8 Causes of Cravings

 

The body is amazing. It knows when to go to sleep, wake up, go to the bathroom, maintain 98.6 degrees and tighten the eyes when the cupcakelight gets bright. It knows the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth. Your heart never misses a beat. Your lungs are always breathing. The body is a super-computer, and it never makes mistakes.

 

Look at the foods, deficits and behaviors in your life that are the underlying causes of your cravings. Many people view cravings as weakness, but really they are important messages meant to assist you in maintaining balance. When you experience a craving, deconstruct it. Ask yourself, what does my body want and why?

 

The eight primary causes of cravings are:

 

1. Lack of primary food. Being dissatisfied with a relationship or having an inappropriate exercise routine (too much, too little or the wrong type), being bored, stressed, uninspired by a job, or lacking a spiritual practice may all cause emotional eating. Eating can be used as a substitute for entertainment or to fill the void of primary food.

 

2. Water. Lack of water can send the message that you are thirsty and on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration can manifest as a mild hunger, so the first thing to do when you get a craving is drink a full glass of water. Excess water can also cause cravings, so be sure that your water intake is well balanced.

 

3. Yin/yang imbalance. Certain foods have more yin qualities (expansive) while other foods have more yang qualities (contractive). Eating foods that are either extremely yin or extremely yang causes cravings in order to maintain balance. For example, eating a diet too rich in sugar (yin) may cause a craving for meat (yang). Eating too many raw foods (yin) may cause cravings for extremely cooked (dehydrated) foods or vise versa.

 

4. Inside coming out. Often times, cravings come from foods that we have recently eaten, foods eaten by our ancestors, or foods from our childhood. A clever way to satisfy these cravings is to eat a healthier version of one’s ancestral or childhood foods.

 

5. Seasonal. Often the body craves foods that balance the elements of the season. In the spring, people crave detoxifying foods like leafy greens or citrus foods. In the summer, people crave cooling foods like fruit, raw foods and ice cream, and in the fall people crave grounding foods like squash, onions and nuts. During winter, many crave hot and heat-producing foods like meat, oil and fat. Cravings can also be associated with the holidays, for foods like turkey, eggnog or sweets, etc.

6. Lack of nutrients. If the body has inadequate nutrients, it will produce odd cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition produces cravings for non-nutritional forms of energy, like caffeine.

 

7. Hormonal. When women experience menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique cravings.

 

8. De-evolution. When things are going extremely well, sometimes a self-sabotage syndrome happens. We crave foods that throw us off, thus creating more cravings to balance ourselves. This often happens from low blood sugar and may result in strong mood swings.

 

Looking for ways to reduce your cravings and get your body back on track? Try the 14 Day Cleanse here!

 

Adapted from Integrative Nutrition

Why Eat Well?

 

In light of the recent news I’ve shared about Annette, it feels a bit odd to jump back into discussing leafy greens and quinoa (or any other health-promoting food stuff) in my next blog post. And this is probably why it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted. I’ve had a tough time trying to figure out what to say! Annette is, after all, not only my coauthor, but also a dear, dear friend.

I was asked in an interview last night on Because Hope Matters Radio (listen to the interview here) a little about how Annette’s cancer recurrence has affected us in terms of our message and support we offer through Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen and here, on our website. In other words (and this is MY own words, not how this was asked on the radio show!) what does it mean if Annette, someone who promotes eating well to fight cancer and is so healthy herself, gets cancer again? Perhaps others wonder this as well.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. At least, not a simple one.

Annette has led a beautifully healthy lifestyle – diet, exercise, etc. – over the last several years since her first cancer diagnosis. [You can read about Annette’s and my cancer stories in detail in our book, but long story short – Annette was diagnosed with breast cancer and found she has the BRCA1 genetic mutation, which increases her risk for certain cancers. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer two years after her breast cancer diagnosis. She had treatment for both. A few years later (now) – ovarian cancer recurrence.]

Many studies have shown that a plant-focused diet reduces cancer mortality rates and that vegetarians live longer and have lower cancer rates [1], that lifestyle changes can actually turn cancer genes on and off [2], and that chemicals in plants protect against cancer in many ways [3]. Studies have also shown that a healthy diet helps to prevent late effects (a late effect is a health problem that occurs months or years after a disease is diagnosed or after treatment has ended. It’s caused by cancer or cancer treatment). [4] Most experts agree that some form of a plant-focused diet this is an optimal way to eat! And it is.

