- Consume HDAC Inhibiting Foods
Scientists have identified a specific epigenetic tag called HDAC9 (histone deactylase 9), and it’s up- or down-regulation will determine if precursor fat cells differentiate into functional fat cells that will store excess amounts of fat in cells or not. The up-regulation of HDAC9 has shown that it leads to fatty tissue dysfunction in animal studies. Scientist are still studying the “how” in down-regulating HDAC9 levels through diet (meaning the mechanisms and pathways).1 However, we do know natural HDAC inhibitors include quercitin (e.g., blueberries, blackberries, bilberries, apples) and resveratrol (e.g., blueberries, bilberries, cranberries, wine, grapes).
- Hydrate Your Body
Digestion is the key to controlling gene expression as it relates to each of the targets in this book. One key part of digestion is absorption, which occurs in the small bowel. A healthy small bowel breaks down and absorbs beneficial nutrients and keeps chemicals that promote inflammation and cancer out. However, if the small bowel becomes inflamed it becomes more permeable or “leaky”, referred to as “leaky gut syndrome”. By drinking enough water (48 ounces per day) and avoiding processed foods, which burden the lining of your small bowel, you can do wonders for your digestive system.
- Rough It
Fiber is commonly referred to as roughage because it isn’t broken down by our digestive system. Classified as a probiotic nutrient this plant food has many nutritional benefits:
- Eating fiber daily reduces the amount of visceral fat.
- Oats and barley are examples of fiber that influence beta-glucan (polysaccharide) that has been found to have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels.2 Oatmeal is a great breakfast meal because it’s unsweetened, maintains blood sugar, and leaves you feeling fuller for a longer period of time. Oats has several other benefits:
- Lowers risk for heart disease and diabetes
- Fat to protein ratio is low
- Loaded with vitamins and minerals
- Reduces cholesterol
- Contains antioxidant compounds (i.e., avenanthramindes)
- Quinoa is another whole grain that can be added to meals such as a rice alternative; it contains vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E (antioxidant), zinc, and iron.
|Oatmeal is a great meal choice for breakfast. Because oatmeal is rich in fiber, water, and whole grains it’ll keep you feeling sated much longer. It’s also hot so you’ll take longer to eat it too, which is another advantage to feeling fuller longer. Don’t eat the presweetened varieties of oatmeal. Instead eat plain oatmeal and top it with honey, cinnamon, or nutmeg.|
- Don’t Skip Breakfast
Starting your day off with breakfast is an important first step in ensuring that you burn calories. Eating breakfast is important in jumpstarting your metabolism. Why? Just think you’ve spent the last 6 to 7 hours sleeping although you might be unaware your body is working diligently throughout the night to repair and rebuild itself, which takes up a lot of energy. Once you’re up your cells are starved for a nutritious meal after such a long fast. Skipping breakfast slows down your metabolism because the last thing you want to do is burn more calories, you want to save your energy (calories).
Yogurt is a great source of calcium and a healthy breakfast choice. Opt for plain low-fat yogurt because it serves to roles: the low-fat option keeps your fat intake under control and it’s calcium-rich, which prevents calcitriol release (fat-storing hormone). Leucine, an amino acid, is also found in yogurt (and other dairy and meat products) fights fat. Lately, there’s been a lot of attention given to Greek yogurt because it contains more protein than other yogurts. Protein not only takes a longer time to be digested by the stomach, but the body also burns more calories breaking up proteins.
- Include Gene-Friendly Sugar and Spice
Cinnamon as I mentioned is a great way to sweeten up your oatmeal without overloading on calories. This helps to maintain healthy sugar levels in blood. And a study reports that cinnamon also helps to metabolize sugar more efficiently than foods without cinnamon. This function is crucial because as you know excess sugars are converted into stored fat.
Hot peppers such as habaneros and jalapenos have a compound called capsaicin that revs up your metabolisms and slows down your appetite. Another piquant spice is cayenne pepper, which also increases metabolism and reduces blood sugar levels, which prevents excess sugars from being store as fat by insulin.
Turmeric is the spice that contains the chemical curcumin that is found largely in Indian curry dishes and American mustard (giving it its signature yellow color). There are many other compounds in turmeric called beta-carotene that protects the liver from damage that can occur during fat metabolism.
- Include Caffeinated Drinks in Moderation
The benefits of green tea are numerous. EGCG is a catechin found in green tea that helps to boost metabolism. Coffee contains caffeine, which has been show to increase the heart rate, which means you’re burning more calories (like when you exercise, if you speed up your heart rate, then you burn calories). Similar to eating spicy foods or hot oatmeal, the idea is to also drink hot beverages because it carries the extra advantage of being consumed much slower, which also slows down the caloric intake for that meal and helps to maintain blood sugar levels.
- Eat Gene- Friendly Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are a great for your health and for fighting fat because they contain high amounts of water, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants. Water is good for your digestion because it fills you up without the worry of calories. Here are some wonderful fruits and vegetables that will help you burn calories, feel fuller longer, and reduce fat storage:
- Grapefruit is high in fiber and causes people to feel full after drinking it as a juice or eating the fruit.
