Month: November 2020

Weekly Link Love — Edition 107

Research of the Week
High sugar diets may cause “persistent” epigenetic changes to an animal’s appetite for junk food.

Vitamin D improves cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

Keep sprinting, folks.

Starchy and sugary foods linked to cavities, especially when consumed as snacks.

Convalescent plasma appears to work in COVID patients.

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Having a Growth Mindset Can Be a Game-Changer for Your Health

Ever heard the quote, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work?” Originally said by NBA all-star, Kevin Durant, this is a perfect example of utilizing a growth mindset — meaning your success can be cultivated by your efforts. When you operate from the opposite perspective (called a fixed mindset) you believe your talents and abilities are predetermined. Either you’re good at something or you’re not. End of story. Maybe you believe you’ll always have a layer of fluff around your middle because you never stick with anything. Or you avoid working out because everyone in your family is uncoordinated. Or you’re “so intelligent” but can’t seem to figure out how the heck to lose those last ten pounds. If that’s you, congratulations, you have a fixed mindset. When you start viewing things through a more optimistic lens, you move into growth mindset territory. And that’s where the magic really happens. Let’s Define Growth Mindset You can’t talk about this term without acknowledging the famous Stanford University psychologist who coined it. Decades ago, Carol Dweck published research that kind of changed the world. In the study, Dweck and one of her colleagues gave puzzles to 400 fifth graders. After completing the first puzzle, the children were either praised for their effort or praised for their intelligence. The group who was praised with statements like “you must have worked so hard!” ended up choosing a more demanding puzzle next time around than the ones who were told “you must be so smart!” Years later, Dweck and other researchers tested the theory again, following 373 seventh graders to find out whether or not mindset could predict their grades over the course of two years. In this study, they taught one group about the brain and how intelligence can be developed, while the other group had no intervention. As you might expect, students who adopted a growth mindset were more motivated and got better grades than their fixed-minded counterparts. Students with a growth mindset not only believed that their abilities could improve through effort and persistence, they actually made it happen. Examples of a Growth Mindset I’d like to get better at this Mistakes help me learn This has been a challenge, but I’m working on it I haven’t figured out how to do this yet This might take some time Dweck’s research proved that changing a key belief about yourself can make a big difference. But clearly, it’s not just students who can benefit from this concept. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadellauses growth mindset tactics with his management teams to create an environment of constant learning… Michael Jordan (who was initially cut from his high school basketball team and was passed up during the first two NBA draft picks) used it to persevere and become uber-famous… I use it in my own health coaching practice to help my clients overcome their previous, self-described failures… And you can too. You just need the right tools to shift your mindset. So, What Causes a Fixed … Continue reading “Having a Growth Mindset Can Be a Game-Changer for Your Health”

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12 Ways to Boost Your Serotonin

Serotonin is a funny one. Although the prevailing sentiment is that we want to “increase serotonin,” it’s not that simple. There’s no indication that more serotonin is necessarily better in every situation, or even generally. The link between serotonin and “happiness” or “mood” isn’t so clear-cut as the experts would have you believe, either. So while I am going to tell you how to “boost” serotonin levels because serotonin is a vital neurotransmitter, I plan on sticking to foods, supplements, and behaviors that promote physiological levels of serotonin. Boosting serotonin beyond what the body is designed for may not help you, and it may have unpleasant and unwanted effects. Is Serotonin a Mood Booster? Yes and no. For evidence, I submit two items. The first is clinical research and the second is pure anecdote, albeit personal anecdote. Everyone has heard of SSRIs, or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. The most common form of antidepressants, their purported mode of action is to reduce the re-absorption of serotonin by neurons which increases the circulating concentration of serotonin in the brain. They increase brain levels of serotonin so it’s able to act longer. The evidence in favor of SSRIs in treating depression is mixed. Not everyone benefits, and it often takes several months to take effect. But they do help some people. In recent years, depression studies have pitted SSRIs against another drug—tianeptine—that does the opposite: increases the absorption of serotonin by neurons and decreases the concentration of serotonin the brain. If the “serotonin=happy” hypothesis is correct, tianeptine shouldn’t improve depression. It should worsen it. But that’s not what happens. Both tianeptine, which lowers brain serotonin, and SSRIs, which increase it, have been shown to improve depression symptoms in patients with clinical depression. If anything, tianeptine might even be more effective. This doesn’t mean that serotonin has nothing to do with depression, or that it’s bad for depression. It just means that the story is a little more complicated than we thought. Now the anecdote. Back when I was doing some research for a new probiotic supplement, I tried one that had been shown to increase serotonin levels: B. infantis. This is how I do things usually. Most all my products are created to solve a problem in my own life. I figure that if something appeals to me or fixes an issue affecting me, it will help others too. So this time, I added the powder to a smoothie and down the hatch it went. About half an hour later, I got the distinct sense of what I can only describe as emotional numbness. There was just this big blank emptiness in my heart and mind. I felt robotic, except I was a robot who had memories of what it was like to feel. It was a very uncanny, unnerving feeling that I don’t ever want to feel again. Maybe the dosage was too high. Maybe I shouldn’t have been taking a probiotic strain meant for human infants (B. infantis is present in infant guts … Continue reading “12 Ways to Boost Your Serotonin”

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How to Stay Level During Uncertain Times

Humans are hardwired to crave certainty. Psychologists argue that it’s an innate need, programmed into our biology and reinforced through evolution. Understanding our environment allows us to predict, with some degree of accuracy, what will happen in the future. From an ancestral perspective, certainty allows us, theoretically, to avoid danger, reap desired rewards, and ensure survival.