Eating a whole-food, plant-based diet improves quality of life on many levels, with or without cancer. This, in my opinion, is reason alone to eat in such a way. You just feel good – great, actually. Generally, you have more energy, better moods, feel stronger, and have fewer health problems. If a person is going through cancer treatment, it’s very likely that he or she would feel far better than he/she would have if eating a poor, processed, high-sugar diet. If a person who isn’t facing cancer eats a more health-sustaining diet, he/she will likely feel better. That seems logical, right?

A plant-based, whole-food diet also supports your body on many levels – immune system, digestion, blood health, heart health, mental clarity, bones, tissues, organs. The food we eat becomes us, plain and simple.

What isn’t quite so plain and simple is the formation of disease, or the environment in which disease thrives, at least not specifically. There are so many beliefs and theories, some evidence-based, some partially, and some are simply opinions. Believe me, I’ve read it all (how many of these have you heard about?) – pH levels in the body, inflammation, toxin overload, digestive health affects immunity, conventional treatment (like chemotherapy) creates a cancer-friendly environment in the body, the affects of stress, how mindset affects disease and health…and on and on. Much of this is quite credible, and more than likely, it’s a combination of several of these causes in relation to food, environment, stress management and genetics.

Along these lines, I remember reading once, “A person isn’t sick because he/she has cancer. He/she has cancer because she is sick.” I don’t remember the source – let me know if you know it! In any case, that’s an interesting way to think about it.

These are all, perhaps, pieces of the puzzle, but still not the whole thing. I’m not sure we will ever have that exact answer because every person and every cancer is so unique in many ways.

I’ve met people who healed from cancer on dietary and lifestyle improvements alone.

And there is Annette, and others like her, who have built amazing, healthy lives, yet cancer just persists. Is it genetics? Something else? A combination of many different factors? We may never know that answer, definitively.

What I do know is that neither Annette nor I have changed our minds and decided to say, “Oh forget about food. I’m going to just start eating all the sugary sweets, fried foods, fast food, processed, artificial foods I want. It just doesn’t matter.” (Ok, I’ll be honest, there have been moments that we’ve considered this. I even joked with Annette that our next book should be Screw the Kitchen. But that was also in response to some of the difficulties she’s had with eating anything with this recurrence. Cancer sucks. It makes us angry. But we also need to find some humor in things, don’t you think?)

While neither one of us has made our diets so strict that we can’t enjoy ourselves – and we’ve always allowed guilty pleasures without the guilt! – we still know that we feel our best and that our bodies thrive much more when eating well. With cancer or without. And if food is what builds and supports our bodies, and eating well makes us feel good, why would we have it any other way?

 

 

[1] National Institutes of Health, Vegetarian Diets linked to Lower Mortality, 2013

[2] In the foreword of our book, Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen, David Katz, MD mentions that diseases are effects, not causes. Causes of what? According to a paper published in the Journal of the American Medial Association all the way back in 1993, Dr. Katz says “Premature death and chronic disease are attributable to just 10 behaviors each of us has the capacity to control…much dominated by tobacco use, dietary pattern and physical activity level.” This same information was reevaluated and published again in 2004.

Another study Dr. Katz addresses was reported in 2008 in the Proceedings od the National Academy of Sciences: It measured the effects of intervention on genes through a whole food plant-based diet, physical activity, psychosocial support and stress management. What was found? These factors had the ability to turn on 50 cancer suppressor genes and around 500 cancer promoter genes became less active.

[3] Cancer.net, Plant-based Foods 2/2012, approved by American Society of Clinical Oncology

[4] National Cancer Institute

 

 

10 Ways to Save on Your Healthy Food Grocery Bill

 

Feel like you’re spending a fortune on your grocery bill since you started eating a healthier diet? 10 Ways to Save on Your Healthy Food Grocery BillThere is often the concern that eating for optimal health can also break the bank. We might argue that if there is one area in your life that you may want to be willing to spend a little more money on – it’s food – since it pretty directly affects your health. Without good health, well, it’s a tough road. Still, you don’t need to spend a fortune to eat well. Here’s how you can save money and fuel your body and soul:

1) Buy in bulk. Purchase grains, beans, nuts, flours, etc., from the bulk section, rather than individually packaged units. Dry beans for example, are much less expensive in the bulk section than in a can.

