Why Do We Crave Certain Foods?

It’s a mystery isn’t it? Going from fridge to cabinet to pantry knowing you are hungry but not knowing what you’re hungry for?

Hunger is an umbrella whose spokes branch out in different directions. Sometimes it’s not a food you’re even seeking. Rather it could be comfort, security, to soothe loneliness or a need for increased mental focus.

Occasionally your body simply desires water which is found in all foods and it’s not hunger pangs at all. So drink a glass and see if that helps. If not, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry or is it simply a feeling that needs addressing?”

By understanding the reason why behind the loss of control, you’ll recognize the urge when it occurs again.

Certain food cravings have hidden meanings. One should be aware of personal trigger mechanisms. Always ask yourself, what happened just before I craved this type of food and lost control?

Creamy foods like mac and cheese provide comfort. Are you sad, lonely or did you recently suffer a loss?

Hard, crunchy foods is usually an indication you are angry or stressed. Did your boss or mother-in-law tick you off today?  Stress affects the adrenal glands and releases toxins into your system which is dangerous.

Sometimes we simply love to eat! Therefore select wisely:

Craving sweets? Slice up a nutrient-dense apple or banana and dab a teaspoon of peanut butter on a few pieces. For a real treat, melt about 12 semi-sweet chocolate chips and dip some strawberries into the sauce. You’re getting magnesium, potassium, choline, copper, B vitamins, iron and many other essential nutrients. Not bad!

Craving specific nutrient-based foods is the way the brain’s hypothalamus tells someone they are low in a particular nutrient.

For example, low in energy? Lack of chromium or iron could be the cause of an insulin imbalance resulting in low blood sugar and energy. Instead of reaching for a piece of cake or a sixth cup of coffee, reach for raisins or a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses. For lunch create a spinach salad, roast beef sandwich or grill a 93% hamburger.

Another alternative would be to select foods high in Chromium.  This essential micronutrient acts like a doorknob, allowing insulin to be enter your body more slowly. You can find it in walnuts, sliced chicken, red grapes, corn, broccoli or mushrooms. Always try to balance your meals with a combination of lean protein, good omega 3 fatty acids and fibrous carbohydrates for longer lasting energy.

Finding yourself mentally fuzzy-brained and reaching for that energy drink to get you through the day? Rather than consuming that sugary donut or chemically-dangerous beverage, consume nutrients with a bit more beneficial power like green tea, avocado, banana or berries, especially blueberries. Spicy foods like salsa also rejuvenate!

It’s not unusual during the winter season to become depressed as sunshiny days are few and far between. Garlic is a great mood enhancer. Add it to pasta sauces, pork, beef, chicken recipes, grilled vegetables or as a dip with vegetables.

Anything’s fine in moderation!  Indulging in a piece of good quality dark chocolate is absolutely acceptable each day as long as it doesn’t challenge common sense. Make yourself a fruit smoothie or even a chocolate shake with 1% milk and ice. Yum! If chocolate becomes addictive with uncontrollable cravings, don’t bring it into your home.

As the Apostle Paul says: “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.  (1 Corinthians 9:27)

By taking control of your cravings you’ll feel as empowered every day!







Nutritional Choices For Increased Mental Performance

 Choose foods wisely! It makes a world of difference in your mental and physical health.

If you consume junk, your body and brain will perform like a sluggish machine! Does any machine work efficiently when it labors to perform?  No.  

We want to keep our arteries clean and pliable so the blood-flow to the brain and heart isn’t clogged and can work efficiently. So if we would like to retain our “smarts” for a little longer, we shouldn’t treat our brain so carelessly either.

The Greek physician Hippocrates, once stated: “Men ought to know that from nothing else but the brain come joys, delights, laughter and sports, sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations.”

I would have agreed except for the fact that he said, “nothing else but . . .” I’m sorry to disagree with the great Hippocrates but I must give proper creditto God for our soul and spirit too.

True Health also comes from the heart: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  (Proverbs 17:22)

Consuming proper whole foods however, does maintain a healthy pH acidic/alkaline balance. When you feel physically and mentally fit you’re happier and from that comes a more joyful countenance.

Here are some foods you should always add routinely to your weekly diet for proper mental and physical health:

Garlic protects our brain neurotransmitters, enhances memory retention and increases blood flow. The Israelites craved this wonderful bulb. “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic.” (Numbers 11:5)  All brain food!

