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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

Three Scientific Hacks to Healthy Eating with Little Effort

Three Scientific Hacks to Healthy Eating with Little Effort

The first most common new year resolution everyone set is usually about his or her career. Everyone hopes and wants to do better in a new year compared to the previous – to get promoted, to close bigger clients, to grow your brand further, and to double or triple your income.

And I bet the second most common goal of many is to improve their health or to lose weight. In fact, these are simple goals to describe but difficult feats to pull off for many.

We all know in order to lose weight, we should take a closer look and better control of our diet- eat more greens, less processed foods, more fruits, fewer desserts – alright, you don’t need me to repeat these. It’s clear that we all know what to do, but…

How to do it? Making it simpler? Making it easier? And making it more effective?

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Make Good Use of the Optical Illusion

The Delboeuf illusion has long been known to cause us to misjudge the size of identical circles when they are surrounded by larger circles of varying sizes. The more “white space” around the circle, the smaller it appears.

Research[1] done by Professors Brian Wansink and Koert van Ittersum explored how a well-established optical illusion leads us to make inaccurate estimates of serving size, depending on what size plate they are presented on.

For example, research was conducted in a fitness camp where campers who were given a larger bowl tended to consume 16% more cereal than other campers who had a smaller bowl. However, campers with larger bowls perceived they consumed 7% less cereal than other campers, despite the fact that they were eating more.[2]

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use smaller plate

    What can we do to combat this powerful effect? Simply being aware of the effects of the Delboeuf illusion may not be enough to overcome it.

    The best solution to change our eating behavior is to design our environment by replacing the plates and bowls we’re using. We can take advantage of this visual “trick” by manipulating the plates we use to serve various foods. Healthy foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits should be served in larger plates to encourage consumption, while less healthy foods should be served on smaller plates to trick ourselves into feeling satisfied with less.

    By using a smaller plate, we trick ourselves that we have enough, which helps us to break the habit of overeating. At the same time, it will also help you to reduce a significant amount of food wastage since you will never make or serve more food than you can finish.

    Adjust the Triggers

    Habits form in a loop called the habit formation cycle. It starts with a trigger, then the routine – any good or bad habit – and finally the reward.

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    Most rewards for the unhealthy eating pattern such as overeating and poor food choice are heavily tied to the satisfaction of our taste buds. We love the taste and we crave it, and that’s why we keep repeating the habit loop of the bad eating pattern.

    get rid of the triggers

      But wait a minute?

      The best way to break a bad habit is by substituting a new routine to the habit loop. However, it’s hard for us to switch from eating chips and crackers to healthy salads and green juice. The alternative solution to break the habit loop is by reducing our exposure to the triggers. And the most common trigger of the bad eating pattern is the visual of the food. In other words, we usually only crave for unhealthy foods when we see them.

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      The best solution: make unhealthy invisible and healthy food obvious.

      • Never shop around or nearby the snack counters; spend more time around the vegetables and fruits areas.
      • Keep your snacks in a closed cabinet, or even better, don’t buy them.
      • Wrap processed foods, cakes, pizzas using the aluminum foil and wrap vegetables, fruits and lean meats using transparent wrapping sheet when keeping them in your refrigerator.

      Lifestyle Change Instead of Diet Change

      One of the core factors why most people fail to lose fat is they see it as a one-time event. When you search for fat loss tips online, most articles you see is about how much fat or weight someone loses in a certain period – usually short – of time. Then, everyone is fired up about what this person ate or what program he/she followed during that period of time to achieve that.

      However, losing weight is not a one-time event; it’s not a sprint race. There is no one magical program, solution, food, or supplement that turns everything around – poor eating habits, lack of movement, bad sleeping routine – and helps you lose weight instantly.

      Healthy eating habits (lifestyle change) > Fat-loss diet (temporary plan)

      When approaching our diet – maybe we should stop calling it diet, instead, our eating plan, we should all aim for a lifestyle change rather than the food choice constraints and diet rules. Define yourself as a healthy person; start adjusting your eating habits and behaviors to achieve optimal physical health for the long run.

      What is the best way to achieve this? Change your environment to change your behavior.

      Reference

      More by this author

      Dean Yeong

      Self-improvement writer and performance coach

      Three Scientific Hacks to Healthy Eating with Little Effort Not Making Progress? 3 Ways to Get Moving Again what to read next What to Read Next? 30 Inspiring Books That Will Expand Your Mind 7 Best Ways of Learning Effectively 6 Counter-intuitive Methods to Make Your Life Better that No One Talks About

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      Published on April 8, 2021

      6 Health Benefits of Beetroot Powder (And How To Choose A Good One)

      6 Health Benefits of Beetroot Powder (And How To Choose A Good One)

      Beetroots are vegetables rich in nitrates, antioxidants, and polyphenol compounds that have a role in improved cardiovascular function and exercise performance.[1] However, beetroot juice has limitations with storage and taste preference, and so other more convenient forms have been investigated. One of these forms is beetroot powder.

