Thursday, 19 October 2017

15 Best Foods for a Flat Belly

Eat your way to a flatter belly

When you're trying to slim down your stomach, core exercises and ab workouts go a long way—but what you eat also plays a huge role. In addition to drinking enough water, eating fresh produce and healthy fats, and avoiding notorious belly-busters (think alcohol, soda, and sugar), certain foods are particularly good for shrinking your gut.

“If you want your abs to feel flatter, choose foods that will help decrease bloating in your stomach, such as water-packed fruits and veggies,” says Keri Gans, RD, a New York City-based nutrition consultant and author of The Small Change Diet.

These 15 foods will help keep your waistline slim by reducing bloat, boosting metabolism, and giving your body important nutrients that encourage weight loss.


Cucumbers

Thanks to the flavonoid antioxidant quercetin (which reduces swelling) and a high water content of 96%, cucumbers “can definitely help prevent bloating,” says Gans. This crunchy veggie is also extremely versatile: eat it in a chopped salad, sprinkle on top of yogurt, or munch on cucumber slices with homemade hummus.

Lentils

As a member of the super-nutritious pulse family, lentils—along with other seeds that grow within pods like chickpeas, white beans, and dried peas—are packed with protein and fiber, which increase satiety. They're also a good source of iron; this is important because studies have shown that being deficient in the mineral could slow down your metabolism.

“Add lentils to salads or use in place of whole grains like brown rice,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health's contributing nutrition editor. “They also make a great ‘bed’ for a serving of lean protein, along with a generous portion of veggies.”


Bananas

Craving an afternoon snack? A banana may be your best bet. In addition to potassium, bananas are packed with resistant starch, a healthy carbohydrate that your body digests slowly, which keeps you full for longer. Resistant starch also encourages your liver to switch to fat-burning mode, giving your metabolism a boost.

Even more good news for your abs: “Bananas may help prevent water retention in our bodies by regulating sodium levels,” says Gans, “decreasing the risk for bloating.”

Fennel

This perennial herb offers some serious benefits for your belly. “For centuries, fennel has been used to improve digestion, relieve GI spasms, and reduce bloat,” says Stephanie Middleberg, RD, founder of Middleberg Nutrition in New York City.

You can eat fennel raw or cooked (try sprinkling it on pizza or making Tomato-Fennel Soup). And fennel seeds have slimming properties, too: In a previous interview, Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, recommended sipping on fennel tea to de-puff your stomach before a big event.


Papaya

There are lots of reasons to love this brightly colored tropical fruit, which is a rich source of vitamins A, C, E, and folate. Papayas also contain an enzyme called papain, which helps your GI system break down difficult-to-digest foods, in turn preventing inflammation and belly bloat.

In addition to eating papaya whole and fresh, “it’s wonderful in a smoothie, in salads, or thrown on the grill with a drop of olive oil,” says Gans.


Whole grains

Gluten-free diets may be trendy, but carbs aren’t your enemy (unless you've been diagnosed with Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance). In fact, whole grain carbohydrates actually help you stay slim. Whole grains are a great source of filling fiber, which aids digestion and increases satiety. In one recent study, researchers found that women who regularly consumed whole grains had a 49% lower risk of major weight gain over time.

“Whole grains help better regulate blood sugar and insulin levels compared to refined grains,” explains Sass. She recommends starting your day with oatmeal, snacking on plain popcorn (yes, it’s a whole grain!), and choosing quinoa or brown rice over white.


Chili peppers

Spicy foods like chili peppers kick-start your metabolism, and they may also help you stick to your healthy eating goals. According to a 2011 study from Purdue University, capsaicin (the active component that gives chili peppers their heat) may help prevent weight gain. Researchers found that participants who ate capsaicin-rich foods had fewer cravings for fatty, salty, and sweet foods, as well as a lower preoccupation with eating in general.

To reap the fat-burning benefits, “add chili peppers to an omelet, salads, or stir fry, or just bite right in,” says Sass.


Asparagus

You already know that asparagus is full of antioxidants and may even act as an aphrodisiac. But did you also know it can promote a slim stomach? This super-healthy spring veggie is a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which your body digests slowly—keeping you full for longer in between meals. And as a natural diuretic, “asparagus facilitates the removal of water and waste to decrease discomfort and bloat,” explains Middleberg.

She adds that asparagus also contains prebiotics, which “act as fuel for healthy bacteria in your gut.”


Yogurt

Like asparagus, yogurt is great for your gut: It contains beneficial probiotics, which help balance microflora and prevent bloating. Eating yogurt may also increase feelings of fullness, thanks to 17 grams of protein per serving (that’s almost three times as much as is in an egg!).

“Try adding it to your morning smoothie, use it in your favorite dip recipe, or enjoy with berries for an afternoon snack,” says Gans.


Ginger

If you’ve ever sipped on a glass of ginger ale while sick, you know the drink can do wonders to calm an upset stomach. Turns out the root is also good for keeping your belly slim. Thanks to compounds that help move food through your GI tract, “it has been used for centuries as a natural remedy to treat bloating,” explains Gans. Ginger may also help with weight management: In a 2012 study from Columbia University, researchers found that participants who drank a hot ginger beverage felt fuller after meals.

