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Smart Snacking

6 Health Boosting Snacks That You Can Eat Anywhere

 

After making the decision to eat better and maybe even lose weight, one of the biggest stumbling blocks that people come across is finding healthy snacks that they can eat during the day.

The problem with most snack foods is that they are loaded with added sugars and refined carbohydrates and lacking healthy fats, fiber, protein, and antioxidants.

However, with a little preparation and creativity, you can make delicious, nutrient-packed snacks that will support your weight loss efforts while maximizing your health. Here are 6 fast snacks, all under 400 calories, that you can start adding to your diet today.

  1. Coconut Raspberry Parfait

This is a simple snack made up of raspberries, Greek yogurt, coconut milk, and flaxseed meal. Raspberries have more fiber than any other fruit, and Greek yogurt is loaded with protein and probiotics. Coconut milk contains healthy fats, and flaxseed meal contains cholesterol-lowering omega-3s, and filling fiber. This is one of my all time favorite snacks. It has it all: fiber, protein, fats, and low impact carbs; plus it is very portable.

  1. Pistachios

Pistachios are a great snack because you can eat more pistachio nuts per ounce than any other nuts (49 nuts compared to only 22 almonds). The added difficulty of shelling each nut before you can eat it forces you to eat slower as well.

  1. Green Eggs

This is one of my snacks that was featured in Men’s Fitness magazine. Hard boil a couple of eggs, shell them, cut them in half (lengthwise), and remove the yolks as if you were making deviled eggs. Now, fill the hole in the egg with 1-2 teaspoons of guacamole.

  1. Cashew Cookie Larabar

Larabars are one of my favorite nutritional bars as they are minimally processed, have no additives, preservatives or refined sugar, and you can pronounce every food on the ingredient list (which is usually only 2 – 4 foods). One of their best flavors, Cashew Cookie, has 2 ingredients: cashews and dates.

Larabars are a great ‘emergency snack’, and are good to have around in case you need something quick and healthy. In most areas, they are available in grocery stores and gas stations. These are great to carry with you while traveling, when you may not have quick access to other healthy snacks.

  1. Nutrient Optimized Shakes

Nutrient Optimized Shake is just a fancy name for a smoothie that is jam packed with protein, fiber, essential fats, and other nutrients. Compared to generic meal replacement shakes that you’d find at your local grocery or supplement store (which usually lack essential fats, fiber, quality carbohydrates, and other nutrients), Nutrient Optimized Shakes are the Rolls Royce of meal replacements. The following recipe is for the Basic Nutrient Optimized Shake and is just under 300 calories.

Ingredients

1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder (<5g carb, <2g fat per serving)

1 1/4 cup frozen blueberries

1 Tbsp walnuts

1 Tbsp flaxseed meal

12-16oz water

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Adding more ice or less water will increase the thickness of the shake.

  1. Cheese Sticks

Cheese sticks are portioned, high protein snacks that are readily available just about everywhere (even gas stations). In addition to generally packing 8 grams of protein per stick, cheese sticks also contain fat. The combination of fat and protein is a physiological 1-2 bunch against recurring hunger. Both fat and protein stimulate the release of hormones that travel to your brain to let it know that you are full and satisfied.


Sleeping Off the Pounds

Sleep Your Way to Abs

When you think about ways to lose weight, you probably think of exercising more and/or eating less. You probably aren’t thinking that you need to sleep more…but you do.

The CDC estimates that over 1/3 of the U.S. population is sleep deprived. 5.8% of men and 3.5% of women reported falling sleep while driving over the last 30 days!

How Much Sleep Do I Need?

In order to optimize your sleep for fat loss (and good health) you don’t need a lot of sleep, but you need to make sure you are getting enough. This means getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night. The range accounts for personal differences in sleep needs. During times of higher stress, your body will need more sleep than it usually does.

Sleep and Weight Loss

People don’t get enough sleep. Sleep is important. How does this relate to you losing weight? The link between less sleep and higher body weight is growing clearer each day. Here are 3 ways that not getting enough sleep is hurting your weight loss efforts.

Sleep and Leptin

Leptin is a hormone that is released from your fat cells. Leptin travels from your fat cells to your brain and has the power to regulate both calories in and calories out. Higher levels of leptin will reduce your appetite and increase your metabolic rate.

