, depressed, tired or stressed and to then gain weight as a result.
  • If you are a ‘stress eater’, try and identify the triggers that turn your mind to food when you are stressed, and find ways to re-align those thought processes.
  • It is often a good idea to find and implement an alternative stress-relieving activity when you think about indulging in food, such as meditation, exercising or having a hot bath.

Soza Health guide to managing cholesterol levels

 

cholesterol_levels

High levels of ‘bad’ LDL and VLDL cholesterol in the blood can contribute to increased risk of many diseases including; diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular problems, liver disease, kidney disease, and cognitive decline.

Fibre and plant phytosterols are key to lowering cholesterol, as they prevent excess cholesterol from entering the body in the digestive tract. Adding fibre in the diet encourages the surplus cholesterol to more easily pass through into the colon, where it is excreted.

The highest dietary sources of phytosterols are nuts and seeds, particularly sesame and pistachio. Just one serving of brazil nuts per month, has been shown to provide long-term cholesterol lowering effects.

Amla powder (Indian gooseberry) and dried apples have also been found to be very effective at lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood, whilst at the same time increasing the levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL).

Key foods to try and avoid if you are worried about your cholesterol are; eggs, meat, dairy and processed foods.

British Heart Foundation – BHF Cholesterol guide

 

Soza Health Guide to Migraine

Migraine headaches can be extremely debilitating for sufferers. However, there are various diet and lifestyle interventions that can limit or prevent attacks.

migraine

Magnesium – Many migraine sufferers are magnesium deficient and 600mg/day of magnesium supplementation (magnesium glycinate is the best source), can act as a prophylactic for attacks when taken over a period of 3-4 months.

 

Nuts, grains and seeds, as well as green leafy vegetables such as kale are particularly high in magnesium also.

 

Epsom Baths – Magnesium is best absorbed through the skin. We recommend taking Epsom salt baths or magnesium skin sprays may also be effective.

 

Treatment – Treatment for an acute migraine headache may be as simple as smelling the scent of lavender. The inhalation of lavender essential oil has been found to alleviate the symptoms in 75% of migraine attacks. This is significantly more effective than the majority of drugs available on the market today.

How to improve your brain power!

As we get older it gets harder to remember things. Even the sharpest of minds can start to experience cognitive decline. However, there are many dietary modifications that you can adopt that have been shown to improve the brain function. 

  • Consumption of blueberries and strawberries has been shown to reduce brain ageing by up to 2.5 years.
  • The herb rosemary, when used in cooking, has been shown to improve memory and enhance the processing speed of the brain.  
  • Just one week on a plant-based diet can significantly drop blood levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine is a toxin associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Dehydration causes brain shrinkage and may not only play a role in cognitive impairment, but also in levels of energy, alertness, and happiness. So try and drink up to 2.5 litres of water per day!
  • Nitrate rich vegetables such as rocket, beetroot and rhubarb increase blood flow to the brain and can increase cognitive function by optimising oxygen delivery.
  • Reducing glycotoxin intake can prevent brain shrinkage and cognitive decline. Glycotixins are present in foods such as chicken, pork, beef and fish, but can also accumulate if you are a smoker. They act on the brain to suppress an enzyme involved with the removal of plaques and tangles in your DNA. Over time these can accumulate in the brain and contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. 

Improving your kidney health

The kidneys assist the body in maintaining good hydration and electrolyte levels. They also remove excess acids and waste products from the blood, which are then excreted in urine. Maintaining good kidney health is important to prevent water retention, high blood pressure and acidosis in the body.

Kidney health can be maintained and improved in a number of ways, including:

  • Eating foods that promote nitric oxide release in the arteries will improve the blood flow to the smallest arteries that pass through the kidneys. Foods such as beetroot, rocket, rhubarb, garlic, spicy foods, cooked tomatoes and roasted vegetables will all help the arteries to open up and increase blood flow.
  • The kidneys will function at their best if you reduce the amount of acid forming foods you consume. Foods such as meat, fish and eggs, as well as fats and processed foods, will increase the acid load on the kidneys. Alkaline forming foods on the other hand, such as fruit and vegetables, green leafy vegetables and dried fruits will dramatically reduce the acid load.