“An easy way to include it in your diet is to make a ginger tea with ½ teaspoon of ground or freshly grated ginger and one cup of hot water,” she says.


Peppermint and chamomile tea

Feeling stuffed after a big dinner? Help your stomach recover by brewing a hot cup of peppermint or chamomile tea. Both varieties relax your GI muscles, easing digestion and helping your body dissolve gas.

“Peppermint tea can help reduce bloating, which can make your stomach look flatter,” says Sass. “And chamomile may help improve sleep—and too little sleep has been linked to an increase in belly fat.”


Avocado

Go ahead, put avocado on your toast, pasta, brownies, pudding, or even banana bread—your belly will thank you. The superfruit (yes, it technically is a fruit) contains 2 grams of filling fiber and 4 grams of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which may help keep the pounds off. In one recent study, researchers found that people who regularly ate avocados had smaller waistlines than those who didn’t.

And in addition to keeping your stomach slim, avocados may benefit the gut, too: “Healthy fats like avocados are vital to gut health, as they coat the stomach and allow for ease of digestion,” says Middleberg. “They also help the body increase its absorption of other nutrients and antioxidants.”


Dark chocolate

If you have a sweet tooth, take heart: Not all chocolate is off limits. “Good quality dark chocolate (anything above 65% cacao) is actually very good for you,” explains Middleberg. Like avocados, dark chocolate contains healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, which may help speed up metabolism. One study from the University of California, San Diego found that adults who ate chocolate more frequently had lower BMIs than those who didn't eat much chocolate. 



Almonds

For a guilt-free snack, reach for a handful of almonds. As with dark chocolate and avocados, the nut contains monounsaturated fatty acids, which may help your body burn fat and fight hunger. One recent study in the International Journal of Obesity found that when people had a serving of almonds as part of a low-calorie diet, they lost more weight than those who ate a similar diet but had a carb-heavy snack instead of almonds.

Green tea

This ancient beverage is packed with important antioxidants that help combat inflammation, increase energy, and burn fat. And science has repeatedly linked green tea to weight loss: For example, one study found that drinking five cups a day helped people lose twice as much weight, mainly in their midsections. In another, researchers looked at dieters and determined that those who drank green tea lost more weight than those who did not. 

15 Sugary Drinks That are (Almost) as Bad for You as Soda

Stop sipping so much sugar!

We all know water is the number one drink to quench your thirst. But when you're in the mood for a little something more, you might order up a juice, cocoa, margarita, or iced tea. Problem is, those choices can be deceptively high in sugar and calories—and in some cases, you'd be better off drinking a soda. Sugary drinks make up almost half of all added sugar in the average American's diet, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. That's why making smarter choices about these sips can pay off big time for your waistline and your health. Here are 15 places to start. 

Fruit juice

You'd think juice would be healthy—it's made from fruit, after all. Problem is, while fruit is rich in fiber, juice is not. So even if you opt for 100% fruit juice and avoid drinks with added sugar (like cranberry or grape cocktail), they're still high in the sweet stuff. For instance, a cup of grape juice contains 36 grams of sugar and a cup of apple has 31 grams—not far off from what you'll find in a can of lemon-lime soda, which racks up 44 grams.
Make over your drink: "I don't recommend juice ever, even 100% fruit juice," says Ilyse Schapiro, RD, author of Should I Scoop Out My Bagel? ($11; amazon.com). "You'll feel much more full from eating the fruit, which has fiber, versus drinking the juice," she says. 

Hot cocoa

The sip is practically necessary on a chilly winter day (post-snowball fight, natch), but keep in mind that it's more of a dessert than an afternoon snack, says Chicago-based nutritionist Renee Clerkin, RD. A typical 16-ounce mug with whipped cream packs 400 calories and 43 grams of sugar—more than a can of cola.
Make over your drink: When you need a winter warm-up, Clerkin recommends DIYing a mix of non-Dutch processed cocoa and sugar. That way, you control the amount of sweetness. Start with one teaspoon of sugar and gradually increase the amount to taste. (One teaspoon contains 4 grams of sugar.) Adding spices like a dash of cinnamon or cayenne will add even more flavor, allowing you to use less sweet stuff. 

Sweetened iced tea

Tea is no doubt a good choice; it's full of disease-busting antioxidants. But syrupy-sweet iced teas contain a wallop of the white stuff, practically canceling out the health benefits. One popular brand has over 30 grams of added sugar in one bottle. Yep, that's more like dessert.
Make over your drink: Unsweetened iced tea is your best bet, whether you're getting a bottled or at a restaurant, since it contains zero added sugar. If plain is too bitter, Schapiro suggests adding 1 teaspoon (or one packet) yourself—it will still be less than a pre-mixed tea. Squeeze a lemon or orange on top for an additional flavor boost. 

