Friday, March 2, 2012

Smarter, faster, better with…rosemary?

We’re only just starting to grasp the many complex ways our diet affects our health. We know that we can guard against disease and even improve our mood by eating healthy. But who would have thought that certain foods—and herbs—can actually help us think better and faster, and to remember what we’ve learned longer!  

And here’s the kicker. The latest research shows that we may not even have to eat them! Believe it or not, just the scent of some herbs, such as peppermint and rosemary, can improve our cognitive performance (translation: how quickly and well we can solve problems).  

Nutrition for the mind

Researchers at Northumbria University in the UK recently reported that people who were exposed to rosemary essential oil showed improvements in working memory and scored better on a math test, compared to people who were not exposed, and that there were "medium to large effects."[i]

Nutrition for the body

This doesn’t mean we should sniff rosemary instead of eating it, though. Earlier research has shown that actually eating the herb may help protect against diseases that affect the brain and nervous system, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.[ii] It’s also a known anti-inflammatory and has been shown to protect against cancer.[iii]

So, go ahead and sprinkle some rosemary on your chicken, turkey or fish before you bake it. Or add some rosemary to your bread or stuffing for a great-tasting healthy boost. 

Nutrition for the spirit

Interestingly, all this new research just confirms what the ancients already knew. At least as far back as the Middle Ages, brides wore rosemary at their weddings to symbolize remembrance of the life they had led before their marriage; and Greek scholars wore rosemary in their hair when studying for exams.[iv] Rosemary was also used at funerals, again for remembrance.

Since the ancients believed it contained powerful, purifying energies, it has been used for centuries in religious and spiritual rituals for protection against negativity. In the Middle Ages, it was even reputed to ward off witches and evildoers. [v]  

[i] Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology published online 24 February 2012
Photo Source=[ Flowering Rosemary] |Date=April 22, 2006 at 18:39 |Author=[ THOR] |Permission= |other_vers)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Self check-in before you eat a treat

Have you been eyeing the delicious-looking [you fill in the blank] that your colleague brought into the office to celebrate Friday? Here's a suggestion to keep both your mind and taste buds happy.

STOP resisting the temptation and give yourself permission to try a small piece or serving (however, it's key to make sure you stick to having just one serving). Forcing yourself to resist temptation for a long period of time will only wear you down and make you feel deprived, which increases the likelihood of a big splurge later on.

But you'll feel guilty if you give in and have some, you say? Look at it this way. If you allow yourself to try the treat, you get the pleasure of satisfying a craving now and are less likely to overdo it later on because you deprived yourself throughout the day. Which would make you feel more guilty at the end of the day, having a little piece of a special treat now, or owning up to splurging later on because you "deserved it" for being so good all day long?

However, BEFORE you take that first delectable bite, here are some suggestions to help you to enjoy the experience to the max.

  • Tell your inner judge to take a vacation. You've consciously decided to enjoy this treat, so by all means do it without guilt trips! 
  • Use all your senses to savor your treat. Appreciate its physical beauty, its delightful scent, how it feels in your mouth, and of course, how it tastes. Chew slowly and allow the treat to remain in your mouth as long as you can so you can appreciate it as fully as possible. 
  • After you swallow the first bite, ask yourself--did one bite satisfy your craving, or do you really want to eat another bite? 
  • If you do want to eat more now, that's fine--keep eating until you're no longer savoring each and every bite or until you finish your small serving, whichever comes first. 
  • If instead you realize that just having one bite really took the edge off your craving, then stop and put down your plate and fork right away.
  • Remind yourself that you can always save the rest for later--especially if you like it, but you're not really hungry right now. 
  • If the treat didn't really taste as good as you thought it would, do a self-check before you eat any more of it. Ask yourself if the pleasure you'd feel from eating more of this treat is really worth the calories it would "cost," or if you'd rather "spend" those calories elsewhere today. 
  • Remind yourself that if this treat doesn't taste out-of-this-world delicious, maybe you'd be better off saving your "calorie budget" for something that's more worthy of the "expense" later on.  
  • Whether you eat the whole thing or stop after one bite, always remember that everyone deserves to enjoy simple pleasures every once in a while--especially you!  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Single-tasking at the table

So, here’s where we left off yesterday. Our new year’s resolution: This year, I will eat the foods I love, enjoy every bite and stay the same weight. In fact, I may even lose a few pounds.

