Fat-Fighting Foods

Photo Credit: CDC PD
Losing weight doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of tasty, nutritious foods. Many of the foods you love can help you lose weight or help you maintain your weight loss. Continue to exercise regularly and enjoy some of these fat fighting foods.
Protein is an essential nutrient for muscle health. It also helps to build other body tissues, produces enzymes and hormones and helps to regulate the biochemical processes in your body. You can get protein from animal and plant sources. Eggs are low in calories and loaded with essential protein and can be prepared in a variety of ways for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Eggs may contribute to cholesterol, so limit eggs to a couple of times each week. Nuts are another great source of protein. They are also high in fiber and omega-3 healthy fats. Nuts can be eaten plain as a snack or added to salads, breads and cereals for extra flavor. 

Lean meats and fish are a good way to get muscle-building protein in your diet. Protein helps you feel full longer so that you eat less. Red meat is usually higher in fat than chicken. If you eat red meat, trim all the fat off the meat prior to cooking. Skinless chicken breast is a very good choice with less fat than other meats. Extra lean steaks and roasts are good choices. Fish is a great source of protein and contains little fat. Fish, especially salmon, is also rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
Vegetable protein is just as healthy for your body as meat protein. Beans are especially high in protein and fiber. Beans are low in calories and fat too. Quinoa, cracked wheat and brown rice are other great sources of vegetable protein. They can be prepared as a side dish, used in soups and in casseroles. In addition to protein, these high-protein foods also contain iron, zinc, vitamin E and the trace element selenium. Fruits like watermelon, pears, apples, grapes and yogurt and berries are also high in protein and other essential nutrients. 

Stay Hydrated With Fruits & Vegetables

Photo Credit: Steve Evans CC-BY-2.0
When the summer heat soars into the scorching range, it is critical that you keep your body hydrated. Drinking water will keep your body hydrated so that you can reduce your risk of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Sports drinks can be a good choice to keep you hydrated, too. Many sports drinks contain minerals and salts that replenish the minerals and salts lost when you sweat. Sports drinks can help restore electrolyte balance as well. However, did you know that some fruits and vegetables may actually hydrate your body better than drinking a glass of water? Some fruits and vegetables can be as much as 90 percent or more water. Add some extra fruits and vegetables to your diet during hot weather to help you stay hydrated. You will also benefit from the extra vitamins and minerals. One study by the University of Aberdeen Medical School found that some fruits and vegetables hydrate the body twice as well as water or even sports drinks. 

Cantaloupe, strawberries and peaches are high in water content but also contain potassium that is essential to heart health. Potassium helps to regulate the heartbeat. When you sweat, you lose valuable potassium that can only be replaced by eating potassium-rich foods or taking a supplement. Pineapples and cherries contain melatonin and other micronutrients that help to reduce inflammation in the body. They are high in water content too. Watermelon, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and kiwi are all high in vitamin C. Cucumbers are 96 percent water but also contain minerals and vitamins, including calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. Celery also contains all these minerals plus phosphorus, zinc and iron, which are essential to bone and blood health. 

The next time you exercise outdoors, pack plenty of bottles of water and take along a container of fresh fruits and vegetables to help hydrate your body. 

Good Sources of Calcium & Vitamin D

Photo Credit: MigGroningen CC-BY-SA-3.0

Calcium and vitamin D are essential to strong bones, teeth and skin. Bone cells are replaced much like skin cells. Old bone cells are shed and new bone cells replace them. Your body needs calcium and vitamin D to replace bone cells. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb the calcium it needs to build strong bones and prevent diseases like osteoporosis. You need to eat a variety of foods rich in both calcium and vitamin D and get adequate exercise to keep your bones healthy and strong. Natural sources of vitamin D and calcium are best, but drinking vitamin D and calcium fortified milk and juices can also provide the essential nutrients your bones need. Only your doctor can tell you if you need a vitamin and mineral supplement. If you think you need a supplement, see your doctor for a check up before taking any over-the-counter supplement. 
Your body cannot make calcium; therefore, you have to get your calcium from the foods you eat. Dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese are rich in calcium and Vitamin D. Spinach, kale, collard greens, okra, white and soy beans, and fish, including trout, salmon, perch and sardines are rich in calcium. Orange juice and milk are often fortified with both vitamin D and calcium. Breakfast cereals, including oatmeal and some cold cereals, are also enriched with extra vitamin D and calcium.
In addition to milk, yogurt and cheeses, you can get vitamin D from foods like tuna, salmon, mackerel and other fatty fishes. Egg yolks and beef liver are also rich in vitamin D. Your skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. About 5 minutes per day is enough to stimulate your skin to produce vitamin D. Avoid over-exposure to the sun. Sunburn and skin conditions such as premature aging and skin cancer can result from too much sun exposure. 

