Power foods to help with weight loss and health

A study found that women who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables had a 24 percent lower risk of obesity.

by Paula Owens — 

If your goal is to lose weight or prevent weight gain, you must stabilize your insulin, the fat-storing hormone. This is the one hormone we actually have control over and our food choices can prevent unhealthy insulin spikes from occurring.

Numerous studies have shown that eating a low carbohydrate-to-protein ratio with at least 100 grams of protein per day increases fat loss and helps maintain muscle during dieting. Excellent choices include grass-fed buffalo and beef, free-range poultry and eggs, wild salmon and seafood, and whey protein. One egg has six grams of protein. Three ounces of protein (approximately the size of a deck of cards) contains 20 to 25 grams of protein.

Include the following foods and beverages in your diet if you want to lose weight, prevent or reverse disease, perform better, live longer and increase cognitive function.

Red meat — In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women on a diet that included red meat lost more weight than those eating equal calories but little red meat. The protein in red meat helps you retain muscle mass during weight loss and is loaded with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a healthy fat. The best sources are found in grass-fed beef and raw dairy products. CLA increases metabolism, which helps with weight loss, boosts immune function, maintains cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and is helpful in fighting diabetes and cancer.

Eggs — Many people eat the egg white due to their fear of fat and cholesterol. In so doing, they are throwing out the most nutritious part of the egg. The yolk contains 43 percent of the total egg protein, has the highest concentration of nutrients and amino acids required for optimal brain function and contains 100 percent of carotenoids, essential fatty acids and vitamins A, E, D and K. These fat soluble vitamins support your thyroid; reduce the damaging effects of diabetes; boost your metabolism and immune system; reduce your risk of cancer; encourage healthy bones, teeth and skin; and help you feel full longer.

Whey protein — This is a very digestible protein that contains all of the amino acids. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that older women who supplemented their diets with whey protein lost weight without losing muscle mass. Whey protein stimulates thermogenesis (fat burning) and satiety better than casein and soy. One study found that whey protein reduces appetite, as well as visceral and subcutaneous fat. It also reduces blood levels of insulin and increases insulin sensitivity, which has a great impact on body composition.

Australian research shows that supplementation with whey protein improves blood pressure and vascular function in overweight and obese individuals.

Coconut oil — A healthy saturated fat, coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid (MCT). The MCTs provide numerous health benefits such as stabilized blood sugar, balanced hormones, healthier thyroid and increased metabolism. These contain antiviral properties; help reduce risk for hypertension and heart disease; and help boost immunity and brain function. Metabolizing MCTs creates ketones, which are known to stall or even reverse Alzheimer’s.

Coconut oil also contains caprylic acid, an effective and potent antifungal and antimicrobial, which fights candida. One cause of obesity is the overconsumption of long-chain fatty acids (vegetable oils). MCTs can reverse obesity, resulting in weight loss for obese people and weight maintenance for healthy people.

Almonds and walnuts — Just a handful of almonds or walnuts provides a feeling of satiety. They are packed with fiber and contain unsaturated fat, both of which are beneficial for maintaining normal cholesterol levels and decreasing insulin sensitivity. Walnuts have two times the antioxidants compared with other nuts, have two to 15 times more potency than vitamin E (in terms of antioxidant capacity) and help stabilize blood sugar.

Vegetables and leafy greens — Romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, collards, watercress, kale and fresh sprouts are associated with a lower risk of weight gain. They are loaded with nutrients that help boost immunity, beautify skin, accelerate fat loss, increase energy, prevent heart disease and fight cancer. Plus, vegetables are packed with phytonutrients, chlorophyll, antioxidants, minerals, enzymes and fiber, which contribute to post-meal feelings of satisfaction and fullness. Nearly all of us can benefit from more fiber in our diets — aim for 30gm/day.

Fruits — A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that women who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables had a 24 percent lower risk of obesity.

Grapefruit — Eating half a grapefruit or drinking the juice before each meal helped people drop more than three pounds over 12 weeks. The fruit’s phytochemicals help reduce insulin levels and increase the flow of digestive juices in the stomach. Consuming grapefruit can help minimize the hardening of body tissue (liver and arteries) and helps prevent stone formations. This tasty citrus also aids in lowering fevers from colds and flu and is conducive to sound sleep.

Lemons and limes — Add four teaspoons of lemon or lime juice to your salad or to a cup of warm water before meals. Doing so cleanses your body of unhealthy toxins, aids in digestion and lowers blood sugar levels by as much as 30 percent.

Blueberries — They are high in fiber and will help you in losing abdominal fat. The polyphenols in blueberries inhibit the formation of new fat cells and help to break down stored fat.

Water — It is calorie free, suppresses the appetite and helps metabolize fat. Without enough water, the kidneys cannot function properly, forcing them to send some of their workload to the liver. Aim for a minimum of half your body weight in ounces of water daily, and more if you are athletic or live in a hot climate.

Coffee  — A study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research showed that people who drank four cups of coffee daily lost 1.5 pounds of body fat in four weeks.

Green Tea — Green tea helps boost metabolism. Six cups of fresh brewed, non-fluoridated green tea daily (or standardized green tea extract supplements) will help you lose weight and increase fat loss. The catechins found in green tea have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and fat oxidation benefits.

Chili peppers, ginger and hot, spicy mustard — These foods can increase your calorie-burning capacity by 5 to 10 percent for up to two hours after eating because they contain capsaicin which amps up your metabolism.

Apple cider vinegar — A small amount of apple cider vinegar in water before meals is helpful for digestion, improves satiety and prevents overeating by suppressing appetite. It contains acetic acid, which slows the passage of food from the stomach into the small intestine, is associated with increasing HDL and lower LDL cholesterol, and reduces liver fats and fat accumulation. Apple cider vinegar lowers the glycemic load of a meal, improves insulin sensitivity and prevents fluctuations in blood sugar, which can influence weight loss, especially for diabetics and those who are insulin resistant. Opt for organic, unfiltered, raw apple cider vinegar with the “Mother” in it.

Cinnamon — This spice can help control post-meal insulin spikes. One USDA study showed that just a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon/day lowered the blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Last but not least, remember that knowledge is the ultimate power. Clip or photocopy this article and keep it in your purse, car or wallet as a reference and reminder.


Paula Owens, M.S., is a nutritionist, fitness expert and holistic health practitioner with more than 20 years of experience. She is the author of The Power of 4.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 4, August/September 2012.

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