Archive Monthly Archives: June 2018

The Purpose of Nutrition

When it comes to health, fitness, and overall wellbeing, we often hear people (experts or otherwise) talking about “nutrition.” They will casually toss out the term and expect everyone listening to know precisely what they mean.

 

Sure, we all understand the basic concept of nutrition. It essentially means food that is good for us. But what does that mean? What is good and what is bad? How is it defined? Why are some foods considered nutritious, while others are not? For that matter, why do many Americans, who are among the best-fed people in all of history, struggle with nutrition?

 

Those are complex questions, but what if you are simply trying to eat better and add superior nutrition for you and your family?

 

If you want information on how nutritious foods can be added to your diet, while unhealthy foods can be reduced, we’d like to help.

 

Let’s take a close look at nutrition to better understand what it is, why it’s important, and what nutrients are essential. With this information, you can use nutrition to improve your health, happiness, and overall wellbeing, all without significantly overhauling your diet or lifestyle!

 

What is the Purpose of Nutrition?

 

What is Nutrition, Anyhow?

The basic concept of nutrition is pretty simple: it’s the foods that are good for us. But if you dive into the sciences of biology, chemistry, genetics, and aging, nutrition becomes a fairly complex topic. But once again, it can be simplified: nutrition is the process through which substances are transformed in our body. Through these transformations, nutrition becomes both a study of maintaining health through food, as well as avoiding diseases, conditions, and health problems by eating the right things. (And reducing the wrong things!)

 

How Common is Poor Nutrition?

Think poor nutrition is only a problem in developing countries? If you look at some of the statistics from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, you’ll see that many Americans, largely due to personal food decisions, are suffering from poor nutrition. While the American average diet is high in calories from fats and added sugars, many eat less than the recommended amount of veggies, fruits, whole grains, and healthy oils, despite the fact that “food available for consumption increased in all major food categories from 1970 to 2008.”

 

Clearly we have an issue, and while you can’t personally do a lot to make other Americans healthier, you can make personal changes to create a healthier you. And it all starts with understanding the basics of nutrition, starting with the major nutrient types…

 

Understanding the Different Types of Nutrients

 

There are dozens of known nutrients in the foods we eat, but they are generally categorized into six different types, which are then grouped into two sets: macro and micronutrients.

 

Macronutrients

Macronutrients are needed in large quantities (at least compared to micronutrients) and all of them but one provide our bodies with energy, which we transfer into body movement the same way that a car transfers gasoline into forward motion.

 

Carbohydrates

Mislabeled as an evil substance that makes waistlines stretch, the carbohydrate has gotten a bad reputation over the past few decades. Carbs, however, are an important part of fueling the body, providing energy for physical movement and the nervous system. They are also crucial to brain function, and, according to the dietary guidelines from the USDA, should make up 45% to 65% of your daily intake of calories. In other words, you need to eat your carbs to be healthy! (Sure you can slim down by avoiding carbs but that doesn’t mean the practice is healthy.)

 

While low-carb diets can help you lose weight, they are not ideal for living an overall healthy life. One of the risks of the low-carb diet is that you replace many of the healthy carbs with too many meats, leading to increases in the chances of heart disease.

 

Sources of healthy carbohydrates include whole-wheat breads and pastas, sweet potatoes, beans, and many fruits.

 

Fats, aka Lipids

Like carbohydrates, fats can have a bad reputation, but healthy fats from specific foods are an essential part of a healthy diet. Fat performs many functions in the body, including assistance with vitamin absorption, building cells, and developing muscles. Healthy fats will also help balance blood sugars and decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Having a diet that consists of about 30% of calories from fat is the recommended intake.

 

You likely know the health risks of too much fat in the diet (heart-disease, obesity, etc.) but there can also be risks with too few healthy fats. These include dry, flaky skin, dry eyes, loss of hair or hair color, and increased chances of infections.

 

Fats that are unsaturated are generally considered the healthiest form of this nutrient type. Unsaturated fats including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can be found in nuts, seeds, certain fish, and olive oil. Trans-fats, which are found in butter, cheese, red meat, and ice cream, are the ones that generally do the most damage to the average American’s health.

 

Proteins

While carbs and fats have a bad reputation among the diet-fad community, protein has remained popular for years, and not without reason. Many people associate proteins with building muscle, but they don’t just create beach bodies, they also help build every cell in the body. From skin to fingernails to hair to the cells in the stomach, everything has protein.

 

If you have a poor intake of protein, you can have poor muscle development, or even the loss of muscle mass and strength. Your bones could become weaker, and you could experience poor sleep, digestion issues and a loss in cognition.

 

There are many foods that have excellent levels of healthy proteins, but the key is to choose wisely, as many high-protein foods, such as beef or skin-on chicken hindquarters, can also be high in cholesterols and saturated fat. Skinless poultry, fish, salmon, and low-fat milk are all considered healthy sources of proteins.

 

Water

Water is so basic and universal that many people don’t consider it a nutrient. But not only is it a nutrient, it’s likely the most important of all…or at least the most abundant. Considering that roughly 60% of the human body is water, you can see that H2O really matters to our health. Water is important to every cell in our body, helping to regulate internal temperatures, transporting other nutrients, and helping to remove waste from our system. It acts as a shock absorber and lubricator, and helps move oxygen from the lungs to the cells.

 

If you’re not drinking enough water, you could experience many different issues, including premature skin aging, increased chances of obesity, poor blood pressure (both high or low), and skin irritation.

 

According to the Mayo Clinic, the average man should drink 15.5 cups of water a day, while women should drink 11.5 cups. This recommendation, however, covers fluid water, which makes up about 80% of our water intake; roughly 20% of our water comes from the food we eat.

 

Micronutrients

These are nutrients that we need in tiny amounts, but they remain an important part of overall nutrition. Micronutrients allow our body to produce enzymes and develop hormones; they enhance growth, influence cognitive function, and impact our muscle movements and bone strength. They perform many functions, and while the amounts needed are extremely small, the impact of not having micronutrients can be profound. You will generally find micronutrients separated into two categories: vitamins and minerals.