Flavored coconut water

Part of the reason coconut water is so hot right now is because it's packed with electrolytes, like potassium; one 16-ounce container supplies more than 25% of the mineral you need in a day. "Electrolytes are minerals that help keep the body's fluid levels in balance so that the body is hydrated," says Clerkin. "You probably don't need to sip coconut water all day, but it can be helpful if you're sweating a lot during the summer or activity," she says. Read labels carefully, though. Flavored versions, like pineapple or mango, can pack more than 30 grams of sugar per 16-ounce container. Some have less because they use calorie-free sweeteners.
Make over your drink: Stick to plain coconut water, says Clerkin, which doesn't contain added sugar. "Drink it when you need to hydrate, not just casually throughout the day," she says. "Remember it still contains calories." 

Energy drinks

Even though they usually don't contain a ton of calories, an 8-ounce serving can run you more than 25 grams of sugar—and no, they aren't healthy just because they're fortified with B vitamins.
Make over your drink: Skip these entirely—and not just to save on sugar. Drinking just one Rockstar energy drink raised healthy people's blood pressure and norepinephrine (a stress hormone) levels more than a placebo drink, revealed a recent study in the journal JAMA. That may not be good for your heart. If you need a boost of caffeine, opt for a cup of coffee instead. 

Sweetened yogurt drinks

Probiotics is such a hot buzzword right now because, as research shows, the beneficial bacteria help keep your gut healthy. So you may be trying to get more in your diet. Enter probiotic yogurt drinks or kefir. They can be a healthy choice, but flavored versions rely on sugar to decrease yogurt's traditional tang. A small bottle may pack 26 grams of sugar, and contain multiple forms of the sweet stuff, including sugar, fructose, and fruit puree or juice.
Make over your drink: Plain versions are your best bet, since the only sugar they contain is from the milk itself. (A typical 1-cup serving of plain contains around 12 grams.) If that's not happening, consider skipping non-fat varieties and going for low-fat instead. In one popular brand, making that switch could save you nearly two teaspoons of sugar per serving. 

Sweetened non-dairy milks

Non-dairy milks like almond milk, cashew milk, and soymilk say they're better than cow's milk, but choose the wrong one and you'll end up with a sugar bomb for breakfast. "A glass of chocolate plant-based milk can have the same amount of sugar as a handful of cookies or a chocolate bar," says Shapiro.
Make over your drink: Read the ingredients and nutrition panel before you buy. That's because even deceptively innocent "plain" or "original" varieties may contain added sugar, says Schapiro. Look for unsweetened, unsweetened vanilla, or new reduced sugar flavors. And try the different types of plant milks—almond, cashew, rice—until you find one that you like the taste of when unsweetened, she says. 

Tonic water

You're probably sipping this as part of an alcoholic drink, not on its own. But if you're doing it because you think a "gin and tonic" is healthier than a "rum and coke," you're out of luck. Twelve ounces of tonic water adds 124 calories and 32 grams of sugar to your glass (that's 8 teaspoons). Compare that to a cola, which isn't too far off at 182 calories and 44 grams of sugar per 12 ounces. Whoops.
Make over your drink: When you're ordering up a booze beverage, ask for seltzer. Why? It's sugar- and calorie-free. 

Fancy coffee drinks

"Most people are blown away when they look at the calories and sugar in their lattes and Frappuccinos," says Schapiro. Case in point: a grande white chocolate mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks has 67 grams of sugar. Sure, some is from the milk, but most is from sugars that add up to nearly one-third of a cup of the sweet stuff. A vanilla latte is better, but still comes in at 35 grams of sugar for a medium size.
Make over your drink: Stick with coffee with milk, adding a packet of sugar yourself or sweetening it up with a shake or two of cinnamon or nutmeg at the barista bar. Want something fancier? Go for a cafĂ© misto (coffee with steamed milk), recommends Schapiro. 

Sports drinks

Finish a bottle of one typical sports drink, and you'll have downed more than 50 grams of sugar. No surprise, considering sugar is listed as the second ingredient after water on the label. If you're training for a marathon, that makes sense; the sugar supplies carbs that help keep up your energy during the tough workout. Sitting at your desk all day? You don't need the extra sugar and calories.
Make over your drink: "Unless you are seriously training for a marathon or triathlon, you do not need to consume sports drinks," says Schapiro. Even if you regularly exercise three to five days a week, she recommends hydrating with water only.   

Margarita

Your favorite Cinco de Mayo sip is among the worst cocktail options. "A margarita made with a bottled mix can have more than 500 calories and more than 35 grams of sugar. That's the equivalent to the sugar in two and a half to three pieces of cake," says Clerkin. And you wouldn't wolf down three pieces of cake in one sitting, right?
Make over your drink: Not all cocktails are off limits. Your favorite booze plus soda water and a squeeze of lemon or lime is a great bet because it's almost sugar-free. "Pure alcohol, like vodka or tequila, does not have any carbs, protein, or fat," says Clerkin. A 1-ounce shot of tequila mixed with soda water and a squeeze of lime juice sets you back just 70 calories.  

Flavored "nutritional" waters

It's just like drinking sugar water—even if it does have vitamins added to the mix. Some bottles pack 30 grams of sugar (7 teaspoons) or more. "Even if they don't have added sugar, they have to be flavored somehow," Schapiro says. "This means they may contain artificial sweeteners or Stevia. And just because it uses a more natural calorie-free sweetener doesn't make it healthy." (For example, studies show the sweet taste can spur cravings for more sweet.)
Make over your drink: There's nothing wrong with not loving plain H2O. To spruce it up, add natural, sugar-free flavor by infusing water with lemons or fresh fruit. Do that either using a water pitcher with a built-in infuser (like the Prodyne Fruit Infusion Pitcher, $20; bedbathbeyond.com) or simply put cut up fruit in a water jug and enjoy. 

