How to Prevent and Reverse Sarcopenia

How to Prevent and Reverse Sarcopenia

Is losing muscle just a normal part of aging? For some people, a drop in muscle mass and strength can be a serious health problem known as sarcopenia. People with this condition may be more at risk for falls and can have trouble performing daily activities. There are many risk factors for sarcopenia. Some of these, like not getting enough exercise, can be prevented. Additionally, muscle loss can be reversed. Strength training, a healthy diet, and supplements may all help treat sarcopenia.

What is Sarcopenia?

People with sarcopenia have low levels of muscle mass (the total amount of all muscles found in your body). They also have decreased muscle strength or function, which can be measured using things like walking speed or handgrip strength. This loss of muscle happens over time, usually due to aging.

The process of losing muscle starts happening earlier in life than you may think. After a person turns 30, they begin to lose about 3-8% of muscle per decade. This process speeds up even further when a person is in their 60’s. By the time someone reaches their 80’s, they may have lost up to half of their original muscle mass.

As many as one in three people over the age of 60 has sarcopenia. While sarcopenia is usually seen in older people, it may also be seen in younger people as well. For example, people with inflammatory diseases are more likely to develop sarcopenia.

Why is Sarcopenia a Problem?

sarcopenia

Sarcopenia can lead to multiple other physical and mental health issues. People with this condition may be more likely to get broken bones. They may also walk more slowly, which can be a sign that a person has a higher risk of sickness and death. Sarcopenia may also lead to disability and a greater risk of falls.

People living with sarcopenia also say that they experience many other physical and mental issues as a result of their condition, such as:

  • Trouble standing
  • Balance problems
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Feeling afraid of being injured
  • Feeling embarrassed about their health
  • Feeling lonely or meeting up with friends and family less often

Many people with sarcopenia have a harder time meeting their own needs. Sarcopenia can make it harder to do everyday tasks such as cleaning up around the house, showering, and driving. This may mean that they are less able to live independently.

Finally, people with sarcopenia may have a shorter life expectancy. Focusing on sarcopenia risk factors and working to build more muscle can help you live a longer, healthier life.

How Do You Know if You Have Sarcopenia?

If you think you may have this condition, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may run several tests in order to make a diagnosis, such as:

  • Imaging scans in order to see how much muscle you have throughout the body
  • Tests that test measure how strongly you can grip, in order to see how strong your muscles are
  • Tests that measure how quickly you can walk or climb stairs, in order to see how well your muscles work

If your doctor thinks you may have sarcopenia, they can help you come up with a plan to prevent further muscle loss and even build new muscle.

Preventing Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia has been linked to several risk factors. For example, this condition becomes more common with age. Additionally, up to 30% of your risk of sarcopenia may be linked to genes passed down from your parents. While you can’t control your age or your genetics, there are other risk factors that you can change.

 

 

Exercise
sarcopenia
Not getting enough physical activity can increase your chance of developing sarcopenia. Getting more exercise can reduce your risk and lead to more muscle strength. When healthy adults undergo strength training, they build muscle and can perform everyday tasks more easily.

Many different forms of physical activity can help. Some types of exercises that have been used in studies to help protect against sarcopenia include:

  • Resistance training: This type of workout, also known as strength training, helps build up muscle. It includes exercises that use weights, resistance bands, or body weight.
  • Functional training: This type of movement trains people to better carry out everyday life activities. Functional training strengthens multiple different muscle groups and helps them work together better.
  • Aerobic exercise: Exercises in this category increase your heart rate and make you breathe faster. Aerobic exercise, or cardio, includes activities like running, walking, and swimming.

Diet

Nutrition also plays a key role. People who eat more protein and get more vitamin D are less likely to get sarcopenia. If you want to lower your chance of being diagnosed with this condition, eating a balanced diet where you’re getting enough of these nutrients may help.

Other Factors

Certain diseases may also lead to more muscle loss. These include heart disease and cancer. Factors like eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and not drinking alcohol heavily can help with your heart health. These healthy habits can also reduce cancer risk, and in turn, may lower your chance of getting sarcopenia.

