Seven Easy Ways to Increase Oxytocin: The “Feel Good Hormone”

Sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” oxytocin is a powerful natural biochemical with physical and psychological effects. Acting as both a hormone (affecting the endocrine system) and a neurotransmitter (affecting the nervous system), oxytocin is well known for enhancing sexual behavior, reproduction, childbirth, breastfeeding, and maternal bonding. Perhaps less well known is the role that oxytocin plays in generating compassion, empathy, trust, relationship building, and social bonding.

Oxytocin (Oxt; /ˌɒksɪˈtoʊsɪn/) is a peptide hormone and neuropeptide.

The Whole-Body Effects of Oxytocin

Produced by large neuroendocrine cells in the hypothalamus, oxytocin is transported to and secreted by the pituitary gland, where it is released into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body and brain.1 When oxytocin enters the bloodstream, it affects the uterus and lactation, but when it is released into the brain, it affects emotional, cognitive, and social behavior, and enhances relaxation and psychological stability.

By helping the body adapt to highly emotional situations, oxytocin reduces stress and helps us respond appropriately to our social environment. Research shows that oxytocin benefits a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Oxytocin also regulates nonhomeostatic, reward-related energy intake, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, and the glucoregulatory response to food intake in humans. For these reasons, oxytocin may be helpful in the treatment of metabolic disorders, as well as helping to manage food cravings and weight.2-5 Continue reading “Seven Easy Ways to Increase Oxytocin: The “Feel Good Hormone””

A Humble Food That Nourishes Us On All Aspects Of Being

In my last post, I shared some of the many benefits of whole grains. From helping to protect against cancer and heart disease to improving digestion and metabolism, whole grains are essential to a healthy diet. Of all forms of grain, bread is the most commonly consumed in many countries. Whether it’s a loaf of crusty sourdough or a traditional flatbread, bread offers satisfying nourishment for body and soul.

Often called the “staff of life,” whole grain bread contains more nutrients ounce for ounce than meat, milk, potatoes, fruits, and vegetables. But beyond the excellent nutritional profile, there are emotional and spiritual aspects associated with the humble art of baking bread that offer sustenance on a deeper level.

Bread is Synonymous with the Essentials of Life

Bread is one of the most basic forms of food in many cultures and has been a part of the human diet for at least 30,000 years. “Give us this day, our daily bread,” from the Lord’s Prayer, is a holy reminder of the nourishment that bread provides. In the cultural vernacular, “bread and butter” is synonymous with the essentials of life.

A cornucopia of whole grains is available to us from around the world, including amaranth, barley, corn, oats, quinoa, rice, teff, and wheat (including heirloom varieties such as einkorn and kamut).

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Wheat, the most ancient of the cereal grains, is the most common flour for bread making. But bread can be made from many other grains native to a region.

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The Health Benefits of Whole Grain Bread

Whole Grain, Stone Ground, Organic Bread: It’s Good For You!

 If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know that I’m a big proponent of including grains in our daily diet. Not just any grains, though. Grains that are healthful for us are organic, whole grains, enjoyed either in their whole form or as freshly milled flour.

Despite the current dietary fad of shunning all grains, a growing body of evidence shows that increased intake of less-refined, whole-grain foods has numerous positive health benefits. People who consume greater amounts of whole grains are consistently shown to have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2-diabetes, and many cancers. People who eat whole grains also appear to have better digestive health and are likely to have a lower BMI and gain less weight over time. The bulk of the evidence for the advantages of whole-grains comes from observational studies, but researchers are discovering the same benefits in intervention studies, and are identifying the mechanisms behind the protective properties of whole grains.1

 Whole Grains Protect Against Cardiovascular Disease

 Here’s an example of the health protective benefits of whole grains: A meta-analysis of seven major studies showed that cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, or the need for a procedure to bypass or open a clogged artery) was 21% less likely in people who ate 2.5 or more servings of whole-grain foods per day compared with those who ate less than 2 servings per week.2

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The Many Health Benefits Of Bread

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

In my post last week on the many benefits of bread, I promised that I would share with you more in-depth information on the particular health benefits of bread. As I discussed in my last post, many people have given up bread in the erroneous belief that grains are unhealthy. Nothing could be further from the truth (unless, of course, you have an allergy to grains).

I enjoy bread and consider it to be an important part of my diet. But I would never consume the refined, processed creations that masquerade as bread in grocery stores and restaurants. There’s no question that those types of bread products are detrimental to your health.

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Bread As Sustenance For Body And Soul

In almost all cultures, bread is considered a staple food. There’s good reason for this—good bread is so nutritious that it’s possible to survive for a long time on merely bread and water. Of course, I don’t recommend a diet of bread and water, but I do believe that whole grains, including bread, are an essential part of a healthy diet.

Bread provides more than physical sustenance. We use the phrase “breaking bread together” to indicate the sharing of a meal with someone. In a spiritual and social sense, bread binds us together in our humanity and offers a sense of community. “For we many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread,” (1 Corinthians 10:17). In the Jewish Passover meal, bread plays an integral role. The Jews were to eat unleavened bread during the Passover feast and then for seven days following as a celebration of the exodus from Egypt. God rained down “bread from heaven” to sustain the nation (Exodus 16:4), referring to it as “manna” (Exodus 16:31).

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The Truth About Grains, Part II

grains

In my last post, I shared my thoughts about the current dietary fad of avoiding grains and my personal approach to a healthful diet. In general, I recommend replacing refined grains with whole grains and suggest two servings of whole grains per day, served as part of two balanced meals. In this post, I delve deeper into the truth about grains, including scientific research that can help you make an educated decision about including grains in your diet.

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