Lemonade

You know lemonade is sweet, of course. But it sounds like a better option than soda, right? It's got lemons! It's practically a fruit! Here's the kicker: you're probably drinking mostly sugar water. Consider a powdered lemonade drink mix; the first two ingredients are sugar and fructose (also sugar), plus artificial colors. Another lemonade brand uses high fructose corn syrup. 
Make over your drink: Now's the time to make it at home to cut down on sugar. Try this recipe for rosemary lemonade (which contains just 10 grams of sugar per cup). 

Smoothies

Walk into any high-end gym and you'll see a smoothie bar. Safe to assume they're healthy, right? Not so much. Even though they're packed with fruit, you really can have too much of a good thing. "Fruit is healthy, but too much fruit adds up in calories and sugar, leading to blood sugar spikes and crashes," says Schapiro. One popular green bottled smoothie may advertise "no sugar added" but all of the juice and fruit purees add up to 53 grams of sugar per bottle. And, it's green, so you'd think it'd be a smart option.
Make over your drink: Schapiro prefers that you eat your fruit whole, but a smoothie can pack a lot of nutrition in a handy container you can run out the door with on busy mornings. Rather than buying a bottle at the store or hitting up a smoothie place, make it at home where you can control the ingredients. 

Beer

It's all about what—and how much—brewski you're knocking back. Drink a Bud Light Straw-Ber-Rita (beer + margarita) and you'll get 198 calories for a tiny 8 ounces, double the amount in the same amount of soda. Even if you're drinking traditional beers, they tend to contain more calories and carbs compared to wine and spirits, says Clerkin. The higher alcohol content of beer, the more calories, too. With rising alcohol content—especially in some craft brews (double IPAs, we're looking at you)—some contain 300-plus calories in one 12-ounce bottle.
Make over your drink: First order of business—make sure you stick to the recommended one alcoholic drink per day for women, and two for men. Now that that's out of the way, if you like beer, you can opt for light versions to save half the carbs and 50 calories per brew, says Clerkin. Other options: Guinness (126 calories) or Sierra Nevada Nooner Pilsner (161 calories) and Summerfest (158 calories). If you want something fruity, opt for a radler, a mix of beer and fruit soda, which keeps alcohol content low. A Stiegl-Radler Grapefruit is 125 calories per 12-ounce bottle.

Is It Possible to Eat Too Much Healthy Fat? A Doctor Weighs In

You know healthy fats like salmon, avocado, and olive oil are good for you, but can you overdo it? The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans don't give a strict upper limit for how much total fat you should eat (though they do recommend keeping saturated fat consumption to less than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake). And as you know, healthy fats found in foods like avocado, nuts, salmon, and extra-virgin olive oil have many benefits: They provide your body with lasting energy, keep you feeling full longer, and help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. However, all dietary fat—both unhealthy trans and saturated fats and good-for-you monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—is more calorie-dense than protein and carbohydrates, so eating too much could lead to weight gain.
If you’re a generally healthy adult, I suggest getting anywhere from 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories from mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which is a moderate amount. (So if you eat, say, 2,000 calories per day, shoot for 65 grams or so of fat, which is equivalent to roughly one avocado plus 2 1/2 tablespoons of EVOO.) A registered dietitian can look at your diet and tailor that number to fit your needs.

7 Foods that will help you sleep like a baby

1. Cherries


The most straightforward way to induce sleepiness is to eat cherries. Cherries are a great source of naturally occurring melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your day and night cycle.
Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the centre of the brain. Production is triggered by a lack of light: at dusk and at night. In day-active animals and humans melatonin promotes sleep. On the other hand in night active animals it actually promotes activity, thus gathering its nickname ‘The Hormone Of Darkness’.
As you can imagine the melatonin our body produces is responsible for how our biological clock runs. It turns out, that ingesting additional melatonin can even fix disruptions of your biological clock, such as insomnia or a jet lag.
So if you don’t want to let your jet lag ruin your vacation or you just need a good night’s sleep, go for the cherries!

2. Lean proteins 


There is some truth to the Thanksgiving myth that turkey will make you sleepy. Although not as extreme as I described in the article about food coma’s, turkey and other lean protein can actually help you getting to sleep.
In nearly all lean proteins, such as fish, chicken, turkey and red meat, the essential amino acid tryptophan is present. As you might expect, an essential amino acid cannot be synthesized by the body and therefore must be part of a healthy diet. Apart from being a protein building block, tryptophan is closely involved in human sleep.
Through an enzymatic process tryptophan is converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin. Another process converts the same serotonin to melatonin. And by now we know what melatonin is good for: a snug and a solid night of sleep.