 

Vitamins

You probably know the alphabet of vitamins, but do you know what defines a vitamin? These are organic compounds that are needed in small quantities and which are not created by our bodies. That is essentially the defining factor of vitamins: organic substances that our bodies don’t make, but other lifeforms do. We have to eat something that has the vitamins. According to Medical News Today, there are 13 known vitamins, which are either fat-soluble (stored in fat) or water-soluble. (Should we list them?)

 

The consequences of a deficiency in vitamins will vary depending on the specific missing nutrient. For example, low vitamin D can lead to higher rates of obesity and heart disease, while having low vitamin C could mean easy bruising and slow healing.

 

Because there are so many vitamins, and different quantities are found in different substances, it can be hard to define a “high vitamin” diet. However, if you eat a diet full of a diverse selection of fruits and vegetables, you will likely get all the vitamins you need. One of the best suggestions is to eat fruits and veggies of as many colors as you can, ensuring nutritional variety. If you have a plate full of veggies that holds all the colors of the rainbow, you’re likely getting the vitamins you need.

 

Minerals

While vitamins are organic substances, minerals are inorganic, but our body needs them just the same. This type of nutrient includes calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. Like vitamins, they support many different functions in the human body, creating strong bones, healthy blood, and powerful muscles, among many other functions.

 

Again, a deficiency will have many results depending on the mineral. Low iron, for example, could cause fatigue, while low potassium could be responsible for digestive problems.

 

The same principle that applies to vitamins applies to minerals: if you have a diverse diet, you should be getting the right minerals at healthy levels. However, if you want to increase your consumption of a specific mineral, you need to target a specific food. For example, bananas are high in potassium, milk is high in calcium, and beef is high in iron.

 

What are the Benefits of Good Nutrition?

So what happens when it all comes together? With high-quality nutrition from a well-balanced diet, you’ll experience many benefits, including the significantly-reduced chances of heart disease and stroke, as well as some cancers. You’ll have better blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, and the ability to fight illnesses with greater success and efficiency. You’ll also have increased physical energy and, with the right foods, could even increase your mood…

 

Nutritional Foods that Will Positively Influence Your Mood

Before we wrap up, we’d like to take a moment to discuss the various foods that will increase your mood. After all, nutrition should be about physical health as well as mental wellbeing, so make sure to eat these foods on a routine basis and you will experience better happiness and mood.

 

Chocolate

You may not think of it as a health food, but a little dark chocolate every day could increase your mood and reduce stress. The mood-enhancing benefits of chocolate could be from antioxidants, but be sure to limit and control your chocolate consumption to a small amount daily.

 

Oily Fish

High in omega-3 fatty acids, oily fish such as tuna and salmon could give you a mental boost. Omega-3s are known to alter brain chemicals, especially dopamine and serotonin. Low levels of either one of these chemicals could lead to depression, but apparently fatty fish can increase their levels.

 

Tea

If your brain is feeling clouded and slow in the afternoon, consider replacing soda or coffee with a cup of tea. It’s believed that tea has a chemical called theanine, which is likely to hold mood-enhancing properties.

 

Nuts

Packed with fiber and protein, nuts are great source of fatty acids, which, as we’ve discussed, can increase moods and ward off depression. Walnuts and almonds are often considered the best for improving your mood.

 

Sauerkraut

Okay, technically this applies to all fermented foods, but since sauerkraut is among the better-known fermented foods in the U.S., it’s the one we’ve chosen to highlight. Fermented foods like kraut contain microbiota, which have been studied thoroughly for digestion benefits. New research, however, is showing that it may benefit mood as well!

 

Start Living Your Healthy Life with Better Nutrition

Now you have the knowledge required to live a healthy life full of excellent nutrition. Keep this information in mind the next time you’re grocery shopping or dining out and you can make the right choice for your plate. Make the right choice enough times, and you’ll have better nutrition, which will eventually lead to a healthier you!

The Physiology of Weightloss

When we discuss goals to lose weight, it often comes from a desire to look better. We want to fit into smaller jeans, hold less bulge at our bellies, and slim down our hips and rump. The desire to look attractive and sexy is the common end goal, but it can be shallow purpose.

 

Weight loss is important, but not primarily because it makes us look better. It’s important because it makes us healthier and happier.

 

First, let’s establish the fact that Americans are overweight. That seems obvious, but when you look at the stats, you’ll see it’s not just talk; and the numbers are quite scary.

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 37% of all American adults are obese. That’s more than one in three. And as we’ll see, obesity is strongly connected to a vast list of health conditions. Issues related to obesity include heart disease, strokes, type-2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, and breathing problems.

 

Obesity is obviously associated with the health of our bodies, but what about the health of our minds? There is, in fact, some research that has connected obesity to mental issues, including mood shifts, anxiety, and depression. A survey conducted by researchers from the University of Washington and Harvard Medical School was administered to over 9,000 respondents who provided information on both their physical body (height and weight specifically) and their history of mental disorders. The results showed that people with obesity were 25% more likely to have mood and anxiety disorders.

 

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look better, but the purpose of losing weight goes beyond swimsuits, tank tops, and slim jeans…

 

The Physiology of Weight Loss

 

The Bad Guys: Foods That Contribute to Obesity

We all want to live healthy, which means managing weight, and one of the most important components of a healthy weight is a healthy diet. There are many things we should eat, but let’s start by looking at the things we should avoid. By first eliminating the contributors to obesity, we can then fill in the gaps with healthy nutrition.

 

To be honest, any food that you eat too much of can cause weight gain. This goes for celery just as much as ice cream, but certain foods, when eaten frequently, are more likely to cause obesity.

 

In your home, there are many foods that are more likely to cause obesity, including potato chips, which are high in saturated fats, packaged cookies, which have saturated fats and sugar, and soft drinks, which are loaded with empty calories. Sugary cereals are full of calories as well, making them poor choices for your breakfast.

 

When trying to eat healthy, we often turn to salads, but it’s important to remember that salad dressings can be extremely fattening. Many ranch dressings and caesar dressings, for example, have over 150 calories in just two tablespoons. Generally speaking, vinaigrette dressings are healthier, providing fewer calories and saturated fats to go with your meal.

