The Difference Between MCT And Coconut Oil—And How To Use Each

Coconut oil and MCT oil are all over the place these days, and as intrigued as people are, the hype has left many of us scratching our heads. After all, we’ve heard that coconut oil contains MCTs—so is there really much of a difference between the two products?

Simply put: Yes. Here’s what distinguishes the two trendy oils from each other.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is made by pressing the oil out of dried coconut, and is 92 percent saturated fat. (Yep, it’s higher in saturated fat than beef or butter!) Between 62 and 65 percent of coconut oil’s saturated fats come from MCTs (medium-chain tryiglycerides), a type of saturated fat that is absorbed and used by our body differently than most fats, like LCTs (long-chain triglycerides), which make up the rest of the saturated fat in coconut oil. MCTs are smaller molecules, making them easier for our body to use for energy and less likely to be stored as fat.

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Though coconut oil doesn’t contain exclusively MCTs, it does contain more than other types of dietary fats, explains Ginger Hultin, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.O., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Here’s the catch, though: Up to 53 percent of coconut oil’s fatty acids come from an MCT called lauric acid, which “behaves more like a long-chain triglyceride than an MCT in many ways,” says Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com. “It contains more carbon atoms and therefore takes more work to break down, so some people don’t even feel it should be called an MCT.”

MCT Oil

While coconut oil contains both MCTs and LCTs, MCT oil contains just MCTs. To create pure MCT oil, coconut and/or palm kernel oils undergo a process called ‘fractionation,’ in which filters or chemicals separate the different types of fatty acids in the oil and create the odorless, colorless, and flavorless refined oil you see on store shelves, says Hultin. No LCTs to be found.

Through this process, even larger MCTs—like lauric acid (which has 12 carbons)—are filtered out in favor of smaller MCTs—like caproic acid (six carbons) and caprylic acid (eight carbons), says Axe. “The shorter the chain (meaning the fewer carbons the fatty acid has), the easier it should be to absorb and use the fat for energy,” he explains. Most MCT oils contain less lauric acid than coconut oil, and concentrate those smaller MCTs in order to be as easy for our body to use for energy—and unlikely to be stored as fat—as possible.

When To Use What

Both coconut and MCT oils are great to have on-hand. “The MCTs you get from either coconut oil or MCT oil are digested easily and support your metabolism because they have a thermogenic (heat-building) effect,” says Axe.

Coconut oil’s main perks: It boasts a smoke point (350 degrees Fahrenheit), has a long shelf life, and offers a unique flavor, making it a great option for cooking and baking, says Hultin. Try using it in creamy soups, baked goods, and stir-fries, or blending it into coffee or smoothies. It also makes a great shortening replacement for greasing pans!

Plus, coconut oil’s uses don’t end in the kitchen; it’s also a superhero beauty and skin-care ingredient, often used to lock moisture into dry skin and hair or remove makeup.

Related: 12 Health And Beauty Uses For Coconut Oil

MCT oil, on the other hand, isn’t something you’d want to cook with, partly because the refinement process leaves it with a low smoke point of 284 degrees. You can, however, use it in low-heat recipes, like oatmeal, marinades, or dressings—or, like coconut oil, blend it into smoothies or coffee. Just don’t expect MCT oil to add any flavor (unless the product specifies that it’s been flavored).

Since it’s produced specifically to maximize the fastest-absorbing fatty acids out there, MCT oil is typically taken as a supplement by people who follow a ketogenic diet, which involves shifting the body’s primary fuel source from sugar to fat, explains Axe. Since MCTs can be used for energy, they can help keto dieters churn out more of the ketone bodies (a.k.a fat fuel molecules) they need to thrive.

While MCT oil has a bit of an edge when it comes to ketone-boosting ability, it’s more expensive than regular ol’ coconut oil, so Axe recommends keto dieters make it an ‘every now and then’ swap-in when they need a little extra oomph. Otherwise, the average healthy eater can still benefit from the MCTs found in coconut oil while enjoying the light flavor it adds to various recipes.

Shopping Tips

When shopping for a quality coconut oil, look for a label that lists just one ingredient: ‘virgin cold-pressed coconut oil,’ says Axe, who also recommends going for organic when possible. Cold-pressed oils are produced at a lower heat, which preserves more of the nutrients they contain and maintains their natural mild flavor (plnt brand’s Extra-Virgin Cold-Pressed Coconut Oil is a good option). Since coconut oil is solid at temperatures below 76 degrees but starts to melt at warmer temps, don’t be alarmed if the texture of your oil changes with the seasons!

