Superfoods Part 2: Supercharge Your Diet with Superfoods for Weight Loss

Superfoods Part 2: Supercharge Your Diet with Superfoods for Weight Loss

Superfoods Help With Weight Loss

For a refresher on what superfoods are, have a read of Part 1 of my series on superfoods.

Many different factors affect how much you weigh, but your diet is one of the most important when it comes to healthy weight loss strategies. Eating a balance of superfoods can not only help you get to a healthy weight and keep the extra pounds off, but also help your body ward off many chronic health conditions. Superfoods are full of fiber, proteins, healthy fats, and antioxidants that can keep you full, boost metabolism, and help your body function at its best. Superfoods for weight loss can be combined with other healthy weight loss strategies, like intermittent fasting, to supercharge your diet and help you lose weight.

Which Foods Are Good for Losing Weight?

When you’re trying to plan your diet around certain weight or health goals, it can be hard to know which foods are most helpful. It may be beneficial to better understand the building blocks that make up food.

 

Macronutrients

All food is made of nutrients. The three main macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. In recent years, high-protein, low-carb eating plans such as the Paleo and keto diets have become extremely popular, and it wasn’t that long ago that low-fat diets were all the rage. This may lead some people to think that all protein is good, and all carbs and fats are bad. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The truth is that your body needs all three of these macronutrients in the right balance. Getting too much or too little of any nutrient can lead to health problems and even weight gain.

That being said, not all proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are created equal. For example:

  • Proteins are made up of smaller compounds called amino acids. There are about 20 different kinds of amino acids that the body needs in order to function properly. If you get too much or too little of a certain amino acid, you may be left with an imbalance that affects your health.
  • Carbohydrates come in two basic varieties: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates consist of one or two sugar molecules, while complex carbs are long strings of sugars attached together. The body can use both of these for energy, but complex carbs take longer to break down. This means they won’t cause big spikes or drops in blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates also tend to contain more nutrients. Simple or refined carbs can easily lead to weight gain, while complex carbs can help support a healthy weight.
  • Fats also come in different forms. Unsaturated fats are found in plants and seafood and can be great for health. Saturated fats, which come from animal products, and trans fats, which are found in processed oils, can lead to health problems when they’re eaten in high amounts.

How Do Superfoods Play a Role?

While there isn’t an official or scientific definition of what can be classified as a “superfood,” in general these foods are items that contain a lot of beneficial nutrients. Some of these foods can help you reach a healthy weight, and stay there.

Superfoods tend to have higher levels of healthier carbohydrates and fats. They also usually contain a lot of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which protect cells from damage. Many of these compounds have been linked to having a healthy metabolism.

Superfoods for Weight Loss

If you’re trying to rev up your metabolism, shed fat, or stay full longer, superfoods can help. However, you can’t just eat one superfood occasionally, in between meals full of less healthy foods, and expect it to have a strong effect. Eating for weight loss means eating a balance of many different types of foods. If you can fit in a variety of different types of superfoods into your diet on a regular basis, you can help your body reach a healthy weight.

 

What might a superfood-filled day look like? There are many different options, but here I will show how to fit more superfoods into your diet, meal by meal.

Breakfast Superfoods: Get Your Metabolism Going

Should You Eat Breakfast Every Morning?

Many early studies found that people who ate breakfast every day tended to weigh less, while those who skipped this meal often had a higher BMI, higher cholesterol levels, and an increased risk of diabetes. However, more studies have shown conflicting results. For some people, skipping breakfast is the better weight loss strategy.

One possible reason for this is genetics. People with certain genes may respond better to skipping the first meal of the day, while people with a different genetic makeup may reach their goal weight after making breakfast a part of their normal routine.

Another reason why some studies have found different outcomes is that not all breakfasts are created equal. If you’re digging into sugary cereal or other forms of refined carbs every morning, you’re not adding much nutrition to your body. Switching these meals out for a superfood breakfast, on the other hand, will give you more health benefits. Plus, it may help you ward off hunger for longer.

A Superfood Breakfast

Some of the best superfood breakfast options include whole grains and fruit. Whole grains are more likely to make you feel full compared to refined grains. They also tend to have more fiber and nutrients, and can help increase the healthy bacteria in your gut.

