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Positive Changes – The Nutrition Series, Part 1.

Home Grown Spinachphoto © 2010 OakleyOriginals | more info (via: Wylio) Nutrition is a key element in your weight loss and health goals. Instead of focusing on all the things you shouldn’t eat, try to design a meal plan based around these high-energy foods. You will find that you have more energy and will kick your metabolism into gear.

1. Fiber

Eat at least 20 grams of fiber per day from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Fiber helps keep you feeling full longer—a big benefit when you’re trying to lose weight. A 2009 study from Brigham Young University College of Health and Human Performance demonstrated that women who ate more fiber significantly lowered their risk of gaining weight and fat. Each gram of fiber eaten correlated to 1/2 pound less body weight. The researchers suspect that the higher fiber intake led to a reduction in total calories over time.

2. Calcium & Vitamin D

Strive for three servings of calcium- and vitamin D-rich foods a day. These nutrients often occur together in foods, especially dairy. 

Calcium and Vitamin D work together in your body, primarily to strengthen bones. But if the latest research is any indication, both of these nutrients may flex some muscle in your weight loss success. Dairy foods are the prime source of calcium and vitamin D in the diet. In a recent study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, college students who came closest to meeting the three-a-day dairy requirement while eating an otherwise healthy diet weighed less, gained less, and actually lost belly fat, compared with students who consumed little or no dairy. Moreover, vitamin D by itself may play a role in weight control. Extra body fat holds on to vitamin D so that the body can’t use it. This perceived deficiency interferes with the action of the hormone leptin, whose job is to tell your brain that you’re full. And if you can’t recognize when you’re satiated, you’re more likely to overeat. 

You may also want to consider a vitamin D supplement. The latest research suggests that this nutrient may be a factor in protecting you from everything from heart disease to memory loss and even chronic pain.

3. Good Fats

These include monounsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids, found in oils, nuts, avocados, certain fish—and yes, even chocolate! Eat three to four servings daily. 

A recent study published in the journal Appetite shows how these fats— besides being good for your heart—can help you feel fuller longer after meals. The study participants with a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids (more than 1,300 milligrams a day, either from foods or from supplements) reported feeling less hungry right after their meals, as well as 2 hours later, compared with a lower omega-3 intake (less than 260 milligrams a day). Less hunger means less munching and an easier time keeping calories in check.

More specific research has been done on walnuts, a good source of monounsaturated fats. An Australian study had participants follow a healthy low-fat diet, either with walnuts or without. Both groups ate the same number of calories and lost approximately the same amount of weight at 6 months. But during the next 6 months of the year long study, the walnut-eaters continued to lose weight and body fat, while the other group stopped losing—even though they were still following the same diet.

4. Protein

Aim for three servings of lean protein (such as fish, white meat chicken and turkey, pork loin chops, and lean beef sirloin) per day. In addition to being an essential nutrient, protein helps to keep you feeling full longer, which is a big benefit when you’re trying to lose weight. In a small 2009 study, participants who ate a higher-protein breakfast were more satiated afterward (and took in fewer calories at lunch) than those who ate a low-protein breakfast.

5. Water

Studies from Stanford Prevention Research Center suggest that water helps promote weight loss in two ways. First, drinking more water—at least 4 cups per day—was linked to a 5-pound weight loss over the course of a year. According to the researchers, this amount of water increases the amount of energy or calories your body burns. Second, substituting water for sugary drinks—sodas, sports drinks, flavored drinks, and sweetened milks, coffees, and teas—resulted in even more weight loss. The exact number of pounds lost depended on how many sugary drinks were consumed in the first place, and how many were replaced with water.

Still don’t think you can give up your sodas and mochaccinos? Then consider this: It’s been shown that when people consume a certain amount of calories, they’re more hungry and more likely to overeat at their next meal when those calories are in liquid rather than in solid form. Translation: If you eat a 200-calorie snack, you’ll be more satisfied afterward and eat less later than if you drink a 200-calorie beverage. So frequently drinking calorie-dense beverages could increase both your hunger and your calorie intake throughout the day.

We recommend that you shoot for 1 gallon of water a day.

6. Green Tea

Sip at least 3 cups of green tea every day. Catechins, the antioxidants found in high amounts in green tea, have been shown to be helpful in promoting weight loss, specifically belly fat. If caffeine is a concern, decaf tea is an option. Some decaffeination processes, however, can lower the antioxidant content so you might want to have an extra cup or two. 

In a study at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, participants who drank the equivalent of 3 cups of green tea a day lost twice as much weight as those not drinking tea. The tea-drinking group also lost significantly more belly fat than the non-tea drinkers. 

If you like citrus, the news gets better. Replacing some of the tea brewing water with citrus juice, such as lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit, allows your body to use more of the tea’s catechins. You can drink your green tea freshly brewed for a warming hot drink, or chill it after brewing for a refreshing cold drink.

Originally published: http://www.prevention.com

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