Increase good fats. Too much of the wrong kind, like saturated fat, will harm because the body works harder trying to fulfill its basic mechanics, resulting in higher blood pressure, diminished energy and even less brain power. Rather choose monounsaturated fats such as  olive and canola oil and omega 3’s.

Omega-3′s refer to omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids are the ‘building blocks’ of fats just as amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They are vital nutrients for the brain.

Omega-3’s are used to regulate blood clotting, build cell membranes, protect the nerve’s myelin sheath and support cell health.

Good fats such as olive oil, flaxseed, salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, anchovies, avocados  will prevent the blood from stickiness, potential blood clots, strokes and heart attacks. What’s good for your heart is good for your brain!

As our brains age, the neurons can’t talk to each other as easily as they once did. Open up the blood-brain barrier with inflammation fighting foods:healthy foods

Vitamin E found in green leafy greens, wheat germ and walnuts lowers cholesterol and provides anti-clogging powers.

Vitamin C:  Not only does this vitamin help create collagen, thus making us look younger, it also neutralizes free radicals and strengthens blood vessel walls. Cantaloupe is one of its best sources.  So are strawberries, sweet red peppers, cabbage, broccoli, lemons, limes, oranges and tomatoes.

Spice up your life with curry or cinnamon which blocks the formation of plaque in the arteries.

Exercise your brain like a muscle with cross word puzzles, brain games or other stimulating activities such as Scripture memorization, reading or card playing. Find active, not passive activities for your brain.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

A grateful attitude and positive nature overcomes a defeated spirit – but a positive spirit maintains mental health too!

Why Dark Chocolate is the Perfect Valentine Gift!

On a morning show recently, I heard this health professional snidely remark, “Well you wouldn’t eat dark chocolate every day would you???”

Oh my dear lady, Of course I would and usually DO!

Doesn’t she keep up on the latest info available? Oh wait, never mind. I derived mine from God’s instructions 6,000 years ago when God told Adam he could eat from any tree in the Garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Let me assure you: the cocoa bean comes from a tree which isn’t evil.

I know, I could have waited until next week but hopefully husbands are contemplating Valentine’s gifts this week. So I’m passing along this suggestion now.

Sometimes I overhear, “Oh, I was baaaad; I ate chocolate this week.” Giggle, giggle.

Why is chocolate so maligned? Chocolate, in moderation, is one of the finest, nutrient-dense  foods one can consume. The cocoa myth ranks up there with avoiding eggs and shrimp with good HDL cholesterol.

I follow a simple formula, if God says it, I believe it, that settles it. However in case you don’t, let me convince you of the benefits of dark chocolate.

Chocolate is a powerful anti-oxidant, ranking even higher than the acai, pomegranate and blueberry on the protection scale. What do antioxidants do? Let me count the ways:

  1. They act as a natural sunblock, protecting us against ultra violet rays and skin damage.
  2. It protects against ailments like heart disease, vision impairments, hypertension, diabetes and cancers.
  3. It assists in lowering blood pressure because chocolate contains natural nitric oxide which increases oxygen levels and relaxes blood vessels.

Chocolate boosts our mood due to its phenethylamine (PEA) content. This is a 50-cent word which stimulates the brain to produce the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. PEA acts as drug. It stimulates the nervous system and triggers feel good endorphins. (One reason chocolate’s addictive. It’s hard to stop something that makes you feel so emotionally good.)

But a normal serotonin level is important because it improves one’s mood, sleep patterns and increases libido. When one is low in serotonin, they’re usually cranky, impatient and could act erratically. Women who suffer from PMS often find themselves depressed, craving chocolate because serotonin levels are diminished.

Subconsciously you might find yourself searching for chocolate after you’ve had a bad day or are lonely. Remember it’s a treat not a crutch. Bring it into your home only if you can control your behavior around it.

Chocolate is an enigma. It contains theobromine and caffeine which are stimulants and yet  reduces the stress-hormone cortisol, once again increasing serotonin, the pleasure hormone.

The nutrients found in chocolate are incredible: Potassium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, great fatty acids, good saturated and monounsaturated fat. The cocoa bean also contains valuable flavonoids, polyphenols, fiber and cocoa butter, (a great moisturizer.)

Chocolate even contains powerful probiotics which improve digestion and good bacteria to fight infection. Need another reason to consume chocolate? Believe it or not the antibacterial compounds will fight plague and tooth decay!