 

Fast food is heavily linked to poor health and obesity, but when you talk about science (and we are talking physiology here!), you have to back it up with facts, not speculation. Look no further than a study from researchers at the University of Minnesota and the Children’s Hospital Boston, which found a connection between fast food and weight gain. The study found that people who ate fast food at least twice a week gained roughly 10 pounds compared to participants who ate fast food less than once a week.

 

Fad Weight-Loss Diets: Do They Work, Are they Healthy?

Weight loss can be tricky, and people are usually looking for the fast cure to their weight problems. Unfortunately, this means many turn to fad diets. But do these diets work? And even if they do help people lose weight, are they actually healthy? Let’s explore a couple of the most popular fad diets, as well as some scientific research, to find out…

 

Atkins Diet

Possibly the most famous fad diet of all time, the Atkins diet stresses eating fewer carbohydrates and replacing them with proteins, especially meat. On the surface, this sounds like a good plan, and many people claim to have lost weight with the diet, but numerous studies have found flaws in this fad, particularly from a long-term health and nutrition perspective.

 

A report in LiveScience does a good job of summing up low-carb fads. Essentially, the diet helps people lose weight quickly, but it appears that low-fat diets (as opposed to strictly low-carb) are better for losing weight and keeping it off.

 

South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet, created by Dr. Arthur Agatston, emphasizes a balance of good carbs, lean meats, and healthy fats to create a nutritional diet with lots of fiber. It is lower in carbs than typical eating, although not as extreme as the Atkins diet.

 

While the South Beach Diet has some good lessons, a study of scientific claims made by the creators found that only 33% of the facts were completely supported by research. (Another 43% were “both supported and not supported.”)

 

There are many other diet fad diets that will come and go, but the truly effective ones will likely stay. In general, if a diet promises fast results with little work, it’s not a healthy option for losing weight and keeping it off. The best are the ones that emphasize lifestyle changes over fast results.

 

Is there a “Right Way” to Loose Weight?

We’ve talked about fad diets that may deliver fast results but don’t last. But are there any diets that are actually effective in the long run?

 

Mediterranean Diet

Considered one of the best diets for heart health, the Mediterranean diet essentially involves all the basics of healthy eating along with olive oil, red wine, and other foods the typically characterize diets found among cultures living near the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Spain, and Italy. It includes lots of plants, whole grains, and nuts, and generally limits red meat while emphasizing more fish and poultry.

 

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people with high risk of heart issues could reduce major events by incorporating elements of the Mediterranean diet. For weight loss, there is evidence that the Mediterranean diet is just as effective as a low-carb diet, making it a preferred option for some cardiologists and doctors.

 

Mayo Clinic Diet

Focused on making simple, gradual, and easy-to-understand changes, the Mayo Clinic diet is designed for healthy weight loss. It’s not a two-week or six-month program, but rather emphasizes making life-long changes to your daily routine in order to make lasting differences to your health. It will add some habits and attempt to break others, and doesn’t just look at food, but also how you eat and how you move. It usually emphasizes limiting food portions, and often stresses the importance of at least a half hour of activity every day to maximize weight-loss results.

 

The Mayo Clinic recommends this diet for many reasons. They claim that people who want to follow a diet developed by medical professionals and want to learn about and use healthy eating habits will benefit from this form of planning. It’s also beneficial, they say, for people who want to eat right, but may not be interested in counting carbs, calories, or fat, and don’t want to completely eliminate certain groups of foods.

 

The Importance of Exercise in Weight Loss

When it comes to losing weight and slimming our waists, we often turn to two aspects: diet and exercise. However, there is a debate about which is more effective, and which is more important for weight loss.

 

A study from researchers with East Carolina University and other institutions found that while exercising is unlikely to cause weight loss without significant changes to the diet, activity will limit the amount gained when diet choices are poor. In other words, exercise may not cause you to lose weight, but it will reduce your chances of weight gain.

 

Exercise, regardless of counting pounds, remains an important part for an overall healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a consistent regimen of physical activity should be a priority for everyone. Yes, it is possible to lose weight without significantly improving your exercise habits, but physical movement will not only make you feel better, it will improve your chances of long-term, healthy weight loss.

 

The Importance of Metabolism When Trying to Lose Weight

If you have researched weight loss, you’ve likely come across the term “metabolism.” People use this term a lot, but do you know what it really means, or why it’s important to weight loss?

 

Metabolism refers to the way our bodies break down and use energy. In a more basic phrase, it’s the way we burn calories. Our bodies will burn calories in many different ways, including everyday movement, such as walking and working, or physical exercise, such as our cardio routine at the gym. But our body also burns calories without our active movements. For example, we need energy to keep our heart beating and our brain functioning. This inactive use of energy is called the basal metabolic rate, and it’s partly (not entirely) determined by your inherited genes.

 

While body weight is largely due to personal choices, including exercise and diet, a person’s natural metabolism will play a role. Some people have naturally slow metabolisms, meaning their bodies take longer to process energy and the excess energy then becomes stored, mostly in fat. Others have fast metabolisms, and seem to be able to eat anything they want and never gain weight.

 

Regardless of your metabolism, if you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Take in less than you burn, and you’ll eventually lose weight.

 

Metabolism, however, can throw a tricky little wrench in this plan. When intake is reduced, the body senses tough times ahead, so it naturally slows our metabolism. This was a survival function for our early ancestors, but now it has become a health hazard, as rich foods are readily available and sedentary life is the norm.

 

Therefore, one of the tricks for weight loss is to reduce calorie intake without slowing the metabolic rate. So how can you increase and sustain your metabolic rate? There are many theories, including adding muscle through strength training (muscle has a higher rate than fat), stay hydrated (which helps with calorie burn), and eating more small meals (five, for example) instead of three large meals. Coffee and tea have also been linked to enhancing metabolism.

 

Understanding metabolism and how your body burns calories is important. If losing weight is your goal, you need to make efforts to keep your metabolic rate going in a healthy and sustained manner.

 

Weight Loss Goals: Finding Your Happy Medium

Some of the fad diets we discussed above advertise loosing as much weight as possible in the shortest amount of time. But is this the healthy approach? According to the CDC, the healthiest weight loss happens at about 1 to 2 pounds per week. This is because people who lose weight at this rate have a higher tendency to actually keep the weight off.