Sleep is a major effector of leptin. Research shows that just one night of deficient sleep (4-6hrs) can cause up to a 20% decrease in leptin levels. These decreases in leptin due to sleep deficiency are also sustained throughout periods of not getting enough sleep.

Sleep & Ghrelin

Ghrelin is another hormone in your body, released from your digestive tract, that controls your appetite. Ghrelin is the hunger hormone; when ghrelin is released, you get hungry. Reducing calories (as you would as part of a weight loss diet) leads to a sustained increase in ghrelin levels (so you already have one strike against you with respects to ghrelin).

Inadequate sleep also causes a rise in ghrelin levels. Data from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study showed that sleeping 5 vs. 8 hours a night lead to a 15% increase in ghrelin levels.

The negative changes with leptin and ghrelin that occur when you don’t get enough sleep drive you to eat more calories, while your body is primed to burn less calories.

Sleep & Willpower

Not getting enough sleep also impacts your ability to make good decisions for your health and wellness. Our world is set up to get you to move less and eat more. Consistently exercising and eating a quality calorie controlled diet is not easy. It is even harder with reduced willpower and that is exactly what insufficient sleep gives you. When you are sleep deprived, the portion of your brain responsible for willpower doesn’t work as well. Keep your motivation high by getting enough sleep.

Successful Sleeping

Sometimes just getting to bed earlier isn’t enough, as despite being in bed, you are still having trouble getting to sleep. Here are 8 ways to get better sleep.

Have a routine: Get into a nightly routine so your body knows when it is time to get to sleep.

 

Avoid alcohol: Alcohol may help you get to sleep a little faster, but it decreases the quality of the sleep that you get.

 Make your room dark: Sleeping in a dark room will help improve the quality of your sleep.

Disconnect early: Disconnect from technology, as the light from different devices provides your body a false sense of the time of day as well. Getting away from that light allows your body to correctly identify that it is night.

Avoid stimulants: Minimize your intake of caffeine later in the day to ensure it doesn’t impact your ability to get to sleep.

Stay cool: Your body sleeps best and will be best able to transition to all the necessary stages of sleep at cooler temperatures.

Have a great bed: Get a great bed. You spend a good portion of your life in it! Having a great bed can be the difference between getting good and bad sleep.

 Stretch before bed: Stretching stimulates the rest and recovery part of our nervous system. Spend 5-7 minutes stretching before bed to help your body relax.

 


Simple Carb Cutting

5 Simple Ways to Substitute Lower Carb Foods for Higher Carb Foods

The simplest and most effective way to enhance your weight loss efforts is to eat fewer carbohydrates. To reap the weight loss and health benefits of a lower carb diet, you don’t need an extremely low-carb ‘Atkins-style’ diet. Instead, you can make a couple of easy substitutions, by switching from starchy and grain-based carbs to their unassuming vegetable counterparts.

In addition to the weight loss benefit you’ll receive from eating less carbohydrates, you’ll also be getting more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients by adding more nutrient rich foods to your diet.

The Simple Switches

Spaghetti Squash for Spaghetti

Why Switch? Making this switch will save you 33 grams of carbohydrates and 178 calories per cup.

How to Switch? Cut spaghetti squash in half and remove seeds. Place a damp paper towel over each side and microwave 7-8 minutes face-up and then 7-8 minutes face-down (or bake face-down on a baking sheet for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven). Once cooked, run a fork lengthwise down the squash and watch it come out like strands of spaghetti. Add tomato sauce or pesto, meatballs, and enjoy this guilt-free spaghetti dinner.

White Beans for Mashed Potatoes

Why Switch? Switching 1/2 cup of beans for 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes will give you 8x more protein and 6x more fiber.

How to Switch? Mash 1 can of cannellini beans with 1 clove of garlic and 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil for a surprisingly delicious alternative to mashed potatoes. A 1/2 cup of these mashed beans with a side spinach salad are the perfect compliment to any steak.

Roasted Turnips for Roasted Potatoes

Why Switch? Turnips contain a special nutrient called glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are powerful antioxidants with anti-cancer properties (specifically colon, lung, breast, and pancreatic cancers).