The need for certainty is a central tenet of psychology. Human development is all about testing and forming theories about the environment, from toddlers throwing objects and learning about physics, to young children acquiring theory of mind, to adolescents pushing social boundaries. Even our language reflects this. Consider how many words we have around the concepts of agency, self-determination, personal freedom, and free will, especially in more individualistic societies.

At its crux, the need for certainty reflects a desire to control and master the environment. We assert control through our choices, whether that’s deciding what to eat for breakfast, opting for the highway or surface streets on our commute, or choosing whom to marry. Every decision, from mundane to life-altering, depends on our ability to weigh the odds of getting a favorable outcome. We can only do that if our world is predictable, at least to a degree.

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How to Thicken Sauce Without Flour: Low Carb, Keto, and Gluten Free Sauce Thickeners

 
Dear Mark,

I’m trying to stay strictly primal/paleo, but I always run into problems when I need to thicken sauces or soups. I grew up learning to use flour/cornstarch like everyone else, but is there a good low-carb/primal alternative?

Thanks,
Raul
I received this email a while ago, but it wasn’t the first. A number of readers have expressed their confusion when it comes to thickening sauces, gravies, or soups without using traditional floury methods. The question of thickening sauces is one of the hurdles I face every time I put up a recipe post – it’s become a bit of an internal struggle (as seen with last week’s beef and broccoli stir fry recipe, in which I hesitatingly called for a teaspoon of flour as a thickener) because while adding a bit of flour or cornstarch to a larger recipe may not drastically impact the carb count, it does complicate the consistently Primal message I try to convey. This post, I hope, will resolve that struggle.

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Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Liver Appetizer Recipe

Today’s recipe is courtesy of Ashleigh van Houten, nutrition journalist, public speaker, certified health coach, and self-proclaimed muscle nerd. Ashleigh recently released her new organ meats cookbook, It Takes Guts, available in stores now! Liver is a superfood that’s packed with pre-formed nutrients like vitamin A, zinc, folate, and more, which are important nutrients to get for everyone, and especially people who are experimenting with a carnivore diet. Understandably, a lot of people find it intimidating. Even if you didn’t grow up with it, liver is a food that is easy to learn to love. You just need the right recipes to make it happen. This appetizer is a delicious way to introduce liver into your life. Wrap anything in prosciutto and it’ll be a crowd-pleaser! Here, the rich, creamy sweetness of chicken livers pairs really well with crispy, salty prosciutto. (You can use thin-sliced bacon, too.) You definitely want to eat this delicious and protein-packed appetizer immediately, as soon as the livers come out of the skillet. Serves: 6 appetizers Time in the kitchen: 1 hour to soak livers, then 15 minutes active time Prosciutto-wrapped Chicken Liver Recipe Ingredients 6 whole chicken livers, split into 2 lobes each (12 pieces total), cleaned (see instructions) Ground black pepper 12 slices prosciutto Fresh thyme or rosemary sprigs, for garnish Special Equipment 2 (9-inch) wood skewers, soaked in water for 1 hour Instructions To clean all animal livers, first rinse them in cold water, then trim any white connective tissue or membranes with a sharp paring knife. Soak them for one hour in cold water with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or a pinch of salt. Pat the livers dry with a paper towel. Lightly season with pepper. Using 1 strip of prosciutto per lobe, wrap the strips tightly around the liver pieces so that they are entirely covered. Using the skewers to hold the prosciutto in place, insert the prosciutto-wrapped livers onto the skewers, 6 per skewer. Preheat a barbecue grill to medium heat, or preheat a grill pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Grill the skewers, turning them every few minutes, until the prosciutto is crispy and the liver is just cooked through, about 7 minutes. Serve hot with a garnish of fresh thyme or rosemary. NOTE: If you have leftovers, store them in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, throw them back in a skillet over medium heat with some butter until re-crisped, about 3 minutes.   Ashleigh VanHouten is a health and nutrition journalist, public speaker, certified health coach, and self-proclaimed muscle nerd. She has written for Paleo Magazine for more than eight years, along with a number of other health publications. She hosts the Muscle Maven Radio podcast, which has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times, where she’s interviewed some of the biggest names in health and wellness, including Mark Sisson, Dave Asprey, and Steph Gaudreau. She’s also worked with other top-rated health-related podcasts, such as Barbell Shrugged, Muscle Intelligence, and … Continue reading “Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Liver Appetizer Recipe”

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