Should You Take Vitamins?

Photo Credit: Ragesoss CC-BY-SA-3.0

Vitamins are necessary for nearly every bodily function. Some vitamins are essential to your health: Vitamins A, C, D, E and K. You also need all of the B-vitamins including riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, biotin, folate and panthothenic acid. Too much of anything can be harmful to your health, and this holds true for vitamins as well. If you eat a well-balanced diet, you should be getting all the nutrition you need. Those who exercise strenuously on a regularly basis, body builders and runners may need a vitamin supplement. People who are limiting caloric intake and exercising to lose weight may also need a vitamin supplement. Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding may also need to take a vitamin supplement to help prevent neural tube birth defects, like spina bifida. See your doctor if you think you need a vitamin supplement. 
An over-the-counter vitamin supplement may be necessary, especially for body builders and people who engage in frequent, vigorous exercise. Should you decide to take a vitamin supplement, consider taking a multivitamin. Choose one that does not contain ingredients that you may not need and may cause an adverse reaction. Some multivitamin supplements contain herbal extracts, which you don’t need and don’t want to take. Always read the label before taking a multivitamin. 
Consider your current health, your diet, your fitness level and how much you exercise and talk to your doctor before taking a vitamin supplement. A dietitian can help you to assess your nutrient intake from the foods you eat and help you adjust your diet to get more nutrients. 

For more information about vitamins see:

Best Fruit Juices

Photo Credit: Metoc  CC-BY-SA-3.0

Juice is one of the best ways to enjoy the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables. There are hundreds of brands and different fruit blends to choose from. But how do you know you are getting nutrients without loading up your body with sugar, preservatives and extra calories? You have to read the label. Select fruit and vegetables juices without added sugar, sodium or preservatives if possible. Many juice-like drinks are made from 10% or less fruit juice. The rest is flavored, colored and sweetened water. Juice cocktails and juice drinks are usually sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup and provide little nutrition. Different fruits provide a variety of benefits. Apple juice, for example, is rich in fiber, vitamins A, C and B. If you like juice, try a variety made from different fruits.
Vegetable juice blends are a good way to add more vegetables to your diet. Tomato juice is rich in the nutrient lycopene and has been linked to a reduced risk of some kinds of cancer, especially prostate cancer. Beets may help keep high blood pressure in check because they are rich in potassium, magnesium, and fiber. Vegetable juices are usually low in sugar and calories, but may be high is sodium. Check the label and select a low-sodium or no-sodium added variety. 
Pomegranate juice is delicious, sweet and is packed with antioxidants. The trade-off is that pomegranate juice is high in calories, mostly from natural sugars. Cranberry juice is extolled for its beneficial effects on the urinary tract. It is also rich in vitamin C for a strong immune system. Blueberry juice and acai berry juice may have a beneficial effect on your ability to concentrate and have more antioxidants than most other fruits. Cherry juice has anti-inflammatory antioxidants and grape juice is rich in the antioxidants. Orange juice is known to be loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C. Prune juice is high in fiber and iron. It also contains a sorbitol, which is a laxative and can help keep your digestive system regular. Like most other fruits and juices prunes also contain antioxidants and potassium. 

Important Nutrients For Good Health

Photo Credit: Kander Public Domain

Many Americans do not get enough vitamins and minerals in their diet. According to a study in the Journal of Nutrition, 25% do not get enough Vitamin C, 70% do not get enough Vitamin D, 60% do not get enough Vitamin E. Trace elements, such as potassium and magnesium, are also lacking in the American diet. These nutrients are essential for good health. Supplements can help, but the best source of vitamins and minerals is food. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, fish and grains contain nutrients that your body needs everyday. Eat a balanced diet by including nutrient-rich foods. A nutrition consultant can help you create a diet plan so that you get all the nutrients you need from the foods you eat. A healthy diet of foods rich in vitamins and minerals have important health benefits including lower blood pressure, combat osteoporosis, healthy heart and improved mood.
Potassium is an important nutrient to help maintain a lower blood pressure, healthy muscles and nerves. Potassium is found in foods like potatoes, bananas, dry beans, avocados and dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt. Magnesium also helps maintain a healthy blood pressure, promote bone health and healthy heart muscle. Magnesium deficiency can cause muscle cramps. Beans, peas, nuts and grains are rich in magnesium. Fiber helps to promote a healthy digestive system and may lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Fiber is also an important part of any weight-loss diet. Foods that are high in fiber include beans, whole grains, nuts, fruits, carrots, artichokes and corn.
Vitamin A is an important nutrient for a healthy immune system and eye health. The two types of vitamin A are beta-carotene and retinol. Foods loaded with this important nutrient include carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli and spinach. You can get enough vitamin A by adding yellow and dark green vegetables to your diet. Vitamin D is essential for strong, healthy bones and muscles. Your body can make small amounts of vitamin D by exposure to sunlight, but you need to eat foods rich in this nutrient to make sure you get enough vitamin D for a healthy body. Almost everyone knows milk and cheeses contain vitamin D, but the nutrient is also found in salmon, mackerel, liver, eggs and in mushrooms.  Vitamin C is important not only for a healthy immune system, but also for healthy cells. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to remove free radicals from the body. This vitamin is found in citrus fruits, juices and vegetables. 

