Eat These Vitamin-Rich Foods for a Healthy, Balanced Diet

vitamin d

 

Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just eat a more balanced diet, it’s important to get enough vitamins every day in order to maintain your health. Vitamins help your body grow and function optimally by boosting immunity, maintaining eye health, keeping your bones strong, raising your energy levels and much, much more.

When your body doesn’t get the vitamins it needs, however, your health can suffer and your risk of developing health issues can increase.

Getting vitamins from food vs. supplements

You may be wondering, “What about supplements? Isn’t it just easier to take a vitamin supplement every day than try to get the right daily intake of vitamins from food?”

Although supplements can have their place in a healthy diet — especially for people who suffer from vitamin deficiencies — they’re not a replacement for a varied, well-balanced diet. Whole, vitamin-rich foods supply the optimal balance of compounds that your body absorbs and uses.

6 essential vitamins and foods that contain them

All the essential vitamins work together to maintain your bodily functions and promote optimal health. However, each vitamin also has its own role in assisting the body with specific functions. Below are the main functions of six of the essential vitamins, as well as examples of good food sources for each one.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is extremely important for healthy eyesight, red blood cell production, immune function, skin health, bones and teeth. It can be found in fortified milk, organ meats, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe and apricots.

B vitamins

There are eight B vitamins — B-1, B-2, B-6, B-12, pantothenic acid, niacin, biotin and folic acid — and they have an important role in your body’s ability to create energy and release it when needed. They’re essential for proper nerve function and the formation of red blood cells, as well as a healthy metabolism, brain function, heart function and hormone production.

B vitamins can be found in meat, poultry, fish, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, yogurt, seafood and eggs.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is especially important when your body is under stress because it helps maintain a healthy immune system and repair damage. It also works as a disease-fighting antioxidant that keeps your cells healthy, improves your body’s iron absorption and promotes teeth and gum health.

Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, orange juice, kiwis, guavas, papayas, strawberries, red and green bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes and dark leafy greens.

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D is critical for the bone health, calcium absorption and proper immune system function. It can be found in milk, eggs, shiitake mushrooms and some seafood, including salmon, trout and oysters.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damage. It also works with the B vitamins to create red blood cells and helps your body use vitamin K and repair muscle cells.

Foods that contain vitamin E include bell peppers, asparagus, sunflower seeds, almonds and dark leafy greens like Swiss chard and spinach.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is essential to forming blood clots, and without it, a person could bleed to death from a small cut. It also helps maintain bone health. Foods containing vitamin K include dark leafy greens, asparagus, parsley, broccoli and brussels sprouts.

Eating a well-balanced diet full of whole foods is the best way to ensure your body is getting all the vitamins and nutrients it needs to stay healthy and function at its optimal level. Incorporate a variety of the foods listed above into your daily diet — your body will thank you!


The Importance of Sleep and How it Can Affect Your Weight

sleep

 

With National Sleep Awareness Week during the week of March 11, now is the perfect time to talk about the importance of sleep and its connection to weight. The amount of sleep you get can directly impact your health, both mentally and physically, for better or worse.

The Importance of Sleep

When you get enough sleep every day, your overall health benefits — you have the energy you need to get through the day and perform at your best, you feel mentally alert and you experience a more balanced emotional state.

Consistent lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep, on the other hand, can result in energy depletion, decreased productivity, a foggy mental state, imbalanced emotions and even weight gain.

The Connection Between Sleep and Weight Gain

Recent studies have shown a connection between the number of hours a person sleeps and weight gain. These studies suggest that the chances of weight gain increase when an individual gets either less than five hours of sleep or more than nine hours of sleep.

Why the correlation? According to one study, men who were continually deprived of sleep had an increase in their desires for high-calorie foods and their overall calorie intake increased. In another study, women who slept less than six hours or more than nine hours a night were more likely to gain weight compared to women who slept seven hours a night. Yet another study found that sleeping too little prompts people to eat bigger portions of all foods, resulting in weight gain.

Two theories as to why this occurs are:

1. Sleep duration affects hormones that regulate hunger and stimulate appetite. Basically, when we don’t get the proper amount of sleep, we’re hit with a double whammy: our brains crave junk food and lack the impulse control to say no to those cravings.

