For most of us, summer vacation is over and the kids are back in school. We may have lived it up a little too much this summer with cookouts, ice cream cones and hot donuts and snacks on the beach. We may have recently hopped on the scale and the number was not encouraging, or we tried to get into our favorite skinny jeans and that was even less encouraging.
Now is not the time to sulk, but to act. My strategy has always been and will always be to never, ever diet. When we diet, there is always a time in our mind when we can stop. Eating for health has no ending date – there is no wedding or reunion as our weight loss goal. It is about incorporating foods into our lives that will build health. These foods have the added side bonus of taking weight off if that is what is beneficial to the body.
The holidays are right around the corner so start these new habits now. These superfoods will help us to indulge in a few (think “few”) holiday goodies without entering the New Year with a “jollier” figure that certainly won’t make you jolly!
- Almonds. There are several studies that show that eating a handful of almonds before each meal can help us eat less and lose weight. This is because almonds contain satisfying, healthy fats and fiber.
- Avocados. Avocados are a fatty food that helps melt fat. They are full of the right fats – mostly monounsaturated fats. This is the same fat found in olive oil. They are also packed with fiber, phytonutrients like potassium, and protein that help us slim down. Avocados are mostly fat, but they also contain a lot of water, so they aren’t as energy dense as you may think.
When it comes to healthy fats, we should rethink our fat phobia. Avocados are perfect as an addition to salad, because studies show that the fats in them can increase the nutrient uptake from other vegetables.
- Berries. Berries are rich in nutrients, low in calories, high in fiber, and very low on the glycemic index. This means that they don’t raise blood sugar levels like many other fruits. When blood sugar levels remain low, not as much insulin is pumped from the pancreas. The words of one of my professors at the University of Maryland continue to ring in my ears: “Insulin is a fattening hormone.” He must have said that 10 times in one semester. What more can I say?
- Grapefruit. Add a half of grapefruit before every meal and even if you changed nothing else about your diet, you may lose up to a pound a week. Grapefruit and weight loss has been studied extensively. Insulin, we know, is a fat storage hormone. A compound in grapefruit is known to lower insulin, which leads to weight loss.
Try eating half a grapefruit about a half-hour before a few of your daily meals. This also may help you to feel more satiated and eat less.
- Grass-fed beef. You may think I’ve lost my nutritional mind on this one. My sensibilities are intact because this kind of beef is different than commercially processed beef.
Grass-fed beef has none of the bad (antibiotics, steroids and chemicals) and much more of the good than commercial beef. Grass-fed beef contains up to 20 times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is helpful for weight loss. It also contains more good fats and less of the bad ones. Protein is important for weight loss,and grass-fed beef reigns supreme.
Our family is excited about finding Hilltop Farm, a family-run farm in North Carolina that sells grass-fed angus beef. There are other farms and they are listed at http://www.eatwild.com/.
- Broccoli. Well known for its cancer preventing powers, broccoli also contains a lot of filling fiber and is low in calories. Broccoli also tends to contain decent amounts of protein compared to other veggies.
Because broccoli is high in fiber and phytonutrients and contains some protein, it is the perfect food to put in our weight loss and health arsenals.
- Kale and other leafy greens. Eating leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards, Swiss chard and a few others is a great way to get a lot of nutrient-dense food into our meals without a lot of calories. We eat less when we eat nutrient-dense foods.
Leafy greens contain a high amount of all sorts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This includes calcium, which has been shown in some studies to aid fat burning.
Kale in particular possesses the highest antioxidant rating of any vegetable and contains sulforaphane, a nutrient that assists the liver to detoxify toxins. Kale is rich in potent cancer fighting substances called indoles, and brimming with bone-building vitamin K. This important nutrient is as important as calcium in building better bones. See my article, Better Bones: Preventing Osteoporosis.
- Salmon and other oily fish (like sardines). Salmon is loaded with high-quality protein, healthy fats and other important nutrients.
Fish, and seafood in general, supplies a significant amount of iodine which helps with proper functioning of the thyroid. This important endocrine glad is responsible for keeping our metabolisms running optimally.
Salmon and other oily fish like sardines, mackerel, trout and herring are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. These have been researched to help reduce inflammation, which is known to play a major role in obesity and disease.
If you think you don’t like sardines, have you tried the new ways they are packaged? I love the ones packed in spicy mustard, olive oil or tomato sauce. Sardines are inexpensive and because they are so small and low on the food chain, they’re remarkably free of chemical contaminants (primarily mercury and PCBs).
- Beans. Beans include black, kidney and a few others. Fiber is found in many of our superfoods, but beans hold the fiber award – 12 grams to 17 grams per cup! Fiber slows blood sugar spikes, normalizes bowel movements and aids in weight loss. Beans have high protein content as well.
Beans also contain some resistant starch. This is a “prebiotic,” which means an indigestible carb that reaches the colon intact and selectively feeds some strains of good bacteria. The greater amount of good bacteria we have in our guts (microbiome), the more chance we have to be at our ideal weight.
When I was in Baltimore earlier this year, I spoke at a gut health summit about ways to optimize our gut health. You can view three short segments of my talk here: 1. Gut Health and Mood; 2. Gut Health, Weight Control and Immunity; 3. Gut Health and Changes to Change our Future
A lot of people have difficulty tolerating beans. For this reason and others, it is important to soak beans for an extended period of time before cooking them.
- Cabbage. Cabbage is a weight-loss giant. It’s rich in antioxidants like vitamin C and high in potassium, fiber and water content. It is also a great detoxifier for the liver, which aids in the weight loss war. Add it to soups, lightly sautee it or put it in salads. Cabbage is also a great immune-booster and cancer fighter.
I have a satisfying, super easy recipe for cabbage steaks you can make right in your oven.
Weight loss, especially as we age, can be tricky, but foods like these 10 will help. Losing weight also depends on blood sugar levels, hormones (especially thyroid), gut health and even stress levels. When someone comes to me complaining about unwanted weight gain, I go into detective mode and try to uncover which one or more of these factors is an underlying problem.
This is what Donna, a patient, reveals about her weight loss journey:
“I had literally tried every diet, shake, etc. that was out there and I lost the weight but always put it back on. We have all been on that vicious roller coaster of desiring to be healthier and needing to lose weight and then eventually gaining the weight back and then some. I can't count the pounds I have lost over the past 40 years! To date, I have taken 23 pounds off in two months! I also lost inches.
" When I brought my blood tests to Lindy I found out that I was pre-diabetic, had low iron and vitamin D levels, and my cholesterol was high among other health issues. Two months later my cholesterol is down from 210 to 182, my vitamin D level was 14.8, it is now 86! I was pre-diabetic on my way to type II diabetes and heart disease. Instead I have not only stopped the progression but turned it around and have more energy and am on my way to optimum health.
"You just need to have the desire then make the commitment to start working on your goals to a healthier you. Lindy will give you a complete meal plan to follow and lots of love and encouragement along the way.”
Lindy Ford, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Nutritionist who runs Lindy Ford Nutrition & Wellness, LLC, a private practice in Wilmington. She received her degree in Nutritional Science from the University of Maryland, College Park. She treats each patient according to their unique physiology so they can achieve long-term results. For more information, visit lindyfordwellness.com, call (443) 417-8352 or send an email to [email protected].