 

So what should be the final goal with weight loss? After everything we’ve discussed, from proper diet to exercise to maintaining metabolism, where should your final weight land?

 

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases offers some insight on final goals for health. However, they don’t focus on a specific weight, but rather waist size. They claim that the healthiest goal for men is a waist size of 40 inches or less, while women should aim for a waist size of 35 inches or less.

 

However, if you want a target weight, you can look at the Body Mass Index chart provided by the American Cancer Society. This chart gives you weights that are considered healthy, overweight, and obese for different heights. This chart holds for both men and women, making it a convenient reference.

 

Final Thought: Improve Your Weight, But Focus on Health

If we could leave you with one final thought, it’s this: remember that proper weight is just one aspect of health. Like blood pressure and cholesterol, controlling your weight is a part of healthy living, not the entire package. The final target should be a healthy mind and body, and weight loss should be used to reach this goal.

Improving the Taste of Vegetables

“Eat your vegetables.”

 

We’ve hard it so often that it’s easy to take for granted. Sometimes, however, we need to slow down and actually consider why vegetables are so important to our overall health. Perhaps knowing their importance will motivate us to eat better. Eating a wide variety of vegetables helps you reduce the risk of chronic diseases and provides essential vitamins and nutrients that our bodies can’t produce themselves, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov, a site created by the USDA.

 

The site goes on to say, among numerous benefits, that vegetables are low in fat, reduce the risk of heart disease, and can even protect against certain forms of cancer. A diet with plenty of vegetables is excellent for improving blood pressure, reducing the chances of kidney stones, and defeating type 2 diabetes.

 

Eating plenty of vegetables is also a good method to reduce the amount of unhealthy foods that you eat. For example, if you eat a large plate of sautéed veggies, you are less likely to eat a helping of high-fat casserole.

 

Having a diet rich in vegetables helps you look better and feel better, but, to be frank, some vegetables aren’t appetizing. One of the biggest reasons that people don’t eat vegetables is because they don’t like the taste or they simply find them unappealing. Fresh broccoli, asparagus, carrots, bell peppers, and many other vegetables simply aren’t as appealing as a cheeseburger, a slice of pizza, a deli-meat sandwich, or a plate of pasta.

 

So how can you make vegetables more appealing to yourself and your family? As you’ll see, making vegetables more delicious, without sacrificing nutrition, is actually quite simple.

 

12 Healthy Ways to Make Vegetables Tastier and More Delicious

 

  1. A Little Salt Goes a Long Way

Salt gets a bad reputation, largely because it’s jam-packed in processed foods. However, a pinch sea salt won’t hurt if it helps you eat a plateful of vegetables. Don’t get excessive with the salt (that would taste bad anyhow), but make sure to give each recipe or veggie dish a little salt to enhance the flavor and make it more savory.

 

  1. Use Olive Oil (or Butter) to Spread the Flavor

In addition to salt, using a bit of fat (again, not too much) can help spread and enhance the flavor of vegetables. Olive oil has many benefits, including better heart health and stroke prevention. Olive oil can also enhance the flavor by coating the vegetables with a smooth, healthy layer that goes great with a crispy crunch. If you don’t have olive oil, a small amount of butter can also be used with your vegetables.

 

  1. Sauté with Your Favorite Spices, Herbs, and Seasonings

There is no one herb, seasoning, or spice that is wrong for vegetables. They all have their benefits and should all be considered for your cooking. What’s your favorite seasoning? Do you like Italian-style seasonings like oregano or basil? Do you like the  hearty flavor or thyme or bay leaves? No matter what you like, a bit of seasoning can enhance the flavor of even the most bland vegetables. One suggestion you might try is the combination of fresh garlic added to sautéed vegetables for enhanced flavor while adding a nutritious, natural taste.

 

  1. Choose High-Quality, Fresh Veggies

Frozen vegetables and canned veggies have their purpose, but if you want to serve and eat the most delicious vegetables possible, you have to work with fresh, high-quality veggies. Use vegetables from the super market that are crisp, colorful, and ready for the kitchen, and serve them up with the best seasonings for outstanding results. Frozen vegetables usually have the same nutritional qualities as fresh, but they’re not nearly as delicious.

 

  1. Add a Small Dose of Flavorful Accompaniments

When you eat vegetables, it doesn’t have to be all plants. Who says you need to eat a bland piece of broccoli? Add bacon bits, parmesan cheese, chorizo sausage, or sunflower kernels to make the vegetables more appealing. Depending on the veggie and the recipe, you could also add fresh cheese, raisins, Chinese noodles, orange slices, or virtually any other flavorful ingredient.

 

  1. Choose Smaller Veggies (or Chop into Smaller Pieces)

Large hunks of veggies can be off-putting for some people, but smaller pieces can help mask the flavor. Smaller chunks (think diced) will have more surface space for olive oil, butter, salt, herbs, and other flavorful additions, making them far more delicious.

 

  1. Find Your Favorite Vinaigrette Dressing

One of the most effective ways to increase your vegetable consumption, especially leafy greens, is to add salads to your diet. However, some types of dressings (creamy dressings like ranch in particular) tend to be high in calories, sugars, and saturated fats. That’s why vinaigrettes, which are made with oil and vinegar, tend to be healthier options. Of course, each brand’s dressing is different, but if you find a vinaigrette that you like (such as raspberry or garlic), it will often (but not always; check the nutritional info) be a healthier choice.

 

  1. Hummus (or Another Dip) for Fresh Veggies

If the thought of eating a naked carrot stick stick seems unappealing and bland, experiment with a few hummus dips or other relatively-healthy dip options. Humus is made from chickpeas, which are actually quite healthy compared to other dips such as ranch dressing or sour-cream-based vegetable dips. While hummus is not perfect (it can still be full of fats) a review published in the journal Nutrients stated that “substitution of common dips and spreads with hummus helps to increase diet quality.” They researchers added that it could help prevent some diseases and improve weight management.

 

  1. Try Blanching Your Vegetables

Have you found that while you can’t stand veggies prepared at home, Chinese-food veggies seem to be more appetizing? While many Chinese foods (at least the type we Americans call Chinese food) can utilize unhealthy, often sugary sauces, they also use a technique called blanching, which quickly boils the veggies then drops them in ice water to stop the cooking. You can then grill, sauté, roast, or simply eat the veggies as-is. This is a good way to soften vegetables without making them mushy.