How to Switch? Cut the turnips into 1 inch cubes, toss in olive oil, salt, pepper, onion powder, and dried basil. Place on baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Cubed turnips can also replace potatoes in stews and soups.

Portobello Mushroom Caps for Hamburger Buns

Why Switch?   Most hamburger buns are made with refined grains and are nutritionally void. By making this switch, you’ll be replacing 120 empty calories with 44 power-packed calories.

Mushrooms are the only source of an extremely potent antioxidant called ergothioneine, which some researchers think will be used in the future to treat cancer. Portobello mushrooms are also a good source of potassium, an essential mineral for lowering blood pressure.

How to Switch? Grill two Portobello mushroom caps (seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper) and use them as the bun to your burger. You may find that 2 Portobello mushroom caps are too much; if so, just use one and have an open-faced burger.

Bibb Lettuce Wraps for Flour Tortillas

Why Switch?   Bibb lettuce (also known as Boston lettuce) is perfect for wraps because the leaves are flexible and tender (unlike iceberg or romaine leaves which are more rigid). Switching several Bibb leaves for a flour tortilla will save you almost 200 calories, allowing you room to pack your wrap with more nutrient-rich and satisfying vegetables and proteins.

How to Switch? Spread Dijon mustard onto a leaf of Bibb lettuce. On top of that, add a couple slices of roasted turkey breast, provolone cheese, hummus, sliced red onion, and sliced tomatoes. Roll up like a wrap or fold in half like a taco (depending on how many vegetables you layer on). You can also wrap your lettuce roll with plastic wrap for a portable, eat anywhere snack.


Power Food: Salmon

Healthiest Food You Can Eat?

What do the healthiest people in the world consistently eat? Fish. What do Americans hardly eat? Fish.

The most recent nutritional data shows that the average American gets more protein each week from grain/bread products than they do fish!

Fish, especially oily fish like salmon, contain a nutritionally complex and beneficial blend of protein, omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA), selenium, potassium, and vitamin B12. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA are the most well-known health enhancers found in salmon.

Omega-3s – EPA and DHA

EPA and DHA are two long chain omega-3 fats that have potent effects on several major systems in your body, including the heart and brain.

Research shows that EPA and DHA can actually improve the electrochemical connections in your heart.

Enhancing your diet with EPA and DHA has also been shown to decrease your resting heart rate, which allows you to burn more calories during heart rate based training. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that this effect leads to greater weight loss.

Cooking Ruins the Benefits?

A common concern that people have about salmon and the beneficial omega-3 fats that are found in salmon has to do with cooking. Generally, heat is bad for EPA and DHA because it readily turns these fats rancid. Fortunately this is not the case with salmon. There seems to be something about the omega-3 fats in salmon that gives them protection against oxidation and going rancid. Researchers think the protection comes from being inside the food matrix of the salmon along with the presence of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A and potent antioxidant (that gives salmon its natural orange/red color) which protects against the negative stress from heat. Cook your salmon and feel good about it!

Farmed vs Wild

When buying salmon, you are usually given the choice of farmed vs. wild. The differences between these two categories and within the category of ‘farmed’ can be confusing so let’s look at a couple key points.

-Farmed salmon generally has more omega-3s than wild salmon. It also has more omega-6 fats (more on the ratio of omega-3 / omega-6 fats in a couple of paragraphs).

-Some farmed salmon contains additives to enhance the color of the salmon, making it the orange/red color you expect. You usually find this on the ingredients list.

-Wild salmon is significantly more expensive, prohibitively expensive for some people. Quality farm raised salmon is better than no salmon at all. So, just because you can’t buy wild salmon doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat salmon at all.

Mercury Concerns??

One concern that people often have when it comes to eating salmon is mercury. Do the health benefits of the omega-3 fats outweigh the potential risk of consuming mercury?

According to a review of the research published by two Harvard University scientists in the Journal of the American Medical Association

“the benefits of fish intake exceed the potential risks”

One of the keys has to do with fish size. Fish concentrate mercury in their bodies over time. The smaller the fish, the less mercury it will take up and thus the lower the health risk. In fact, salmon contain some of the lowest mercury levels of any fish (<0.05µg/d).

