When we think about foods that represent love, images of chocolate, strawberries, oysters, avocados and red wine often come to mind. While these are often saved for those "special" days, like Valentine's Day and anniversaries, for me, the benefits of these "seductive foods" shouldn't just be limited to special occasions, they should be appreciated all year.
Although these foods of love may titillate our tongues, the evidence behind them having sexual powers is pretty much non-existent. That said, even though these so-called "aphrodisiacs" fall short on proof of sexual pleasure, they do contain nutrients that can help your body function better. And when your body is functioning well, chances are you'll be feeling a whole lot sexier! So the next time you're planning something special, instead of focusing on foods linked with desire, follow these four tips to focus on eating how you want to feel, or in other words, eat in a way that makes you feel great!
My first tip for eating how you want to feel is to find balance. A simple way to do this is to follow the plate model. Your lunch or dinner plate should be half non-starchy veggies, one-quarter protein and one-quarter starchy veggies or whole grains. For breakfast your plate can be one-third fruit, one-third whole grains and one-third protein.
"You can't live a full life on an empty stomach"
You've probably heard that going on very restrictive diets can do more harm than good - and guess what? It's true. Since our bodies require several different nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron and protein - and enough of each of them to perform well - consistently skipping meals or going on very restrictive diets can limit these nutrients and others you need to feel good, not to mention look good. Tip: keep roasted chickpeas at your desk or in the car for a quick nutritious snack when you're on the go.
"Food is fuel. Eat better, not less"
The best way to sum up this tip is to focus on the nutrient density of a food rather than its calorie content alone. For example, 30 grams (3 tablespoons) of shelled hemp seeds contain around 180 calories- the same amount of calories in three mini donuts. Although the mini donuts may be giving you more volume, the hemp hearts contain fibre and are full of protein, healthy fats and iron. The mini donuts, on the other hand, are full of sugar, contain no fibre and are low in protein. Same calories, but totally different nutrient profile.
Become a Mindful Foodie
Lastly, get intimate with your body by becoming what I like to refer to as a "Mindful Foodie" - someone who actively seeks out new food experiences while thinking about what they're eating and how they're eating it to improve both their physical and mental health. The concept of being a Mindful Foodie comes from the elements of mindful eating, which is summed up as being fully aware of your surroundings while you eat, as well as your physical hunger and satiety cues, to better your relationship with food. The opposite is "mindless eating" which, according to the Centre for Mindful Eating, "has been linked to overeating, stress and increased anxiety." Not only is mindful eating empowering, but it can help you make healthier choices, leading to an increased sense of self-worth and acceptance.
Now that you have some tips to add to your little black book on how to eat to feel great, how about we undress a few aphrodisiac-associated foods to reveal what's in them that makes them so good for us?
I obviously had to start with chocolate. Made from cocoa beans, chocolate contains a group of antioxidants called flavonols, which enhance cellular repair and vascular function and help to lower the risk of heart disease. In fact, research indicates that eating chocolate regularly can positively affect your heart health - bonus! To get the most flavonols from chocolate, go for a 65 per cent cocoa content or more (cocoa powder is one of the best choices). But, keep in mind that most chocolate products are high in calories, sugar and fat. So if you love chocolate, a small amount every day is totally acceptable, just make sure it's balanced out with other foods in your diet. For a sweet chocolate indulgence, try these Chocolate Quinoa Brownies.
Besides providing you with protein, iron and zinc, oysters are also low in fat and can be enjoyed any time of the year. As a general rule of thumb, oysters from the East Coast are considered to be best during fall and winter, whereas West Coast oysters are better in the spring and summer.
This creamy fruit was thought to be an aphrodisiac based on its appearance as it often grows in pairs dangling low...closely resembling testicles. Despite rumors that it can increase sexual vigor, avocados supply the body with vitamin E, folic acid, fibre and heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. If you're trying to be calorie conscious (not the same as calorie-counting) but want to reap the benefits of this nutrient-dense food, stick to smaller portions - around one-quarter to one-half an avocado. A whole avocado contains around 322 calories and 30g of fat. If it's more calories and nutrient-density that you're after, then dig in and eat the whole fruit.
Néma McGlynn is a Registered Dietitian with Loblaws. She is part of a network of more than 70 dietitians who provide free services like one-on-one consultations, assisted shopping, school tours and recipe ideas at locations across the country.
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