A simple bowl of oatmeal counts as a whole grain. Oatmeal contains different types of fiber, such as beta-glucan, which makes you feel full and helps you manage your weight. Steel-cut or rolled oatmeal, as well as other whole-grain options such as buckwheat or quinoa, fills you up without making your blood sugar spike. Top oatmeal with nuts, nut butter, granola, or fruit. One good option is blueberries, which contain compounds called anthocyanins that reduce a person’s risk of heart disease and diabetes and help the body lose weight.

Eggs are another great superfood option. They are loaded with protein and provide a lot of healthy unsaturated fats. Eggs also contain a wide array of vitamins and minerals, and eating just two eggs provides you with 10-30% of your needed vitamins for the day. In one study where people tried to use a low-calorie diet to lose weight, those who had eggs for breakfast lost more weight than those who had a high-carb bagel breakfast.

While you’re at it, go ahead and pour yourself a cup of coffee for breakfast. Tea is well-known for its health benefits, but coffee is a superfood as well, leading to a lower risk of heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and several different types of cancers. Coffee may even help you live longer! It also makes people feel more full, so it may be a good way to keep away the hunger in the morning.

Superfoods for Lunch: Grab Something Filling

Your lunch should give you the energy and power you need to help you get through the rest of the day. Your best bet is to look for superfoods that pack a punch of fiber, fat, and protein.

High-Fiber Foods

Eating an extra 14 grams of fiber per day causes people to eat 10% fewer calories and lose weight. Try including some of the following high-fiber superfoods in your lunches:

  • Sandwich on whole-grain bread
  • Salad packed with fresh veggies, nuts, and seeds
  • Meat and veggies over brown rice, quinoa, or whole-wheat pasta
  • Lentil or bean salad full of spices and fresh vegetables
  • Wrap with beans and veggies
  • Nuts or a low-sugar trail mix
  • Nut butters served with fruits, vegetables, or whole-grain crackers
  • Hummus and veggies
  • Fresh or dried fruits, including the skin if it’s edible

Include the Right Fats

Eating a meal high in saturated fat can limit your attention span and impair your ability to focus. However, eating healthier fats may help combat the post-lunch slump that so many of us get.

For example, prepare your next lunch with an avocado, which is loaded with monounsaturated fats. In one study, overweight people who ate an avocado every day and cut calories lost weight and had fewer signs of inflammation. Another study found that people who ate half an avocado along with their lunch had a 40% decreased desire to eat for three hours after the meal.

Other superfood sources of unsaturated fats include seafood, nuts, seeds, olives and olive oil, and oil-based salad dressings.

Protein-Packed Lunches

Some scientific research has found that high-protein diets tend to make people feel more full and eat less later on. Getting more of your calories from protein, as opposed to carbohydrates or fats, also helps people lose more weight and keep it off.

Meat and poultry contains a lot of protein, but these foods generally don’t offer as much nutritional value as plant-based, protein-packed superfoods. Several different studies have found that eating beans, chickpeas, and lentils can make people feel a third more full.

Superfood Snacks for an Energy Boost

What should you reach for when you start to feel hungry in the afternoon? Fruits, vegetables, popcorn, nuts, and low-fat yogurt or cheese make great, nutritious options.

For a slightly different snack, try flaxseed. Eating fiber from flaxseeds led to lower levels of fat in the bloodstream and increased feelings of fullness in one study. These seeds are also full of omega-3s, a healthy type of fat. Omega-3 foods make people feel more full, helping them shed weight. They also lower your risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.

To use flaxseed, grind up a tablespoon or two and throw it on top of popcorn or mix into nut butter. You can also make your own healthy flax baked goods such as muffins or cookies by substituting flaxseed for other ingredients:

  • To use flax in place of oil, use in a 3:1 ratio (use three tablespoons ground flaxseed instead of one tablespoon oil).
  • To substitute flaxseed for eggs, mix a tablespoon of flax with three tablespoons of water and let stand for 15 minutes. Use the mixture in place of one egg.