Finding a high-quality MCT oil can be a little trickier. Axe recommends looking for a product that clearly states both the ingredients used and the process by which it was made (low-heat processing is better, while steam distillation and the use of chemical solvents are not so great). The bottle should read ‘cold-pressed and unfiltered,’ and the oil should be a thick, clear liquid. (Bulletproof Brain Octane oil contains just caprylic acid MCTs concentrated from coconut oil.) If you notice an inconsistent texture (lumpy or solid), the MCT oil may be hydrogenated or lesser in quality, he says.

Pin this infographic to make the most of coconut and MCT oils:

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Castor Oil Is Making A Comeback—Here Are 4 Health-Boosting Reasons To Use It

If your pantry is already stocked with natural superstar ingredients like apple cider vinegar and coconut oil, there’s another multi-purpose staple that should be on your radar (and on your shelf): castor oil.

Castor oil, which hails from Africa and India, has been used for health and well-being—especially for hair, skin, and digestion—for hundreds of years. The oil contains high concentrations of a hard-to-find fatty acid called ricinoleic acid that experts believe is responsible for many of its benefits, explains Traditional Chinese Medicine specialist Elizabeth Trattner, A.P.

Want to reap the benefits of this ancient oil for yourself? Here are five ways castor oil can do your body good, inside and out.

1. Boosts Lymphatic Function, Detoxification, And Immunity

Our lymphatic system, which consists of a network of hundreds of connected lymph nodes, is responsible for dispersing immune-boosting white blood cells throughout our body and filtering out waste and toxins. But if our lymph nodes don’t drain and transport their lymph fluid properly (which can be caused by high doses of medication, lack of activity, and certain diseases), they can affect our liver’s ability to detoxify our body.

To boost lymphatic function, Trattner recommends applying DIY castor oil packs. Research published in the Journal of Naturopathic Medicine shows that castor oil triggers our body’s production of lymphocytes (a.k.a. white blood cells), and thus can support proper lymphatic drainage and immunity. “I used to use castor oil packs to support my liver through all the asthma medication I was on,” she says. “I would soak old rags in castor oil, wrap them around my midsection over my liver, cover them with towels, plastic wrap them, and apply heat.”

Research suggests castor oil packs need to be applied for two hours, so try wrapping yourself up before your next weekend Netflix session.

2. Supports Regular Toilet Time

Castor oil has long been used to ease constipation, and now researchers know how it works: The oil’s ricinoleic acid binds to certain receptors in the muscles throughout our digestive system and causes them to contract, which helps move waste through and out of our system. (Fun fact: Because of this effect, castor oil was also traditionally used to induce labor!)

If you’ve never taken castor oil before, start with just an eighth of a teaspoon, and gauge how your system reacts, recommends Mariana Daniela Torchia, Ph.D., R.D., M.P.H. Otherwise, take up to half a teaspoon to help you go.

3. Nourishes Skin

Want dewy, soft skin? Consider adding castor oil to your skin-care regimen.

Because it’s made up of fatty acids—especially that ricinoleic acid—castor oil helps to soothe and lock moisture into the skin, explains Trattner. In fact, castor oil is a popular ingredient in tons of cosmetic products already on store shelves—it may even be in a lotion or moisturizer you already use! (It’s typically listed as ‘Ricinus Communis.’)

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Since castor can be allergenic for some people, apply a small amount to the back of your hand to test for any allergic reaction or sensitivities before slathering it all over your body. If you’re good to go, mix a little castor oil into your moisturizer or massage the oil into your skin before bed (rinse off any excess in the morning).

4. Conditions Scalp And Hair

Castor oil can also be used as a natural conditioner, and can bring moisture back into dry locks and nourish your hair follicles. “Castor oil and its benefits for scalp, hair, and eyebrow health have been believed and followed for ages,” Trattner says. In addition to its moisturizing fatty acids, vitamin E also contributes to the oil’s conditioning effects.

Related: I Tested 8 Different Health And Beauty Uses For Apple Cider Vinegar

To use castor oil as a scalp treatment, wet your hair, massage a few teaspoons into your scalp for about two to three minutes, and rinse. To condition your strands, you can either add a few drops of castor oil to your usual conditioner or deep condition by rubbing the oil directly into your hair. If deep conditioning, let the oil work its magic for about 30 minutes and then rinse.

