The Wonders of Lemon Water for Fat Loss

Lemons can help aid weight loss
When life gives you lemons – make lemon water!

It appears, lemons are not just for lemonade!  Lemons have a barrage of uses and benefits from beauty regimes, cleaning products, cooking, to fighting infections.  Lemons are also a very powerful agent in fat loss.  It’s the citric acid in lemons (containing the highest amount of any other fruit) that make them such a powerhouse among fruits. One of the reasons we hold on to extra body fat is related to a poor functioning digestive system.

Poor digestion is a very common problem with most people and is often caused by an inconsistent diet, meaning, a diet lacking in certain nutrients.  Those that follow different types of diet trends can aggravate digestive problems by restricting certain essential nutrients that the body needs to burn fat.  Without the proper nutrients, digestion slows down which, in turn, slows down your metabolism and makes fat loss impossible.  When the body is not receiving proper nutrients, it triggers a craving for these nutrients making you feel hungry when in actuality, you are not.

How can lemons help this? It’s amazing what this little fruit can actually do!  Most people eat foods that create an acidic environment in the body, which leads to all sorts of digestive and health problems.  Ironically, lemons (even though they are high in citric acid) have an alkalizing or neutralizing effect in the body.  The benefits stem from this alkalizing effect.

Why You Need Lemons

  • Lemons help purify the liver by removing toxins. When there’s a build up of toxins in your body, it can result in feeling sluggish, bloated, and depressed.  Toxins in the body also hold on to fat, so in order to lose the fat, you need to flush out the toxins.  The added benefit of clearing toxic waste is a clear and glowing complexion!  Add a wedge of lemon to your glass of water.
  • A great weight loss aid! The peel of the lemon contains pectin which is a great source of fiber.  Pectin helps slow down sugar absorption in the stomach which helps keep hunger cravings at bay, for up to 4 hours!  A great way to get pectin in your diet:  grate some lemon zest on your salad or in your pasta sauce.
  • Can relieve digestive problems. According to The Lemon Juice Diet, drinking warm water with lemon juice first thing in the morning will stimulate the digestive system and have revitalizing effect on the liver.  It can relieve digestive problems such as nausea, heartburn, constipation and parasites.
  • Helps heighten immunity. Lemons contain Vitamin C which helps to prevent and treat different types of infections, allergies, and symptoms of asthma.

Love your Lemons

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Balance your pH level and Lose Fat Fast!

pH is a chemistry term that describes whether something is acidic or basic (alkaline).  It’s based on a scale from 1-14.  1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most basic.  The middle is neutral at pH 7.  This is an important number, since your body happens to function most optimally at pH 7.  In fact, you can only survive within a very strict range of pH 7.

Thankfully, your body has many built-in mechanisms to ensure that the pH level doesn’t ever veer too much.  However, it’s always best to keep as much strain off of your body as possible to ensure that it keeps functioning optimally.

One way to do so is by eating a well-balanced diet.  Now, all foods have an acidic or basic value.  All proteins (meats, poultry, fish and dairy) and refined carbs (ESPECIALLY grains) are acidic foods, whereas all unrefined carbs, which are your fruits and vegetables are basic and most fats are neutral.

Since proteins are essential in your diet, these are acidic foods that are necessary and it’s easy to balance them out by eating enough fruits and vegetables.

Where you can get into trouble is when you consume refined carbs – especially grains like breads, pasta, rice and all packaged snacks such as chips, cookies, crackers and so on.  These foods are highly acidic not to mention packed with sugar and calories and do nothing for your weight loss endeavors.  Another food you should try to avoid is cheese.  I know it’s delicious, but it’s also highly acidic and dense in calories.

Avoiding these highly acidic foods will give your body a break from having to use its own vital organs and bone minerals to neutralize the acidic foods.  The less your body has to expend energy and nutrients on keeping your body functioning, the more energy it has to enhance metabolic processes that helps you recover faster, burn more fat and build lean muscles quicker.

So to optimize your body’s functions stick to eating natural whole foods.  Eat plenty of protein and balance it out by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.  You really can’t eat enough greens…ever!  This is one case where more is better.  And don’t forget to throw in some healthy fats in the mix to balance it all out.

The great thing is the way you need to eat to maintain an optimal pH level in your body also happens to be the best way to maximize your health and weight loss as well!  Coincidence?  I think not.

Here’s a pH balance chart that will help you keep the acid foods and alkaline foods in a better perspective making it easier to make better food choices.

Acid Alkaline Chart

Low Fat Leek and Potato Soup

Low-fat Leek and Potato Soup

The best leek and potato soup I’ve ever had was at this little French boulangerie in downtown Vancouver; come to think of it, everything they served was fantastic and so authentic.  The soup, however, was a culinary masterpiece, in my opinion.  I couldn’t get enough of the velvety smooth texture and the uncomplicated yet delicate flavor.  It tasted fancy and gourmet, and for that reason, I assumed it would be a complicated recipe.  Much to my surprise when I started researching recipes.