- Watermelon has a lot of—water, just as its namely implies. They also contain plenty of antioxidants like lycopene and vitamins.
- Eat fruit like pears and apples with their peels for a fiber-rich snack that will keep sated longer.
- While grapes and raisins are both low-calorie snacks, opt for grapes if you ever are debating on which on to eat. Grapes clearly contain more water and will leave you feeling fuller over a longer period of time.
Studies also show that resveratrol a phytonutrient found in grapes reduces the genetic expression of various pro-inflammatory mediators as well as other inflammatory pathways activated by CLA.3
Another important finding regarding resveratrol is that promotes adiponectin activity; adiponectin is a protein hormone produced by adipocytes (fat cells), and adiponectin works to maintain the metabolism of lipids and glucose in the body. It also has anti-inflammatory functions in the lining of blood vessel walls, which is why it’s no surprise that elevated levels of this protein are found in people who have a lower risk for heart disease and obesity. Studies have shown that resveratrol has been linked to increasing levels of adiponectin which translates into greater resistance in the body against inflammation, insulin resistance and heart disease.4
- Berries (e.g., blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries) are rich in water and fiber. They are also sweet, which is a great way to enjoy dessert without the guilt factor or too many calories for that matter.
- Beets contain betaine, which is a phytonutrient, also known as trimethylglycine. Cells produce betaines in order to handle cellular stress. The primary function of betaine is to prevent cellular dehydration. The important thing about betaine is that it acts as a methyl donor, which is important in facilitating many biological and chemical processes in the body. And as I’ve discussed, methylation is an important genetic tag utilized by epigenomes to manipulate the underlying DNA. Betaine is also found in ecogenetically healthful fare such as broccoli and spinach. Medicinally, it has been shown to help treat diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, and anemia just to name a few. Lab studies conducted on rats have shown that betaine improves liver function and prevents fatty deposits from building up; the deposition of fat in the liver is the result of health problems such as protein malnutrition, diabetes, and obesity.
- Garlic and onion contain compounds that reduce fat and cholesterol in the body.
- Celery and carrots are vegetables that require a lot of chewing to break it down, which aids in slowing down digestion; they also contain a lot of water—low in calories and feel fuller longer
- Researchers identified 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid (9-oxo-ODA) in tomatoes and this compound has been shown in a study using the liver of mice to promote the oxidation of fats by enhancing peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARa). PPARa works because it acts as a target for correcting lipid abnormalities.5 That cup of tomato juice is more than just a snack, it’s an ecogenetic fat-destroyer!
- Understand Your Hunger Hormones
Two of the primary hormones involved in this dance of appetite are ghrelin and leptin. These hormones work interdependently to maintain balance between our diet and energy levels. Any imbalances in these hormones may result in poor regulation of one’s appetite leading to weight gain and obesity.
Cells in the stomach and the pancreas secrete ghrelin. And while hunger is an apparent internal trigger, it appears that external factors such as images of food also influence its release.6 It moves through the blood to the hypothalamus in the brain, where it triggers the feeling of hunger. Ghrelin levels increase in the periods between meals, especially during nighttime sleep, and drop immediately after eating. Ghrelin also increases growth hormone and cortisol levels, which are hormones that also increase food intake. Interestingly, a laboratory study done using nocturnal mice (the human equivalent would be daytime eating only) fed the same high-fat diet were separated into two groups: one that ate only at night and the other ate at anytime.7 The results—the mice that weren’t time restricted gain weight despite having the same caloric intake as the other group.
What does this mean for us? Well, further studies have to be conducted in human trials first. Because we obviously are more complicated than mice. There a tons of variables and nuances such as compliance to study protocol (mice have little say in that matter) among other things that make lab studies limited. But just for the sake of scientific inquiry, let us extrapolate from this study the possible effects erratic eating habits can have on humans. For instance, does uncontrolled eating (even emotional eating habits as we see in certain conditions such as stress, depression, loneliness) reset ghrelin’s set-point for hunger in the body. In essence, ghrelin is a barometer of energy stores in the body. If ghrelin senses that energy stores are up, then it doesn’t have to be released. But, over time what effect does eating at all hours of the day (e.g., late nights at the office, eating right before bedtime) have on your hunger (and satiety) hormone. I’m willing to say lots.
Leptin is a hormone produced by fat tissue—its primary function is to signal fullness or satiety, but it has a host of other roles, including in male and female fertility and in bone growth. The hormone is thought to be a thermostat for fat cells because it regulates the amount of body fat that’s required for energy and relays this information to the brain. Leptin regulates peptides that are either going to stimulate or suppress appetite, and any imbalance that leads to dysregulation of leptin will cause either weight gain or weight loss. Part of regulating leptin is to eat the right kinds of fats. What do I mean by the right kind? Well, fats are necessary nutrient in the body and just as they are unhealthy fats there are healthy fats. So you want to consume fats that are healthy like avocado and nuts—these foods are slow to digest, provide a sense of fullness.