 

  1. Add Diced Onions to the Mix

Few vegetables have as much flavor as onions, and while raw onions are a powerful food (so powerful they make us cry!) diced onions can be added to virtually any dish to increase the overall flavor. Diced onions can be added to steamed carrots, sauced broccoli, or baked cauliflower. Anything that needs flavor will get a boost, as well as added health benefits, from onions.

 

  1. Make a Soup

Lots of people don’t like carrots and celery, but who doesn’t like chicken noodle soup? If you don’t have a craving for veggies, perhaps you could make a soup (soups are surprisingly easy!) that will allow you to add more plants to your diet. Soups cook for a long time, mellowing and weakening the vegetables’ flavors. Soups can even have veggies in the broth, such as a tomato soup with minced carrots as part of the broth. From beef and barley soup to chicken and dumplings, making soups is a great way to add veggies and more water to your diet.

 

  1. Final Strategy: Hide the Veggies

If all else fails, try completely hiding the vegetables. Meatloaf, for example, can be loaded with mashed vegetables, largely masking their flavor and their presence. You could also make zucchini or banana bread with grated carrots. Another strategy is mashing vegetables into sauces for noodles or rice, increasing vegetable consumption without having to “suffer” through the task of actually tasting them.

 

Cooking Techniques to Avoid

 

Boiling

Boiling makes fresh, crisp, flavorful veggies soggy, mushy, and flavorless. Boiling also robs the vegetables of water-soluble nutrients, making them less nutritious. Take a look at the water next time someone boils broccoli; the water will have a greenish tint, and that green color holds many of the nutrients that make broccoli healthy. Instead of boiling, stick to blanching, roasting, or sautéing.

 

Frozen Veggies

Frozen veggies are a good alternative for a busy weeknight when you need a fast, convenient vegetable in your meal. However, they can be mushy, soggy, and just as unappetizing as over-boiled veggies. Yes, they are generally as nutritious as fresh vegetables, but not nearly as delicious.

 

Adding Fake Cheese

If this article was just about ways to make vegetables more flavorful, then adding fake, processed, orange cheese that comes in a cardboard box would be a viable option, but this is about healthy ways to make vegetables more flavorful. Smothering your broccoli in processed fake cheese might make it creamy and delicious, but it can add a large amount of saturated fat and calories. According to EatThisMuch.com, a single ounce of Velveeta-brand cheese has 80 calories and 56% of the recommended calories from fat. (And that’s only one ounce!) It also contains 18% of your daily sodium and 18 grams of saturated fat. It might make the veggies more appetizing, but it won’t help your waistline or your health.

 

Now you’re ready to improve your diet with tasty, healthy vegetables. With these tips, you’ll eat better, have more energy, and slim your waistline, all while finally enjoying the vegetables you’ve been missing out on for years!

How to Eat Well, Be Healthy, and Look Great

If you were to ask most Americans about losing weight, they’d likely talk to you about eating less. This is a fair point, as weight loss often boils down to calories in against calories out. Bring in fewer calories than you burn, and you’ll lose more weight.

 

But many people will likely cite the inability (or unwillingness) to eat less as a reason for not losing weight. For whatever reason, they simply can’t find the personal disciple to eat half a burger or a smaller order of fries. That second helping of pizza is so easy; just drop it on your plate and off you go. An extra spoonful of pasta is hard to pass up when there are plenty of leftovers.

 

But what if you could lose weight without significantly cutting back on the amount you eat? What if you could maintain a filling, satisfying diet without cutting back on your portions? You can, but it all comes down to what you eat as well as how you eat…

 

How to Eat Well, Be Healthy, and Look Great

 

Breaking the Less-Food Myth: Choose Quality Foods Instead of Lowering the Total Quantity

There is little doubt among the scientific community that the quality of your food is just as, if not more, important than the quantity. For example, a study from researchers with Stanford University found that people who focus on eating vegetables and whole foods, and are not necessarily concerned with portions, are more likely to lose weight. Calorie counting and portion sizing have their roles in overall fitness, but this study suggest that they should take a back seat to the simple principle of eating quality foods. Interestingly, this strategy worked for people regardless of whether they were focused on low-fat dieting or low-carb dieting.

 

Dietary guidelines may have changed since you last looked at them, especially if you were in school twenty, thirty, or forty years ago.

 

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, while calories matter, it may be time to focus on quality over calorie counting. So what constitutes quality foods? The article says that high-quality foods are generally minimally-processed and usually unrefined. This includes fresh produce, such as fruits and veggies, as well as whole grain breads and cereals. Healthy fats and healthy sources of protein should also be considered when creating a diet plan.

 

Lower-quality foods, as you might have guessed, are the ones that have, in general, gone through the most processing. For example, highly-processed snack foods, high-sugar beverages, white grains, and fried foods often go through a long process, and generally don’t resemble their original state.

 

One study cited by the Harvard article included over 120,000 men and women who were studied over the span of 20 years. The researchers found that weight gain was most commonly associated with eating potato chips, sugary beverages like soda, and red meat. On the other hand, veggies, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt were associated with weight loss.

 

The Low-Carbs or Low-Fat Battle: A Draw?

One of the articles we looked at above referenced the debate between low-carb and low-fat diets, which are often viewed as the solution to weight problems. However, research is starting to demonstrate that, from a weight-loss perspective, neither one has a particular advantage over the other.

 

According to research, which once again comes from Stanford University, neither the low-carb or low-fat diet is significantly superior over the other. The study was actually an effort to see if any specific biological factors impact the effectiveness of either low-carb or low-fat diets. In other words, researchers wanted to know if certain diets are better for one type of person than another, and if so, what are the factors that impact results.

 

The collected data showed many results, but most notably, it implied little difference for weight loss between a low-carb and a low-fat diet.

 

Lose Weight and Eat Your Fill by Heading to the Produce Section

Of all the foods we’ve talked about, is there one specific type that should be the foundation of our diets? While there is certainly a lot of healthy reasons to consume meat, it’s becoming clear that limiting meat consumption may be an effective way to reduce overall weight.