Other risk factors of sarcopenia include:

  • Changes in hormones
  • Damage to the nervous system
  • Inflammation
  • High levels of fat in the liver
  • Not getting good enough nutrition

These health issues can often be detected during regular doctors’ visits. Talk to your doctor about how often you should have check-ups and health screenings.

Sarcopenia Treatments

There are no official treatments that the FDA has approved for sarcopenia. However, there are several things that people with this condition can do in order to build up more muscle and improve their strength.

Exercise

Many different types of exercise can help people with sarcopenia. However, one of the best types of workouts may be progressive resistance training, or PRT. During PRT, people focus on building up strength using things like resistance bands, free weights, or weight machines. As a person gets stronger, the amount of weight or resistance used is slowly increased.

In one set of studies, researchers found that PRT helped older people gain an average of 2.4 pounds of muscle. In another analysis of 121 clinical trials that included 6700 people, researchers found that PRT could help people:

  • Walk faster
  • Get out of a chair more quickly
  • Go up steps more easily
  • Gain stronger muscles
  • Have less arthritis pain
  • Have enhanced physical ability
  • Complete daily activities like cooking or bathing more easily

Studies have found that performing more repetitions of an exercise or doing higher-intensity exercises can lead to more improvements in building muscle for older adults. However, too much exercise can lead to injury, so it’s important to start slow. Talk to your doctor before beginning a new workout program, especially if you have other health conditions. Your doctor can give you recommendations for an exercise plan that is best for you.

You can start using PRT by making a habit of strength training. Experts recommend that older adults perform exercises that are focused on muscle strength two times per week. Try taking a class geared towards seniors at a local gym, community center, or online. You can also try tracking your exercise with activity logs or with smartphone apps. Additionally, PRT is not the only type of exercise that can improve your health. Many people living with sarcopenia have found that exercises like cardio, physical therapy, and pool exercises have helped them improve their flexibility and strength.

Nutrition

sarcopenia

Because eating low levels of protein has been linked to sarcopenia, it’s important for older adults to make sure they are getting enough of this nutrient. Eating more protein can help older adults gain more mass and increase their life expectancy. Experts recommend getting 25-30 grams of protein at each meal. Foods that contain a lot of protein include meat (beef, pork, sausage), poultry (chicken, turkey, duck), seafood, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and soy foods (tofu, tempeh, edamame).

A Combination of Better Nutrition and Exercise Is Even More Effective

Getting enough nutrients, and especially eating enough protein, is important if you are also getting more exercise. Eating a nutritious diet can help exercise be more effective for people living with sarcopenia.

In one clinical trial, researchers tried to help older, frail nursing home residents build muscle. Participants who exercised had some improvements in muscle strength and were able to walk faster and climb stairs more easily. People who got better nutrition in addition to being put on an exercise program had even larger improvements.

Other studies have had similar findings. Another clinical trial showed that when older adults got aerobic exercise, their bodies were better able to absorb nutrients and deliver those nutrients to the muscle. People who used a combination of healthy eating and exercise built more muscle than people who got better nutrition but didn’t exercise.

Supplements

Sometimes, it’s hard to get all of the nutrients you need from diet alone. Taking supplements may help you make sure you are reaching your nutritional goals.

One easy way to get extra protein is by taking high-protein supplements. Many of these supplements contain essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and “essential” amino acids are ones that your body can’t make itself – it needs to get them through the diet. When people over 65 years old take this sort of supplement, they have more muscle strength, fewer health problems, and less hospital visits.

Vitamin D is an important nutrient for those with sarcopenia. Older adults who don’t get enough vitamin D are four times more likely to be frail. Whether vitamin D can be used as a sarcopenia treatment is less clear, however. Some studies have not found any benefit for people taking more vitamin D. On the other hand, other studies have shown that getting more vitamin D can increase physical function and reduce the risk of falls. If you have sarcopenia, taking a vitamin D supplement may help.

