For the Love of Food

by | Apr 4, 2014
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week low-fat diets get the boot, calorie restricted monkeys are vindicated, and morning sunshine keeps you slim.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).
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For The Love Of Food

by | Aug 31, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week learn why Coca-Cola is afraid of Twitter, health isn’t the best reason to exercise, and cutting calories might prevent cancer but probably won’t extend your life.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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How Mindful Eating Can Help You Eat Less

by | Aug 8, 2011
Red Flame Grapes

Red Flame Grapes

Today’s guest post is by Jyoti Mishra Ramanathan, a fellow UCSF neuroscientist who studies attention and distraction in the human mind. In her article Jyoti reveals how attention impacts our experience of food and how we can harness this power to help us eat less without feeling deprived.

Learning to be a mindful eater will permanently change your relationship with food and is essential for upgrading your healthstyle.

Mindful Eating and Portion Control

by Jyoti Mishra Ramanathan

I grew up in India where life revolves around food. One wakes up to plan breakfast and as soon as that is over plans lunch, then immediately prepares for a typical 3-4 course dinner. When I visit aunts or my grandma, I’m barraged with food at every moment: eat this, eat that! Oh! You aren’t eating enough! Oh! Do you not like my dishes?

If you don’t accept all or any food that comes your way, it is seen as a sign of disrespect. And if this isn’t enough to make you over-eat, remember too that food is sacred in India. How could one waste the grains on one’s plate when there are millions around us suffering from hunger? Consequently, I grew up believing it is normal to forever be bursting at my seams–to eat to the point where taking another bite might even make me sick.

But a few years ago my eating habits changed.

I was at a meditation workshop and one evening we were told we’d be given one grape for dinner. This sounded impossible. However, I obediently sat cross-legged with the other attendees and was handed my single juicy purple grape.

As I popped it in my mouth, I was told to shut my eyes and sense the grape in its totality: I rolled my tongue around it becoming aware of the soft and smooth exterior of the tiny fruit, I imagined its rich purple color, and then as I slowly bit into it, I savored every trickle of juice that I could extract from the grape.

The process took me a full five minutes and never in my life have I remembered eating such a delicious grape, although it was from no extraordinary vine. Miraculously, I felt full as well.

Try the grape exercise. I do not promise the satisfaction of a full meal, but it is a beautiful exemplar of mindful eating that consequently taught me portion control.

4 Simple mindful eating tips

1. Never eat distracted, i.e. while watching TV or running to catch the bus. Observe the deliciousness on the plate, the colors, textures, flavors and smells, savoring each bite. As the meal makes its way to the stomach, start to notice the fullness in your tummy. I found that there is an initial satiation simply from this sensory overload of observant eating.

One could stop here, but this is not enough nourishment and hunger tugs again relatively soon. But as you slowly chew on your food and enjoy each bite, you experience a real fullness that completely satisfies your hunger. This sensation precedes the contentment of the taste buds, which may still desire a few extra bites of that rich chocolate cake. But as I learned to identify the hunger satiety point at each meal, I found I could also control the desires of my taste buds.

2. Do not visit a restaurant starving. It is harder to control how much you eat when faced with novel delicacies at a restaurant, especially when you get there on an empty stomach. My best defense against this is to eat a small snack right before. My favorite is a quick salad.

At home I always keep miscellaneous salad ingredients on hand: mixed greens, cheese, raisins, walnuts, candied almonds, grains like quinoa, blueberries, avocado, sundried or cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, figs, grilled chicken strips, smoked salmon, etc. Mix-and-match any of these in varying proportions and add some homemade dressing. Each time you will have a novel salad that never gets boring. After a light snack it is much easier to have restraint while ordering and eating, keeping both waistline and budget in check.

3. Share a meal. My husband and I more often than not share an appetizer, entrée and dessert at a restaurant. This is not because we can’t afford more. We simply enjoy sharing–describing the new tastes to each other, immersing ourselves in the experience and appreciating new food. In these happy moments satiety emerges effortlessly.

Try this even when out with a group of friends: order for 3 with a group of 4 and share. If there is still food left over and there are no pets or family at home, I offer my extras to the homeless. I just gave away a carrot cake a couple of nights ago and the delight in those eyes was like someone who had just found a treasure!

4. Don’t aim for 100% full. Hara Hachi Bu is Japanese for eating until 80% full. Okinawan islanders practice this and are known to be one of the longest living people on the planet. Their longevity is attributed to this moderate calorie restriction in combination with consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, which protect against free radicals that damage your body’s cells.