Omega-3 vs. Omega-6 Ratio

The importance of the omega-3 / omega-6 ratio in our diet has been theorized to play a role in health promotion and fighting inflammation using the general assumption that omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory and omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory. A perturbation in this ratio in the American diet (towards excessive omega-6 fats) is thought to be the driver of much of the obesity and disease that you see today.

Research has shown this to be a good fish story as the ratio of omega-3 / omega-6 fats in our diet doesn’t seem to have much impact on our health, but instead it is the total amount of omega-3 fats in our diet.

Salmon vs. Supplements

Maybe you don’t like eating salmon or you don’t eat with enough frequency to reap the benefits of the heart healthy omega-3s – what can you do? Are supplements just as effective? The good news is yes, they are! Research shows that your body benefits from getting EPA and DHA from a supplement as it does from oily fish like salmon.


30 Power Foods

30 ‘Must Eat’ Foods for Looking & Feeling Better

The 30 Power Foods should be the center pieces of your diet. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, fiber, and phytochemicals (the things that scientists know are good for you but don’t know exactly why yet).

The Power Foods are separated into five groups: Starches (faster acting carbohydrates), Fruits & Vegetables (and other slow carbohydrates), Proteins, Fats, and the Power Food Add-Ons (these don’t fit into any of the previous categories and are commonly added to a Power Food meal).

Fruits & Vegetables

Apples

Blueberries

Broccoli

Onions

Oranges

Pumpkin

Raspberries

Spinach

Tomatoes

Beans

Starches & Grains

Quinoa

Oats

Yams

Fats

Avocado

Extra virgin olive oil

Flaxseed/flaxseed oil

Walnuts

Pistachios

 

Proteins

Lean poultry

Salmon

Lean red meat

Omega-3 eggs

Cottage cheese (with live cultures)

Milk protein powder

 

Power Food Add-Ons

Green tea

Cinnamon

Garlic

Hot peppers

Cacao (dark chocolate)

Chia seeds

 


Power Food: Olive Oil

Health Food Phoenix

Olive oil is one of the most highly touted heart healthy foods, but like most foods that are ‘good for you’ there is a wide amount of variation in the healthfulness of a food, depending on the version of the food you buy. Olive oil is no exception. Olive oil can be extra virgin, virgin, first cold pressed, chemically extracted, etc. Let’s look at the benefits of olive oil and how you can ensure that you are getting the best olive oil for your health.

Olive Oil Processing

Extra virgin olive oil is produced from mechanically squeezing the oil out of olives in a temperature-controlled environment (often referred to as ‘cold pressed’) so that heat does not play a role is disrupting the naturally occurring unsaturated fats and antioxidants in the oil. Extra virgin olive oil is considered the highest quality olive oil from both a taste and nutritional perspective.

Olive Oil Acidity

Virgin olive oil differs slightly from extra virgin olive oil in that is has a higher acidity, <0.8% vs. 3%. The acidity is technically a measure of the amount of free fatty acids found in olive oil. Acidity is a little known, but effective marker, of olive oil quality. The type of olive, soil, pressing, and processing of the olive oil are all reflected in its acidity. Certain types of olives will naturally have lower acidity than others, but as long as an olive is cold pressed within 24 hours of picking it should have an acidity of 0.8% or less. Olive oil lovers also find that acidity levels greater than 1% lead to an unpleasant taste.

Healthful Components of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The Mediterranean diet is often described as being ‘rich in monounsaturated fats’ of which extra virgin olive oil is championed as being the key to this fact, (one Spanish survey found that 13% of calories consumed were from olive oil).

However, the Mediterranean diet is more than extra virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil is more than just monounsaturated fats. The polyphenol antioxidants found in the highest abundance in first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil have been implicated in providing neuroprotection and improvements in vascular health. Newer research has found that extra virgin olive oil contains “electrophilic fatty acid nitroalkenes” a class of compounds that can stimulate anti-inflammatory gene expression. The monounsaturated fats found in olive oil are good, but the antioxidants and bioactive compounds found in extra virgin olive oil are better.

Getting the Best Out of Your Olive Oil

The California Olive Oil Council recommends buying olive oil that has been harvested and cold pressed in the last 18 months (12 months is even better).

-Once you open the bottle is it best to use it within the next 30 days.

-Heat wreaks havoc on the antioxidants in olive oil (this is why it is cold pressed), so it is best used on cold dishes or cooked with at very low heat.