3. Pistachio Nuts


Apart from being delicious, pistachio nuts are a very good source of vitamin B6. The vitamin is present in many more foods, such as meats or fish. The reason why pistachio nuts are my first pick is because up to 50% of vitamin B6 is lost through cooking and storage. Plant foods lose the least vitamin B6 in these processes, because they contain the most stable form of vitamin B6: pyridoxine. Animal foods contain the less stable pyridoxal and pyridoxamine.
Vitamin B6 plays a big role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, in particular serotonin. As we’ve seen before serotonin is synthesised from tryptophan and eventually is converted into melatonin. While vitamin B6 is not the object of these conversions, it serves as a co-enzyme and makes sure the conversions run smoothly.
If tryptophan and serotonin were the fuel of our sleep-engine, eating a bag of pistachio nuts would be an oil change.

4. Milk


What our mothers told us was no lie! A glass of warm milk will actually make you sleep better.
While milk does contain the same tryptophan that is essential for the synthesis of melatonin, it comes in such small doses it will not have any noticeable effect on falling asleep. The reason why warm milk helps falling asleep doesn’t even have anything to do with the biochemical processes in our body!
The reason warm milk is so good for falling asleep, is because it’s warm. We associate warmth at the end of the day with sleep. Just imagine sitting near a fireplace or crawling under your blanket: the warmth will make you drowsy and eventually fall asleep.
Traditionally hot chocolate is a bedtime drink too, but it doesn’t work as well as milk. Chocolate milk contains high levels of xanthines, the mother of stimulants like caffeine.
Of course I don’t have to tell you you shouldn’t go for a coffee before nap time.

5. Bananas


Bananas are good for inducing sleep, but not because it affects the production of certain neurotransmitters or hormones. Bananas are full of useful electrolytes, namely potassium and magnesium.
As I’ve described before in the article about muscle cramps, a specific set of minerals are very important to our muscle function: electrolytes. We’ve seen that magnesium and potassium, in particular, are responsible for the relaxation of a muscle.
Apart from being sleepy in your head, it’s equally important for your body to relax. Eat a banana and feel the relaxation flow through you.

6. Pizza


This almost sounds too good to be true. While eating loads of pizza probably won’t get you in the best shape of your life, snatching a slice right before bed might actually send you right to your dreams.
The general consensus is that foods with a high glycemic index (GI) aren’t the healthiest. The GI represents the total rise in blood sugar level following the consumption of a food. Foods with a high GI will spike your blood sugar and then make it crash. The crash will make you hungry again, so you’ll quickly overeat. Not surprisingly, pizza has a high GI, according to Harvard scientists.
So does a blood sugar level that looks like a roller coaster help me get to sleep?
Actually yes.
Researchers tested how low GI foods compared to high GI foods when consumed right before bedtime. They measured their results in the unit of Sleep Onset Latency (SOL), which is just a fancy term for how long it takes for somebody to fall asleep. Interestingly, it took candidates approximately 50% less time to fall asleep when they consumed a high GI meal before bedtime.
Building on that, it turns out that the large amounts of rice (high GI) consumed in Japan are significantly associated with the good sleep that Japanese people have.
High GI foods won’t get you in shape, but they might just let you enjoy some Japanese tranquillity.

7. Kiwi


Coined a superfood, the kiwi undoubtedly is more beneficial to your diet than a pizza. Recent researchsuggests that apart from being loaded with antioxidants, kiwis can make you fall asleep like a brick.
At Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University they specifically researched the effect of eating kiwis before going to bed. They found that eating kiwis on a daily basis was linked to significant improvements in both sleep quality and sleep quantity. It turns out eating kiwis for 4 weeks can:
– make you fall asleep up to 34% more quickly
– make you wake up 29% less when you’re supposed to be asleep
– make you feel like you’ve slept better, up to 42%
– make you sleep 13% more overall
While the researchers studied the effects on sleep, they didn’t map the biochemical process that caused improved sleep. Considering the fact that kiwis have one of the highest levels of serotonin, it probably has something to do with the eventual production of melatonin.

Bottom line

If there’s one thing we can agree on it’s that the body is very complex, also when it comes to sleep. While melatonin is ultimately responsible for making you sleepy, it is synthesised from several other biochemicals, such as serotonin and tryptophan. Those biochemicals are essential for the production of melatonin, as well as co-enzymes, mainly vitamin B6. If there’s another thing we can agree on it’s that this story probably isn’t the best to tell a 6-year-old when they ask you why milk makes them so sleepy.
The best advice for a solid sleep cycle is to maintain a nutritionally balanced diet and to make sure you’re getting all the essential ingredients for the production of melatonin. However, if you are in desperate need for a much needed nights sleep I recommend a pizza with tuna, filled with cherries, kiwi and banana, topped off with some pistachio nuts along with a glass of warm milk.

