Q: I have trouble falling asleep, and I find myself opening the fridge after midnight, almost every night. I'm putting on a lot of weight! How do I get off this roller coaster? — Elsie T., Moline, Ill.
A: There are two ways to deal with late-night food cravings: First, you can change what happens when you're about to swing out of bed. And even better, you can spruce up your eating and sleeping styles so you eliminate those cravings.
As you head for late-night calorie-packing, stop and take a deep breath. Force yourself to think of anything besides food — a trip to the beach, a romantic encounter with your honey, anything pleasurable that's not food. The urge to splurge will fade, and then you can get back under the covers and head to dreamland. (For those nights when impulse overwhelms you, make sure your fridge is stocked with healthy snacks; clear out all ice cream, cookies, fried foods and chips.)
The long-term solution is to stop cravings before they begin. Food cravings (especially at night) mean you're not getting satisfaction from the food you've eaten. You get more satisfaction from food consumed in the morning, so revamp your breakfast habits and plan for a healthful mid-morning snack (walnuts, fruit, no-sugar-added lowfat yogurt). Breakfast should deliver 100 percent whole grains, a hunger-delaying dose of lean protein and fiber (in fruit or grains). In fact, aim to have your largest meal in the morning, followed by a midsize lunch, and an even smaller dinner.
Other ways to cut cravings: Get plenty of physical exercise every day — it promotes good digestion, dispels stress (that triggers food cravings, too) and lets you sleep soundly, which is vital for controlling cravings. Many studies have shown that lack of sleep raises levels of the “I'm hungry” hormone ghrelin and lowers the levels of the “I'm full” hormone, leptin.
Q: You always say omega-3s are important for your health. Now there's all this news about how they don't do anything for you. What's up with that? — Anonymous
A: OMG! Stop the fish-oil presses! The “fish oil meta study” claims to have found that supplements of fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) don't protect against heart attack or stroke ... and even eating fish regularly doesn't offer certain protection.
Here's what the headlines aren't telling you.
1. This meta study (a collection of studies that gloms together more than 60,000 participants) looked at folks who had heart disease or were at high risk for it. Taking an omega-3 supplement or eating fish won't cure that. You also need to make lifestyle changes: a healthier diet, physical activity, stress reduction and perhaps appropriate medications. That's how you lower your risk.
2. And how did the study compare doses? The meta-study didn't look at equal supplement doses across all groups.
But even so, the supplement studies showed benefits — more than a 10 percent reduction in sudden death and 5 percent in cardiac deaths. And the fish consumption results were not consistent, probably because all participants didn't eat the same fish; the only fish with consistent levels of omega-3s are salmon and trout. Plus, researchers didn't monitor the “control groups” that didn't take supplements or eat fish to see if they were getting omega-3s from other sources, such as walnuts, which would throw off the comparison.
We think you need a daily 900-mg DHA algal supplement (Dr. Mike heads the scientific advisory committee of such a firm), not fish oil, to get the benefits, which also include boosting eye, brain and joint health. We're betting the people in those studies took less fish oil than that; and some fish oils are mixed in with other oils that may interfere with the benefits.
One fish oil tested was 30 percent saturated-fat-loaded palm oil!
So keep on getting those omega-3s — through supplements. One of the few times we say that!