Brainfood: June Edition
THE INTERNET IS ZAPPING YOUR MEMORY, HOW PREGNANCY GIVES YOU ULTRA-MARATHON LEVELS OF ENERGY, AND MORE WE'RE READING + SHARING
When topics like plant-based eating or the microbiome make the news, we always get a little thrill—it makes us feel like proud parents. And we know you share our desire to stay up on developments in science and spirit, to indulge our curiosity, and to tap into the collective consciousness of everything from the microbiology of the gut to the waxing and waning of the moon.
In the spirit of remaining ever open to new knowledge, we’re giving this ongoing conversation its very own home on S Life. Each month, we’ll bring you the latest in health, wellness, and nutrition, and share dispatches from Sakara HQ. It’s all part of our bigger mission to feed your body and your mind.
Your “why” could save your life
What gets you out of bed in the morning? Not your alarm, the baby crying in the next room or the dog begging for a walk. What motivates you to show up in your life every day? It might sound like self-help fluff, but compelling new research suggests tapping into your personal “why” is crucial to survival.
A study of 7,000 Americans between the ages of 51 and 61 revealed having a purpose in life—defined as “a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals”—is linked to longer lifespan and lower likelihood of death, specifically from cardiovascular disease. In fact, the study found, mortality risk doubled for people without purpose. Even more interesting: this held true regardless of key sociological factors like gender, race, and education level.
As it turns out, being purpose-driven has a greater impact on longevity than alcohol, cigarettes or exercise. It’s a reminder that wellness is ultimately holistic, and the factors contributing to it don’t stop with the physical.
It might sound like self-help fluff, but compelling new research suggests tapping into your personal “why” is crucial to survival.
Got inflammation on your mind?
If it seems like inflammation is the word on everyone’s lips lately, here’s why: Science is perpetually finding that when this normal biochemical response goes haywire as a result of modern life (think: too much stress, too much sugar), it’s the root cause of a growing list of ailments.
The latest inflammation breakthrough involves mental health—specifically, low motivation associated with depression and other behavioral disorders. New findings suggest that chronic inflammation affects levels of dopamine—a neurotransmitter that regulates attention, emotions, and learning—in the brain. As the theory goes, when the body is fighting an infection or healing a wound, the brain redirects energy away from other things and concentrates it on addressing the problem at hand. It does this by disrupting the dopamine system.
This newly-established connection between brain and body could make way for a new understanding of—and new approaches to treating—conditions like depression and other forms of mental illness.
New findings suggest that chronic inflammation affects levels of dopamine—a neurotransmitter that regulates attention, emotions, and learning—in the brain.
The omnivore’s dilemma
While you could argue all day about the benefits of one diet over another, the fact that red meat is linked to higher cholesterol is pretty commonly accepted. But for those omnivores who eschew beef in favor of white meat like chicken, a new study has some inconvenient news. It found that, when saturated fat content is equivalent, poultry has an identically adverse effect on LDL cholesterol (the kind linked to heart disease) as red meat.
The study isn’t conclusive, as it excluded foods like grass-fed beef and seafood. And LDL cholesterol is only one metric when it comes to painting a complete picture of health. Adding another layer of complexity, a new national analysis of eating habits in the U.S. found at least one upside to choosing chicken over beef—it can cut your dietary carbon footprint in half.
The fact remains that there’s a lot of noise when it comes to which diet is best. What they all seem to have in common is a focus on fresh foods from the Earth—you can’t go wrong with plants.
In other news…
-Feeling less than sharp? Your screen time may be to blame. New research suggests internet use can change the brain, causing issues with memory and concentration.
-Any mother could tell you that pregnancy comes close to testing the limits of human endurance—in fact, pregnant and breastfeeding women maintain levels of energy expenditure similar to that of ultra-marathoners. That’s according to a new study, which found that humans can only burn energy at a maximum of 2.5 times their resting metabolic rate. Anything more and the body starts breaking down its own tissues, or “downshifting” metabolism to stay within a sustainable range. It’s related—what isn’t?—to the gut; experts say the body can only effectively absorb a certain number of calories per day.
-The supplement industry is shockingly unregulated, and that coupled with the allure of a magic bullet for weight loss or an energy boost can have concerning results. A study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that children and young adults who take these supplements are at a significant risk of severe medical events.
On June 16th, we celebrate the fathers in our lives (our own dads, but also our husbands, our brothers, the men with whom we co-parent our pets...). Sakara HQ took a moment to recall fond food memories with our dads. Read on—then give Dad a call and make his day.
“My dad loves chocolate ice cream more than anyone I know. He’s eaten a scoop of ice cream every day after dinner for as long as I can remember, and taught me that that's just fine.”—Freya Z., President
"My dad and I are each other's biggest fans and supporters. I wouldn't be where I am without him. One of my favorite meals he would make me as a child would be chicken cutlets with a side of apple sauce. So simple, but they were the best dang chicken cutlets I've had to this day. A little salt, pepper, some Italian seasoning, crisped to perfection. I split my time between both of parents homes after they divorced, and when staying at my dad's, he would make me this meal, and it was the most comforting thing in the world."—Lianna T., Creative Director
“For years, my dad and I have been making granola together. We use the same recipe from a dated 80s yachting cookbook, but we experiment with different combinations of ingredients (we love ginger, dried cranberries and local pecans from the farmer’s market near my parents’ home in North Carolina). I just moved to the west coast and he mailed me a bag from his latest batch—the perfect cure for homesickness.”—Kirby S., Sr. Manager of Content
“My dad and I have an annual tradition to go peach picking every August. It's a great way to not only spend quality time together but also eat as many juicy peaches as possible. Dad's wish is that I make peach cobbler for him once we bring home the peaches.”—Sarah B., Client Services
“My dad and I didn't really have the closest relationship. He was in the restaurant business and would cook on his days off. He wasn’t a big talker so when I asked questions about anything related to the food he was making, his face would light up—excited to share a technique or a story about the food. When he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer I was at a loss for how to best connect with him knowing we had a limited amount of time together. Over the course of several Saturdays, I would visit home and document some of his favorite meals as we cooked them together. His white bean soup was a favorite—sounds so simple—but he knew I loved it and would pack a pint for me when I would head back to college from a weekend visit. It was the first recipe we made and documented together.”—Fran G., VP of Brand