 

Studies now show that vegetarian diets are more effective for helping people lose weight. The study found that vegetarian diets are better for reducing fat content in the body than simply reducing calorie intake through other measures. Using a vegetarian diet can be twice as effective at helping you lose weight than maintaining regular meat consumption. Vegetarians not only lose weight, they reduce the amount of muscle fat in the diet, meaning their metabolism gets a boost too. The study focused on the implications for people with metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes, but the findings are important for the general population as well. The implication seem to be that if you can reduce meat consumption and have a vegetarian meal on occasion (or often), you’ll be more likely to shed the pounds, all without reducing the amount you eat.

 

Is there a Right, and Wrong, Time to Eat?

So we know that eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits is better than eating lots of meats and highly-processed foods, and we’ve seen that there is little difference between a low-carb and low-fat diets (for weight loss, at least), but what about the time of day? Assuming we eat the same amount, does eating right after you wake, before you sleep, or in the middle make a difference in overall health? Is there a best time to eat? According to the research that we’ve seen, yes there is.

 

A study grouped participants into two basic groups: early and late eaters. They looked at when the people in the study chose to eat the largest meal of the day, which in this case is the midday lunch, and studied their weight-loss rates for 20 weeks. The results found that people who ate late lunches (who were also more likely to skip breakfast) lost more weight. This suggests that, in addition to other strategies, the timing of your meal could impact overall weight loss.

 

There is also a debate of when to eat your biggest meal of the day. Should it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Another study found that consuming a larger meal early is often better for your overall weight loss. This study looked at two groups who consumed a 500-calorie lunch, but one had a 700-calorie breakfast and a light supper, while the other had a light breakfast and a 700-calorie supper. Despite the fact that the nutrient content was exactly the same, the results showed that the big-breakfast group shed over twice the weight (8.7 lbs vs 3.6) and reduced their waistline by over 4 inches.

 

Eating Frequency: Is there a Right Amount of Meals?

You’ve likely heard the theory that eating five smaller meals, instead of three regular meals, is more effective for losing weight. It’s been passed around so often, that many of us simply take it for gospel. But is there any truth behind this theory?

 

According to a study from the Harvard Medical School, there is a connection between more meals and less weight. The article says that there is scientific research verifying the theory that eating four or five meals a day could bring better weight loss results. Benefits to a high-frequency meal plan include a decrease in regular hunger, which prevents overeating. It also increases your chances to eat healthier foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads. However, if you choose low-quality foods, such as sugary snacks or fatty, salty chips, you won’t benefit from the high-frequency plan.

 

Final Thought: You Can Lose Weight, No Matter Who You Are!

Whether you come from a family of large or skinny people appears to be irrelevant, or, at least, less relevant than you might think. Unfortunately, some people blame genetics for their heavy bodies and inability to lose weight. While there are certainly genetic factors that may make it harder to lose weight, research shows that genetics plays a small, virtually insignificant role in weight loss.

 

The study that we discussed earlier, which addressed low-fat vs low-carb diets, also found that genetics plays a small role in determining weight loss. This runs contradictory  to the messaging of some business that sell genetics-related approaches to weight loss. However, it appears that many in the scientific community are disputing the thought that there should be an entirely different weight loss plan for different types of people.

 

So while you may come from a family of large individuals, you can always lose weight. You don’t need fad diets, you don’t need specialized coaching, and you don’t need to starve yourself. As science and the experiences of many will demonstrate, it’s possible to lose weight by simply adjusting your daily routine and, more significantly, eating healthy, wholesome foods.

 

With the right approach, you can create a happier, healthier, more active you!

 

Foods That Help Metabolism

Boosting your metabolism is one of the commonly-discussed ways to increase overall weight loss. By making your body burn through foods faster, you increase your chances of loosing weight and keeping it off, which is essential to overall health for many reasons.

 

Everyone has theories about metabolism, but do you understand how metabolism works and how you can use it to your advantage? One of the ways to kickstart your metabolism is to eat the right foods, and there are many foods that not only taste great, but also increase your chances of loosing weight in a safe, healthy, and sustained manner.

 

Metabolism: A Brief Explanation

 

Before getting started, it helps to briefly talk about metabolism. Essentially, metabolism means how your body digests foods and burns calories. You may hear some people claim that they can’t loose weight because their body has a “slow metabolism.” They are basically saying that their body processes foods and burns calories too slowly, and the excess energy is then stored in the form of fat, usually around the belly.

 

It is true that each individual will have a different metabolism, but there are things that everyone can do, regardless of genetics, to boost their metabolism. Theories abound, including frequent small meals, enhanced hydration, and a focus on strength training.

 

But the foods you eat can have an impact on your overall metabolism as well, meaning you can, when done right, eat a hearty amount while still burning calories. Every weight-loss plan needs to include regular exercise, but these foods can increase you metabolism and (possibly) make you slimmer.

 

Understanding “Metabolic Syndrome”

One of the conditions we’ll mention in this article is metabolic syndrome. This is not a specific disease, but a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The syndrome can include many risk factors, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and obesity, but it’s believed to be rooted in the body’s inability to properly utilize energy, leading to excess storage. Anyone with metabolic syndrome needs to be particularly diligent with their diet and lifestyle.

 

What Foods Help with Metabolism?

 

Green Tea

Few foods have such a positive reputation as green tea, and, among other theorized benefits, it’s also believe to boost your body’s metabolism. This theory is supported by a few different studies, including a study from researchers in Iran. In an attempt to discover the possible connection between certain doses of tea and metabolic factors, researchers worked with 63 type-2 diabetics, who all started the program with no green tea for two weeks. The subjects were then assigned random placement into four groups that had different daily intakes of tea: four cups a day, three cups, two cups, and a control group with zero cups per day. The results found that drinking four cups every day led to a significant reduction in weight and blood pressure.

 

Olive Oil

Olive oil, which is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, is also believed to improve metabolism in the body. Again, we can look to evidence for the connection between eating olive oil and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a strong metabolism. A study published in Nutrition and Metabolism found that replacing other oils and fats with extra virgin olive oil could have a cardio-metabolic effect in obese adults. This study randomized 41 overweight people into two groups, those who received corn oil, soybean oil, and butter for their foods, and those who received olive oil. Three months later, researchers measured blood pressure, biochemical, and immunological factors; those in the olive-oil group had better stats for both metabolism and immunological health.

