Body, Mind & Spirit: The Slimming Power of Potatoes, Mindfulness for Migraines and Cow Cuddling


Potatoes have long been a villain of low-carb weight-loss diets, but new research suggests it can help you trim down if it's consumed the right way. Photo: Cavan Images/Getty Images

From the power of the potato in achieving your weight-loss goals to how mindfulness can help with migraines, we take a look at the latest strategies for cultivating a healthy body, mind and spirit.

Hot Potato


Potatoes have long been a villain of low-carb weight-loss diets, but the misunderstood tuber is being vindicated. A study from Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center found potatoes contribute to weight loss – when consumed the right way. In the eight-week trial, 36 participants aged 18 to 60 who were overweight, obese or insulin-resistant incorporated potatoes into their meals. All subjects lost weight, had no spikes in blood glucose levels and felt fuller when high-calorie foods were replaced with potatoes. 

Potatoes are naturally low in energy density, meaning they contain fewer calories per gram than other starches like white rice and white bread, according to researcher Candida Rebello, a registered dietitian.

Resistant starch reduces calorie content. To create it, Rebello suggests boiling potatoes and refrigerating them for 24 hours, cooking them with the skins on or cooking them in a small amount of fat. “But the caveat to this is that it has to be incorporated into a healthy eating plan,” with lots of fibre, fruit and vegetables.

Should we toss aside our low-carb diet? If you can stick to it, keep going, but Rebello points out most people find it challenging to sustain.

Ultimately, potatoes won’t jeopardize your health goals.

–Ayesha Habib


Migraine Rx


Can we think our way out of a migraine? For proponents of mindfulness, it seems we can get close. 

Over the past few decades, meditation as a tool for pain relief has gained traction, which is good news for perimenopausal women, whose fluctuating hormones can bring on headaches. Now, the largest study yet on migraines and mindfulness is lending strong validity to the idea.  

In the Italian study, a randomized trial split 177 subjects with chronic migraines into two groups. The first received typical prescription drugs, while the other was given the usual treatments, as well as weekly group sessions with a mindfulness expert and daily meditation exercises.  

After a year, 78 per cent of the mindfulness group reported “superior improvement,” compared to 48 per cent in the other group. The subjects who maintained the mindful habits saw benefits after the study ended, and that’s critical, says Milan-based study author Dr. Licia Grazzi, because it shows mindfulness is not a placebo.  

Those with migraines, an incurable disease, tend to have “chaotic thinking,” says Grazzi, a neurologist and headache specialist, and mindfulness
helps them let go of the need to control everything. She confirms it also works with perimenopause migraines.  

An easy way to start is to find a quiet spot, get comfortable and take three
very long, very deep breaths. 

In and out. 



Cow Cuddling


Care to slow your heart rate, feel calmer and enjoy a little woo? Try cow cuddling, a wellness trend that originated in the Netherlands more than a decade ago and has since popped up in Australia, Ireland and the United States. It is rarer in Canada, likely because farmers at dairy and beef operations don’t get affectionate with their herds. Colleen Walker runs the Little Red Barn Sanctuary in Winnipeg, where Daisy, the former dairy cow, greets visitors eager to hug her big belly or stroke her neck, when she’s not watching Star Trek on the TV set up on a wall in the barn.  For $79 an hour, the Zen Bovine Cow Cuddling experience allows two guests to groom, feed and cuddle the bovine, who – like dozens of other farm animals – was destined for the slaughterhouse before Walker saved her at the behest of her teenage daughter, Jessica. “Cows have slightly warmer body temperatures and slightly lower heart rates,” Walker explains, which is “why they work so well to calm a human.”  Since the sanctuary started offering cow cuddling, along with personal “compassion tours” in 2019, they’ve had about 2,000 people visit, who report leaving transformed, says Walker.

–Susan Grimbly

 A version of this article appeared in the Feb/Mar 2024 issue with the headline ‘Hot Potato’, p. 32.


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