Fresh leeks and potatoesLeek and potato soup is generally a calorie rich soup made with heavy creams giving it that  gourmet flavor.  I’ve reinterpreted the recipe to come up with this super ‘skinny’ version that has all the flavor but a fraction of the calories!   There are so many new and interesting variations of this soup; some by combining other vegetables; some with garlic and white wine, and even spicy variations.  However, I still prefer the traditional recipe that dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries, it’s simple with only a few key ingredients:  leeks, potatoes, broth, and cream (for which I’ve substituted low-fat buttermilk).  The combination of these simple ingredients is like heaven on earth!  Served with crusty whole grain bread and it’s a meal in itself.

Ingredients

1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 T unsalted butter
4 Leeks (white and light green parts only), sliced
1 Bay Leaf
3 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 cups Chicken Broth
½ t white pepper
½ t Kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1 cup Low-fat Buttermilk

Directions

Wash leeks in a colander under cold water and let drain for a few minutes.

In a medium stock pot over medium heat, melt butter in olive oil.  Add leeks, bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon of salt, allow to sweat for 5 minutes.  Decrease heat to med-low and cook for another 15 minutes, until leeks are tender.  Stir occasionally, making sure the leeks do not brown.

Add potatoes and chicken stock, turn the heat up to med-high and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium, partially cover and let potatoes cook until very soft (almost falling apart), approximately 20 minutes.

Turn off  heat, remove bay leaf from soup, and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.  Add the buttermilk and white pepper.  Season with additional kosher salt as per taste.  Serve immediately as is, or topped with a dollop of sour cream and croutons.  Enjoy!

Makes 10 cups

Per Serving:  96.3 cal, 2.8 g fat, 14 g carbs, 2.7 g protein

Super Healthy Homemade Hummus – Easy and Diet Friendly!

Healthy Homemade HummusThis homemade hummus is packed with healthy goodness.  Don’t let the calories scare you!  These are nutrient rich calories, the kind we all need.  The high-calorie ingredients in hummus are the tahini (or sesame butter), and extra virgin olive oil which can be substituted for lighter alternatives, but in my opinion, these greatly contribute to the flavor, richness, authenticity, and nutritional content of the dish.

The word hummus means chickpea in Arabic, which is the primary ingredient in this ancient dish.  Chickpeas are a great source of fiber which helps reduce levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol).  When served with a grain, such as pita, it’s a complete-protein food and extremely low-fat.

Tahini or Sesame ButterTahini is a paste made by grinding up sesame seeds and dates back as far as 1600 BC.  Tahini contains a lot of natural oil, almost 50%, which gives it a high fat content.  The oil, however, is mostly in the form of monounsaturated fat which is beneficial for the body since it contains increased levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).  Tahini is a nutritional powerhouse, packed with a multitude of vitamins and minerals.  Antioxidants along with vitamin E in tahini reduces the aging of body cells which helps slow down the aging process.  Tahini is an extremely rich source of calcium, one of the best sources, even better than dairy (which is hard for the body to digest).  And finally, it is also one of the richest sources of protein, being almost 20% complete protein, it beats out milk, soy beans, most nuts, and sunflower seeds.

Extra virgin olive oil contains extraordinary amounts of antioxidants that fight everything from fat buildup, cravings, inflammation, to helping boost your metabolism.  It is also an extremely rich dietary source of monounsaturated fat containing oleic acid, which is a proven fat loss agent when combined with a low-calorie diet.

This goes to show that you can’t always judge a food simply based on the calorie content.  The focus should be quality over quantity, when it comes to calories.  The high-calorie ingredients in hummus are also high quality, and the health benefits they offer are worth the extra calories.  Having said that, you should still exercise portion control.  According to this recipe, one serving of hummus is 2 tablespoons per person.  Use instead of mayo on sandwiches or in wraps.  Makes a perfect mid-day snack with some veggies.  Is also great in salad dressings.  The possibilities are endless!

Ingredients

    1 can Chick Peas (15.5 oz)
    2 T Tahini
    2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    ½ cup Low Fat Yogurt
    ½ Lemon, juiced
    1 t Lemon zest
    1T Flaxseed meal
    1 garlic clove
    1 t sea salt
    ½ t ground cumin
    ½ t ground coriander seeds
    ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Directions

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until a creamy consistency.  If too thick, add 2 tablespoons of water and mix.