Another useful supplement ingredient is omega-3 fatty acids. These molecules are found in fatty fish and in fish oil supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids can:

  • Build more muscle
  • Reduce inflammation in the muscle
  • Help people build muscle following resistance training

Hormone Treatments for Better Muscle Function

Hormones are natural chemicals produced by the body that help different parts of the body communicate. Levels of certain hormones change as we age, and this may play a role in sarcopenia.

Testosterone is a reproductive hormone that is primarily important for the development of male sex characteristics and sexual function. Testosterone also helps support healthy bones, blood cells, and muscles in both men and women. As we age, both men and women experience a drop in testosterone levels. This may be one of the reasons why we lose muscle as we get older. When older men get testosterone treatments to increase their levels of this hormone, they often gain muscle mass and strength. However, it is important to know that taking testosterone may lead to side effects such as acne, joint pain, insomnia, mood swings, and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Another key hormone is human growth hormone (hGH or GH). Like testosterone, hGH levels decrease about 1% per year after a person turns 30. People with sarcopenia tend to have lower levels of hGH in the body. Some studies have shown that hGH treatment, alone or in combination with testosterone, can improve muscle strength. However, other studies have found that people with sarcopenia don’t gain muscle mass after taking hGH. hGH supplements may also come with side effects such as swelling, joint pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Hormone therapy may help some people build muscle, but it doesn’t seem to work for everyone. Additionally, some people may experience side effects from taking hormones, while others feel just fine. Talk to your doctor to see if the possible benefits of taking testosterone or hGH outweigh the potential risks.

Conclusion

Sarcopenia can be a serious condition, leading to many additional physical and mental health problems. If you feel like you may be losing muscles and are not as strong as you used to be, exercise and a healthy, protein-rich diet can help you build up strength. Some people may benefit from taking hormones such as testosterone or human growth hormone. If you think you may have sarcopenia, talk to your doctor to come up with a treatment plan that can work well for your needs, or make an appointment with Dr. Connor.

Will a “Hormone Diet” Help You Lose Weight?

Will a “Hormone Diet” Help You Lose Weight?

Will a hormone diet help you loose weight? New diets and fitness fads are constantly popping up. Most of them promise easy weight loss and long-lasting health benefits. However, the science doesn’t always back up the claims, and it’s hard to know which weight loss strategies will provide real results.

One diet that has been popular in recent years is the hormone diet. There are a few different versions of this eating plan floating around, although they all promise to help you rebalance hormones in order to lose weight and achieve better health. The people who sell these diets claim they work. But what does science say?

What Are Hormones?

Hormones are chemicals that are made by organs called glands. Their job is to act as a messenger between different organs or different body parts. For example, the gland in one part of the body may send out signals that affect how cells in a different area behave. Hormones affect many processes, such as metabolism, mood, and reproduction.

Some examples of hormones are:

Growth hormone: This hormone is made by the pituitary gland, found in the brain. Growth hormone helps children grow and develop. It also necessary in people of all ages for functions like breaking down and storing fats, making proteins, and keeping brains and bones working properly.
Cortisol: The adrenal glands make cortisol when you’re feeling stressed out. It helps control inflammation, blood pressure, sleep, mood, and metabolism.
Insulin: Insulin, made by the pancreas, is also linked to metabolism. It helps cells absorb sugar from the blood to use for energy.
Thyroid hormones: The thyroid, located in the front of the neck, makes hormones called T3 and T4. These control metabolism and help the bones and heart work properly.
Reproductive hormones: Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone help the reproductive system develop and work properly and are important for healthy sexual function.
These and many other hormones affect the way the body breaks down food, stores it, and uses it as fuel. When hormone levels are too high or too low, they can cause someone to lose or gain pounds. This has led many people to study the connection between hormones and weight loss.

What is the Hormone Diet?