      What Is Beetroot Powder?

      Beetroot powder is made by dehydrating or drying out thin slices of beetroot (to remove all the moisture) and then grinding them into a powder. If you don’t like the earthy taste of beetroot, then beetroot powder might be an alternative since it is more concentrated than fresh beetroot but with a relatively neutral taste. One fresh beetroot is the equivalent of approximately one teaspoon of beetroot powder.

      Powdered beetroot can be added to sauces, smoothies, pasta, gnocchi, curries, cakes, muffins, or anything you choose to add nutrients and color to. Watch out that your urine may change color too! Due to the natural sugars in beetroot, it can also be used as a natural sweetener. Beetroot powder is even used in natural cosmetics.

      Beetroot Powder VS. Other Beetroot Products

      One study looked at the total antioxidant potential, phenol compounds, sugars, and organic acids in beetroot juice, cooked beetroot, powder, and chips. They found higher amounts of total antioxidant potential and organic acids in the chips and powder compared with the juice and cooked beetroot.[2] However, it’s important to consider that it is a lot easier to take larger quantities of beetroot when powdered or juiced than just eating it and this means ingesting much more sugar.

      6 Health Benefits of Beetroot

      While beetroot may have potential health benefits, it’s not clear if these are temporary or have long-term effects. More research is needed to answer this question and what the optimal dose is. Most studies have focused on beetroot juice, with only a handful of studies investigating beetroot powder. There hasn’t been evidence so far to support the benefit of beetroot powder on blood flow.[3]

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      Despite that, beetroot contains several different compounds with different properties. Here are the six health benefits of beetroot powder.

      1. Beetroot Powder Is Rich in Nitrates

      Firstly, beetroot powder is rich in nitrates. Nitrates have important roles related to increased blood flow, gas exchange, mitochondrial efficiency, and strengthening of muscle contraction.[4] By causing relaxation of the smooth muscles that encircle arteries and veins, nitrate leads to the dilation of these blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. Nitrate medications are used for people with high blood pressure, angina, and heart disease to relax blood vessels, widening them to allow greater blood flow.[5]

      A meta-analysis that combined 22 different trials and analyzed the results together found that additional beetroot juice significantly decreased blood pressure.[6] However, there isn’t evidence to support the long-term effects.[7]

      2. Beetroot Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

      Secondly, beetroot contains antioxidant polyphenol compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants are molecules that have the ability to neutralize free radicals and protect against cell damage that can lead to chronic diseases. Eating a diet high in antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of chronic disease.[8] Different polyphenol compounds are different colors, that’s why you will often hear about eating a rainbow of fruit and vegetables.

      3. Beetroot Has Anti-Cancer Effects

      Beetroot also contains betalains that have been found to have anti-cancer effects in cellular models in the laboratory.[9] Clinical trials are now needed to assess if there are potential anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects and the nature of these effects. While the anti-cancer effects of beetroot in humans aren’t known yet, including them in your diet may help and is unlikely to risk harm.

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      4. Beetroot Powder Is a Great Source of Vitamins C and Folate

      Beetroots are also a great source of vitamins C and B9 (folate). Vitamin C and folate have many important roles in our bodies. Vitamin C is required for the biosynthesis of collagen, which acts as a scaffold in the skin and ligaments. It is also has a role in wound healing and protein metabolism. Folic acid is vital for the production of healthy red blood cells, and cellular growth. Inadequate intake of vitamin C over a 3 month period can lead to scurvy, and smoking can further reduce the bioavailability.[10]

      5. Beetroot Contains Essential Minerals

      Beets also contain the minerals iron, manganese, and potassium. Iron has a vital role in the transportation of oxygen by healthy red blood cells. Over 40% of children worldwide have iron deficiency anemia and women of childbearing age are also at increased risk because of menstruation.[11] Potassium may actually prevent the harmful effects of eating excess salt (sodium chloride). Manganese has several roles including metabolism, bone formation, and the immune system. Beetroots are a great way of including all these micronutrients in your diet.