2) Stick to basic whole foods. You don’t need to buy every “superfood” green powder or acai-berry bar to boost your health. While some of these “super foods” can do a lot for our bodies and are fun to include, they aren’t necessary. Enjoy these as a special-occasion-addition to your diet and pantry. *As a side note, always check ingredient labels – just because something is market as a healthy choice, doesn’t mean it is. Stick with whole foods as much as possible.

3) Go for foods that give you a big bang for your caloric buck. You don’t need to eat as much of foods that are high in nutrient content and sustain you for longer periods. Stock up on avocado, whole grains (not refined, while flour foods), raw nuts and nut butters.

4) Look for sales. Is the price of that almond butter just too much to bare? It will likely go on sale – wait to purchase it then and maybe get two! You’ll save money in the long-run.

5) Make your food from scratch. Yes, that raw, sprouted granola might put a dent in your wallet – we often pay for the convenience of truly healthy packaged foods. Try making your own instead, with bulk oats, nuts, coconut oil and honey. The more you make yourself, the more money you’ll save!

6) Check out deals on the web. Websites like Vitacost.com have great deals on healthy foods and products. The only downfall – this often doesn’t support your local economy. Still, getting foods like coconut, hemp and olive oils at these websites can save some cash.

7) Get thee to the farm. If you can buy directly from the farmer, you’ll save the extra cost from the middle man (or woman). Visit farmer’s markets and farm stands rather than the grocery and health foods store. (Supporting local here!)

8) Join a CSA. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) allows you to purchase a share of the farm’s food produced for a season for a much lower cost than if you purchased this fresh, often organic produce in the grocery store.

9) Plan out your meals. Not only does this save you some sanity and can help you to eat better, it also saves your pennies. Food is wasted far less.

10) Eat more vegetable protein and smaller amounts of animal protein. Quality animal foods, like beef, eggs and chicken, can be quite pricey. When you upgrade from the generic grocery store brand of meat to an organic meat from a local farm, you’ll definitely notice the price difference. Enjoy these quality animal foods in smaller amounts and get more of your protein from plant sources, such as beans and lentils, which is much cheaper and healthy addition to your plate!

What tips do you have for reducing food costs?

The Secret Ingredient : Love

 

By Annette Ramke, CHHC

It’s mealtime.

Maybe you’re cooking an old favorite.

Or you found a new recipe you can’t wait to try.

In either case you’ve been to the store, picked up everything the recipe calls for and are all set to make your chosen dish.

Food is washed, diced, chopped, mixed together, cooked, baked, tossed, or blended. All according to the directions on paper or in your head.

But something’s likely missing. Something to make your meal complete and your food more delicious than you can imagine.

It’s a secret ingredient. One that you’ll rarely find listed in a recipe.

What is it, you ask?

Photo: Fangol

Photo: Fangol

It’s love.

While that may sound a little “fluffy” to some, I am pretty darn serious.

Because when we “get” the fact that what we put into our body matters, then that means all of it.

And so it matters – the conditions under which are food is grown or raised. It matters the care given, how the plants and animals are treated and, in turn, our earth.

Think of the kind of energy you are taking into your body from an animal raised in factory farm conditions and, under stress, transported and butchered in a huge “processing facility” versus the animal raised and lovingly cared for according to its natural ways on a family farm and which is not forced into trucks at the end of its life before it reaches our plates.

Think of the energy of produce grown from genetically-modified seeds, fungicide and pesticide-laden as compared to fruits and vegetables that are grown organically, using nature’s tools for pest management and for protecting our environment.

Our body not only takes in the protein, fat, carbohydrates and vitamins of our food, it takes in the whole essence of it — from the way it was grown, to the manner in which it is prepared.

You can test this by seeing how you feel after eating certain foods. There may be more aggression, more sadness, more unsettledness. But also more joy, contentment and wellbeing.

