How Decision Fatigue is Damaging Your Diet

It seems a wonderful thing to live in a world where we’re spoilt for choice. And we are, in so many areas of our lives today as consumers. Yet, you’ve probably heard yourself frustratedly say, “No, you choose,” or circled a market’s food stalls and, overwhelmed with options, resorted to picking that croissant you swore you weren’t going to have given your new carb-conscious diet. You’re not alone. As humans, our sophisticated ability to choose is tiring and costly to our sense of control. The very act of choosing consumes mental energy. The more decisions we have to make, the worse our judgement becomes.

This phenomenon is called Decision Fatigue. A New York Times article puts it like this, “The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts… One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences.”

 

Choices Clouding Our Minds In The Supermarket

We touched on this in our podcast episode with economics expert Rowan Spazzoli. Referencing Freakonomics, he brought up the example of supermarkets laying out produce in an intentional order, knowing very well that shoppers experience decision fatigue.

The fresh fruit and vegetables at the entrance of a store aren’t necessarily there to promote health, as one might optimistically assume. They’re usually followed by all your other essentials. So, by the time you get to the snacks and chocolates aisle you’re drained from decision-making and likely to throw a bag or two of Chuckles into your trolley. Why? Not because they they were on your list, but because, Come on! You deserve them after meticulously analysing and comparing every fruit, vegetable and dairy product; reading the labels on seven sorts of bread and deciding which avocados are most likely to be buttery and ripe.

 

Decision Fatigue Means You’re Faced With Less Self-Control

 

One thought-provoking research paper explores how decision fatigue exhausts our ability to self-regulate. It defines self-regulation as “the self exerting control to change its own responses in an attempt to pursue goals and standards.” In a supermarket setting, ‘the self’ is likely exerting a great deal of control at every turn. Responding with restraint again and again depletes one’s resources of willpower and restraint. The consequence? Feeling guilty after succumbing to a lack of self-control and making somewhat of a thoughtless decision.

The same research paper also looks at how choices come with the burden of responsibility. Often we’d rather not have to make our own decisions for fear of making the wrong one and having to deal with its consequences. We’d like to think someone who knows better than us about health is making good decisions on our behalf, and when we’re recommended or urged to buy certain products that it’s in our best interest. We’d like to trust that suppliers and regulators of food products are providing us with safe and straightforward options; that what we see is what we get. But integrity is often clouded by the drive to profit off of susceptible shoppers.

 

e-Commerce and Controlling Our Choices

Another paper described our world of consumer hyperchoice as comprising “an ever-increasing amount of buying, amidst an ever-increasing amount of purchase options, amidst an ever-increasing amount of stress, amidst an ever-decreasing amount of discretionary time.”

Weary from walking through supermarkets, draining our decision-making ability with the unprecedented array of goods on display, we’re also more strapped for time. This means convenience is key, and a stress-free environment seems essential to succeed.

Grocery e-commerce presents an interesting solution. You may be thinking, surely an online offering only presents more tiring choices? I mean, take UberEATS for example. You open the app with good intentions, planning to order a hearty salad… possibly a smoothie too. Then you begin scrolling through endless menus and every cuisine. You’re confronted with deals on burgers, your favourite Italian restaurant that’s just started delivering… Temptation is rife online. But that’s where digital innovation by consumer-centric companies stands out – platforms that elevate the usual e-commerce experience with the shoppers’ goals in mind. Although online facilitates more offerings, this doesn’t have to mean more noise.

Shopping is exhausting, especially now we’re faced with more decisions than ever before. We don’t have the time or energy to decipher the label of every product and ensure we’re making thoughtful decisions. You can discover products on our Knowit platform according to parameters intentionally set to suit you, which filter out products you don’t want to be confronted with. Thoughtful technology that’s done the deciphering for you shares the responsibility you were once burdened with. Choices are made simpler by only seeing items that fit your dietary desires. This way, you can’t make the wrong decision.

