Plant yourself (pun intended) and read ahead.
From inflammatory foods to obeso pollutants, there are a lot of hidden causes for unexpected weight gain. I’m sharing 10 tips that will help you achieve a leaner physique, while improving health markers that may increase longevity. How many are you already following? Read and find out.
- Eat Anti-inflammatory Foods
Anti inflammatory foods are: whole, intact grains, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), fruit, green vegetables, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil and avocados. A whole food diet has been proven to lower levels of inflammation in the body.
Consumption of red meat and processed meats, high-fat dairy products, refined grains, simple carbohydrates, and hydrogenated vegetable oils have been associated with higher levels of CRP (C-Reactive Protein). CRP is a protein made by your liver. CRP levels rise when there is inflammation in the body. A CRP test is used to predict future risk of heart attack, stroke, sudden cardiac death, and the development of peripheral arterial disease.
- Avoid Obeso Pollutants
These synthetic chemicals are known to cause obesity in humans. They are found in places you wouldn’t expect.
- BPA in plastic bottles and cans.
- Phthalates in poultry, red meat, animal fats and dairy products. Even organically-raised animal meats are not exempt from these chemicals.
- PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), a combustion by-product found in cigarettes, car exhaust and grilled meat.
- Microplastics found in fish, including small fish like sardines.
- Certain types of antidepressants, antipsychotics and diabetes medications.
- Eat High Fiber-Rich Foods
As you know, fiber keeps us regular, but most importantly, it feeds our “good” gut bacteria. Our bacteria converts fiber into short-chain fatty acids which plays a big role in supporting immune function and mental health, while reducing inflammation. It also plays a role in regulating appetite, body fat and metabolism.
High-fiber superstars: organic whole grains (steel cut oats or extra thick rolled oats, quinoa, brown rice) and organic legumes (beans, peas and lentils).
- Consume High Water Content Foods
The more high water content food you eat each day, the fewer calories you consume and the fuller you will feel. We typically consume a consistent amount of food daily, based on weight. Our stomach has an internal food weighing system that sends signals to the brain when we are reaching capacity. When we eat foods rich in fiber and water, we add bulk without adding calories. These types of food also take more space in the digestive tract, sending a satiety signal to your brain.
Vegetables have the highest water content, typically around 90% water by weight. Next up are fruits (~80%), starchy vegetables, whole grains and legumes (~70%), meat (~60%), cheese, dried fruit and breads (~30%) and breakfast cereals, crackers, chocolate, popcorn and chips (<10%). Staying at the high end helps you eat fewer calories while still feeling satisfied.
- Avoid High Glycemic Load foods
The more processed the carbohydrate, the higher the glycemic load. Whole, intact grains are slower to digest. The body takes longer to convert complex carbohydrates into sugar, regulating the spikes of insulin in your body. Insulin has an effect on our appetite, our metabolism and the rate at which we burn fats. If your goal is to lose weight, stick to low-glycemic load foods.
Low Glycemic foods: legumes, fruits and whole grains
High glycemic foods: white rice, corn flakes, white potatoes, raisins
- Consume Less Added Sugar
This is very clear, it’s important to avoid foods with added sugar. I’m not talking about never having your favorite dessert. What I’m saying is that if you want to look lean, sugary food shouldn’t be part of your daily caloric load. Leave sweets for special occasions ONLY.
- Consume Less Salt
Don’t look at me funny, I know food has to taste good, otherwise why even eat it, right? What I’m talking about here is reducing fast food, restaurant meals, and canned and prepared foods because they are laden with excess salt to enhance palatability and extend shelf life. What your foods add in shelf life, YOU lose in years. Believe it or not, your palate can be trained to desire less salty food.
Salty food not only makes you look bloated due to excess water retention, but more importantly it increases your risk for high blood pressure.
- Avoid Refined Grains
I know baking shows are in vogue, and at this very moment you may be warming up the oven to bake a pie (or who knows what). Don’t do it. It might feel good in the moment and baking might be a distraction, but you are better off taking up another hobby instead.
Refined flour and baked goods are not the most nutritious foods. They don’t make you feel satisfied. They only trap you in a vicious sugar cycle, where insulin will always be high and you will never be satiated.
The more insulin circulates through your body, the more fat is going to be stored in your thighs, hips, and belly.
- Eat a Big M.A.C.*
Now you’re thinking, “Maggie totally gets me, we both enjoy a Big MAC.” LOL! Sure, but before you jump to the wrong conclusion, let me explain what I mean. You have heard of our microbiome, right? It’s the trillions of bacteria living inside of us. Yes, there are more bacteria cells and genes than human cells and genes in our body. They live in our gut and…they are hungry.
We can feed our intestinal bacteria with M.A.C. (Microbiota Accessible Carbohydrates), another term for prebiotics. Prebiotics serve as fuel for these microorganisms, consisting of fiber and resistant starches from plants. Maintaining a healthy microbiome supports digestion and nutrient absorption, keeps pathogens in check, and strengthens immune function.
Beans are the superstars. If you are going for a burger, make sure it’s a bean burger.
- Limit High Calorie Density Foods
The more concentrated the food, the more calories it will have. Some studies reveal that you stand an increased risk of weight gain and obesity if your diet consists mostly of high calorie density foods.
Example of unhealthy, high calorie density foods are:
- Fast food
- Processed meats
- Sugary drinks
In conclusion, a whole food, plant-based approach will not only provide you with the necessary macro and micronutrients to support optimal health, but it will keep you regular, with a happy microbiome. A plant-based diet approach has been proven to be useful for losing weight, reducing inches from your waist, and adding years to your life.
Don’t want to turn into a vegan or vegetarian? Then follow a real Mediterranean diet, where animal proteins are used as a condiment, not as the staple of every meal.