Beyond how our food is grown there is the atmosphere in which it was prepared. Can you notice the difference in how you feel between eating, say, a fast food meal versus a home-cooked meal made with care and love? Or a home-cooked meal made under feelings of stress, anger and resentment compared with a restaurant meal made by a chef passionate about real food and her work?

I am going to venture to say that there is a light bulb going off for some right now. Maybe you had never stopped to reflect on this.

So when we shop for our food, when we get in the kitchen, we have a lot of power, actually!

First, the act of showing up in the kitchen, of placing a priority on food, is an act of radical self-love. This comes from realizing that your meal is not just there to fill a hole in your stomach, but rather to nourish and support your body. When you bring your presence, care and love to preparing your food, you are not just making dinner, you are caring for your body and your life.

So….grow the love.

Grow the love inside you.

Our tips:

Choose food grown with love.

Make self-care (self-love!) a priority – one aspect of which is preparing healthy meals for yourself.

And when you are in the kitchen, treat this time as a scared time as much as possible. Feel the gratitude for your food. Your health or the path toward health you are on. For the people you will share the food with, whether yourself or a whole group. Really feeling the gratitude, the love, as you are preparing and eating a meal makes all the difference between food that merely pacifies a hungry stomach and food that helps us create a life full of meaning and well-being.

Love your food. Love yourself. Love your life.

 

20 Food Faves in our Kitchens

 

Four years ago, you wouldn’t have found many of these foods in our kitchens. A few cancer avocado - sweetonveg flickrdiagnoses and a couple health coaching credentials later, you’d be hard-pressed to not see most of these items in our pantries or refrigerators. Why? Because we eat pretty differently than they way we did several years ago. We focus on whole, plant-based foods. And we didn’t make these changes overnight – it happened in baby steps – and we’re still learning, experimenting, tweaking, and just having fun with all that whole, real, nutritious food has to offer.

That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy or treats and sweets too, but eating foods like those listed below is our focus. And it’s gotten pretty easy, and not to mention, darn delicious! The best part – we can truly feel what a difference it makes in our bodies, our minds and our moods. It’s such a drastic change, that besides the occasional takeout pizza or summertime ice cream cone, we prefer eating this way. This is the real deal. Real food. No drastic dieting. No restrictions. No guilt. Just enjoying food in a way that supports our health and not worrying too much about the rest.

It can take a little discovery, a little planning and an open mind (after all, much of the “food” available these days is far from what Mother Nature created), but if you begin with one small step and turn that into part of your lifestyle, it’s easy! Then take another step. And another.

So, check out our list below – 20 of the top foods you’ll find in our kitchens – and see how many you have in yours. Maybe you’ll find a few new foods to try. Maybe you have some healthy faves to add. But what better time than right now to start adding in some great foods? It’s a brand new year! Happy 2013! 20 food faves

  1. Kale
  2. Brown rice
  3. Quinoa
  4. Steel cut oats
  5. Coconut oil
  6. Raw almonds
  7. Avocado
  8. Tempeh
  9. Miso
  10. Garlic
  11. Ginger
  12. Carrots
  13. Sea vegetables
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Tamari
  16. Onions
  17. Broccoli
  18. Seeds (pumpkin, hemp and chia)
  19. Lentils
  20. Beans

Previvors, Genetics and Food

“PREVIVOR” is a term used to describe those who have an increased risk for developing cancer due to close family history or due to certain genetic mutations, like mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes (Annette carries the BRCA1 gene, which you’ll read about in her story in Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen), but who do not have a cancer diagnosis.

In 2007 Time magazine chose “previvor” as number three of the top buzzwords of the year, giving millions of people exposure to the term and bringing public attention to the issues that cancer previvors face. According to Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), a national nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, the previvor community has its own unique needs and concerns separate from the general population, but different from those already diagnosed with cancer.

If cancer runs in your family, or you are especially young when diagnosed, you may want to consider genetic testing. Genetic testing can help assess your potential risk for cancer and determine if you are a carrier of a genetic mutation that increases the likelihood of cancer development; it does not determine if you have cancer.

Genetic testing involves taking a sample of blood, a cheek swab or a tissue sample. It can be complex and so it is important to speak with a specialist in cancer genetics if you are concerned that cancer may run in your family or if you are interested in testing. An expert in cancer genetics can help explain the benefits and limitations of testing and determine whether or not genetic testing is appropriate and likely to give a person further information about his or her cancer risk.