5 Ways Grocery e-Commerce Is Conducive To Healthy Eating

Shopping has become significantly more stressful. Hindered by masks and long queues, having temperatures taken, sanitiser sprayed, and all the while trying to remain socially distanced, we’re instructed to get in and out of stores quickly. But buying food shouldn’t be rushed. Hurriedly getting groceries leads to snap decisions not conducive to your dietary goals. It also almost always results in disappointment.

 

You get home to realise you completely forgot the walnuts for the salad you had in mind for dinner. And to add to that, olive oil! You knew you should’ve taken your list… looks like you’ll be ordering in instead. Which leads us to our reasons e-commerce can be conducive to your diet:

 

  1. Fewer missing ingredients that throw us off course.

    Often we resort to ordering meals that aren’t as clean as those made at home because we don’t have the exact ingredients at hand to put together what we feel like. Online, the moment you realise you need a certain item, you add it to your list and can order it conveniently. Your shop can be assisted by AI recommenders – like we’re building at Knowitworld – that’ll suggest products you need . The result is a more organised pantry and fridge, with comprehensive ingredients catered to your diet and personal preferences.

 

  1. Avoiding the maze of marketing ploys in supermarkets can take away temptation.

    Groceries constitute a business, and that means they’re marketed to generate as much income as possible for brands and retailers. From the moment you step into a grocery store, each element of the layout has been intentionally designed to make you spend more. As you navigate yourself around the store to find the items you need, you’re confronted with nonessential items – usually tempting treats you’re trying to avoid – at every turn. Even when you think you’re done, the till queue is lined with snacks likely to lead your calorie count into excess. With online platforms, such as Knowit’s upcoming one, you can filter your product search to refrain from seeing the foods you battle to resist.

 

  1. The cardinal law of never shopping with an empty stomach.

    We all know it’s dangerous to go to the shops hungry. Everything looks good, and our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs – or as least bigger than we’d like them to be. But it isn’t always convenient or possible to do our grocery shop when we’re feeling satisfied. Often we dash to the shops just before they close, our bodies eagerly anticipating dinner. E-commerce is always open. You can do your shop at a time you’re not vulnerable to breaking your diet.

 

  1. Fatigue leads to unfit dietary decisions.

    Flustered already from a long day of decision-making, when it comes time to choose between products our mind doesn’t quite have the capacity to enforce willpower. It’s a real phenomenon called Decision Fatigue. With e-commerce, you can make decisions at your own pace and in your own time. Fit shopping around your schedule, instead of the other way around.

 

  1. Information in an instant.

    Pushing a trolley, vision obscured by your mask, is an inopportune moment to pick up products and compare nutritional information, possibly juggling your phone too as you google whether the ingredients suit your new diet. Shopping online removes this chaos and allows you to easily engage with the contents of each product, ensuring they’re conducive to your eating goals. 

 

At a time when being healthy is especially essential, shopping within the pandemic protocols have us frustrated, overburdened and ready to go home by the time we set foot in the store. Purchasing food should be done thoughtfully, at the right time and with the necessary focus.

In the comfort of our home or office, we’re more in control with a calmer mindset. We’re less likely to forget important items and able to understand the contents of what we’re purchasing with convenient ease. Grocery e-commerce provides just this, and is constantly developing to meet our nuanced and on-demand requirements.

Natural Sugars: Are They Better for Our Bodies?

Many ‘refined sugar-free’ treats are emerging in the health industry. From smoothies that taste like chocolate milkshakes to Snickers and Millionaire’s Shortbread imitations, many health shops and vegan spots are replicating our favourite sweet treats and offering us ‘guilt-free’ alternatives.

There is concern that these products are as high or even higher in calories than your standard sweet treats, but it’s about considering if the calories are more worthwhile. We take a look at some of the popular sources of sweetness in the health industry, and weigh up their pros and cons.

