13. Be Pro-Antioxidants

With aging, the body’s stores of antioxidants diminish unless they are regularly replenished with an excellent diet or supplements. When free radicals build up in all parts of the body, they can enter nerve cells, disrupt function, and cause cell death. They can also trigger a cascade of free radical formation. This chain reaction can cause widespread oxidative damage in the brain and body. To maintain optimum health and boost your metabolism, include plenty of antioxidants in your diet.

Foods particularly high in antioxidants include:

• Berries: wild blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries

• Apples: Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala

• Beans: small red beans, red kidney beans, pinto beans, dried black beans

• Other fruits: dried prunes, sweet cherries, black plums, plums

• Other foods: artichokes, almonds, russet potatoes, tea

14. Know the Facts about Sugar

The typical American diet is packed with sugar, and most nutrition experts agree that Americans need to cut back. There is no current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for sugar, but experts recommend that about 45 to 65 percent of total calories in your diet should come from carbohydrates, with less than 10 percent coming from simple sugars. The USDA advises people who eat a 2,000-calorie healthful diet to try to limit themselves to about 10 teaspoons (40 grams) of added sugars per day. Consuming more sugar, if it pushes you over your daily calorie requirement, may lead to weight gain and a more sluggish metabolism.

15. Limit Simple Sugars

Sugars are simple carbohydrates that the body uses as a source of energy. During digestion, all carbohydrates break down into sugar, or blood glucose. Some sugars occur naturally, such as in dairy products (as lactose) and fruits (as fructose). Other foods have added sugars, or sugar that is added in processing or preparation. Most foods containing added sugars provide calories but little in the way of essential nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is much healthier to consume sugars that are found naturally in foods, as these foods likely contain metabolism-revving vitamins and minerals (like calcium from milk or vitamin C from an orange). Sugar can be part of a healthy diet if consumed in moderation.

16. Always Look for Secret Sugar

There are many ways to disguise the word sugar on a food label. Here’s a big list of what doesn’t sound like sugar, but definitely is sugar: high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, sucrose, glucose, dextrose, honey, molasses, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fructose, and invert sugar. You’ll find these sugars on many food labels—and if it’s in the top four ingredients, there’s a lot of it.

17. Avoid High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Although you may have seen ads telling you there’s nothing wrong with high-fructose corn syrup, there is. This ingredient, which is found in many processed foods, is essentially pure sugar. And, when you eat it, your body releases excess insulin, which then decreases your metabolism. It also may reduce the body’s ability to process the appetite-suppressing protein leptin found in healthy foods like fish. Also, fructose is more readily metabolized to fat in the liver than glucose. To keep your metabolism burning at an optimal rate, try not to eat more than 40 grams of added sugar per day, which does not include sugars found in fruit.

18. Avoid Sugar-Free Substances

A recent study published in ciencreports that use of artificial sweeteners may make it difficult to control calorie intake and weight. Our bodies usually rev up metabolism in preparation for a meal. In this study, however, compared to rats exposed to glucose, rats exposed to saccharin had a smaller increase in core temperature (metabolic boost) after eating a high-calorie meal. Moreover, authors hypothesize that artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body’s natural ability to use sweetness as a measure of caloric content. This may trick the body into thinking sugary foods are low in calories, leading you to overeat. In order to boost your metabolism—and make it count—try eating foods that have natural sugars like apples, pears, and apricots.

19. Eat Organic Foods

Because organic foods are not subjected to pesticides, they retain more of their natural nutrients and fewer free radicals. This helps maintain cellular health, which in turn helps your body burn foods more efficiently, effectively boosting your metabolism. If you have to economize, opt for organic fruits and vegetables whose skin you eat (apples, pears, peaches, grapes, cherries, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans), as well as meat, eggs, and milk. Farmers’ markets are great resources for organic foods, but you can also look in the phone book or online to find local farms or distributors of organic foods.

20. Maintain a Balanced Diet

You know it’s important to eat healthfully. Making poor food choices or eating poor combinations of foods can result in your body producing too much or too little insulin, which can cause fatigue, irritability, weight gain, low blood sugar, and eventually, even Type 2 diabetes. There are three sources we derive energy from: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Most North Americans get close to 60 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, most of which are simple carbohydrates that break down too rapidly and cause the pancreas to overload the blood with insulin. This leads to the body storing excess fat. Instead, dine on high-fiber complex carbohydrates that require the body to work harder to break down and don’t overload your system with sugar.

Protein is essentially the anti-carbohydrate. The digestion of protein stimulates the release of glucagon, which causes the body to release stored carbohydrates in the liver and give the brain blood sugar, which decreases fogginess and irritability.

The final key components to a healthy diet are essential fats. They slow down the entry of carbohydrates into the bloodstream and help you to feel full.

You should aim to receive 45 to 65 percent of your calories from healthy carbohydrates, 10 to 35 percent from lean protein, and 25 to 35 percent from essential fats. To achieve this type of hormonally balanced meal, include selections from the following three sections:

• Energy-dense carbohydrates: whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits that contain fiber

• High-quality protein: fish, poultry, lean meats, soy, tofu, and low-fat dairy products

• Essential fats in small quantities: olive oil, avocados, and nuts

21. Learn to Eyeball Portions

To follow a healthy diet, you don’t need to weigh and measure all of your food each day. Just keep in mind that portion sizes are meant as general guidelines; the aim is to come close to the recommended serving sizes, on average, over several days. Use these visual comparisons to help estimate your portion sizes:

• A 3-ounce portion of cooked meat, poultry, or fish is about the size of a deck of playing cards.

• A medium potato is about the size of a computer mouse.

• A cup of rice or pasta is about the size of a fist or a tennis ball.

• A cup of fruit or a medium apple or orange is the size of a baseball.

• A half-cup of chopped vegetables is about the size of three regular ice cubes.

• A 3-ounce portion of grilled fish is the size of your checkbook.

• An ounce piece of cheese is the size of four dice.

• A teaspoon of peanut butter equals one die; 2 tablespoons is about the size of a golf ball.

• An ounce of snack foods—pretzels, etc.—equals a large handful.

• A thumb tip equals 1 teaspoon; 3 thumb tips equal 1 tablespoon; and a whole thumb equals 1 ounce.

37. Check the Serving Size on Labels

Don’t forget to check serving sizes when you read nutritional labels. This can wreak havoc on your waistline, particularly when it comes to carbohydrate and fat consumption—and we know that overeating is a big metabolism buster. For instance, a small bag of chips may read 120 calories per serving. Pay close attention and you’ll know if that small bag is packing two servings and 240 calories. A regular-size bag of chips, even veggie chips, can run close to 1,000 calories—if you eat half the bag, you’re consuming mega-calories.

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