Natural Sources of Antioxidants

Photo Credit: Dimitar Nikolov CC-BY-2.0 2012

Waste products produced by cells include unstable molecules called “free radicals,” which can cause cell damage. Free radicals are produced when the body breaks down food and from exposure to environmental contaminants, such as tobacco smoke and pesticides. Antioxidants help remove free radicals from the cells. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant nutrients. Antioxidants are also found in nuts, beans and whole grains. Vitamins C and E are also antioxidants. Other nutrients that help remove free radicals from the body include  anthocyanins, beta-carotene, catechins, coenzyme Q10, flavonoids, lipoic acid, lutein, lycopene and  selenium. People who eat a balanced diet that includes antioxidant rich foods should get enough of the nutrients to help prevent cell damage from free radicals. Eat a diet rich in vitamins A, C and E to be sure you get enough antioxidant nutrients. 
The best sources of natural antioxidants are berries. Blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries and blueberries are high in antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals. Red beans, black beans and pinto beans are abundant in fiber, plant proteins and antioxidants. Avocados, cherries and plums are also a good source of free radical fighting nutrients. The skin of apples and pears contains many nutrients and antioxidants. Wash apples and pears thoroughly to remove pesticide residue and eat the fruit with the skin for maximum nutritional benefit. 

Vegetables are also a good source of antioxidant nutrients and vitamins. Broccoli, artichokes, spinach and red potatoes are rich in nutrients to help fight cell damage, as are sweet potatoes and red cabbage. Be careful not to over-cook vegetables. Cooking may break down natural antioxidant nutrients and lessen their effectiveness at removing free radicals from your body. Steamed, grilled and sauteed vegetables are not only delicious, but nutritious. Raw vegetables in salads is an excellent way to get your vegetable nutrition.  

Spices and herbs, such as ground cloves, cinnamon and ginger, dried oregano leaf and turmeric powder are all good sources of natural antioxidants. Green tea, coffee, red wine and pomegranate juice have high levels of antioxidants. 
For more information about antioxidant supplements, see:

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Antioxidant Supplements for Health: An Introduction

Do You Need A Vitamin Supplement?

Photo Credit: Ragesoss CC-BY-SA-3.0 2008

Most people will get all the nutrition they need from the foods they eat every day. Fruits, vegetables, meat or vegetable proteins, dairy and fish can provide complete nutrition for most people. Some people may not be able to get all the nutrients and vitamins they need from diet alone. Those with food allergies, such as lactose intolerance or nut allergies, may not get enough calcium or protein in their diet. People who neglect their food intake due to busy lifestyles may also require a vitamin and mineral supplement. It is always best to adjust your eating  habits to include foods that provide you with complete nutrition. However, if it is not possible to make dietary changes, a vitamin and mineral supplement may help fill in the nutrition gaps. 
It is important to remember that vitamin and mineral supplements are not a substitute for eating food. Supplements are often composed of different molecular combinations than those found in foods and may not be as easily absorbed by the body. Also be aware that vitamin and mineral dietary supplement tablets may not contain all the trace elements your body needs that are typically found in natural foods like beans, rice, oranges and whole wheat. For example, oranges are loaded with Vitamin C, but fresh oranges also contain calcium, fiber, potassium and other trace elements that your body needs to maintain a healthy immune system. Dietary supplements are not designed to replace nutritious foods, but merely to provide additional nutrition that may be lacking in your diet. 
People who are healthy and incorporate a variety of foods in their daily diet including protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and fats usually do not need a vitamin or mineral supplement. Another way to avoid the necessity of taking a dietary supplement is to eat foods that are fortified with extra nutrition. Vitamin D fortified milk and dairy products, juices with extra Vitamin C and enriched grains are usually sufficient to meet all your nutritional needs. Your doctor can help you decide if you need a vitamin supplement. If you decide to supplement your nutrition with an over-the-counter vitamin, read the label carefully and heed any warnings. Avoid over-dosing by taking more than is recommended. People who may need a vitamin supplement include pregnant women (be sure to follow your doctor’s advice if you are pregnant) vegans and vegetarians who do not eat enough plant proteins, people with food allergies and those who eat less than 1600 calories every day. Check the expiration date on the label and discard all dietary supplement pills that have exceeded the expiration date.