 

Milk

Dairy isn’t usually considered a weight-loss food, but a study from the University of Tennessee claims that three to four servings of dairy foods, including milk, could “significantly increase weight loss.” This was a 24-week study that had adults on a reduced-calorie diet eating three or four servings of dairy every day. The group lost an average of 24 pounds, which was “significantly more” than another group in the study that cut calories but ate less dairy foods. The dairy foods in this study included milk, as well as yogurt and cheese.

 

Garlic

Garlic is a powerhouse of nutrition, with properties linked to enhanced immunity and fighting the aging process. Another attributed quality is garlic’s ability to enhance your metabolism. Garlic has a powerful taste, but adding even small amounts can increase the number of calories you burn during regular activity while decreasing your body’s tendency to produce and store fat. Adding garlic to some of your recipes, such as pasta or salads, could be the key to increasing your metabolism.

 

Dark Chocolate

Stress has been linked to a slower metabolism; in other words, the more you stress, the slower your metabolism works and the more fat you store. However, a study from German and Swiss researchers has found that dark chocolate, by reducing stress, can actually enhance metabolism. The study found that eating only 40 grams of dark chocolate (less than 1.5 ounces) over a two-week period is enough to create noticeable changes in a person’s metabolism.

 

Whole-Grain Products

Medical News Today has a report stating that whole grains, as opposed to refined flours, will deliver a superior diet. Not only does whole-grain food reduce the amount of calories consumed, it also speeds up metabolism. Whole-grain foods can include a wide variety of products, including certain types of rice, oats, barley, and wheat. As opposed to refined grains, whole grains have not been processed to remove bran and germ, which increases shelf-life but also reduces nutritional value.

 

Salmon

You will find lots of healthy seafood options, but when it comes to boosting your metabolism, salmon may be the best. Many cases of under-active thyroid, which is linked to low metabolism, are due to an inflammation in the gland. Salmon, fortunately, can have anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its high density of omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is often believed to be better for weight loss than other seafoods, including cod.

 

Apples

Apple can reduce or prevent metabolic syndrome, a condition that includes a group of risk factors that combine to significantly harm your overall metabolism. A report from News Medical claims that people who eat apples, as well as apple-based foods like apple juice and apple sauce, have a 21% reduction in the chances of being diagnosed with the issue.

 

Vinegar

From cleaning the home to helping you lose weight, it seems like vinegar is one of the most effective household products in your cupboard. Vinegar is believed to have the ability to activate genes that release proteins, which in turn help breakdown fat in the body. A Japanese study found that overweight people who consumed vinegar had better body weight, BMI, and waist circumference, among other factors. Daily intake of vinegar could also be useful for reducing the chances of metabolic syndrome.

 

Beef

Iron is an important mineral for our metabolic systems, helping to catch oxygen for our muscles and binding oxygen for delivery to various organs. When you are looking for iron-rich foods, few are as good as beef. Although too much beef can have health consequences, eating a regular, moderate portion could be beneficial to your metabolism.

 

Spinach

Spinach is another food that is rich in iron, and it also has plenty of other healthy benefits. Adding spinach to your salad is a great way to boost your nutritional intake while also eating low-calorie meals.

 

Beans

Beans can have lots pf protein to help you maintain a healthy diet, and they can also be beneficial to overall weight-loss. This is supported by many studies, including research published in Nutrition & Metabolism, which found that eating beans could increase fat burning and prevent fat accumulation in the longterm by affecting how a body processes fats.

 

Coffee

Need a pick-me-up? Millions of Americans turn to coffee as their choice for a morning beverage or as a boost to get through the afternoon lull. However, you may want to consider coffer as a metabolism-booster as well. Research from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that drinking coffee may promote thermogenesis, which is the production of heat in the body. Thermogenesis takes energy, so drinking coffee could kickstart your body’s engine.

 

Food Preparation: Is there a Strategy to Increase Metabolism?

 

So we know what foods are good for boosting our metabolism, but is there a strategy for how we eat? Does the frequency or routine of our diet have any impact?

 

Can Meal Plans Impact Metabolism?

According to popular myth, eating multiple small meals, as opposed to three full meals, is a better daily plan because it keeps your metabolism running all through the day. However, research is indicating that meal frequency may not make a significant difference in overall weight-loss or the effectiveness of a diet plan. A study from the Netherlands and Germany found that, despite the hypothesis of researchers, frequency of meals did not lead to noticeable changes in body weight.

 

A Little Protein with Every Meal

A strategy for kickstarting your metabolism, or at least keeping it running, is to have a bit of protein with every meal. Protein helps build muscle, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. This is a result of the fact that simply maintaining muscles takes more energy than maintaining stores of fat. Simply having a portion of healthy meat, beans, or nuts with every meal could help keep your body strong and slim.

 

If you are going to harness your metabolism to decrease weight, remember to eat right, strategize, and maintain consistent exercise. Eating healthy foods that boost your metabolism will have you feeling better and give you more energy through the day!

Losing Weight When Over 40: It’s Not Impossible!

When you were 25, losing weight and staying in shape seemed so easy. Now that you are in your 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s, it seems practically impossible.

 

When you were young, you could eat pizza, spend a night on the town, then burn it off at the gym the next day. Now those pizza and drinks seems to stick with you forever, and even if you find time for the gym, the weight doesn’t seem to melt off like it used to.

 

It’s a problem we all experience, but by understanding the changes in your body and making strategic adjustments to meet those changes, you can lose weight when over 40…

 

Why is Losing Weight When Over 40 So Hard?

Losing weight is a challenge even when we’re young, but as we age, certain changes in our body and our lifestyle can make it more complex and more difficult. Looking at the body, we see that many people struggle with weight loss over the age of 40 because of body composition changes. Studies have shown that fat mass increases and muscle mass decreases as we get older. Although we don’t exactly know why, we do know that our general metabolism, the way we burn calories, slows as we get older. Instead of naturally burning calories, our body puts more in storage, which means belly fat.