Those who test positive for one or more of these genetic mutations, our previvor peeps, usually go through a range of emotions upon learning of their predisposition status. Some choose to have prophylactic surgery as a way to prevent cancer, while others choose to get screened more often. Each person must do what feels right for her, from whether or not to test, to how to deal with the results: It is a personal journey with no right and wrong answers.

And what about diet? Can what we eat have any effect on our genes? In quoting David Katz, MD, the amazing voice behind the foreword for our book: “We can, in fact, nurture nature.” He refers to a study in which 30 men with prostate cancer had major lifestyle and diet intervention – they ate a plant-based, whole food diet, included moderate activity and addressed stress management. Katz says they found “roughly 50 cancer suppressor genes became more active, and nearly 500 cancer promoter genes became less so. This, and other studies like it, go so far as to indicate that the long-standing debate over the relative power of nature versus nurture is something of a boondoggle, for there is no true dichotomy.” Amazing!

So while many factors contribute to cancer and our health, including genetic makeup, diet can indeed influence our health in one way or another. As we say, it may help a little, or it may help a lot, but food will make a difference.

 

 

7 Steps to Finding Your Food Groove

Making the decision to begin changing your diet can feel overwhelming and confusing – possibly so much so that you end up making no changes at all! And that’s not what we want to see happen. Once you’ve decided you’re ready to begin eating better (which is really the first step!), then take on the rest in baby steps. Go one day at a time and one goal at a time.

Perhaps you decide to begin eating a leafy green vegetable every day or 4 days of the week. Maybe you want to try drinking more water or eating more whole grains (like brown rice) instead of processed grains (breads, pastas – especially the white flour ones!). Start small and add on as you go.

Here are 7 general steps to finding your groove with food. These are great areas to start with, and you may want to break down your steps and goals even more. Remember to be realistic, but also push yourself to see just what you can do! You’d be surprised!

1.) Drink more water: There is no right amount of water to drink, but generally the bigger and more active you are, the more you should drink. A good rule of thumb is a 1/2 ounce of water per pound of weight. So a 160 pound person might start with 80 ounces of water (or 10 eight-ounce cups). Staying hydrated is imperative during cancer treatment! This will help to increase your energy, support your immune system, reduce nausea and other treatment and cancer side effects.

2.) Practice cooking: Cooking is a fundamental step to healthier living. By making your own meals you know what’s going into them. Meals don’t need to take hours to prepare and involve multiple ingredients. Pick a healthy recipe or two a week to add in to your routine. 

3.) Increase leafy green vegetables: These are seriously lacking in the American diet and they are most essential for creating long-lasting health. More specifically they help eliminate depression, improve liver, gallbladder and kidney function, increase energy and boost your blood. Try kale, collards, mustard greens, dandelion greens, spinach, and chard.

4.) Increase whole grains: It’s not these types of carbohydrates that have led to the obesity epidemic, but rather the processed goods like doughnuts. Whole grains are some of the best sources of nutritional support and provide long-lasting energy. Try brown rice, quinoa, oats, and millet. 

5.) Increase sweet vegetables: People forget that these exist and they are the perfect medicine for the sweet tooth. Instead of depending on processed sugar, you can add more naturally sweet flavors to your diet and dramatically reduce sweet cravings and better support your body. Try sweet potatoes, beets, carrots and squash.

6.) Experiment with protein: The majority of Americans eat way too much protein and mostly in the form of animal meat. Pay attention to how different types of protein make you feel. Try other forms like beans, lentils, nuts or fermented soy (tempeh, miso).

7.) Eat less meat, dairy, sugar and processed foods; consume less coffee, alcohol and tobacco: Did you notice we said eat less instead of don’t eat? If we told you not to drink coffee or eat sweets you would want them even more. By increasing your whole grains, vegetables and water you will naturally crowd out the more processed items, so this step often comes naturally (and it’s much easier to add in good food than try to restrict yourself from the not-so-good foods).

 

Adapted from 10 Steps to Boost Your Health for Life, Joshua Rosenthal, IntegrativeNutrition.com