Food, Pleasure and Health
Pleasure was the topic for the final session of my 5 class series at Gilda’s Club Westchester. What does pleasure have to do with creating sustainable good health, you ask? I consider it to be an essential form of nourishment, right up there with the right combination with fruits and vegetables. From birth onward, our bodies are hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
When you think about it, pleasure is the opposite of stress. Low level chronic stress negatively impacts our health on many levels. Interestingly enough, when we are in stress mode, our bodies are incapable of experiencing pleasure. So that means when you’re stressed out and gobble up that container of ice cream in an attempt to feel better, you’re really not experiencing all the pleasure that that ice cream has to offer!
Addiction can hijack the pleasure reward pathways in our brains. We already covered the fact that refined sugar is an addictive substance. You don’t need to bother with products that are high in sugar to experience real pleasure in your food.
Here’s the meal I whipped up for my Food & Pleasure class.
- Guacamole with Crispy Crackers
- Corn & Bean Salad over a bed of quinoa and fresh greens.
- A brief mindful chocolate tasting followed by fresh local strawberries.
Here’s the reasoning behind these food selections.
Guacamole contains ample amounts of fat, which is by its nature a very pleasurable ingredient. That doesn’t make it unhealthy! In my opinion, the problem with guacamole is the chips! Many tortilla chips are made with GMO corn and often contain poor quality oils. The solution? Veggie sticks like carrots/ celery or some crispy crunchy flax seed crackers. You can make your own in a food dehydrator or you can buy some from Mary’s Gone Crackers. Mary’s crackers consist of brown rice, flax seeds, quinoa and sesame seeds. They are a great way to get the crunch that we crave without eating chips.
My corn and black bean salad is an all time favorite. Because we were talking about pleasure in this class, I bumped up the quality of the olive oil in the dressing.
By putting this salad over a bed of quinoa and greens, it follows my 4 step menu planning strategy:
Protein- Beans, Quinoa
Veggies- lots! Pepper, Corn, Onion
Green Veggies- salad greens
Last but not least, is my mindful chocolate tasting. This fun little experiment is often eye-opening for those who love chocolate. Here’s a few highlights.
Chocolate melts at mouth temperature. That’s part of what makes it so pleasurable. Never use your teeth! Simply place a small piece of chocolate on your tongue and lift it up to the roof of your mouth. That way you’ll experience the bouquet of all the flavors as the chocolate melts. It will also slow you down enough to be more present, that increases the pleasure you get from that one simple piece of chocolate.
Milk chocolate is pretty useless! Once you’ve learned to pay attention to the flavors in chocolate, you’ll soon discover that milk chocolate is overly sweet and even a bit slimey! There is no real health benefit in eating milk chocolate. The higher the % of cacao, the more phytonutrients the chocolate contains. Once you’re down below 50% cacao as is the case with most milk chocolates, the sugar content takes over. Remember, sugar is an anti-nutrient!
Be sure your chocolate is high-quality. Look for organic and fair-trade or direct trade chocolates whenever possible. There’s nothing more pleasurable than knowing that what you eat also helps the planet and the people who grow it.
Replace your usual dessert with a small piece of dark chocolate. Eat it slowly, mindfully and enjoy.
Want to learn more about mindfulness and chocolate? Click here for another taste of my mindful chocolate expertise along with some recommendations for really delicious chocolate.