2) Those who lack for sleep are always fatigued and, therefore, get less physical activity. This can lead to weight gain or interfere with one’s efforts to lose weight.

Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

Unfortunately, the number of people getting insufficient sleep and/or not getting the quality of sleep their bodies need to function optimally seems to be increasing. If you fall into the camp of those who need to get a good night’s sleep consistently, try the tips below for improved sleep.

  • Follow a sleep-wake schedule by going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time each day. Be consistent, sticking to it even on weekends. You’ll notice that you feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours during different time frames each day.
  • Exercise during the day. People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel more awake during the day. Regular exercise can also improve the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime ritual that avoids screens for at least an hour before going to bed (this includes the TV, computers and cell phones). Doing so tells your brain that it’s time to wind down and relax. A few ideas to try are reading a book by soft lighting, taking a warm bath, listening to relaxing music or doing simple stretches.
  • Avoid heavy meals and alcohol in the evening, particularly close to bedtime. Spicy or acidic foods can cause heartburn and alcohol can interfere with your sleep cycle.
  • Be aware of when you consume caffeinated beverages and foods such as tea, coffee, soda and chocolate. Try not to consume them after 2 PM because caffeine can stay in your system for several hours, negatively affecting your sleep.
  • Set a peaceful environment that’s conducive to sleep. Turn out the lights, as darkness signals your body to release melatonin, the natural sleep hormone, while light suppresses it. Also, keep the temperature around 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature is too hot or too cold, it can interfere with sleep patterns.
Sound a bit overwhelming? Take it one step at a time. Pick the tip that’s most appealing to you or that you feel you can easily incorporate into your daily routine and start with that one. Once you’ve successfully implemented it, pick another one and continue adding one at a time at your own pace.Before you know it, you’ll be getting a great night’s sleep every night and reaping the positive mental and physical benefits.

Smart Healthy Eating Strategies to Get You Through the Holidays

healthy eating

 

The holidays are quickly approaching, which means it’s time to plan your healthy eating strategy for the season. Because most holidays are food-focused, they can cause a large intake of calories and throw your otherwise-healthy lifestyle off track.

Prevent the holidays from sabotaging your healthy lifestyle by putting a plan in place for handling all the extra food and drinks that will come your way during the season. Follow the tips below to celebrate guilt-free!

Plan activities that don’t center on food

Whether you’re hosting a holiday gathering or going to someone else’s house, keep some activities in your back pocket to take you away from the snack table. For example, bring a few favorite board games or set up some simple physical activities that children and adults can enjoy, like a bean bag toss or a relay race.

If you enjoy running or walking, sign your family up for a local 5K event. There are always a ton of turkey trots, jingle bell 5Ks and other holiday-themed races at this time of year. If you’ve never done one, you’ll be hooked after your first race!

Not only will these ideas get your mind off food, but they’ll give everyone something fun to do together. And isn’t that really what the holidays are about?

Avoid skipping meals

Many people make the mistake of skipping meals on the day of a holiday party to “save” their calories for the event. Skipping meals is unhealthy, however, as it leads to poor food choices and often results in overeating.

Instead, eat small meals and snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your appetite controlled. When you get to the party, you won’t risk derailing your diet because you’re starving.

Practice mindful eating

The most important thing to practice is being mindful about your food choices and portion control. When you’re mindful about selecting your food, you’ll choose a satisfying portion instead of piling your plate high. You’ll take a small amount of an “indulgent” food to enjoy and balance it out with healthier foods, rather than filling your entire plate with unhealthy choices.

The best part of mindful eating? When you pay attention to what you eat, you’ll actually taste and appreciate your food! Eating mindlessly, on the other hand, always results in the realization that you didn’t enjoy the ton of calories you just consumed.

Make food swaps

As you make your holiday cooking plan, choose your ingredients carefully to keep your dishes on the healthier side. For example, prepare traditional stuffing with whole wheat or whole grain bread rather than white bread. Make a cauliflower mash in place of the traditional mashed potatoes. Substitute whole-wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour in your favorite baking recipes.