Raw cane sugar

When we talk about the consequences of sugar and why to curb cravings, we do in a sense add to the stigma surrounding sugar. However, it’s important to discern between the processed sugars added to most products and sugar in its natural form, which can be beneficial to both body and brain.

If it’s not gone through the centrifugal processing and doesn’t contain synthetic chemicals, then the health benefits of cane sugar elevate it above the highly refined versions we’re used to. Proper raw sugar consists of sugarcane juice that’s had its water evaporated. This retains the molasses that’s usually stripped from table sugar during processing. Molasses is rich in magnesium and also contains calcium, iron and vitamin B6.

Non-Centrifugal Sugar has confirmed effects on immunity, anti-toxicity and cell protection, and can even protect against tooth decay and diabetes. You’ll find Muscovado at some grocery stores – this is the more common type of unrefined sugar. Just ensure you’re aware of what other ingredients might be accompanying it. 

Coconut Sugar

You might have noticed this addition to many of the sweet treats emerging in health-conscious hangouts. Coconut sugar comprises the sap of the coconut palm that’s been dehydrated and boiled to form granules pretty similar looking to regular sugar. It therefore isn’t any more ‘natural’ than unprocessed cane sugar.

The aging aspect to added sugars from AGEs still occurs and the calorie content is the same too. Nonetheless, there are trace elements of nutrients in coconut sugar, its glycemic index is a lot lower than table sugar and it has possible antioxidant properties that could counteract the aforementioned aging.

 

Honey

When it comes to honey, there’s a vast range of health benefits – from inflammation-fighting properties to being an antibacterial go-to. However, cautious sourcing is important. Little of the honey we find on supermarket shelves is raw and unrefined. The heating and filtering that goes into processing honey strips some of its nutritional value. Insight into labels is an integral part of benefiting from products’ potential nourishment.

Interestingly, honey has been studied as an antidiabetic agent. It’s possible to be used safely, albeit carefully, as a source of sweetness for people with diabetes. This also indicates honey’s slightly lower glycemic index – it shouldn’t raise blood sugar as quickly as table sugar. It is higher in calories than sugar but they’re evidently not all empty calories and the taste is sweeter so you’ll tend to use less.

 

Dates

Although dates are made up of many essential vitamins and minerals and contain fibre to decrease blood sugar spikes, it’s wise to bear in mind they’re quite calorie-dense. Each date contains around 66 calories. Adding dates in moderation to sweeten smoothies is ideal but they often take up the first spot on the ingredients list in ‘health bars’. This is a little misleading – you think you’re making a ‘guilt free’ choice in line with your diet but may end up with a calorie count higher than you’re comfortable with.

Read Ingredients and Indulge with Restraint

Being conscious of contents is crucial to keeping on track with clean eating balanced with sufficient tasty treats. KnowIt ensures you’re always informed on the ingredients, just what bodily effects to expect and how much sugar you’re actually consuming.  

Natural forms of sweetness are good alternatives to processed and refined added sugars to satisfy your sweet tooth with something that contains some goodness, as opposed to only inflammatory damage. They simply have to be used as such – an extra element and not the core component. When it comes to sugars, they’re much of a muchness best served in moderation.

Artificial Sweeteners: Calorie Deficit Dream or Controversial Dilemma?

Drinks marked ‘Diet’ and snacks boasting ‘Sugar-Free’ seem to be godsends when trying to cut calories or avoid harmful side effects of added sugar. Worryingly, however, there’s evidence that substitutes may still contribute to weight gain and present further possible health problems.

 

The Not-So-Sweet Side of Artificial Sweeteners

In the past controversy has surrounded artificial sweeteners, with suspicions that they could be carcinogenic. The claims, however, haven’t been adequately backed by studies and should only be a concern if you’re consuming vast quantities.

So swapping to these carb-clever solutions should be a safe and steadfast tactic to cut calories whilst still tantalising your sweet tooth, right?

 Unfortunately, it seems you can’t have your cake and eat it – artificially sweetened or not.