5 Things That Might Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Dairy

What to know before you give up dairy

Thinking about eliminating milk, cheese, butter, and other dairy products from your diet? You're not alone. Whether or not to give up dairy—and how to do it—is "one of the top questions I'm asked these days," says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health's contributing nutrition editor.
One possible reason why so many people are ditching dairy? It's gotten the A-list stamp of approval: Jessica Biel has said she "just feels better" when she doesn't eat dairy, gluten, or wheat; Australian actress Margot Robbie told ELLE UK she avoids it when filming a movie because she thinks it causes breakouts. And earlier this year, Khloe Kardashian told Health she dropped 11 pounds after just two weeks sans dairy. "If I want to lose weight quickly, dairy-free is the way to go," she said.
But can a dairy-free diet really help you lose weight, get clearer skin, and generally feel better? The short answer is that it's different for everyone. "Some people are more sensitive to dairy than others," Sass says, adding that the effects of giving it up can vary from person to person.
But experts stress that quitting dairy is not something to be done spontaneously or without cause. "You don't need to eliminate an entire food group unless there's a legitimate reason," says Keri Gans, RDN, a nutritionist based in New York City.
That said, if you do decide to give up dairy, there are five side effects you might experience. 

You could miss out on some essential nutrients

Before you swap out your 1% for almond milk, it's important to remember that dairy products can be part of a healthy diet. After all, there's a reason why the USDA recommends adults have three cups of dairy per day; milk, cheese, and yogurt are rich sources of vitamin D, protein, and calcium, a critical nutrient for bone health. "It's important to know how to replace them [if you give up dairy]," Sass says.
If you've decided to eliminate dairy, work with a nutritionist to create a diet plan that still includes plenty of these nutrients. "It's not to say that someone who gives up dairy can't get enough vitamin D and calcium, but it's not as easy," says Gans. 
Dark leafy veggies like kale and collard greens, and fatty fish like sardines and canned salmon are good non-dairy calcium sources. Certain brands of plant-based milk and orange juice are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D, Sass notes, although "they're low in protein, so you may need to bump up your intake of foods like eggs, pulses, or salmon to maintain your total protein intake."
If you've eliminated dairy and are having trouble finding calcium and vitamin D alternatives that you enjoy, meet with a nutritionist to discuss whether or not you should start taking a supplement. 

You might lose weight

Wanting to lose weight is often cited as a main motivation to cut out dairy, and Sass acknowledges that doing so may help you shed pounds. "I have had clients reduce body fat after giving up dairy," she says.
An important caveat, though: Weight loss after eliminating dairy "is often due to how they consumed it [before], how much, and in what form," Sass explains. If pizza, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches were your go-to meals, and you replaced them with lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh produce, then yes—you'd probably see the numbers on the scale drop.
"It's not dairy itself, it's the way it's being consumed," says Gans. In fact, research suggests that full-fat dairy in particular may actually aid weight loss. In a large 2016 study in the American Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that women who consumed higher quantities of high-fat dairy products had an 8% lower risk of being overweight or obese. One possible explanation: Full-fat dairy contains more calories, which may keep you feeling satiated for longer—and less likely to reach for known weight-gain culprits like sugar and refined carbs. 

You could feel less bloated

"When people inquire about giving up dairy, it's usually because they're feeling bloated," says Gans, adding that the culprit is almost always lactose intolerance. People with this condition can experience bloating and gas, plus severe stomach pain, diarrhea, and cramps when they consume dairy products. The reason: lactose intolerant folks don't produce enough lactase, an enzyme that's important for breaking down a type of sugar called lactase found in milk products.
However, "not everybody with lactose intolerance needs to 100% remove dairy from their diet," Gans says. Cutting back on your overall intake, or consuming dairy products along with other foods (such as cereal with milk instead of ice cream by itself) may be enough to ease symptoms.
If you have a condition that damages the digestive tract, such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease, you may also get relief from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)–like symptoms when you cut back on dairy. 

Your skin might clear up

Margot Robbie may swear going dairy-free helps her fight blemishes, but the relationship between diet and acne is an ongoing source of debate among dermatologists. Research stretching back to the 1940s suggests at most a weak link between dairy consumption and breakouts. However, some experts believe the hormones in milk products could play a role in exacerbating hormonal acne, and many people do report clearer complexions when they give up these foods.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends noting any food triggers that seem to aggravate skin, and cutting back with the help of a nutritionist to make sure you're still eating a balanced diet. 

Other skin conditions may improve, too

There's no scientific evidence to back up claims that dairy aggravates skin conditions. That said, some people with eczema and psoriasis report fewer symptoms after they cut back or completely eliminate dairy.
In general, when skin is acting up, a nutritionist may recommend an elimination diet to help pinpoint the offender. Dairy is considered one of the most common food allergens (along with wheat, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts), and is usually one of the groups excluded in such a diet. After a few weeks, food groups are added back to see which one is triggering inflammation.
The bottom line: Cutting out dairy isn't a guaranteed fix for those with psoriasis and eczema. But if you're experiencing a sudden flare of symptoms, it may be worth trying an elimination diet to find out if a particular food is to blame.

7 Essential Vitamins You Need After Age 40

Think of vitamins and nutrients as an army that will fight off age-related ailments. And the best way to build this army is by eating a healthy, well-rounded diet, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, the manager of wellness nutrition programs at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. While it's always important to eat well, it becomes especially essential around age 40 because that's when the rules start to change, she says.


"Your body probably isn't working the same way at 40-plus as it was at 20," she says. Muscle mass starts to deteriorate, we're much more likely to put on weight, menopause may (or may soon) start, and risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes begins to increase—which means your battle plan needs to start looking a little different.