Seem counterintuitive or even impossible?  Maybe on the surface; but it’s actually very doable IF you’re willing to be mindful while you eat and become conscious of what your body and emotions are saying to you.

While this may sound super easy, it’s actually anything but. Why? Because very few of us take the time to sit down and eat our meals without distractions. Instead, most of us multitask while we eat.

Maybe we swallow a sandwich while answering our email, inhale a bag of chips while watching the big game, or drink our latte while rushing to our next appointment. Next thing we know, we reach into the bag and find that all the chips are gone—did we really eat that many?!?

If we want to follow our resolution, the first thing we need to do is to single-task when we eat. This means whenever we eat and drink, we do nothing else. We put our meal on a plate, sit down, and just eat and drink.  This can be done alone or with others (yes, conversation is allowed!), but the key is to really focus on our food and the dining experience with all our senses.

Weird as it sounds, some people (including me!) may find this hard to do at first. We’ve gotten so used to multi-tasking in every other area of our lives that just sitting and eating may actually seem strange or even boring. Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you find it hard to just eat:

  • ·        How does my food look on the plate? Are many colors and textures are present?
  • ·         Do I like how my food smells? How would I describe it, if I had to tell someone else what it smells like?
  • ·         Is my food hot, cold, or lukewarm? Is this the optimal temperature at which to eat this food? Is it creamy and smooth, spongy and moist, dry and crisp?  
  • ·         What does the food sound like when I bite into it? Is it fresh, or a little limp or stale?
  • ·         What does it taste like? Salty, sweet, juicy, savory, spicy, bland, or a combination of these? If I were a food critic and had to write a review, what would I say?  
  • ·         Does it taste good enough for me to take another bite? Or have I had enough to satisfy myself for now?

It may take a while to get used to this, but it gets easier with practice. You may even want to set up a few reminder-to-self messages up on your smart phone until you get into the habit. But if you consistently start focusing on just eating whenever you eat, you’re well on your way to keeping this resolution. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A different kind of resolution

This year, I will eat the foods I love, enjoy every bite and stay the same weight. In fact, I may even lose a few pounds.

Sound way too good to be true? With all the hype out there about how hard it is to lose weight and keep it off, I wouldn’t blame you for being skeptical. After all, just about every health and nutrition website, blog and advice column out there talks about eating low-fat foods, cutting carbs and counting calories. And lots of people want to convince us that to lose weight and be healthy, we just need to ban foods x, y and z, and instead, just eat superfoods a, b and c; or buy their newly discovered magical elixir that sheds pounds while we sleep. Yeah, right!

The truth is, almost everyone is capable of enjoying all the foods they love while not only maintaining their weight, but even losing a few pounds, and feeling healthier, too.


Not by stuffing our faces until we’re too full to move—sorry to disappoint you—but by REALLY PAYING ATTENTION to our bodies, our moods, and our foods. Over the next few months, this blog will focus on providing tools and tips to help you do just that.

Why read it?

Because if you’re like me, you don’t want to feel deprived of foods you love, or guilty when you indulge. You want to be able to enjoy your favorite foods—even chocolate and full-fat cheese—without feeling guilty or gaining weight. And you want your food to be healthy, but taste delicious. The blog will give you plenty of ideas on how to do both.

One caveat

You knew it was coming, right? But don’t worry, it’s nothing awful or impossible. Just this—can you commit to keeping an open mind and becoming more aware of how you feel, physically and emotionally, this year?  If so, you’re well on your way to actually keeping your resolution this year!