Hormone Diet
The first person to start promoting the hormone diet was Dr. Natasha Turner, a naturopathic doctor who published the book “The Hormone Diet” in 2009. This book claimed that following a particular eating plan and adopting certain lifestyle habits would change the levels of 16 different hormones in order to burn more fat. Dr. Turner has since published two more books that further explain how to optimize hormone levels. Since “The Hormone Diet” was published, many other people have begun promoting similar diets. Dozens of books have now been published that claim that eating or avoiding certain foods or applying other habits can put your hormone levels in balance.

What Do You Do on the Hormone Diet?

The original hormone diet lists three separate phases: Phase 1: The first part of the diet is detox. People avoid certain foods for two weeks, including gluten (found in certain grains and bread products), cow’s milk and dairy products, peanuts, alcohol, caffeine, corn, sugar, and certain citrus fruits such as grapefruit. Additionally, processed, man-made foods are off-limits. According to the diet, these foods can cause inflammation and make it hard for your digestive system to absorb the nutrients it needs. Instead, people are told to eat foods such as rice, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, poultry, fish, and eggs. Dieters are also instructed to take supplements such as probiotics and fish oil. The hormone diet is supposed to help people lose 12 pounds during this first phase, in addition to lowering levels of hormones like estrogen and cortisol. Phase 2: After two weeks of detox, a person starts slowly adding some foods back into the diet. However, they are told to pay attention to how their bodies respond to these foods. For example, a person may notice that eating dairy products tends to give them a stomachache. People following the hormone diet are still told to stay away from processed foods and foods with preservatives during this time. Phase 3: At this point in the hormone diet, people continue the same eating plan but begin to exercise. They also add other healthy habits into their routines, such as getting good sleep and reducing stress, as these habits play a role in the levels of certain hormones.

Does the Hormone Diet Work?

Hormone Diet
The best way to know whether or not a diet works is for researchers to conduct a clinical trial. In this type of study, researchers divide participants into groups. One group would follow the diet, and other groups may follow different diets, or no diet at all. The researchers would then compare results between the different groups to see whether the diet actually made people lose weight, and whether it affected other factors such as hormone levels. This type of clinical trial has never been conducted for the hormone diet. This means that we don’t know for sure if this diet works better or worse than other weight loss strategies, or even if it works at all. However, we can look at other types of studies that have studied the link between weight loss and hormones. For example:

    • Multiple studies have found that when people lose weight through different methods, including eating fewer calories or getting weight loss surgery, they can normalize their levels of thyroid hormones.
    • When people lose weight, their insulin levels decrease and their bodies can use insulin more efficiently.
    • In one clinical trial, overweight women who had gone through menopause used diet, exercise, or both to lose weight. All of the women who lost weight, but especially those in the diet plus exercise group, also had a decrease in levels of estrogen and testosterone. However, it is imperative to note that the study participants had elevated hormone levels at the beginning of the study.
    • The bottom line: for the most part, we don’t yet know enough to be able to say which specific foods can raise or lower the levels of specific hormones. However, we do know that losing weight using a variety of strategies can help keep hormones at normal levels.

What’s Good About the Hormone Diet

    • Some parts of the hormone diet encourage habits that science has shown to be helpful for losing weight and gaining health. Some of these include:

      • Natural, whole foods: The hormone diet tells people to avoid processed, man-made products. These foods tend to have extra calories without providing much nutrition, so cutting them out of your diet is a good thing. Processed foods can make you overeat and gain weight and increase your risk of heart disease.
      • Good nutrition: The foods that people eat on the hormone diet are fairly similar to those eaten on the Mediterranean diet, which has been extensively studied. The Mediterranean diet has many health benefits, such as healthy aging, weight loss, and a lower risk of heart disease, brain disease, and some types of cancer.
      • Paying closer attention to what you eat: The diet encourages people to find out whether they are intolerant to certain foods by avoiding those products for a couple of weeks, and then trying them again. It’s possible that some people are intolerant to foods such as gluten and that avoiding these foods will help make people feel healthier.
      • Exercise: The hormone diet encourages people to get cardiovascular or aerobic exercise as well as strength training or weight lifting. Physical activity is essential for many aspects of health, including weight loss.
      • Stress management: Feeling stressed on a regular basis can lead people to gain weight, but learning how to better deal with stress through relaxation techniques and breathing exercises can help people lose pounds.
      • Getting enough sleepQuality sleep helps people burn more fat and stay at a healthy weight, making it an important weight loss tool.
    • These tools may or may not change your hormone levels in a predictable way, but they can help you lose weight. Following these parts of the hormone diet can help you lose pounds and reduce your risk of disease, even if you don’t follow the exact plan that the book recommends.

