Tag Archives: Yogurt

Should You Do A Cleanse?

First, it depends on your definition of a cleanse or detox. If you’re conjuring up images of jugs of water, cayenne pepper, maple syrup, and lemon juice or another juice fast, probably not. These cleanses, which often drastically limit calories and solid food and may include enemas, laxatives, or colonics, can be dangerous: they can result in muscle loss, low energy, low blood sugar, nausea, electrolyte imbalances, acidosis, a compromised immune system, and heart wave abnormalities – among other problems. Many people believe that the human body occasionally needs cleansing, but we already have organs (the liver, the kidneys, and the gastrointestinal tract) in place that eliminate toxins thoroughly. There’s also no evidence or scientific literature supporting the benefits of a cleanse, including weight loss. A cleanse may lead you to lose weight, but most of it is water weight; and what you do lose, you’ll gain back when you resort back to your typical diet.

However, if you view a cleanse more as a jumpstart to eating more nutritiously, it may be perfectly healthy. Cutting out processed foods and excess sugar, alcohol, trans fats, sodium, and refined carbohydrates and replacing them with nutritious, whole foods has many long-term benefits. But unlike The Master Cleanse or Blueprint Cleanse, this healthy eating jumpstart isn’t a short-term fix. Ideally, it should “reset” your taste buds so that after a while, you’ll naturally gravitate towards healthier foods. Depending on your goals – more energy, a slimmer middle, better skin – try these jumpstart diets.

I want more energy:
Balancing protein, carbs, and fat, eaten throughout the day, will keep your motor running, your blood sugar stable, and your mood elevated. Start your day with a breakfast high in fiber and protein (like eggs with a whole wheat English muffin): both will keep you full and suppress appetite for longer, says research from the University of Missouri. Avoid fatty and fried foods at lunch and dinner, which can make you feel lethargic. Instead, pick lean proteins (an open-faced turkey sandwich, lentil soup, or a black bean burger), which will boost levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that stimulate metabolism, circulation, and motivation. Eat lightly at dinner: your body doesn’t need the calories to push you through work, workouts, and errands. Snacking between meals will help keep energy up and rev your metabolism. Aim for around 150 calories, and try to include foods with either high fiber, high protein, or healthy fats; processed, refined foods will leave you sluggish and hungry for more.

Energy-boosting snacks:
Greek yogurt and high fiber cereal
Apple with almond butter
Hummus and red pepper strips/carrots
Blueberries and pistachios
Small baked sweet potato
Tuna and white beans on whole wheat baguette

I want a slimmer middle:
Celebrities often claim their slimmer waists are due to cleanses, detoxes, and juice fasts, but these quick fixes don’t lead to real weight loss. Most of the weight lost is water weight (which can help you look slimmer by reducing bloat), and any real pounds that are lost will be gained back when you return to your regular diet. There’s no quick fix for weight loss, but to appear slimmer in a short amount of time, reducing bloat is key. Avoid processed foods, which are often pumped full of sodium and empty carbs. Sodium attracts water, so if you’re eating foods high in sodium, you’ll automatically retain more water weight and look heavier. Excess carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen (glycogen is the fuel that marathoners and other endurance athletes use during a long race); each gram of glycogen is stored with 3 grams of water, which will also give you a puffier look. Other foods to cut out: sugar-free foods or those with sugar alcohols, carbonated drinks, and chewing gum, which can cause gas. If you’re sensitive to cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli), enjoy them in moderation.

Although it sounds counter-intuitive, snacking on foods high in water will actually help reduce bloat. When you’re dehydrated, your body hangs on to water; drinking water will boost hydration levels and decrease water retention. Many fruits and vegetables are full of water. Lettuce, for example, is 95% water; watermelon is 92% water, and grapefruits are 91% water. Fiber is also important; it adds bulk and improves digestion, allowing food to move through the intestines more quickly. Get your fiber from whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, and barley, as well as fruits and vegetables.

In addition to helping you cut down on refined carbs and excess sodium, avoiding processed foods may help you lose pounds, as well. Processed foods are high in calories, fats, and added sugars, which eventually lead to weight gain. Trading fries, muffins, and chips for “clean” foods will boost satiety and reduce hunger, ultimately leading to a lower calorie consumption.