Dinner Superfoods: Choose a Well-Rounded Meal

Main Courses

When cooking dinner, it may be helpful to get inspiration from the Mediterranean diet, which can help people lose weight in addition to reducing risk of heart disease and diabetes. The Mediterranean diet encourages people to eat many different superfoods, emphasizing whole grains, vegetables, fruits, seafood, high-fiber foods, and olive oil. People who follow the Mediterranean diet don’t eat much red meat, eggs, butter, or sugary foods.

To follow this diet, try to eat more seafood in place of beef and pork, and increase your intake of plant-based foods. Beans and lentils can provide a lot of protein and fiber when you’re eating less animal-based meats.

For extra flavor, cook with superfood spices that may also help you control your weight:

  • Spicy chili peppers contain a compound called capsaicin, and sweet peppers contain capsiate. Both of these molecules boost metabolism and increase the amount of fat that the body burns.
  • Ginger can help people lose pounds and improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
  • Turmeric intake helps people lose weight and improve symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

Superfood Sides

Most superfoods are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. All of these can be easily turned into side dishes! Making more nutritious, seasonal sides for your meals is a great way to get more superfoods. For a better shot at weight loss, try changing your approach to dinnertime – downsize your portion of meat, and make large, flavorful superfood side dishes the main focus of the meal.

Some of the most nutrient-dense foods that offer the best protection against chronic diseases are easily used as side dishes. These include leafy green vegetables like spinach and chard, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. These superfood veggies may also help with your weight goals. For example, spinach can help control genes involved in metabolism and signal the body to release hormones that make you feel more full, thus encouraging you to eat less.

Can You Have Superfoods for Dessert?

It’s perfectly okay to enjoy some of your favorite heavier, higher-fat, sugar-laden foods, as long as you balance them with other foods that provide more nutrients. If you want to indulge, try eating these foods in smaller amounts, less often. When people occasionally treat themselves to a less-healthy food item that they love, they can actually lose more weight than people who always feel guilty when they indulge.

If you are going to have a dessert, try eating something containing whole berries or other fruit that can give you fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Dark chocolate is also considered a superfood – it has many antioxidants and other helpful nutrients. Eating dark chocolate can help decrease appetite and, in one study, men who ate dark chocolate ate 17% less during their next meal.

Conclusions

A wide variety of superfoods can be added to every meal of your day. The more different kinds of superfoods you can fit in your diet, the more nutrients you will take in, leading to better health and a lower risk of disease. Most superfoods have been linked to helping people reach and stay at a healthy weight. If you can figure out how to add extra superfoods into some of your favorite recipes in place of foods that are higher in sugar and saturated fat, you can help your metabolism function at its best.

Superfoods Part 1: What Is a Superfood and What Is So Super About Them?

Superfoods Part 1: What Is a Superfood and What Is So Super About Them?

In recent years, many people have become excited about superfoods that bring good health and help fight disease. Foods like blueberries, kale, and salmon have earned a reputation for being some of the healthiest foods out there. Here, I will explain why certain foods have earned the “superfoods” label.

What Is a Superfood?

Generally speaking, superfoods are foods that offer a lot of vitamins and minerals and provide positive health benefits. While all foods contain nutrients, some foods are much more packed with health-promoting nutrients than others.

There isn’t one standard scientific or nutritional definition that says which foods can be called superfoods. There isn’t a legal definition either, which means that companies can call any food they want a “superfood”. Many foods are labeled as “superfoods” simply for marketing purposes, and when companies say that a certain food or drink product is a miracle food, the actual science often doesn’t live up to the hype.

However, some foods certainly contain more health benefits than others. Learning more about how our bodies use the food we eat can help us make sure we’re meeting our nutritional needs. Labeling certain items as “superfoods” may help us better understand which foods can provide us with higher levels of health-promoting molecules.

Nutrients

Nutrients are molecules that the body needs in order to work properly. There are two types: macronutrients and micronutrients. Cells get energy from macronutrients and use these as building blocks in order to function and grow. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are all macronutrients. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals.

There are some nutrients that your body can make for itself. Others need to be obtained from the things we eat and drink, and these are called “essential nutrients.” It’s important to get enough of these essential nutrients to keep yourself healthy. Eating superfoods can help you get high levels of many different types of nutrients.