What’s Bad About the Hormone Diet

    • Unfortunately, there are some parts of the hormone diet that probably don’t work or could even be harmful. These include:

      • Fast weight loss: Sure, dropping pounds quickly sounds great, but it’s not very realistic. Often, it takes a while for the weight to come off. Additionally, losing weight quickly is not very healthy. While the hormone diet expects people to lose 12 pounds in the first two weeks, the CDC says that people who lose 1-2 pounds per week are more likely to keep the weight off in the long term.
      • Changing your hormone levels may be risky: Hormones are involved in nearly every process in the body. Your body normally tightly controls levels of these molecules in order to keep everything working correctly. If you do end up drastically altering your hormones, you may end up with negative effects in other parts of the body. Please talk with your physician about this as hormone balancing is a very comprehensive undertaking and must be done with the help of a board-certified physician.
      • It’s hard to know if your hormone levels are actually changing: Even if you follow the hormone diet exactly as written, you won’t necessarily be sure which hormones are increasing or decreasing, or how much they’re changing.
    • Overall, trying to control the levels of your many hormones through food might not be realistic, and could lead to further problems. If your body is healthy overall, then your hormone levels will be where they need to be. Abnormal hormone levels are often a sign of other health concerns.

Do You Need to Worry About Hormone Levels?

    Hormone Diet

    The body tightly controls how much of each hormone is made. Sometimes, health problems cause certain glands to make too much or too little of a hormone. This can lead to a hormone disorder, which may also be called an endocrine disorder. The most common disease in this category is diabetes, which occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin, causing blood sugar levels to get too high. Another example is hypothyroidism. In this disorder, the thyroid doesn’t make enough T3 and T4 hormones, leading different body processes to slow down.

    Finding Out Your Hormone Levels

    If you think that you may actually have a problem with certain hormones, the first step is talking to your doctor. Your primary care provider can help you test your hormone levels by drawing your blood. If you are female, you may also be able to have your gynecologist measure levels of your reproductive hormones. Your doctor can then help you understand whether there are any problems and what steps you can take.

    Some companies also sell kits that allow you to test your hormone levels at home. This often involves collecting a sample of saliva, blood, or urine and mailing it in to a company. The company will then send you results that say what your levels of different hormones are and whether they are in a normal range. Again, it is important to take this information to your physician to review with you.

    Treatment

    If you are diagnosed with a hormone imbalance, there may be several different treatment options depending on what exactly the problem is. For example, if your thyroid produces too many hormones, you may be able to fix this through medication, radioactive treatment, or surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid.

    Low hormone levels may be able to be fixed by taking man-made hormones in order to replace the ones that your body isn’t making. One example of this is someone with diabetes taking insulin in order to help control blood sugar levels. Another example is a woman taking hormone replacement therapy while going through menopause. True hormone imbalances can usually be solved through medical means, rather than by going on a diet.

    Conclusion

    Overall, there is much we have yet to learn about hormones and the link with our food to our hormones and weight loss. Following the hormone diet could help you shed pounds, but any weight loss you see may be simply due to the fact that you’re eating healthier foods and exercising more. Regardless of whether or not you’re resetting your hormones, the hormone diet does contain many great ideas that can help people become healthier and weigh less.

    For more information on what type of diet would benefit your body, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Connor.

      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