One of the best ways to stay healthy is by getting enough of the right vitamins and nutrients. Whole food sources are typically a better bet than supplements because they're easier for the body to absorb, Kirkpatrick says. However, if you follow a special diet or have certain medical concerns you may benefit from taking a supplement, too. Ask your healthcare provider what's right for you.

Vitamin B12
Once you turn 40 (and definitely after turning 50), vitamin B12 should be on your radar. It's essential for normal blood and brain function, Kirkpatrick says. And while children and younger adults are likely to get the B12 they need from food—it's in meat and animal products including chicken, fish, dairy, and eggs—B12 is more poorly absorbed as the body ages, typically starting around 50 because that's when stomach acid levels deplete.


Any time after 40 and before turning 50 is a good time to start getting B12 from a supplement or multivitamin. Aim for 2.4 mg per day (the current recommended dietary allowance), though there's no need to worry about taking too much, Kirkpatrick adds. Because it's a water-soluble vitamin, you pee out what you don't need. (Speaking of pee, here's what its color says about your health.)


Calcium
It's hard to know what to think about calcium: A recent analysis of 59 studies designed to measure the role it plays in preventing fractures for men and women older than 50 found that increasing calcium intake—either from foods or supplements—was not likely to significantly reduce fracture risk. And other research has linked calcium supplements to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiac death for postmenopausal women.

But even though our bones absorb most of the calcium they need earlier in life (typically before age 30), the nutrient does play a role in maintaining bone health later in life, too, according to Kirkpatrick. The nutrient is needed for other basic body functions like muscle contraction, nerve and heart functioning, and other biochemical reactions—and if you're not getting enough calcium from your diet, the body steals calcium from your bones (and weakens them).


The bottom line is that you do need calcium at 40 and beyond, but these latest findings tell us you don't need to go overboard because more calcium does not necessarily mean more benefit and may even be harmful to heart health, she says. Most women can get the calcium they need—1,000 mg a day for women 40 to 50, and 1,200 mg for women older than 50—if they eat a well-rounded diet with calcium-rich foods like dairy, tofu, sardines, broccoli, almonds, and spinach. Women who are vegan and lactose intolerant should ask their physician if taking a supplement may be beneficial.


Vitamin D
D is a biggie, Kirkpatrick says, especially after 40, because it helps protect against the age-related changes that start to kick in.  Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and breast and colorectal cancers—all of which are more likely to crop up the older you get. Plus, D is essential for absorption of calcium in the body, she says.

Dietary sources include fish and fortified dairy, grains, and cereals, but generally, the D you get from food is poorly absorbed. The sun is the best source of the vitamin, but not everyone lives close enough to the equator to be exposed to the strong rays that will deliver the D you need, Kirkpatrick explains. (Check out these other ways to get vitamin D.)

"If you're living anywhere above Georgia, you're probably not getting enough vitamin D from the sun," she says. Plus, you don't absorb it with sunscreen on—and you definitely don't want to be hanging out in the sun without sunscreen (despite any vitamin D benefits). She recommends a D3 supplement (D3 is the type of vitamin D closest to what you would get from the sun). You should be getting at least 600 IU per day (and 800 IU per day after 50), according to current National Institutes of Health recommendations. The tolerable upper limit (i.e., the amount that will not cause harm) is as much as 4,000 IU per day. (And just as an FYI, if you're too low in D, here are the 10 worst things that can happen when you don't get enough vitamin D.)


Magnesium
A key function of magnesium is to help regulate blood pressure, which is especially important for women 40-plus, who are already at risk of high blood pressure due to normal aging. Deficiencies in magnesium have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and inflammation, Kirkpatrick adds. Plus, it helps the body absorb calcium and plays a role in muscle, nerve, and heart function, as well as blood glucose control.

Your doc can test your magnesium levels if you think you might be deficient (and would need a supplement). But if you're eating a healthy, balanced diet, you're likely to get all the magnesium you need (320 mg a day for women 40 and up) from food, Kirkpatrick says—it's found in dark leafy greens, beans, soy, nuts, seeds, and avocados. Too much magnesium does not necessarily pose health risks but may cause diarrhea, nausea, or cramping.


Potassium
Potassium plays a key role in keeping blood pressure in check, no matter your age, Kirkpatrick says. In postmenopausal women, research has linked higher intake of potassium from food to decreased risk of stroke—though "high" intake was considered approximately 3.1 g, which is still lower than the recommended 4.7 g per day. And the benefits were seen in those getting as little as 2 g per day, says study author Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, PhD, a professor in the department of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Potassium is definitely a nutrient you want to be getting enough of, but unless your MD prescribes it for another medical condition, Kirkpatrick cautions against taking potassium supplements. Too much potassium can damage the gastrointestinal tract and the heart, and can cause potentially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. Most people can get the potassium they need by eating a varied, healthy diet that includes bananas, sweet potatoes, chard, beans, and lentils (these 13 foods have more potassium than a banana). You're highly unlikely to get enough potassium in your diet to be dangerous, Kirkpatrick says. If your doctor does prescribe supplements, she should carefully monitor how they affect you, she says.