Makes 12 servings

Nutrients per serving: 76.4 cal, 4.4 g fat, 7.2 g carbs, 2.3 g fiber, 3.1 g protein

Wake Up Call! Snacking can Sabotage Your Weight Loss

Yes, snacking can absolutely kill all the hard work you do at the gym.  Unless of course, you are snacking wisely.  Eating smart or eating healthy is not always easy.  We often have the best intentions to stay true to our goals, but for whatever reason, there are times when cravings override sensibility.  But why does this happen?  Why do we crave unhealthy foods?  Why do we consciously make poor food choices and then feel guilty about it?  How can we stop this cycle of sabotage?

The answer to the first three questions is lack of planning.  Without proper planning we will often make poor food choices out of convenience, when a healthier alternative is not easily available or when lack of time is a factor.  A little planning can go a long way and can keep you on track with your weight loss goals.  Plan out an entire week of meals and snacks over the weekend, and prepare a shopping list so you have everything on hand.  At first this may seem time consuming, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.  This step will keep you from sabotaging all your hard work at the gym.  Having supportive meals and snacks on hand takes the guess work out of eating healthy.

Remember, guilty snacks are high in calories but offer no real nutrition, these are known as empty calories.  These snacks may taste great but will not keep you full for long, you’ll be fighting a snack attack a short while later.  Healthy snacks, on the other hand, are much lower in calories and are full of nutrition.  They taste great while keeping your blood sugar levels stable, which means you’ll be satisfied longer without having cravings.    Once you compare the nutritional information on the packages of each, you will no doubt make the smart choice.

Here are top 7 guilty food cravings and their healthier smart alternatives.  Make every calorie count, choose the smart snack and stop the viscous cycle of sabotage!

If you’re craving this – instead eat this:

Instead of cookies, go for all natural granola bars.

 

 

 

To satisfy a sweet tooth,  choose dates or dried fruit (no sugar added)

 

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Pass on the donuts and pastries,  choose fresh fruit.

 

 

 

Instead of potato chips, Soy Chips are the way to go.  One serving of these is only 90 calories with 6 gms of protein, and 0 saturated fat or cholesterol!

 

 

 

Water or Crystal Light is always a better option than pop.  The zero calorie pops are full of artificial sweeteners and chemicals.   Sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime is just as refreshing and hydrating.

 

In recent research, it’s been proven that coffee contains antioxidants and other agents that help reduce the risk of various diseases.  Does that mean coffee is good for you?  Not necessarily, it also contains caffeine which is know to raise blood pressure and elevate levels of epinephrine (also called adrenaline).  Green tea is high in antioxidants, especially a particular one called EGCG (epigallocatechil gallate), which inhibits cancer cell growth.  The healing and preventative benefits of green tea cleanses the body of disease causing toxins.  People generally feel energized and refreshed.

 

Frappuccino or Fruit Frapps pack a lot of calories, especially if topped with whipped cream.  Choose a real fruit smoothie or
fruit bottom yogurt which are packed with nutrition.

 

 

Weekly fitTip: Know what’s in your food

Whether you are uninformed or misinformed, not knowing the contents of the foods you eat will sabotage your weight loss efforts.  Packaging of food products can be deceiving and don’t really convey the healthfulness of the product.  Manufacturers use packaging as a marketing tool for the sole purpose of sales.  They want you to believe in the healthfulness of their product so that you will purchase it, mission accomplished!  Regardless of whether the package states (example: 0 Trans Fats, Low fat, Reduced Sodium, Reduced Fat), it is your responsibility to yourself to find out exactly what the specific ingredients are.

Read food labels
Food labels turn knowledge into action.

Solution:  Read nutritional labels on the package

Food labels contain a wealth of information and at first glance, can look intimidating. You don’t need to be a nutritionist to make sense of it, you just need to be able to pick out the pertinent information.

Food Labels 101

First off, start with the list of ingredients.  If the list of ingredients looks more like a short story, then there’s a good chance the product is highly processed and contains high quantities of chemicals and preservatives.   You may want to choose a healthier alternative, one with a shorter ingredient list.  The ingredients are listed in order of quantity, the first ingredient being the highest.   It’s important to scan the list to see what the first few ingredients are because that’s what the bulk of the product is made of.  Common sense plays a big role here, if you don’t know what a particular ingredient is or you can’t pronounce it, then it is probably a chemical or additive.

Next look at the calories, grams of fat (specifically saturated fat), cholesterol, sodium, sugars;  these are the enemies, so, try and eat less of these.  Foods containing high amounts of these can be harmful to your overall health and can contribute to conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes.  Simply choose foods with a low % Daily Value of these nutrients.