Carbohydrates

Although many popular diets such as paleo and keto involve low-carb eating plans, some carbohydrates are necessary in order for your body to function properly. Your cells primarily get their energy from carbohydrates, making them an important source of fuel for your body.

There are three primary types of carbohydrates:

  • Sugars are the basic building blocks of other types of carbohydrates. They are found in sweet foods like desserts, soda pop, and candy. Sugars are also found at high levels in processed foods and fast food. When people eat a lot of sugar, some is used for energy, and the extra is stored as fat within the body. Most superfoods have lower levels of sugar. Some superfoods, such as fruits and vegetables, have some naturally occurring sugars.
  • Starches are made up of many different sugar molecules connected together. These molecules need to be broken down before the body uses them, so the body digests them more slowly. This leads to longer-lasting energy for the body and more feelings of fullness. Starches are found in products made from grains, such as bread and pasta. Some vegetables, like potatoes and corn, also have a lot of starch.
  • Fiber can’t be completely broken down by the body. It leads to even stronger feelings of fullness. Fiber can support a healthy digestive system and reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Many superfoods such as vegetables, fruit, beans, and whole grains contain high levels of fiber.

One way to get the carbohydrates you need using superfoods is by eating a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits. Additionally, some people consider whole grains to be superfoods. Whole grains are less processed, so they have more health benefits such as extra vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa are all types of whole grains.

Fats

Like carbohydrates, fats supply your cells with energy. They also have several other roles within your body:

  • Helping your body stockpile and use certain vitamins and minerals
  • Supporting skin and hair health
  • Developing a healthy brain
  • Supporting healthy inflammation levels
  • Controlling proper blood clotting

Certain types of fats are less healthy than others. Saturated fats are unhealthy fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter and lard. Trans fats are also unhealthy. They are often added to foods as a preservative. Both saturated fats and trans fats can increase your levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. Animal products like milk, cheese, and fatty meats have high levels of saturated fat. Oils that have a lot of saturated or trans fats include coconut oil, palm oil, and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Experts say that fewer than 10% of your calories should come from saturated fat.

Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, have the opposite effects, leading to higher levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and lowering your chance of developing heart disease. Some foods are thought to be superfoods because they contain high levels of these types of fats.

One type of healthy unsaturated fat is monounsaturated fat. This form of fat can be found in foods like nuts and avocado, which are often thought of as superfoods. Additionally, cooking with oils that contain monounsaturated fat can be a healthier option than cooking with butter. Oils with monounsaturated fats include:

  • Olive oil (is by far the best type of oil to use in my opinion)
  • Canola oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Polyunsaturated fats are another healthy fat type. Omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated fats that are found in high levels in many superfoods. These fats lead to better heart health and reduce your chance of developing diabetes. Foods high in omega-3 and omega-6 include fatty fish like salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, cod and light tuna.

Walnuts, flax seeds, and soybean, corn, and safflower oils also contain polyunsaturated fats.

Protein

Every cell in the body contains proteins. Proteins are made up of smaller molecules called amino acids. When we eat proteins from animal or plant sources, the body breaks them down and uses the amino acids to build new proteins to be used throughout the body. It’s important to eat proteins from multiple different sources to make sure that you’re getting all of the different amino acids you need.

The body uses amino acids to build healthy muscles, bones, skin, cartilage and blood. Amino acids are also used to make enzymes, antibodies, and hormones.

Animal sources of protein include meat, chicken, fish, and eggs. These foods can be healthy in moderation, as they provide several kinds of vitamins and minerals. However, they also typically contain a lot of saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels. Sticking to superfood sources of protein, such as salmon, walnuts, and beans, can give you an extra nutritional punch. Additionally, green tea contains several beneficial amino acids that may boost brain health, improve mood, and help reduce stress.

Vitamins

Vitamins are molecules that play many different roles within different cells and organs. If you don’t eat enough of a particular vitamin, you might develop a disease or poor health.