Foods to beat bloat:
Yogurt (probiotics will help improve digestion)
Whole grains
Homemade, broth-based soup (homemade soups contain a fraction of the sodium of store-bought varieties)
Peppermint and ginger
Pineapple (it contains an enzyme called bromelain, while helps break down proteins for better digestion)

I want a better complexion:
It’s a myth that chocolate causes zits, but certain foods can exacerbate skin conditions like acne and rosacea. If you have acne-prone skin, cut out high-glycemic foods like white bread, cookies, chips, and those with refined sugars. These foods result in a quick spike in blood glucose levels, which is accompanied by an increase in insulin. Insulin promotes inflammation and excess oil production; it also depresses the immune system, making it more difficult for your body to fight acne-causing bacteria. In fact, a study published in the Archives of Dermatology found that the incidence of acne vulgaris is essentially zero in non-Western cultures, like Pacific Islanders and hunter-gatherers in Paraguay. Researchers attribute this finding to the fact that these cultures consume little to no refined sugars and starches.

Dairy may also cause acne, although the jury is still out. Several studies have linked high dairy consumption with the incidence and severity of acne; researchers believe that milk spikes male sex hormones and insulin, both of which contribute to acne.

To beat acne, doctors recommend eating foods rich in zinc: it helps calm the inflammatory process and reduces sebum production. Top sources include oysters, beans, chickpeas, and pumpkin seeds. Foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins not only protect against acne, but also wrinkles and aging. Vitamin E-rich foods, like olive oil and nuts, help keep skin hydrated. Foods high in niacin, like beef and tuna, and vitamin C (kiwis, bell peppers, strawberries) bump up collagen production and protect skin from UV damage. Vitamin A is the superstar when it comes to improving your complexion: it offers potent antioxidant activity, encourages cell turnover, and reduces inflammation. Since vitamin A is fat-soluble, pair its sources with healthy fats to boost absorption and efficacy.

Don’t skimp on fat: although foods high in saturated and trans fat are bad for the skin, monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids are essential for healthy skin. Essential fatty acids are the foundation for healthy cell membranes; they also keep it hydrated and younger looking. Load up on fish like salmon and mackerel, walnuts, flaxseeds, and fortified eggs.

Supplement this diet with dark chocolate and green tea, both of which contain antioxidants and flavonoids that protect against UV damage and improve texture.

Complexion-boosting foods:
Foods high in carotenoids: sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, spinach
Salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines
Walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds
Oysters, pumpkin seeds, beans, chickpeas
Dark chocolate
Green tea


30 Days to Better Health: Part IV

23. Add yogurt to your diet. If you’re not already eating yogurt regularly, start today: research shows that it improves digestion, strengthens the immune system, lowers cholesterol, protects against osteoporosis, promotes fat loss, and may reduce the risk of ulcers, arthritis, and colorectal cancers. Yogurt’s health-boosting properties come mainly from its probiotics (the live and active cultures like Lactobacillus acidophilus) and calcium content. In numerous studies, high calcium intake is correlated with lower body fat accumulation; it does so by limiting the ability of fat cells to store fat. Look for yogurt with “live and active cultures” on the label to get the most benefit, and avoid fruit-on-the-bottom flavors or brands with added sugars.

24. Think of food in terms of its nutrient density. If you think of food as fuel your body can use – to repair damaged skin cells, to power you through a workout – instead of simply in terms of taste, you’ll naturally begin to choose healthy, functional foods. Compare 100 calories of an avocado and 100 calories of candy: in terms of just numbers, avocado might lose out because it has much more fat. Even so, the avocado will give you lasting power until lunch, while the candy will immediately spike your blood sugar and then send you into a crash, leaving you more hungry and more irritable than before. But food can do more than keep you satiated. The lycopene found in tomatoes, watermelon, and papaya, for example, literally adds SPF to your skin by preventing DNA damage from the sun. And research shows that a balanced diet of healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, fiber and lean protein can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 80% – a number that is certainly tangible.

