Monday, November 30, 2009

Balancing Food Cravings

To avoid pesky cravings, these two ladies should probably think about having less chrome and more vegetables in their diet.

We've discussed before that eating late at night isn't such a great idea (unless you're trying to gain weight), and I've just read some new information to add to the timing of what you eat. The information comes from a book called "Eat Your Way To Happiness" by Elizabeth Somer, who is a registered dietician. The book is mostly about how to maintain a positive mood and sustained energy throughout the day, but something that I found cool to think about is how what you eat for breakfast influences your choices at lunch and what you eat for lunch influences your choices at dinner. I read about this in Dr. Weil's December 2009 newsletter, which I subscribe to (you should too!).

When you've been sleeping for the past 8 or so hours, your brain releases a chemical called Neuropeptide Y. This chemical causes you to crave glucose. Glucose is the simple sugar that feeds your brain so that you can think and function. The primary way you get glucose is through eating carbohydrates which break down into glucose in your digestive system. So if your brain is craving glucose, it seems like you'd want something sugary like marshmallow Peeps on top of Froot Loops or something, right? Please don't. You'll get an initial rush of serotonin (which, yes, feels great), but you'll pay for it with a yucky, sluggish, even depressed feeling later on. This would probably make you want to reach for another quick boost of sugar for lunch, and so on, and so on. Up and down all day is not a good way to function. I've described what we eat for breakfast here, but just make sure you have good whole foods that include high-fiber carbohydrates, a small amount of good protein (an egg is pretty perfect), and a couple of servings of fruit or vegetables. This will keep your energy balanced up until lunch.

Then, by lunchtime, a different brain chemical called galanin comes into play and makes you want to eat fat. You should have some healthy fat with your lunch (along with a serving of protein and some more complex carbohydrates and, of course, fruits and vegetables), but don't overdo it with the fat, even if it's healthy fat. You'll overproduce galanin and it will make you crave more food than you need at night.

So at dinnertime, having a simple dinner of a lean protein, lots of vegetables, and a medium-small serving of complex carbohydrates (my favorite: brown rice and hulled barley mixed together) will be best. Too much carbohydrate will make you sleepy right after dinner (and we discussed why you shouldn't lay down to sleep right after eating in the last post, but too much protein will block your brain's ability to absorb serotonin (a necessary brain chemical that helps you to relax as well as keep a positive mood) and make it harder to sleep at bedtime.

Sheesh! There's so much to remember! Being a healthy human does take some effort and planning, but you can do it. And it sure beats the alternative!


  1. Fantastico trabajo!!



  2. Facinating stuff Julie! I remember how awful I would feel around 3pm in college after eating a pop tart for breakfast-if only I knew then what I know now! I had never heard the info about eating too much protein at dinner. It sounds like Somer's book is full of all kinds of great information. Do her dietary suggestions differ much from those of Dr. Hyman?

  3. Thanks Jen! Yeah, I didn't know the thing about too much protein either. So that was great to find out! I haven't read all of Somer's book yet, but I'm impressed with what I've read so far. Dr. Hyman's book, "The Ultramind Solution" is fantastic, though. I really like to read all of this stuff that I can and then decide for myself what to follow and what to leave behind. I base my decision partly on experimenting and partly on my own sense of what's right for me. A very wise man I used to know (Dave Goldsmith, Marquette, MI) used to say, "Remember, nothing you learn is ever wasted."

    Kcirbuk--Gracias por las amables palabras!

  4. Ух...
    Шикарная картина!!!
    Огромное спасибо Джулия, за Ваше творчество!
    Люблю ваши произведения.
    Диета- это очень замечательно, думаю мне необходимо перестать есть поздним вечером.:)

  5. Thanks Edward! Glad to know that you're taking good care of yourself!