One of the best ways to consume dark chocolate is to place 15 semi-sweet chocolate chips in a small container. Eat one at a time, savoring each one. Don’t place another in your mouth until you’re done with the first one.

Another way is to melt those chips and slice fresh berries, bananas or your favorite fruit and use chocolate as a dip.

These are just some of the many ways chocolate benefits the body. Just enjoy God’s bounty without making anything an idol.

“The earth has yielded its produce; God, our God, blesses us.” (Psalm 67:6)


Breathe, Relax and De-Stress!

Is your life filled with stress?

Do you work under stressful conditions? Have a domineering boss? Do you experiences stress as a nurse, (my #1 patient) when you can’t do anything for that small child dying in the ICU? As an overworked teacher, when that popular teenager calls you a derogatory name behind your back and others laugh? Or a social worker, wishing you had funds to purchase food for every struggling family, but can only stand by and help in what little way you can?

You might even question God and wonder why He allows such things to happen?

Faith is trusting, even when we don’t understand why.

A stressful environment can result not only in irritability, fatigue, headaches, memory loss, high blood pressure, insomnia and other health issues, but it can also add additional weight to your frame.

American Neurobiologist, Dr. Sapolsky, studied a Kenyan baboon community for 30 years. Existing in a class system, the aggressive Alpha males terrorized the gentler males causing stress-related illnesses within the group; elevated blood pressure, heart problems and yes, even weight gain.

Since the Alpha males also dominated the food chain; they would eat first. However they once consumed a deadly substance which caused disease and killed them off. The kinder males took over the community which then thrived due to a stress-less environment. This produced peace . . . and weight loss.

Food can be many a person’s comfort drug when they are feeling stressed. Food’s as addictive as smoking, drugs or alcohol because it changes the body’s chemistry and the neurotransmitters in our brain.

If you’re tired or having a stressful morning, it’s easy to reach for the sugary donuts in the break room. Sugar increases energy and also releases feel-good serotonin to the brain. Angry? Those pretzels and peanuts are therapeutically crunchy, releasing pent up frustration!!! Lonely? Subconsciously you reach for that stress-reliever, comforting  chemical, phenylethylamine, found in chocolate.

We need to seek peace in other ways besides reaching for food.

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9: 9,10)

Although we can’t totally eradicate stress from our lives because there is good and bad stress everywhere, every day; we can take steps to control harmful stress.

Create a Strategy and Take Action!

  1. Exercise. Serotonin is also released through exercise too! Bike, walk, play tennis, swim, go to the gym but discipline yourself!
  2. Warm relaxing baths or massage therapy.  Have your spouse give you a foot or back rub.
  3. Take action to assist and be a blessing to others. Work at an employment agency, volunteer at a charity, cook a meal, read a story to that suffering child. Be pro-active and make a difference in someone’s life.
  4. Have a cup of tea, enjoy the sunset and relax with music.
  5. Meditate.  The closer you experience God, the more peace you’ll experience. Have Faith that His Way is Best.
  6. Laughter relieves stress. Laugh with your family, watch a comedy, play games, have a date night.
  7. Remember you can’t live in a vacuum. Find someone to talk to, whether it’s a spouse, friend or pastor, we all need a support system.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.” (Psalm 143:10)

Success is within reach but you must want to take action to grasp it!

What “Doggie-Hell” Seems Like

Our Cavashon, affectionately called, “Mr. No-No,” enjoys coming into my office and laying at my feet while I write. He brings in countless bones, chewy’s, tuggie ropes. balls, Kongs and other toys until he is surrounded. I must step gingerly if I get up, so I don’t get hurt stepping on one.

While I was  in my office writing one morning, he once again at my feet, got up and moved away. I heard him sadly whimpering. I thought he simply wanted to get out to get a sip of water, but that wasn’t it. Looking up, I noticed he was staring at his toy box on the other side of the glass door, lusting after yet another slobbery toy.

“But I really want that one,” he seemed to incessantly whine at me. “If only I can have that one I won’t ask for another thing again. I promise!!!”

“Sorry buddy,” I said as I continued to write, “I’m not getting up just so you can get another icky toy. Lay down now.” (I talk to the little guy like he’s a regular person.) He kept whining but sometimes “one must be more stubborn than a Lhasa apso” (another dog blog post reference) and he eventually gave up and laid down, probably dreaming how I was the worst mom ever.