-Store your olive oil in a cool dark place to further protect the antioxidants in the oil from going bad.

-Find a brand that you can trust. An analysis from the Olive Oil Center at UC Davis found that 69% of extra virgin olive oils they tested did not meet the standards set from the International Olive Council.

-If your olive oil has a bitter or spiciness to it, that is good! This is a reflection of a high antioxidant content.

Olive oil is very good for you, but take the time to ensure that you are actually getting the right kind of extra virgin olive oil, which will confer the health benefits that you are looking for. If you weren’t already convinced about the benefits of extra virgin olive oil, I leave you with the results from one more study. An analysis from the PREDIMED study showed that for every 10g/d of extra virgin olive oil participants consumed, their associated risk of cardiovascular disease decreased by 7%.

 


Power Food: Kefir

The Champagne of Dairy

Kefir is derived from the Turkish word “keif” which means “good-feeling.” It has been around for centuries, originating in the Russian Caucasian mountains.

Kefir gets the nickname, “champagne of dairy”, due to the fact that it foams and fizzes when you shake it up. Kefir looks like drinkable yogurt however its nutritional profile varies from yogurt and its beneficial bacteria (e.g. probiotic) content is much more robust.

Perfect Ratio

Plain kefir has a near 1:1 ratio of protein: carbohydrates. Making it a great all purpose drink, base for a smoothie, or milk substitute in granola or oats.

10 Billion Bugs!!

Yogurt is well known for its good bacteria but the amount of probiotics in kefir dwarfs that found in yogurt. Yogurt is generally cultured for 2-3 hours while kefir is cultured for upwards of 16 hours! This yields 7-10 billion CFUs (the units used to measure probiotic bacteria).

What are these good bacteria going to do for you? More research is showing that the bacteria in your digestive tract can not only communicate with your body, but it can actually influence how your body functions – impacting things like stress and inflammatory responses.

Coating your digestive track with good bacteria, like that found in kefir, is a simple way to keep your front lines of defense against disease and infection working the best it can. Other research shows that kefir can actually have antibacterial and antimicrobial effects. These effects can even impact your teeth.

Kefir and Dental Health

When you think about fermented dairy products, you probably don’t think about dental health, but a recent study published in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practices found that drinking kefir was just as effective as fluoride mouthwash at removing bacteria that cause cavities.

Kefir and Immune Function

A study from Turkey found that after just 2 weeks of drinking kefir daily, study participants experienced improvements in multiple facets of their immune system.

Readily Available Nutrients

The beneficial bacteria in kefir start working for you before you even drink it. During the fermentation process and in the bottle on the supermarket shelves they are hard at work breaking down the dairy sugar lactose and partially digesting the proteins found in kefir. 1 cup of kefir has only 2g of lactose compared to 11g in regular milk.

This is great news if you have issues digesting lactose (e.g. lactose intolerant). A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that kefir can help people with lactose intolerance digest lactose better.

Kefir’s Nutrient Package

In addition to the protein and probiotics that we’ve already discussed, kefir contains several other key nutrients such as vitamin D, K, a variety of B vitamins, and calcium.

Ultimate Kefir Smoothie

This snack sized smoothie is a great way to add kefir to your diet. It contains blueberries which are rich in a particular type of antioxidant called anthocyanins. Anthocyanin can be both absorbed by your body, or used by the good bacteria in your digestive tract for fuel. This smoothie is designed to not only provide your body with the probiotics it needs for good digestion, but also the fuel needed to support them.

Super Kefir Smoothie

1 cup low fat plain kefir

2/3 cup wild blueberries

1 Tbsp flaxseed meal

2-3 ice cubes

Up to 1 cup additional water (optional add based on consistency preference)

Add ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.

 

 


Power Food: Green Tea

3 Great Ways Green Tea Will Make You Leaner & Happier

Tea is the second most popular drink in the world, behind only water. The earliest documented use of tea as a beverage dates back to China in 59 B.C. It has been used for medicinal purposes for over 3,000 years.

Green, Black, White and Oolong tea all come from the same plant (Camellia Sinensis). Each variety of tea is picked, processed, and manufactured differently – resulting in different tastes, nutrient compositions, and health-boosting properties.