Omega-3s
Technically not a vitamin, omega-3 fatty acids still deserve a place on this list because of their myriad health benefits, Kirkpatrick says—and especially because they help counteract some of the negative changes that come with aging, like increased heart disease risk and cognitive decline. Research has shown that omega-3s help lower blood pressure (check out these other ways to lower your blood pressure naturally) and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, and play a role in keeping memory and thinking sharp.

In fact, a recent study found that people with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had larger brains and performed better on memory tests, planning activities, and abstract thinking, compared with individuals with lower levels—which suggests that omega-3 fatty acids play a role in maintaining brain health in addition to the other known benefits, says the study's lead author, Zaldy S. Tan, MD, MPH, medical director of the Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program at UCLA.

Though you can get omega-3s from foods like fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, and leafy vegetables, taking a supplement is a good way to make sure you're getting enough, Kirkpatrick says. Either way, aim for 500 mg if you're healthy, 800 to 1,000 mg if you have heart disease, and 2,000 to 4,000 mg if you have high triglyceride levels. And be sure to ask your doctor about the right dose if you're taking anticoagulant drugs, which can have serious side effects.



Probiotics
Probiotics are not technically vitamins or minerals either, but they're important essentials for women 40 and up, Kirkpatrick says. Mounting evidence suggests probiotics play a role in keeping the gut healthy and weight down, and even in lowering risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke—all of which is especially important around 40 when muscle mass starts to decrease, making it easier to put on weight and develop insulin resistance.

And though you can get probiotics in some dairy and fermented soy products like seitan, foods typically will not contain as many strains as a supplement—and each strain comes with its own benefit, some for helping to control weight, others for helping prevent diarrhea. Plus, because probiotics are actually live and active cultures, you won't be able to get them from foods that are cooked or heated.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics: What You Need to Know

Are you confused about probiotics and prebiotics?  This is a dilemma facing many people, and outrageous marketing claims aren’t helping matters.  So, “what’s the difference?” you may be wondering.

THE PROS OF PROBIOTICS

Probiotics are basically microorganisms that promote health.  They are primarily bacteria that offer health benefits when eaten or supplemented with. There are many different strains of bacteria that offer an array of benefits, ranging from boosting immunity and reducing arthritis symptoms to boosting brain health and fighting cancer.  These bacteria are primarily from the Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria families. Their names are usually shortened to L. for Lactobacilli and B. for Bifidobacteria when they are listed on the labels of probiotic supplements. For example, L. acidophilus and B. bifidum are two of the main strains naturally present in healthy human intestines. There are, of course, many other strains. They “crowd out” harmful pathogenic bacteria and yeasts in the intestines, helping to prevent and heal disease. 
Unheated or unpasteurized fermented foods naturally contain probiotics, with different foods containing different strains. Since these cultures are typically airborne, there are also regional differences in the type of strains found in food products from different places. Some of the probiotic-rich foods include: sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and yogurt. However, keep in mind that eating yogurt is rarely enough to obtain the many health benefits of probiotics. Many commercially-available brands of yogurt don’t contain “live cultures.” If you’re choosing one, be sure to choose one that says “live cultures” on the label.  While the claim doesn’t guarantee that the cultures are intact, it may increase the odds.  If they are subjected to excessive heat during the manufacturing, processing, transportation, or storage of the products, the probiotic content will drop.
Sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and other fermented foods are also sensitive to heat so if they sit on grocery store shelves at room temperature you can bet they were pasteurized and don’t contain any remaining probiotic cultures. Choose products from the refrigerator section of your natural food store that are labeled “unpasteurized” for the probiotics to remain intact.

DISPELLING THE MYTHS ABOUT PREBIOTICS

Prebiotics are the food that probiotics feed on to enable them to populate the intestines. Many food products and supplements come with claims that they contain prebiotics that are necessary for probiotics to work but that isn’t the whole story. In most cases, adding prebiotics to packaged foods or supplements isn’t necessary and is really more of a marketing gimmick in my opinion. Here’s why: Prebiotics are carbohydrates such as sugars, starches, and fiber and are found in all plant-based foods. Beneficial bacteria feed on these substances in our gut and proliferate, improving gut health and overall health. If you eat fruit, or fiber- and carbohydrate-rich whole grains and beans, your body likely has all the prebiotics it needs. But, you’ll have to make a concerted effort to eat more fermented foods or take probiotic supplements to get adequate probiotics. 
If you read “contains FOS” or “fructooligosaccharides” keep in mind that “oligosaccharides” are simply sugar molecules, and “fructo” means that the sugars are derived from fruit. If you eat fruit or other carbohydrates, which break down into natural sugars, you’re probably getting all the prebiotics you need. Inulin is a type of fiber that is also touted as a popular prebiotic; and while it may be beneficial, it isn’t necessary in most cases. Some of the best sources of prebiotics include: Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, chicory root, asparagus, bananas, dandelions, endive, radicchio and burdock. Eat more of these foods and other foods rich in fiber to give the beneficial bacteria a boost.
Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water if you’re eating probiotic-rich foods or taking probiotic supplements because, like you, the beneficial bacteria need water to function.