He had 52 other items he could play with and yet he believed something different and new would bring him ultimate happiness.

How like us too! Who is our God? We sometimes choose materialistic items, money, power or prestige over our Lord and family. What values does that teach our children?  God has blessed us so abundantly and yet we strive for things that will become dust, for emotional highs which fade away over time and items that have no lasting value.

“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)

What about our food choices? God generously gave us an abundance of nutritious items that not only sustain us, but will produce a vibrant life.

Yet we choose nutrient-deprived pretzels, chips, bacon burgers, diet sodas and sugary candy over strawberries, dark chocolate, avocados and nuts because sugary idols will bring ultimate happiness, right?

Actually they do but that’s a half-truth – and who is the master of half-truths? Satan.  Sugary drinks, candy and junk food with its dyes, artificial colors, sugars and preservatives, will lift our spirits for awhile because of their addictive chemicals.

But then comes the blood sugar crash. When that happens, our blood sugar and pH becomes acidic, which makes us grumpy, jittery, weak and miserable to be around. Without nutrients we also have no way to convert carbohydrates, fats and protein into energy so we’re only consuming empty calories and gaining weight.

To our pup, doggie hell looks like deprivation. To him I’m the godly master who is mean- spirited, restricting all his fun.  He focuses on his presumed deprivation, just as we do sometimes. He conveniently forgets the abundant nutritious treats he gets when he behaves properly.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) 

The thief is Satan who wants nothing more than to destroy our earthly temple mentally, physically and spiritually.

But our Lord wants us to enjoy an abundant life! One way we can do so is live by His recommended nutritional guidelines found in Genesis 1:29 and Genesis 9:3.

Be Content, Count your Blessings, Honor God, Live Abundantly!



You’re an Individual, Lose Weight as One!

Everyone’s lives are chemically differently with various bone structure and stress levels so there’s really no “one-size-fits-all” diet plan.  Besides you don’t want to rely on a “diet” – you want to change your lifestyle.

An adult’s caloric intake should never drop below 1200 calories or your metabolism will begin shutting down and physiologically you’ll gain when you eat “normally” again. Keep things simple, slow and steady. I suggest reducing 500 “junky” calories per day x 7 days = 3500 calories which equals a pound of fat loss safely per week. Add daily exercise and you’ll lose even more of course.

You must eat!!! Starvation never works.Your body is like an engine. It needs to be kept powered with energy to produce energy; that’s the First Law of Thermodynamics. So strive to consume mini-meals throughout the day.

Keeping it simple, here’s a suggested sensible typical daily eating plan that can be adapted to fit your schedule:

For Breakfast:  Choose 4-8 oz. of good quality yogurt, Dannon Natural or Mountain High are my favorites. Eat yogurt first. Why? Because the good bacteria strengthens your immune system’s digestion track. (Also the natural   liquid whey contains weight loss properties.)

Most nutrients get dispersed out of the small intestine so if it’s clogged up, it can’t function properly. In a hurry? Create a quick smoothie with yogurt, a banana, orange juice, ice and 1% milk.  I call it my “magnesium-potassium” shake.

Then consume 3/4 cup of a high fiber (5 grams +) flavorful cereal like Great Grains, Shredded Wheat, Raisin Bran, Grape nuts, Kashi products. If you have high cholesterol, choose soluble fiber which turns into a gel, like oatmeal, reducing bad cholesterol. Insoluble fiber, like bran, push waste through your digestion system so you’ll absorb nutrients efficiently.  Add a banana, raisins or berries for additional fiber. Use almond, soy, 1% milk (2% is 40% fat).

Carbohydrates remain 15 minutes – 3 hours in your digestive system, depending on the amount of fiber contained in the carbs which lasts longer. Then increase water. You’ll feel fuller because fiber expands, which also slows down insulin dispersion.

Mid-morning:  Bring a snack to work like a 1/4 cup of walnuts, an apple, red grapes, banana or other fruit for brain function. Your brain feeds primarily on glucose.

Lunch:  Choose low-sodium or homemade soups, a salad with protein/colorful greens for nutrients, a low-sodium  microwaveble meal, a small  veggie/low-cal sandwich, one brought from home on whole wheat.  You can also bring ‘planned-overs’ from last night’s dinner.