Antioxidant Power of Green Tea

Green tea contains higher levels of the antioxidants called polyphenols and catechins, as compared to black or oolong teas. You may have heard of EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), the most abundant (and well studied) antioxidant in green tea.

Relax with Green Tea

In addition to antioxidants, green tea also contains high levels of the amino acid theanine. Theanine is responsible for green tea’s relaxation and anti-stress effects.

In one study, researchers followed over 4,000 Japanese individuals for 11 years and found that the people who drank the most green tea were least likely to suffer symptoms of psychological distress.

Green Tea and Weight Loss

Green tea is a popular additive to weight loss supplements as it is consistently shown to help boost weight loss. But you don’t need a supplement to reap these benefits. Drinking 5 cups of green tea (not the de-caffeinated version) every day for 12 weeks can increase your weight loss by 3 pounds while decreasing your waistline by almost an extra inch.

Green tea does this by enhancing several different fat burning pathways in your body, from increasing the expression of fat burning genes, to properly stimulating your nervous system, to enhancing abdominal fat loss.

Nature’s Appetite Suppressant

Green tea can also help you feel more satisfied after a meal – a feeling that is often lacking from most dieters’ dining experiences. New research published in Nutrition Journal showed that drinking a 10 ounce cup of green tea while eating lunch increased study participants’ feelings of fullness and decreased their desire to eat more of their favorite foods.

Increased levels of neurotransmitter norepinephrine can help reduce food intake and increase the feeling of fullness. The antioxidants in green tea prevent the breakdown of norepinephrine, helping you eat less.

Next time you have a food craving, snack on a handful of pistachios and a large cup of green tea. The anti-hunger effects of green tea, combined with the protein and fat in the pistachios, are a powerful enough combination to curb any craving attack.

The Perfect Cup of Tea

The bottom line about green tea is that you should drink it – but how? To make the best tasting cup of tea, allow the water to sit for one minute after it has boiled, then let the tea bag sit in the water (also known as steeping) for 1-1:30 minutes.

The longer you steep the tea, the more antioxidants will be drawn from the tea leaves. However, antioxidants tend to taste bitter. So, the longer you steep your tea, the more bitter it will taste. Research from Temple University shows that Americans in general do not like overly flavored or bitter green tea. If green tea isn’t instantly your favorite beverage, try steeping it for a shorter amount of time. You can still get the most antioxidants from your tea by re-using the tea bag and having another cup.

Skip the bottled artificially-sweetened teas sold in stores. An independent food lab based out of North Brunswick, New Jersey found that these products have only 6% of the antioxidants found in regular green tea.


Boost Your Good Cholesterol

5 Ways to Increase Your Good Cholesterol and Protect Your Heart

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in America. Researchers estimate that someone in America has a heart attack or stroke every 25 seconds.

What can you do to make sure that you don’t suffer the same fate? Fortunately, there are numerous simple things that you can do each day to bulletproof your heart. Today, we’re going to focus on ways that you can increase your HDL or good cholesterol.

What Is So Good About It?

Your HDL cholesterol plays a very important role in your heart health. It is responsible for removing toxic fat and cholesterol molecules from your blood vessel walls and returning them to your liver to be processed.

These toxic molecules are the root cause of the plaques in your blood vessels which lead to heart attacks. This is why HDL cholesterol is called the good cholesterol.

The more HDL cholesterol you have, the better your body can remove these molecules, and the healthier your blood vessels will be.

What Should Yours Be?

With HDL cholesterol, the higher it is, the better. Women have an advantage over men as they traditionally have higher HDL cholesterol due to the hormonal differences between sexes.

Women should aim to have an HDL cholesterol greater than 50 mg/dL, while men need an HDL cholesterol of at least 40 mg/dL. These are the recommended minimums and higher is better. If you aren’t sure what your HDL cholesterol is, check with your physician.

Now that you know why your HDL cholesterol is important and what your numbers should be – here are 5 ways that you can increase your ‘good’ cholesterol.

Eat Fatty Fish Regularly or Take a Fish Oil Supplement

The omega-3 fats (called EPA and DHA) found in fatty fish and fish oil supplements should be an integral part of your diet for so many reasons, but most people don’t know that these special fats can also increase your HDL cholesterol.