25. Embrace carbs (of the whole grain variety). Ever since the Atkin’s Diet, an eating plan that emphasizes protein and fat and places the weight gain blame on carbohydrates, Americans have come to fear carbs. In a refined flour and stripped-of-their-nutrients state and in vast quantities, carbs can lead to blood sugar spikes and dips that leave you fatigued, moody, and hungry for more. But whole grains are as much a part of a healthy diet as vegetables, fruits, omega-3s, and proteins. Whole grains contain filling fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, and selenium. Whole grains may also be the key to happiness: whole grains trigger the release of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood. Look for breads and cereals that contain 100% whole grains; lables like multigrain, 10-grain, and wheat only signify the presence of some whole grains. Breads that are brown in appearance may also be deceitful: food manufacturers use caramel coloring and molasses to tint their loaves, making them appear whole grain.

26. Give in to your cravings…every once in a while. Cravings range from mild to all-encompassing. When a craving strikes, give yourself 15 minutes to try and forget about it (go for a walk, call a friend, read a book). If it passes, your craving was likely a consequence of boredom. If it doesn’t, give yourself permission to have a reasonable portion of the good stuff. By allowing yourself an indulgent treat every so often, you maintain power over your diet by making the conscious decision to eat your treat without guilt. A study from Tufts University found that those who gave in to their cravings were better able to manage their weight than those who always deny their cravings, most likely because abstainers go overboard when they do lose control. When you really crave something, give yourself the green light to enjoy the real thing. If you crave ice cream, don’t settle for no-sugar-added fro-yo; get a cup of real, full-fat ice cream.

27. Experiment with grains. Wheat toast for breakfast; cornbread with your chili at lunch; fish served over rice for dinner. If you’re like most Americans, you’re most likely restricting your grain intake to wheat, rice, and corn. But these grains are often highly refined, removing most of the fiber, B vitamins, and up to 90% of its vitamin E. Next time you’re in the bulk foods section, look for other grains like amaranth, quinoa, teff, kamut, farro, and buckwheat. Each supergrain (or seed) has a unique nutritional profile that contributes to the health benefits of eating whole grains: decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some type of cancers, as well as increased satiety and energy. Quinoa, for example, has two times the protein and eight times the fiber as white rice, and teff, a tiny grain native to Ethiopia, is high in calcium and iron.

28. Sub out sour cream for Greek yogurt and coconut milk. Greek yogurt and sour cream offer the same creamy tang, but with far different nutritional profiles: a ¼ cup dollop of sour cream adds 120 calories, 10 grams of fat (7 saturated), and 2 grams of protein; the same amount of Greek yogurt adds 37 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 5 grams of protein. By cutting out sour cream and using Greek yogurt instead, you can cut out unnecessary calories and fat and add muscle-building protein in dips, soups, burritos, pasta salads, and on baked potatoes. You can also use Greek yogurt as well as coconut milk – which helps maintain stable blood sugar levels and increases satiety – in baked goods like muffins, breads, and cakes to strip calories and add moisture.

29. Go meatless once a week. Even if it’s not a Monday, you’ll still benefit by cutting out meat every now and then. Numerous studies document the health benefits: a Harvard University study found that cutting out foods high in saturated fats, like red meat and full fat dairy, and replacing them with foods high in polyunsaturated fats (like nuts and seeds) can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 19%. Another study from Imperial College in London found that vegetarians and those on limited-meat diets had significantly lower body weights and BMIs; and numerous research points out that the consumption of red and processed meats is correlated with increased cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality. Cutting out meat also allows you to add otherwise forgotten beans, legumes, and other alternative sources of protein to your diet, which are nutritional powerhouses loaded with fiber, folate, zinc, potassium, iron, magnesium, and antioxidants.

30. Discover what other cultures are eating. Experimenting with different ethnic cuisines gives you the chance to cook with ingredients you wouldn’t otherwise use. Indian cuisine, for example, uses turmeric (one of the ingredients in curry) in many of its dishes. Turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory to help control rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic illnesses; its active compound, curcumin, decreases the risk of cancer, improves liver function, and protects against cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases. The Mapuche, the indigenous people of Chile and Argentina, regularly eat piñones, large, protein-rich pine nuts with a host of nutrients (iodine, manganese, copper, zinc, vitamin A, B complex vitamins, and alpha-linolenic acid) and maqui, berries that have more than three times the antioxidant capacity of açai berries. You can also benefit from the eating habits of different cultures as well. Instead of stuffing yourself every night, practice hara hachi bu, a Japanese phrase that means “eat until you’re 80% full.” Experiment with international recipes to discover tasty and healthy new ingredients and to develop healthier eating habits.