 Some potential consequences of artificially sweetened products include:

  • Physiological responses that lead to weight gain. When you taste something sweet, your brain prepares your body for incoming calories. When these calories don’t turn up your metabolism and hormones can be affected. This particular study involved the sweetener saccharin.
  • Enhanced appetite and overcompensation that lead to further weight gain. Fewer calories translate to less energy and a likelihood of consuming more calories later to compensate.
  • Sugar cravings. We can’t appreciate natural flavours of food after becoming accustomed to how much sweeter sweeteners taste than sucrose.
  • Damage to gut health. One article revealed a risk of developing glucose intolerance through the Gut Microbiome being altered. Non-nutritive sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame are main culprits here.

 

Some Supposedly Safer Sugar Substitutes

‘Natural sweeteners’ such as stevia, are believed to have no acute or chronic effect on blood sugar or neurologically, and could even reduce cravings for sweet foods.

‘Sugar alcohols’ like xylitol can be another so-called natural solution, which acts like dietary fibre and can be beneficial to weight loss and metabolism. They can, however, cause gastrointestinal disturbances.

Although products like these do seem safer than chemically created artificial sweeteners, one must be aware that the term ‘natural’ can be thrown around a little too loosely. Some also suggest these products haven’t been studied enough to know for sure. Raw and naturally occurring sugars – think Manuka honey, dates and fruit – whilst higher in calories, are likely the less risky choice.

 

The Sugar-Free Illusion

Essentially, opinions are conflicting and research for both sides of the argument is limited so it comes down to personal preference. If you feel your appetite is expanding resulting in weight gain, or you require more and more sweetness, abstinence is the obvious choice. However, if you feel energised and satiated by all means take advantage of clever alternatives on offer. Just remember to be mindful, aware and remain in control.

It’s all about figuring out what works for you. If you’re looking to keep your calories in check and find sweeteners don’t have adverse effects on you or leave you feeling hungrier, that’s perfectly fine. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to heal your gut and eliminate sugar cravings, maybe they’re not the answer. It’s worth bearing in mind that focusing solely on calories is not always conducive to longevity, feeling energised, keeping in good health or looking your best.

Perhaps as much as we’d like there to be, there’s no such thing as a (calorie) free lunch.

Slipping Out of Sugar’s Grips

The Prevalence of Sugar in Our Food Products, Why That’s a Problem and How to Curb the Craving

Wanting to lose weight or reduce inflammation? We all know snacking on fewer sugary treats is an essential first step. They’re full of empty calories, cause cravings and satisfaction is short lived. How often do you find yourself cursing that slab of chocolate you couldn’t resist after dinner whilst inspecting your not-so-flawless complexion in the mirror the next morning?

You meticulously read the labels on savoury foods like sauces, prepared meals including salads and other seemingly innocent crackers and cereals, so you already know that sugar creeps into far more products than just those in the sweets section. This is a major concern we address at KnowIT. Through ensuring any added sugars are clearly displayed alongside the products we present, we guide you away from isles of uncertainty and lead you to ingredient insight.

So, why is being on top of our sugar consumption so important?

 

One of Our Waistline’s Worst Enemies

Many foods and – very specifically – beverages are filled with various forms of sugars from ‘corn syrups’ to all those ‘ose’ ones like ‘dextrose’ and maltose.

With excessive sucrose inducing insulin sensitivity, glucose spiking blood sugar and fructose causing hunger pangs, gaining weight is a given if you’re consuming a lot of added sugars. Your body’s ability to fuel you efficiently is impaired, undesirable fat is stored and the whole ordeal isn’t conducive to a peak-performing metabolism.

Something important to note is that choosing a ‘Sugar Free’ sweet treat is not always the solution. Artificial sweeteners can be bad news for your health, sugar cravings and BMI!

 

Inflammation and Consequent Concerns

Sugar can be seen as “the universal inflammatory”. You don’t need to have an individual intolerance; it appears to affect us all.