In order to reap these benefits, you should be sure to eat at least 2-3 servings of fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc) each week. If you don’t like fish, just take a daily fish oil supplement.

Have a Drink

The media has done a very good job of muddling the beneficial effects of alcohol on your heart health by confusing people as to what kind of alcoholic drink they should have.

Fortunately, research shows that it doesn’t matter if you are drinking red wine or whiskey. All kinds of alcohol will increase your good cholesterol. This effect maxes out at 5 drinks per week, so don’t overdue it, and keep in mind that a drink is defined as 12 oz of beer, 4 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of spirits.

Exercise

The Naked Nutrition Bites newsletters are dedicated to nutrition, but in this case, it is important to veer from this core message to mention exercise. Regular exercise is not just a key component in keeping your waistline in check, it also helps maintain optimal HDL cholesterol levels.

Don’t Just Lose It. Keep It Off.

Yo-Yo dieting is one of the worst things that you can do for your HDL cholesterol. When you lose weight, your HDL cholesterol will actually go down. But losing weight, and then keeping the weight off, will cause your HDL cholesterol to rise to levels higher than before you started your weight loss journey.

Eat Enough Fat

Dietary fat is a powerful modulator of your HDL cholesterol. Low fat diets will ruin your HDL levels. Aim to eat a diet that is 30% of calories from fat. This will support healthy HDL cholesterol levels while optimizing other risk factors of heart disease.

 


Power Food: Eggs

Health Food Phoenix

Once quarantined as the food you must avoid if you had heart issues, a new growing body of research touting their nutritional benefits have caused eggs to rise from their nutritional grave to take their rightful place as a true power food.

Cholesterol, Eggs, and Your Heart

Improving heart health has long been about lowering your cholesterol. It would seem to make complete sense that if you wanted to decrease the amount of cholesterol in your blood stream then you should decrease the amount of cholesterol you are eating.

Eggs pack a whooping 200mg of cholesterol per serving (essentially the limit of recommended intake on ‘heart healthy diets’) making eggs public enemy #1 when it comes to reducing dietary and thus blood cholesterol levels.

Here’s the good news…for most of us the amount of cholesterol that you eat doesn’t have that much of an effect on the levels of cholesterol in your blood. Research shows that only 30 percent of people experience significant increases in cholesterol levels after following a diet high in cholesterol. After looking at the dietary habits of 100,000 people, a group of researchers from Harvard University reported that daily egg consumption in healthy people did not lead to an increase in risk of coronary heart disease.

Gold Standard of Protein Quality

Once you can take your focus off the eggs and cholesterol debate, you are able to see that eggs are a nutritional powerhouse, especially when it comes to protein. Eggs have always been the gold standard of protein. When protein quality is measured, researchers compared the protein food that they are measuring to eggs.

One egg contains 6-7 grams of the best protein that you will find. Full of essential amino acids that are readily absorbed by your body.

Whole Egg vs. Egg White

The popularity of eating only egg whites came from the drive to eat less fat and cholesterol (as all the fat and cholesterol is in the egg yolk).

Eggs whites are great but they are nutritionally a one trick pony – protein. An egg white contains all protein ~3 grams; the rest of the nutrients, protein and fat are hiding in the golden center, aka: the yolk.

Egg yolks are much more than just protein. They contain key fat soluble vitamins A, D, and E, a muscle building nutrient. If you opt to buy eggs from chickens that were fed omega-3 rich feed, the health promoting omega-3 fats in the feed transfer to the egg, giving you as much as 150mg of the long chain omega-3 fat DHA.

Egg yolks also contain, leutin, and zeaxanthin. Choline is an essential nutrient for brain health, while leutine and zeaxanthin are two potent antioxidants that may help prevent age-related problems with vision.

When you think about antioxidants, eggs are probably not the first food to come to mind, but a study published in Food Chemistry found that the antioxidant capacity of eggs was equal to that of the poster child of good health: apples!

Whole Eggs and “Good Cholesterol”

Researchers at the University of Connecticut wanted to test the power of whole eggs vs cholesterol/fat free egg substitutes. They found that men who ate three large whole eggs per day increased their HDL or good cholesterol by 20 percent. There was also no impact on LDL or bad cholesterol. The people who ate the egg substitutes didn’t experience any change in either risk factor for heart disease.