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Staying young

Think yourself healthy

The key is happy thoughts. Jason Alden/Bloomberg/Getty

Imagine a world where a McDonald’s cheeseburger could be one of your five a day, says Chloe Gray in Women’s Health magazine. Well, it could be – sort of. A growing body of research is exploring the connection between your feelings about foods and the physiological response you have to eating them. The basic idea: if you joyfully devour your Big Mac rather than view it with suspicion, it might not wreak the same havoc on your digestive system. It might even deliver you more nutrients. It’s all down to what’s called the “expectation effect”, where your thoughts about something have the power to change your physical response to it. To take one example: sustained stress causes a negative balance of bacteria in the gut, which is where 95% of the happiness hormone serotonin is made. Here are some tips to “think your food healthy”.

Whatever you eat, try to appreciate it. Pleasure is linked with lower levels of the hormone ghrelin – less ghrelin means less hunger, and so less temptation to overeat.

Don’t stress. When your body is in fight or flight mode, it redirects blood flow away from your gut, slowing digestion.

Chew as much as possible. Digestion starts in the mouth: if you chew something 40 times you’ll get 15% better nutrient absorption than if you do it 10 times.

Practise deep breathing before eating. This will activate your parasympathetic nervous symptom, which helps digestion.