Conclusion

In summary, there are many benefits to portion control: feeling better right after a meal, long-term health, weight management, saving cash by eating less and perhaps even living longer.

Practice mindful eating to make portion control a reality for you.

How do you control your portion sizes?

Originally published September 2, 2009.

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For The Love Of Food

by | May 6, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Great information this week around the web, and I didn’t even need to call BS! Read about why being a foodie isn’t elitist, what scientists think about US agriculture policy, and what’s the big deal about dietary fat.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links at Twitter (@summertomato) and the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Can You Live Longer By Cutting Calories?

by | Mar 30, 2011

Photo by Werwin15

Photo by Werwin15

The science of aging is among the most dynamic and provocative in modern biology. Over the past two decades we have seen a virtual explosion in research investigating the molecular and behavioral systems that control the aging process. But the more researchers uncover about the science of aging, the more questions emerge.

Dietary restriction has long been considered the most potent regulator of aging. Restricting food intake by any means induces a series of metabolic changes in organisms from yeast to primates that serve to extend life. Studies are currently underway to investigate the ability of dietary restriction to extend life in humans.

Several biological changes are known to occur upon the onset of dietary restriction including a decline in reproductive ability, increased stress resistance and a slowdown of some metabolic processes.

Insulin signaling was among the first molecular pathways to be identified in the regulation of aging, and offered a direct tie between diet and the aging process.  In 1998 UCSF scientist Cynthia Kenyon showed that removing an insulin receptor gene (daf-2) in worms could double their lifespan. Her lab later showed that removing another insulin signaling gene (daf-16) could extend life even longer. I spoke to Kenyon about the relationship between diet and aging for this article.

Blocking insulin signaling in these worms did not just prevent the worms from dying and allow them to age longer. Instead the aging process actually slows so that older worms continue to behave like young worms. Also, as these experiments were repeated in different animals, it was shown that lowering insulin signaling also helps protect animals from stress and diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Insulin is released as a direct response to glucose in the blood. This means that any time you eat a meal with carbohydrates, you are increasing your insulin signaling and likely accelerating aging. But this does not mean that you will live forever if you stop eating carbohydrates.

Interestingly, protein metabolism also contributes to accelerated aging, but through a different mechanism. Even more intriguing is that restricting protein increases lifespan to a greater extent than restricting sugar.

So is it simply calories that promote aging?

Probably not. For one thing, the effect of a calorie from protein is greater than a calorie from carbohydrate, making it unlikely that a calorie is the basic unit of impact. Second, there is evidence that calories are not required to accelerate aging.

Recent studies have shown that the mere act of smelling food can reduce lifespan. The mechanism for this effect is still unknown, but seems to be tied to respiration.

According to Kenyon it is clear that “sensory perception influences lifespan,” at least in worms and flies.

Thus it is likely that aging is controlled by the interaction of several pathways, including metabolism, respiration and stress. Importantly, however, lifespan seems to be dependent on a handful of specific pathways rather than global changes in cellular function or breakdown. The idea that aging is an inevitable function of time must be put aside given the evidence that it is controlled at a genetic and environmental level.

This makes sense when you think about it. Different organisms exhibit vastly different lifespans and rates of aging that are too great to be explained by some kind of universal cellular breakdown. A more parsimonious hypothesis is that organisms differ in specific genetic factors that, combined with environmental influences, regulate lifespan.

So how should we mortal humans react to these findings?

The genes linking diet and aging are highly conserved through evolution, indicating that there is a great chance human aging is sensitive to diet. Indeed, insulin-related genes have been found to be important in long-lived human populations. This suggests that the pathways discovered in worms and other organisms have similar functions in humans.

What is not clear is how much influence diet has on lifespan and to what extent we are able to manipulate it. It is already known that abnormal insulin activity in humans is linked to higher disease rates, especially “diseases of civilization” such as heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and cancer. And these diseases are clearly associated with diets rich in processed foods, especially refined carbohydrates.

The effect of protein consumption on lifespan in humans has yet to be investigated. Envisioning an experiment that would test the influence of smelling food on human aging is difficult to even imagine.