 

But it’s not just our bodies, as our lifestyles often get in the way of weight loss as well. If you are over 40, you have likely found that losing weight can be more difficult because you are busy with children, family, and social commitments, not to mention a growing career. All of these factors make it hard to find the time for exercise, and a busy lifestyle can lead to a poor diet.

 

For many reasons, it can be difficult to lose weight after the age of 40. However, with the right plan, you can reach your goals for fitness and wellbeing.

 

To get the best results, you should separate your efforts into three categories: changes for your (1) workouts, (2) diet, and (3) lifestyle. With subtle changes in these three areas, you’ll be feeling healthier and looking better for years!

 

Losing Weight When Over 40: The Workouts

 

Add Swimming to Your Routine

Many people over the age of 40 avoid the high-impact exercises that cause pain in the knees, especially jogging and running. Some even avoid riding a bike or even walking. If this is the case for you, consider adding a few swims to your regular routine. Not a confident swimmer? You can always take a lesson or stay near the shallow end until you gain the confidence for a full swim.

 

Don’t Forget Strength Training

According to a study from Wake Forest University, older adults should add weight training to their exercise routine, not to bulk up, but to slim down. The study found that combining weight training with a low-calorie diet helps preserve and build lean muscle, which can be lost when older adults go through aerobic exercises. The 18-month study looked at obese adults in their 60s and found that weight training brought about less muscle loss and significant fat loss, and appeared to be more effective than simply dieting.

 

Add Weekly Yoga

An article published in LiveScience says that middle-age (40-59 years old) women have the highest rate of depression among all groups based on age and sex. Unfortunately, this not only impacts your mental health, it can also impact your physical health, as depression has been linked to weight gain and the inability (or difficulty) of losing weight.

 

One of the best ways to combat depression, and get a great workout, is yoga. This low-impact exercise has a connection to reduced rates of depression, as well as the ability to help individuals lose weight. For many important reasons, yoga appears to be an extremely-beneficial workout.

 

Losing Weight When Over 40: The Diet and Eating

 

Add Healthy Fiber to Your Diet

Boosting the amount of fiber in your diet can help you lose weight, according to a study published in the Annal of Internal Medicine suggests that making one simple change, the addition of high-quality fiber, to our diets, can increase weight loss. Aiming for 30-grams of fiber a day could not only help you lose weight, it could lower blood pressure and improve your body’s response to insulin, all of which are important to the health of older adults.

 

To add good fiber to your diet, include beans, fresh leafy vegetables, and whole-wheat products to your diet.

 

Add Omega-3 Foods to Your Diet

Omega-3, which is found in salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and other fatty fish, is extremely helpful for losing weight and keeping it off. It’s believed that the benefit from this nutrient may also help reduce hot flashes during menopause, which is an important concern for middle-aged women.

 

Portion Control Becomes Essential

Because our metabolism is slower when we age, we don’t process food as quickly as we used to. This means that you really need to focus on portion control, because your body simply doesn’t need the high amounts of energy that it did when you were in your twenties. In the past, excess calories were burned at a higher rate, now they are stored mostly around the belly, increasing your weight and waist. Even if you are eating healthy foods, be sure to limit your portions so you’re not overeating.

 

You Can’t Skip Meals Like You Used To

As we discussed earlier, your metabolism will go through changes as you age, so you can’t abuse it the way you used to. One of the fastest ways to throw off your metabolism is to skip meals, especially breakfast, which basically tells your body that lean times are ahead so we better start storing fat for the future. Skipping meals increases the chances of low blood sugar, which can lead to ravenous overeating. Be sure to eat high-quality meals on a consistent basis, and don’t skip breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

 

Losing Weight When Over 40: The Lifestyle

 

Prioritize Sleep

In our 40’s and 50’s, sleep may be harder to come by. With the demands of a career and a family, getting enough sleep becomes tough. What does this have to do with weight loss? Getting enough sleep has been well-established as an important part of weight loss. This is because sleep impacts how your brain creates and interprets hormones related to hunger. Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue, reducing your motivation for exercise, and can make you more likely to choose unhealthy foods over healthy options, largely because you’re simply too tired to fight the cravings.

 

Create a Time-Management Plan That Includes Eating Right

One of the greatest challenges to losing weight over 40 is time. Finding time for the gym and time to prepare healthy meals is more difficult now that you have a family and a career, but it’s not impossible. A study from the University of Minnesota found that people who implement time management strategies and “nutrition-related messaging” are more likely to eat healthy foods. Although this specific study focuses on young adults, it does emphasize the importance of time management in your health efforts, which is crucial for people over 40.

 

Have Your Thyroid Checked

Any woman experiencing trouble losing weight after the age of 40 should consider having her thyroid checked. Women are more likely to develop issues with this gland as they age, and the symptoms can range from fatigue to depression to weight gain. Fortunately, the problem can be fixed with medication, but you have to get checked and discuss the issue with your doctor first.

 

Keep Your Legs Strong

While overall leg strength, from exercises like squats or lunges, may not seem like a way to melt away the fat, it can be an effective way to burn calories. Perhaps more importantly, it’s a way to maintain strong legs and good balance as you age. If you lose your leg strength by the time you are 60 or 70, you may not be able to exercise as much, which can mean a decline in overall health. Consider leg strength an investment in your healthy future!

 

Set Small, Reasonable Goals

One of the traps of weight loss is trying to lose too much too quickly. You can’t honestly expect to lose ten pounds a week for a month, at least not in a healthy, sustained manner. Make your goals more reasonable, such as one to two pounds a week. With this goal, you’ll stay motivated and focused, and you’ll be more likely to keep the weight off. Remember, we’re in it for the long haul, so focus on smaller, attainable goals so you can keep the weight off after the age of 40.

 

With these strategies for workouts, diet, and exercise, you will increase your chances of success. When you strategize your workouts, plan your diet, and make sustained lifestyle changes, you’ll be more likely to shed the pounds and keep them off for the rest of your life. You can lose weight after 40, but it takes knowledge and planning. More than anything, it takes a commitment to being a healthier, happier person, which should be the ultimate goal for any weight loss plan! This is clearly a way to make yourself a “Better You by Design”.