Elevated sugar consumption can trigger or aggravate type 2 Diabetes, depression and a horde of autoimmune diseases. And in case that wasn’t enough, it seems it’s aging us too. A process called glycation causes sugars in our system to impact the proteins that regenerate our collagen and keep our skin looking youthful and plump.

 

Addressing the Sugar Addiction

Concerned by weight gain, inflammation and aging, it’s likely you’re looking to limit your added sugar intake. The snag is, sugar isn’t easy to eliminate. Not only because it’s added to so many – often unexpected – products, but also because it’s literally addictive. It releases opioids and dopamine. When you eliminate it from your diet, you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms in the form of sugar cravings.

But how to quit?

According to holistic Dr Mark Hyman, you need to undergo a sort of detox and lifestyle change. This can reset your brain in as short a span as 10 days, he claims. Completely cutting out all forms of sugar and processed foods, powering up on protein, sufficient fat and non-starchy carbohydrates and getting enough sleep (ideally not less than 8 hours) seem a recipe for success.

Think how often we polish off a perfectly adequate meal yet still hear ourselves saying, “Now I feel like something sweet.” If you include healthy fats you’re likely to be left feeling fuller and more satisfied. Whether it’s a dollop of nut butter, drizzle of Extra-Virgin olive oil or scoop of avo… instead of being too concerned with the high calorie count, think about how feeling dissatisfied with a meal can lead to binging your way through countless more empty and harmful calories.

By refreshing your diet with plenty of whole foods that don’t have all the added sugars, your body begins to recognise and appreciate natural sweetness. This can mean reaching for a handful of blueberries may actually come to be a satisfying alternative to those speckled eggs you’ve been eyeing out in the pantry.

Going Gluten-Free: Functional Medicine or Fad?

 

A gluten-free diet has surpassed being practised by only those allergic to the cereal grain protein. Gluten has taken on somewhat of a stigma, and avoiding it begun to believed to be the healthy thing to do.

While there is reason and medical research to back cutting out gluten as a treatment to a variety of health issues, there’s also a definite ‘trend’ element and it’s very likely a marketing ploy in many instances. A major problem is that people begin to equate ‘Gluten-Free’ with ‘healthy’ and that often isn’t the case.

 

Gluten and the Gut 

Many functional medicine practitioners, who take a more holistic approach to health and consider the relationship between food and healing, recommend removing gluten from the diet.

There is a definite connection between what we eat, the microbes in our gut and chronic disease. Research has revealed that gluten can permeate the lining of the gut, which ultimately leads to inflammation. This is why doctors may suggest going gluten-free to people suffering from autoimmune conditions other than the more obvious ones like celiac disease, which entail specific gluten-intolerance.

Gluten is a common sensitivity, so if you’re trying to identify the cause of an inflammatory condition it’s a good place to start. It is, however, by no means an end. Everyone is unique and affected differently by myriad types of foods… such as sugar.

 

Gluten-Free Deception

Sugar, processed food and certain fats are also major sources of inflammation. This is where the issue with marketing and health ideology lies.

You’re trying to get your grocery shop done quickly and don’t have time to read every single label and then search unknown ingredients on your phone. So you grab the box that boasts “Gluten-Free”, assuming it’s the healthier option, only to get home and realise the second ingredient is sugar… then palm oil and a host of other ingredients you don’t even understand.

This is one of the issues we’re solving at KNOWITWORLD, because that feeling of being deceived is frustrating. And a lot of the time you only realise you’ve been misled after purchasing that product multiple times.

 

So, what’s the verdict?

What it essentially comes down to is being a savvy shopper. If you’ve decided to give ‘gluten-free’ a go, hoping to heal your gut, by all means it can be a powerful tool. However, it’s crucial to understand which other ingredients are present in the gluten-free products you’re purchasing, and what they mean. With the food knowledge tools we provide at KnowIT, this understanding is well within reach.