Want to lose weight? Eat more protein.

Eating adequate protein is essential for achieving your health and weight goals. Protein is one of three major classes of foods called macronutrients—the other two are fats and carbohydrates. Protein is made up of amino acids, also known as the “building blocks of protein.” We get protein primarily from poultry, beef, lamb, pork, fish and seafood. We also get it from animal products such as eggs, milk and cheese. Protein also comes in vegetable form, including soy, seeds, and nuts.

Protein furnishes the raw materials your body needs to make muscles, organs, hair, enzymes and just about anything else necessary to keep it running like a well-oiled machine. Without protein you would die. (The same cannot be said, by the way, of carbohydrate, but that’s another story. There is no requirement for carbohydrates. Our bodies can manufacture what we need.)

Protein plays a role in weight loss and weight management. Of all the macronutrient, protein is the most satiating, and higher protein diets consistently result in the greatest inadvertent reduction in calories. You don’t consciously stop eating. You’re not fighting your desire for food. You simply don’t want it. That’s the perfect antidote to insatiable hunger.

Compared to carbohydrate, consuming protein has less of an effect on insulin (which drives fat storage), a greater effect on glucagon (which drives fat release) and a considerably greater increase in metabolic rate. Several studies demonstrate greater body-fat loss on a high-protein diet than on a high-carb one. Increasing intake of protein relative to carbohydrates fills you up more, so you wind up eating less. A recent study showed that even eating snacks with a higher protein and lower carbohydrate composition could reduce the amount of food you eat at the next meal. Furthermore, eating protein boosts your metabolic rate. (The technical term is thermogenesis.) In fact, one study showed that healthy young women experienced 100 percent higher thermogenesis after eating high-protein meals—even two and a half hours later 5 than when they ate a “conventional” high-carbohydrate meal.

Try making sure protein is included in each of your daily meals. For breakfast, have some cottage cheese, unsweetened Greek yogurt, turkey sausage/bacon, or eggs. For lunch, have some turkey or chicken wrapped in cheese and lettuce. (Just do not eat the bread!) Add tuna, chicken or turkey to your salad. For dinner have a small amount of lean protein such as lean meat, poultry or fish. For a snack, eat a small amount of nuts or seeds. By adding more protein to your diet you will feel less hungry, eat less calories, and keep your insulin levels down. This is a perfect recipe for good health and weight loss.

Having trouble losing weight? Insulin may be the culprit.

Are you having difficulty losing weight? Do the pounds just seem to stick to your middle section no matter how little you eat? Why is this? An elevated insulin level may be the culprit. Insulin is a hormone.  Hormones are chemical messengers that are secreted directly into the blood, which carries them to organs and tissues of the body to exert their functions. Insulin is secreted by groups of cells within the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ that sits behind the stomach and secretes other hormones in addition to insulin.  Insulin’s main function is to allow our body’s cells to absorb glucose (sugar) from the blood. Carbohydrates (or sugars) are absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream after a meal. Insulin is then secreted by the pancreas in response to this elevation in blood sugar (blood glucose). Most cells of the body have insulin receptors which bind the insulin that is in the circulation.  When a cell has insulin attached to its surface, the cell activates other receptors designed to absorb glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into the inside of the cell.

 Interestingly, insulin also prevents the utilization of fat as an energy source. Insulin locks your fat cells so the fat inside cannot be released and used as energy. This makes weight loss almost impossible. When insulin levels are maintained at a low level, the body begins to use fat as an energy source. High levels of insulin tell your body to gain weight around the belly and you become more apple-shaped over time. In essence, insulin is the get fat hormone. Toxic effects of too much insulin include: increased fat storage, increased inflammation levels, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia (high triglycerides and low HDL), poor sex drive, infertility, increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. The best way to lower your insulin level and keep it down to promote weight loss is to remove sugar and simple (refined) carbohydrates from your diet. Sugar or anything quickly turned into sugar (bread, rice, pasta, sweeteners, pastries, and pretzels) will quickly raise insulin levels. Eating a diet of lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates (carbohydrates with a large amount of fiber, which slows the release of sugar into the intestine) is the best way to eat to keep your insulin levels low and to finally get rid of those difficult to lose pounds.

Carbs? Protein? Fat? What am I supposed to do? I am so confused!

I hear people complain to me that they are quite confused about how to eat. They hear conflicting information. Is a low carbohydrate diet the healthiest? Or is a low fat diet the healthiest? Am I eating too much protein?  First of all, there is no “diet” that works long term. None. Your goal should be a healthy lifestyle. What is a healthy lifestyle? The healthiest way to eat is a whole and unprocessed food lifestyle, avoiding sugar and processed foods. The biggest reason for our obesity epidemic is processed food. Processed food is loaded with sugar, simple carbs, and unhealthy oils. Foods that are loaded with sugar and simple carbs raise insulin levels, which cause weight gain and make weight loss very difficult.  (See prior article on this topic.) Processed foods contain large amounts of processed vegetable oils, which raise inflammation levels.  (See prior article on this topic.) They tend to have minimal nutrition. They tend to have little if any fiber, which helps in controlling insulin levels and promotes weight loss. Furthermore, processed foods tend to have minimal vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. These micronutrients help to keep you healthy and avoid illness including cancer. The majority of the foods you eat should be in their whole, natural form.  They should not have labels with ingredients that you cannot even pronounce. Eating whole, unprocessed foods will help you to lose weight and keep it off. The Mediterranean diet/lifestyle focuses on eating whole foods in their natural form. Research suggests this type of eating can be more beneficial in protecting your health than taking a statin medication. A whole foods, unprocessed lifestyle can lower your blood sugar, decrease your insulin levels, decrease your triglyceride levels, increase your LDL particle size, and lower your inflammation levels. So start changing you diet today. Clear out your pantry. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Avoid foods that are processed, they are not good for you. They will make you fat and promote illness. Eat whole, unprocessed foods for a healthier you!

What the heck is Quinoa?

Over 3,000 years ago, high in the Andes mountains in South America, the Incas began to cultivate quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) as one of their staple crops, believing that it gave power and stamina to their warriors. This amazing super-food has been called “the gold of the Incas.” In the mid 1980s, two North Americans stumbled upon this ancient super-food and began cultivating it. Since then, quinoa’s popularity has exploded worldwide. Although it is cooked and eaten like a grain, quinoa is technically a seed, and is related to spinach, chard and beets. The seeds are round, about the same size of millet or sesame seeds. Quinoa comes in a rainbow of colors, including red, purple, green, and yellow. Although, the quinoa that is most commonly found in stores is an off-white color. Look for quinoa in the bulk section of natural food stores, or in the organic section of conventional supermarkets. What makes quinoa such a healthy option is the protein it provides. The protein quality of quinoa is considered to be on par with the protein quality of dairy products. This is because quinoa, unlike most grains, includes all of the eight essential amino acids that are needed for tissue growth and repair. Not only is the “mother of all grains” high in protein, but it is also incredibly low in fat. Quinoa is high in manganese, which acts as a disease and cancer fighting antioxidant in the body. Other vital nutrients that quinoa provides are: magnesium, fiber, calcium, riboflavin, copper and potassium. Complete proteins are rare in the plant world, making quinoa an excellent food for vegetarians and vegans, or for anyone looking for a healthy protein source. Antioxidant phytonutrients have recently been discovered in quinoa. Two flavonoids, quercetin and kaempferol, are now known to be provided by quinoa in especially concentrated amounts. In fact, the concentration of these two flavonoids in quinoa can sometimes be greater than their concentration in high-flavonoid berries like cranberries. Recent studies are providing a greatly expanded list of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in quinoa. The presence of anti-inflammatory compounds in quinoa may help explain animal studies which show decreased risk of inflammation-related problems (including obesity) when animals are fed quinoa on a daily basis. Quinoa also provides small amounts of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Quinoa is gluten-free. Preparing quinoa is relatively easy and quick. Before cooking quinoa, it is important that you thoroughly wash the seeds in order to remove the saponin that coats them. Saponin can lead to a bitter taste. Usually, quinoa has been rinsed and washed before being sold, however, it is still recommended to wash it again before preparing to ensure that all of the saponin is removed. To wash the quinoa, just place it in a strainer and rince it thoroughly for a few minutes. To prepare quinoa, combine one cup rinsed quinoa to two cups water or broth, bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the seeds become translucent. Quinoa has a light, slightly nutty taste and a fluffy texture. Quinoa can be prepared in a variety of ways. It can be used in hot breakfast cereals, chili, salads and casseroles. It can also be used to replace rice and other grains and to thicken soups. Quinoa is delicious served cold or warm and can be frozen and reheated.


Eat More Beans for Good Health

Eat more beans for good health. Beans are a low fat, vitamin and fiber rich, high protein and inexpensive food. Beans can lower cholesterol levels, fight heart disease, stabilize blood sugar and reduce obesity. Beans are an excellent source of vegetarian protein. Beans can be a good alternative to meat. Beans are an excellent source of fiber. The soluble fiber in beans can help lower cholesterol levels naturally and can help stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetics. Lentils have 8 grams of fiber per half cup, black beans and pinto beans have 7.5 grams per half cup, and chickpeas have 4 grams per half cup. Fiber helps fill you up with less calories which helps you to lose weight. Beans have a low calorie density – a key to losing weight and keeping it off. Beans are high in folate which can help reduce homocysteine levels. High homocysteine levels can damage the arteries. Furthermore, evidence suggests beans can also reduce your risk of cancer. On the other hand, beans can cause gas. Eat small amounts at first and slowly increase the amount you eat and your body will get used to the beans. Beano can help. There are many varieties of beans to try such as black beans, lima beans, navy beans, garbazo beans, fava beans, pinto beans and cannellini beans. Try them in soup or in your salad. Beans can make good vegetarian burgers. Get creative. Make beans a regular part of your diet for good health. They are a true super food!