Although direct evidence is not available, there is good reason to suspect that a diet with low glycemic load may extend human lifespan. In November 2009, Kenyon’s lab reported that adding glucose to a worm’s normal diet shortens lifespan, but has no effect on the long-lived worms that lack insulin signaling genes daf-2 and daf-16. This discovery prompted Kenyon herself to adopt a low-carbohydrate diet.

Despite this there is still not sufficient evidence to recommend a calorie restricted diet for humans to extend life, largely because optimal nutrition levels for a given individual are unknown. However, most people would benefit vastly by eliminating processed foods and refined carbohydrates from their diets as much as possible.

Focusing on fresh, whole foods, enjoying an occasional glass of wine, avoiding smoking and getting regular exercise can add 14 years to the life of an average person. Maintain a healthy weight as well and your outlook gets even better.

Would you change your diet to be healthier and live longer?

Originally published February 3, 2010.

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For The Love Of Food

by | May 7, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week I learned that sugar has yet another dirty trick up its sleeve, E. coli can as easily be in industrial lettuce as in industrial meat (ok, I already knew that) and calorie restriction may strengthen your immune system. I also found a handy short video of Dr. Weil explaining the benefits of the 2010 Dirty Dozen produce list.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the week


What did you learn about food and health this week?

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For The Love of Food

by | Oct 2, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

I’m thrilled and delighted to see that so many of you have signed up for the Summer Tomato newsletter I announced last week. Newsletters will contain content that is not on this blog (and some other awesome bonuses in the coming months), so definitely sign up so you don’t miss out. There’s a sign up form in the sidebar.

As usual I found lots of great tips and information around the web this week. I especially like Marion Nestle’s two cents on whether recipes should include nutrition info. While I do like people to check to see how much salt and sugar they are really eating, I think nutrition info tends to make us more confused about what is healthy (hint: it’s vegetables).

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

I also invite you to submit your own best food and health articles for next week’s For The Love of Food, just drop me an email using the contact form. I am also accepting guest posts at Summer Tomato for any awesome healthstyle tips and recipes you’d like to share.

This post is an open thread. Share your thoughts, writing (links welcome!) and delicious healthy meals of the week in the comments below.

For The Love of Food

  • Darya Pino: 10 Reasons To Never Eat Free Food <<Did I mention my Huffington Post piece this week was picked up by NPR? Woohoo!
  • Should recipes include nutrition info? <<I love this article because it points out how inaccurate nutrition info really is. In my opinion, nutrition labels serve only to cloud your common sense. Few things with labels should be eaten anyway. (Food Politics)
  • “Anti-Atkins” Low Protein Diet Extends Lifespan in Flies <<I haven’t read the real study yet (printed it!), but this is intriguing because the life-extending properties of calorie restricted diets is usually attributed to insulin signaling (the lack of). We’ll see what becomes of this. (NewsWise)
  • Green Soup with Ginger Recipe <<To know me is to know that I love soup. This recipe is in my future. If you haven’t yet, definitely go check out Heidi Swanson’s blog 101 Cookbooks, my personal favorite recipe site. Heidi’s recipes are always amazing and awesomely healthy. She also happens to be one of the coolest people I met at BlogHer Food last week.
  • Is vitamin D your best protection from swine flu? <<Speaking of getting sick, I found this article fascinating for a bit of info toward the bottom that vitamin D supplements are not as good as real sunlight. I’m not surprised, but I haven’t heard this before. I bet vitamin D from fatty fish is better for you too. (Nutrition Data)
  • How to Choose the Fastest Line at the Market <<This article about how to pick the fastest line at the grocery store actually uses real data. I didn’t know such research existed. (Lifehacker)
  • Probiotics: Looking Underneath the Yogurt Label <<Fantastic article by Tara Parker-Pope about the health claims made by yogurts and foods containing probiotics. Personally I don’t like talking about parts of food you can’t see without running a biochemical assay, but I know many people have questions about probiotics and this article is a great place to start. (New York Times)
  • Krispy Kreme bacon cheddar cheeseburgers <<Is this not the grossest thing you’ve ever seen? Yarg. via @benhamill (ccaviness on Flickr)
  • Dropbox for iPhone Makes a Great Kitchen Aid <<I love this iPhone app already (Dropbox is online document storage that syncs across all your computers), but had never thought to use it this way for recipes. Bye bye cookbooks and recipe binders. (Lifehacker)
  • 9 Ways to Cook Lazily and Still Get Rave Reviews <<Simple and useful cooking tips from Dumb Little Man.

What are you reading?

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