There are 13 vitamins that are necessary in order for cells to function. Some examples of include:

  • Vitamin C: An antioxidant that protects cells from damage, supports healthy gums and teeth, and helps heal wounds
  • Vitamin K: A vitamin that helps build bone strength, allows for proper blood clotting, and fights inflammation
  • Folate: A type of B vitamin that supports a healthy heart, builds red blood cells, and helps protect against cancer

Eating a diet full of many different types of foods can help you make sure you’re getting all of the vitamins you need. Additionally, many superfoods contain high levels of several different vitamins. For example:

  • Berries contain high levels of vitamin C and vitamin K, as well as vitamin B6 and vitamin E.
  • Goji berries have large quantities of vitamins A, C, E, and K.
  • Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are also good sources of vitamins A, C, E, and K. Some other green vegetables, including broccoli and mustard greens, also contain several B vitamins.

Minerals

Minerals are necessary for everything from building strong bones and keeping your heart beating to controlling your metabolism and helping you stay hydrated. There are two main types of minerals. Trace minerals such as iron, copper, and zinc are only needed in small quantities. On the other hand, your body needs higher amounts of macrominerals like calcium, sodium, and potassium.

Superfoods tend to have high levels of the minerals we need. Leafy greens have a lot of iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Soybeans and tofu contain high levels of calcium. Whole grains can give you a high dose of magnesium.

Other Helpful Substances in Superfoods

Superfoods are also a great source of other substances that can promote good health:

  • Catechins are a type of antioxidant that can fight arthritis, inflammation, and cancer, and lead to better heart health. Green tea contains a lot of catechins.
  • Carotenoids are found in leafy green vegetables as well as brightly colored produce like tomatoes, pumpkins, carrots, and beets. They can lower a person’s chance of developing certain cancers and eye disease.
  • Flavonoids protect the body from damage and boost heart and brain health. Tea, dark chocolate, fruits, and vegetables are some of the superfoods that contain flavonoids.
  • Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help you digest food and fight off disease. Many people consider yogurt and fermented foods like kimchi and komboucha to be superfoods because they contain probiotics.
  • Polyphenols are micronutrients that help your body control blood sugar and lower your risk of diabetes. They also help your body digest food, promote healthy brain function, and lower your risk of heart disease. If you want to incorporate more polyphenols in your diet, look to superfoods like berries, soybeans, and whole grains. Resveratrol, found in red grapes and blueberries, is a well-known polyphenol that promotes healthy aging and protects against disease.

Putting It All Together

Eating a diet filled with superfoods can promote health and reduce your risk of disease. Although the definition of “superfood” isn’t all that clear, prioritizing foods that are packed with healthy nutrients can help you maximize health benefits. This article is the first instalment of a series I will be publishing here on NorthWestPharmacy.com’s “Ask the Doctor”. Keep an eye out for future installments which will focus on different key nutrients in different superfoods and their health benefits.

 

Superfoods Don’t Need to Break the Bank

Some of the more popular superfoods can be expensive. However, you don’t have to go to specialty grocery stores or spend lots of money getting highly-advertised superfoods. Chances are, the vitamins and minerals found in one superfood can be easily found in other foods too. For example, kale gets a lot of attention as a superfood, but many other leafy greens offer the same pack of nutrients. Swiss chard, collard greens, and spinach can be eaten as superfoods too!

In fact, nearly all fruits and vegetables can be considered superfoods because of their high nutritional value. Eating more fresh produce can help you have better health and protect you from many different types of disease! Aim to have fruits or vegetables with every meal. Try adding fruits to your breakfast, and adding extra veggies to dinnertime meals like pasta and soup.

How Many Superfoods Do You Need to Eat to Be Healthy?

If superfoods are so good for you, does that mean you should try to only eat foods in this category? Not quite. A healthy diet consists of eating many different types of food. The more variety you have in your meals, the more different types of nutrients you will be getting. It’s healthier to concentrate on overall balance and variety in your diet rather than fixating on just a couple of individual nutritious foods.

But occasionally eating superfoods won’t magically erase the impact of the rest of your diet. If you tend to eat a diet high in sugar, saturated fat, or processed foods, you are putting yourself at risk of health problems, regardless of whether you sometimes add a superfood to your meal. Focus on improving overall healthy eating habits instead of simply adding a few superfoods to your usual routine. The best way to work towards good health is to eat a variety of nutritious foods with each meal.

Pin It on Pinterest