Limit your cocktail consumption

The empty calories in alcoholic beverages add up. If you want to enjoy your favorite cocktail occasionally throughout the season without overdoing it, add some mineral water or seltzer to it to keep it light.

 

While food and drinks are certainly a great part of the festivities, holiday celebrations are not just about eating. Focus on the joyous, giving spirit of the season and enjoy spending time with your family, friends and colleagues.


How to Support a Loved One After Weight Loss Surgery

Hundreds of thousands of Americans undergo obesity surgery every year, and awareness of these procedures is becoming more and more widespread.

Is your loved one considering weight loss surgery?

Hundreds of thousands of Americans undergo obesity surgery every year, and awareness of these procedures is becoming more and more widespread. Just look at the popular TV show “This Is Us,” in which actress Chrissy Metz’s character decides to have weight loss surgery.

As a friend or family member of someone contemplating weight loss surgery, you have an important part to play. Patients need the support of the people closest to them in order to commit to a healthy lifestyle post-surgery.

Here’s how you can support your loved one during this process.

Emotional Support

Making the decision to have obesity surgery and sticking to a diet and exercise regimen after surgery can be emotionally grueling. The single most important thing you can do is to be there for your loved one. Let them know that you are on this journey with them.

You can do that by:

  • Being a cheerleader, not a coach. Don’t nitpick your loved one for their mistakes. Instead, applaud the things he or she is doing right. Even if they miss a weight loss target, show them love and support for trying.
  • Celebrate with your loved one. If your loved one achieves a goal, plan a fun activity to celebrate, such as going to a movie or a concert. Let them know that you’re just as excited about their achievements as they are.
  • Be interested in more than losing weight. Talk about things besides weight loss. Show your interest and concern in your loved one’s life beyond the issue of dieting and weight.
  • Be positive. Don’t judge your loved one for a bad day. Help them to get back on track by focusing on the future, not the past.
  • Support them in their decision about obesity surgery. While weight loss surgery is a choice, it may be the only option to treat severe weight problems. Ask your loved one what they know about the surgery, seek out information together and keep an open mind.
  • Join them at appointments, classes and support groups. If your loved one needs someone to go along with them to meetings with doctors, for example, offer to join them. It can help relieve your loved one’s nervousness. Plus, you can help ask questions and get more information.
  • Be thoughtful about what you say after surgery. It’s important to be sensitive about how your loved one feels after surgery. Try to avoid making comments about weight after surgery. Be careful about how you congratulate your loved one on their progress.

Dietary Support

Diet and exercise are the pillars of weight loss. Even after weight loss surgery, maintaining a good diet is key to keeping weight off and staying healthy. For you, that means supporting your loved one by helping them eat a good diet.

If you live with your loved one, try to get rid of any tempting foods, like chips, cookies and sodas. By removing unhealthy foods and drinks from your home, you’ll make it easier for your loved one to stick to their diet.

You can also help out with meal planning and food prep. Cooking at home is always preferable to eating out because you can keep track of the ingredients in your food and control the amount of oil and salt you use.

On your days off, plan meals for the week ahead with your loved one’s diet guidelines in mind. Prepare your ingredients in advance so they’re easier to cook after a long day of work. For instance, marinate skinless chicken breasts and chop up vegetables ahead of time so your ingredients are ready to go.

Exercise

The second pillar of weight loss and a post-surgery lifestyle is a regular physical activity.

Participating in exercise is an easy way to support your loved one. Here are some examples of exercise that you can do together.

  • Evening walks. Discussing your day at work? Do it on a nice walk instead of on the couch.
  • Workouts. Whether you’re lifting weights, going to Zumba classes or jogging on the treadmill, it’s always easier to get motivated when you have someone to exercise with.
  • Sports. Get a group of friends together for a weekly game of basketball or volleyball.
  • Home exercises. Even on days when you can’t make time for a full-fledged workout, join your loved one for a shorter home workout with simple jumping jacks, squats and lunges.

For overweight and obese individuals, successful weight loss depends upon the support of the people around them. By supporting your loved one on this journey, you can make weight loss surgery feel less overwhelming.