Proteins last in your system from 2-4 hours. We only burn up about 30 grams of protein in 2 1/2 hours so don’t over-indulge!

Afternoon snack: If you won’t arrive home until late, try carrot sticks, 2 thin slices of light cheese on 4 Triscuits. a tablespoon of peanut butter on two low-fat crackers, apple or a cup of herbal tea.

Home now, go for a walk to relieve stress or listen to music, take a short bath and de-stress before eating.

Dinner: Lots of choices!! Consume 3-4 oz. of lean protein, sirloin, pork loin, chicken breast, shrimp, crab, tuna, any white fish.

Eat 5x’s more water-based vegetables than meat, (broccoli, garden salad, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers) a whole grain such as a baked potato, pasta, corn, peas, bread.  Avoid frying your food and enjoy the taste of grilled, broasted or baked choices.  Add olive oil or canola oil to your salads and use real butter sparingly.

Desserts?  Indulge in one individual dark Dove, Ghirardelli or other fine high quality chocolate and savor the taste.

You’re in control now.  Making the right decisions is empowering!!!

“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)

Losing Weight Through a Balanced pH System

Let’s discuss how the body’s PH scale is pertinent to weight loss. Okay, okay, I can hear you grumbling now . . .  gosh I’m back in school. I promise I’ll make it interesting.  

First what is the pH scale?

Visualize a vertical line numbered from 1-14 with water right smack in the middle, neutral at 7.0. Anything above 7.0 is an alkaline item and anything below is acidic. The stomach is 2.0 – 3.0. It must be that acidic in order to aid digestion processes.

When your body’s PH is alkaline, it’s not as hungry! Try drinking water with lemon with meals.

Now I know what you’re thinking . . . “but Ellie, lemon is so sour, how can it NOT be acidic?” That’s true – lemons, limes, grapefruit begin as an acidic element but transforms into an alkaline product as it metabolizes.  Isn’t God amazing?!  And some think this just “happened by chance.”

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it.”  (Psalm 139:14) NLT

Most people who suffer from an illness are acidic. Stress creates an acidic environment. When you’re ill or under stress, your body is forced to borrow minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium from your bones or vital organs to neutralize the acid and remove it safely from your system. These same minerals regulate your heart function!

Prolonged stress can cause acute diseases, so take steps to relax. Although the verdict’s still out on whether an alkaline diet prevents cancer, it does make biological sense, doesn’t it? By eating fruits and vegetables, the body maintains a healthy PH and therefore in most cases avoids disease and cancers.

Important: Soft drinks, especially those with artificial sweeteners, make the body acidic!  Is it worth the risk? (And now you’re hungrier so it kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?)

Keeping your PH between 7.3 – 7.45 is considered ideal. Remember your body is 55-70% water. Balance is the key! Alkaline foods consist primarily of fruits and vegetables.

Therefore if anything below 7.0  is acidic, meats, dairy, sugars, caffeine, alcohol and anything processed are all acidic products. Now you’re saying, “But Ellie that’s how my family eats!”  Bingo, that’s the stereotypical American diet and that’s why we’re such a sick society today!!!  Asian countries don’t eat this way.  Their daily diet consists of vegetables, rice, very little meat. Asian countries also have less cancers.

Eating needn’t be complicated. An alkaline diet is mostly vegetarian. Remember what I told you previously? Eat 5x’s more fruits, vegetables and whole grains as meat (3-4 oz) on your plate. Now it’s visual.

Here’s a partial list of beneficial alkaline foods, but remember that anything’s fine in moderation:

  • Fats: Almond nuts, olive, canola, flaxseed oil
  • Grains: Quinoa, wild rice, amaranth, millet, oats
  • Sugars: maple syrup, Stevia
  • Vegetables: tomatoes, mushrooms, potato skins, olives, carrots, corn on the cob, lettuce, beets, sweet potatoes, squash, green beans, cabbage, peas, raw spinach, asparagus, onions, raw spinach, broccoli, garlic
  • Fruits: apples, melons, mangoes, papaya, blueberries, oranges, pears, raisins, bananas, peaches, pineapple, grapes, avocado
  • milk: soy products, feta goat cheese

Bottom line: Eat Balanced.  A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, soy products and plenty of water will build your immune system.  Too many processed foods, caffeine, dairy, white sugar, meats and white flour products will destroy your godly temple. Change your thinking, your family’s diet and leave a legacy of health to your future generations.