      6. Beetroot Powder Is a Great Source of Fiber

      Fiber is such an important component of our diet, with most of us needing to eat much more to reach the recommended daily amount of 30g. For every 10g of fiber you eat a day, you may decrease your long-term risk of bowel cancer.[12]

      Fibre also acts as a pre-biotic, providing food for the friendly micro-organisms in your gut called the microbiota. There are trillions of micro-organisms in your gut that are now known to play a key role in inflammation and both mental and physical health. Eating beetroots can help to increase your fiber intake and support a healthy gut community.

      It’s clear that for relatively few calories, beetroot contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, nitrates, and antioxidants. For these reasons, beetroot is labeled as a “nutraceutical” and supplementation has become increasingly popular.[13] While most studies have looked at the effects of beetroot on blood vessel dilation, there are still many unanswered questions about other potential benefits.

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      How to Choose a Beetroot Powder

      Like all other supplements, there is very little regulation. Therefore, it is very difficult to be sure exactly what is included in the supplement or assess the quality. My recommendations for choosing a supplement are to check for a product license and always buy from a reputable company.

      There are, however, no agreed benchmarks for quality or efficacy. How much and how often are also unknown at this time. Try to avoid powders that have added preservatives, sweeteners, or artificial flavorings. Consider whether an organic powder is worth the extra money to you. I would avoid powders that have added silica to avoid clumping. Some supplements now use 3rd party companies to verify the contents.

      There isn’t an agreed dose of nitrate or beetroot powder, so while some powders do contain nitrate content, it is difficult to know exactly what this means in practice. The higher the nitrate content, the more likely it is to have a beneficial effect on raised blood pressure. But if you don’t have high blood pressure, it’s difficult to know if more nitrate is beneficial.

      In summary, look for:

      • organic beetroot powder
      • tested for quality by a 3rd party company
      • is free from preservatives, sweeteners, and artificial flavorings
      • avoid powders containing silica
      • buy from a reputable company
      • look at the nitrate content

      How to Make Your Own Beetroot Powder

      First, wash, peel, and grate your beetroots by hand or using a food processor. Then, place them on a tray, spread them out, and cover them with parchment or grease-proof paper to protect them from direct sunlight.

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      Leave to dry until there is no moisture left and shake intermittently so that it dries evenly. When it snaps instead of bending and feels dry, it is ready for the next stage.

      The drying stage can take up to four days depending on the air temperature. To speed up the drying process, you can do this on low heat in a saucepan for 15 to 25 minutes or in the oven at no higher than 180 degrees Celsius or in a dehydrator. If you use the oven or on the hob, just be careful not to burn the beetroot.

      The final step is to grind the dried beetroot using a grinder. It can then be stored in an airtight container, avoiding sun-light for up to one year.

      Should You Try Beetroot Powder?

      Beetroot is a great vegetable that contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, nitrates, and fiber. The nitrates present in beets may lower your blood pressure in the short-term, but the long-term effects are not yet known. More research is needed to know about other potential benefits such as the effect on cancer.

      So, while beetroot powder may have health benefits unless taken in excess, it is unlikely to have significant side effects. Large doses of beetroot, however, are associated with an increased risk of kidney stones.

      If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, taking beetroot supplements is best avoided as there isn’t sufficient safety information. Beetroots do also contain fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols or FODMAPS for short. These are types of carbohydrates that are hard to digest and can cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in some people. FODMAPS are thought to act as prebiotics, feeding the friendly micro-organisms that live in your gut (microbiota). So, for those people who can tolerate them, they are beneficial for a healthy gut.

      More Resources About Beetroot

      Featured photo credit: FOODISM360 via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] NCBI: Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate‐nitrite‐nitric oxide pathway
      [2] SpringerLink: Comparison of total antioxidant potential, and total phenolic, nitrate, sugar, and organic acid contents in beetroot juice, chips, powder, and cooked beetroot
      [3] Maastricht University: Effects of Beetroot Powder with or without L-Arginine on Postprandial Vascular Endothelial Function: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial with Abdominally Obese Men
      [4] PubMed.gov: Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review
      [5] PubMed.gov: Nutraceuticals with a clinically detectable blood pressure-lowering effect: a review of available randomized clinical trials and their meta-analyses
      [6] PubMed.gov: The Nitrate-Independent Blood Pressure-Lowering Effect of Beetroot Juice: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
      [7] PubMed.gov: Medium-term effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis
      [8] NCCIH: Antioxidants: In-Depth
      [9] NCBI: Red Beetroot and Betalains as Cancer Chemopreventative Agents
      [10] Healthline: Beetroot 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
      [11] NCBI: The impact of maternal iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia on child’s health
      [12] Cancer Research UK: Does a high fibre diet reduce my risk of cancer?
      [13] PubMed.gov: The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease

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