Lastly, make sure the values for protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins are high.  These are beneficial to your health and well- being.  Protein is important for repairing and building muscle, however, protein from animal sources (lean meat, fish, poultry) also contains fat and cholesterol so eat smaller amounts of these.  Other sources high in protein are low-fat or skim milk, yogurt and cheese.  Vegetable proteins like beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains are considered super foods because they are also high in dietary fiber and other minerals.

However, if all this is still too confusing or overwhelming, there is the NuVal™ Nutritional Scoring System that can take the guess-work out of making healthy food choices.

So there you go, food labels in a nut shell!  This basic information should be empowering and should help you make healthy food choices that will support your fitness efforts.

Top 10 ‘Skinny’ Foods for Healthy Weight Loss

Losing weight is about eating clean and eating smart, it is about being aware and accountable for everything we put in our bodies.  Those who are looking for a quick fix will be disappointed.  There is no “secret” to losing weight, nor is there a magic diet…sorry!  It all boils down to what we put in our mouths.  The age old saying, “you are what you eat”, is exactly right, 75% (if not more) of the weight loss battle is related to food.  By initiating small changes to your regular diet, eliminating certain foods and incorporating healthy alternatives, you will notice the weight dropping off in a short time.  The other 25% of the equation is exercise.  In order to achieve optimum results, a healthy diet and regular exercise go hand-in-hand.

Here are Top 10 Super Foods that will keep your metabolism revved so you will burn more fat.  Try to incorporate as many of these as you can into your diet immediately:

Oatmeal - the breakfast of Champions!1.    Oatmeal – is a great way to start the day.  Oats, in any variety (quick, rolled, old-fashioned, steel cut, but not instant), are high in fiber providing your body with a steady source of fuel while keeping your blood sugar level stable.  It keeps you full longer so you won’t crave that mid-morning sugar fix.

2.    Egg Whites – When compared to the whole egg, the whites are     definitely the healthier choice.  One egg white contain 17 calories, 0.1g fat, 0g saturated fats, 0mg cholesterol, and 5g protein.  The egg yolk, on the other hand, contains a whopping 55 calories, 4.5g fat, 1.6g saturated fats, 210mg cholesterol, and 2.7g protein.  The numbers speak for themselves.

3.    Grapefruit – They are delicious, juicy, fragrant and a powerful weight loss agent.  The grapefruit diet has been around for years and has avid supporters, but now, there is actual research that proves grapefruits promote healthy weight loss.  Red grapefruits, in particular, have an insulin reducing property which aids in weight loss and improved health.

4.     Nuts – Nuts are calorie rich and high in fat, so how are they a ‘skinny’ food?  Nuts are mostly unsaturated fat, which is good fat; they lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and have shown to aid in healthy weight loss when consumed in moderation.  The high fat content can prevent cravings, which lead to unhealthy food choices.  Nuts are packed with powerful nutrients and make a great on-the-go snack, but portion control is the key.

5.    Fresh Produce – Fresh fruits and vegetables make up the largest portion of your diet.  Most vegetables, particularly the green leafy variety, are naturally low in carbs, high in antioxidants, and very low in calories.  It is recommended to include produce in all varieties and colors into your diet.  Increasing your daily consumption of produce will decrease your overall caloric intake, leading to healthy weight loss.

6.    Yogurt – Research has found that eating low-fat yogurt daily significantly increases fat burning potential.  This particular study found those who ate low-fat yogurt daily lost on average 22% more weight, 61% more body fat, and 81% more belly fat!  Beware of the sweet fruity yogurts, they are usually higher in calories and sugar, and avoid those sweetened with artificial sweeteners.  Low-fat Greek yogurt is an excellent choice and can be sweetened with honey or agave.

7.    Brown Rice – Brown rice is a nutrient rich whole grain.  Among the many other health benefits of brown rice, the high fiber content is what makes it such an excellent food for weight loss.  High fiber provides bulk that keeps you full a lot longer, preventing sugar cravings that lead to poor food choices.

8.    100% Whole Grains – For the same reasons as brown rice, whole grain pastas, breads, cereals are the recommended choice for healthy weight loss.  Sprouted grain breads are my recent discovery; they are a complete protein that is digested by the body more efficiently.  The low gluten content of sprouted grain breads makes them an excellent food for a flat belly.

9.    Beans and Lentils – Beans and lentils (also called legumes) are a power food.  They are high in protein, high in soluble fiber, and have a low glycemic index which makes them the perfect food for weight loss.

10. Green Tea – Certain compounds in green tea have shown to aid in weight loss.  High concentrations of catechin polyphenols along with other chemicals in green tea increase the body’s fat oxidization and thermogenesis.  In other words, green tea helps rev up your metabolism and increase your fat burning potential.  Green tea has many more health benefits and is recommended as part of a healthy diet.

SOURCES: Zemel, M. International Journal of Obesity, April 2005; vol 29: pp 391-397. News release, General Mills.