People ask me all the time if there is a magic supplement they can take to look younger, shed body fat, boost their energy or improve their skin. In reality, the answer is food. The right food, at the right time and in the right quantities, can have a dramatic affect on your appearance and overall health.
Here are a few superfood suggestions to include in your spring diet — they just might help to slim your waistline in time for summer:
Avocados: Avocados contain glutathione, one of the most potent antioxidants and disease-fighting agents available. Unfortunately, avocados — high in monounsaturated fats — got a bad rap during the past low-fat era. But avoiding avocados will only work to impede your weight loss, depriving you of a source of healthy fats and antioxidants that are good for any complexion.
Studies show that people sustain their nutrition program longer and have greater weight loss when on a diet that contains about 30 percent healthy monounsaturated fat, like those in avocados, rather than a low-fat diet. This is because fats, when eaten in the proper balance with carbohydrates, can help to slow the release of sugars into the blood stream, thereby triggering less insulin release. Insulin is basically the hormone that instructs the body to store energy as fat while preventing the use of stored energy, making it a dieter’s nemesis if levels are too high.
Whey protein: Protein is essential for immunity, for maintaining healthy body composition, for keeping blood sugar balanced, for healing and repairing tissues, for developing muscles, and for producing hormones, chemical messengers and digestive enzymes in the body. However, by adding a bit of whey protein to your meal, you will also reduce your short-term food intake. According to research done at the University of Toronto and published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition, whey protein has potential as a functional food component to contribute to the regulation of body weight by providing satiety signals that affect both short-term and long-term food intake regulation. Whey protein reduces insulin and can even help to reduce blood pressure.
Blueberries: Free radicals cause cellular damage, accelerate aging and contribute to the development of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. However, blueberries are absolutely loaded with antioxidants and fibre, which will keep you full and looking younger. They protect against sun damage, support eye health, are low in naturally occurring sugars, and contain a potent dose of proanthocyanidins beneficial for skin, cognitive function and cardiovascular health. This same antioxidant activity is also present in pomegranates, pink grapefruit and tomatoes, which makes them an important addition to your plate for both cancer protection and heart health.
Cherries: Cherries are the new wonder food — and not just because they taste great and can satisfy even your sweetest cravings. This fruit contains red-pigmented antioxidants and is high in soluble fibre and low in calories, which can help improve insulin sensitivity. Scientists have identified a group of naturally occurring chemicals abundant in cherries that could help lower blood-sugar levels in people with diabetes. In early laboratory studies, the chemicals, called anthocyanins, increased insulin production by 50 percent, according to a study published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Anthocyanins are a class of plant pigments responsible for the colour of many fruits, including cherries. They also are potent antioxidants, highly active chemicals that have been increasingly associated with a variety of health benefits.
That being said, when having any fruit you should be sure that they are part of a meal or snack that includes protein and essential fats. A great morning smoothie might include one cup of Liberte non-fat vanilla yogurt, one serving of whey protein isolate, one tablespoon of ground flax seeds and a handful of fresh cherries (pitted with the stems removed).
Broccoli: Next to your favourite source of protein, stir-fried broccoli is a welcome companion. Some sources say that just 2½ cups of broccoli a week may reduce your risk of various types of cancer. Broccoli is high in fibre, numerous minerals and vitamins, as well as a compound called indol-3-carbinol (I-3-C). I-3-C is an anti-cancer compound because it helps to convert estrogen, linked to breast and prostate cancers, into a less harmful metabolite. Since higher amounts of estrogen are associated with belly fat and increased fat around the hips and thighs, this superfood just might help you shed a few pounds before bikini season. The soluble fibre in broccoli is also fantastic for lowering LDL cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugars. Soluble fibre keeps the bowels moving and can help to prevent constipation.
Eggs: Our grandparents had it right — eating eggs for breakfast improves appetite control and boosts energy levels. A 2005 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that participants who consumed eggs for breakfast had greater feelings of satiety, and consumed significantly less energy and grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat for lunch. Energy intake following the egg breakfast remained lower for the entire day as well as for the next 36 hours. For a balanced meal, scramble one or two whole eggs with three or four egg whites and an assortment of your favourite diced veggies.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and her newest release, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique.