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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Eat and Remember: Our deep emotional connections to food and drink make it difficult to give up unhealthy foods, says Dr. Harlan Sparer

Sep 30, 2013 07:58AM ● By Dr. Harlan Sparer

Ess en gedenkt is a Yiddish saying that means, “Eat and remember,” and reminds us that there are deep emotional connections to food and drink, which is one reason why many folks have great difficulty giving up unhealthy foods they are used to. When we look at how the brain functions and is interconnected, it’s easy to see why.

The olfactory (sense of smell) nerves connect to the brain through the top of the inside of the nose. The senses of smell and taste are intimately associated, and taste cannot occur without smell. These nerves also are connected to a part of the brain called the limbic system, or “reptile brain.” This nickname is apropos because of its association with survival instincts such as fight-or-flight reflexes. It is also associated with the opposite; a sense of safety and comfort.

We establish neural pathways associated with certain flavors and odors, giving a new meaning to the term comfort food. We face problems because we know intellectually that the comfort foods we select are often not healthy for us, despite the fact that they evoke soothing memories. We can, however, use this information to our advantage.

We can create healthy substitutes for comfort foods by maintaining the flavor using spices and other ingredients without destroying the nutrition of our food in the process. This can help transform unhealthy food into healthy food while maintaining the neurological connection that exists. An example of this would be to substitute raw strawberry shortcake for a sugary, baked one.

We can also establish new comfort foods by preparing and consuming them at times of calm and relaxation and associating them with self-nurturing on a repetitive basis. By doing this consciously, it is possible to establish new, healthy comfort foods. Create some new memories that nurture body and soul. Eat healthy, and remember.

Dr. Harlan Sparer is a DNFT chiropractor practicing in Tempe. He can be reached at 480-245-7894 or [email protected]. For classes, recipes and videos, visit or

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