Intrigued? Pin this infographic for future reference!

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7 Veggies To Watch Out For If You’re Keto

You probably already know that baked goods, candy, and most fruits are off the table on a ketogenic diet, but you’d think good ol’ veggies, which are typically low in carbs and pack a ton of nutrition, would be safe, right? Well…

Every rule has an exception, and while pretty much all of your favorite green veggies are keto-friendly, some higher-carb vegetables—like potatoes, carrots, and beets—are questionable.

A successful keto diet often requires cutting carbs down to just 50 grams total per day, or about 20 to 30 grams of net carbs (total carbs minus the fiber, which doesn’t raise your blood sugar). Just a serving of starchier vegetables, which are higher in net carbs than other vegetables (think: green) can potentially derail a keto diet and switch the body right back into burning sugar instead of fat, explains Ginger Hultin, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.O., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

While these seven higher-carb veggies are healthy, experts recommend avoiding them if you’re aiming for ketosis.

1. Potatoes

One medium potato contains 32 grams of net carbs, making the starchy root vegetable a pretty dangerous keto saboteur. “Potatoes are full of carbohydrates, which are turned to blood glucose [a.k.a. sugar] when broken down in the gut,” reinforces Mariana Daniela Torchia, Ph.D., R.D., M.P.H. Sweet potatoes, though high in antioxidants, are in the same boat.

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Try swapping cauliflower, which contains just three grams of net carbs per serving, in for potatoes. The low-carb veggie has a mild, easy-to-spice-up flavor, and makes a great substitute for the tubers in your go-to mashed potato recipe. If you’re itching for the sweetness of sweet potatoes, Hultin recommends serving up zucchini or spaghetti squash, which also taste slightly sweet but contain just 2.7 and 5.5 grams of net carbs, respectively.

2. Peas

Peas may be green, but that doesn’t mean they’re in the same category as keto-friendly broccoli and romaine lettuce. Green peas are higher in net carbs, containing nearly 15 grams per one-cup serving, says Hultin.

3. Carrots

Though carrots are a nutrient-dense root vegetable and provide your body with a hefty dose of beta-carotene, they walk a fine line when it comes to keto. One medium carrot contains about seven grams of carbohydrates, so they need to be carefully limited—or avoided—on a ketogenic diet, says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T., C.P.T., who typically recommends the keto diet for those with specific medical concerns, not the average Joe.

If carrots are your usual veggie dipper of choice, try lower-carb zucchini spears, cucumbers, or bell peppers the next time you snack.

Related: 15 Keto Snacks For All You Fat Fuelers Out There

4. Corn

Before you add corn to your next batch of guacamole (the ultimate keto snack) or Mexican-style bowl meal, consider yourself warned: A small ear of corn packs a whopping 20 grams of carbs, making the sweet summertime staple pretty difficult to incorporate into a keto lifestyle.

5. Beets

Noticing a trend with the root vegetables yet? Beets are beautiful, incredibly healthy, and unfortunately, higher in sugar and carbs than most veggies that grow above ground. One cup contains about 10 grams of net carbs (nine from sugar).

You do have a root veggie option though: turnips, which contain fewer than eight grams of net carbs per serving. Hultin likes roasting them in olive oil, salt, and pepper for a side dish or snack.

6. Celeriac Root

Soups and stews can be easy staple meals on a keto diet—as long as you’re careful about the types of vegetables you throw into the pot.

Like many root vegetables, celeriac root (a common soup ingredient that’s related to celery) is higher in net carbs, and racks up about 12 grams per serving.

Hultin recommends using celery stalks and seasoning in soups to achieve the same flavor without sacrificing so many carbs.

7. Beans

Beans, which are often categorized as both proteins and vegetables, are a unique, nutrient-dense category of plants. Though they’re high in fiber, they’re also pretty high in carbs.

Most beans—including black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, navy beans, and pinto—contain about 12 grams of net carbs (or more) per half-cup serving, says Hultin. Your best bean option: green beans, which contain fewer than five grams of net carbs per serving.

About That Whole ‘Coffee Causes Cancer’ Thing…

recent preliminary decision in California court determined that coffee sellers will now have to warn customers about the potentially carcinogenic properties of their morning java—and people are (understandably) bugging out.

Almost a decade ago, a nonprofit called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics sued 19 coffee sellers, including Starbucks, for “failing to provide warnings to consumers that the coffee sold contained high levels of acrylamide, a toxic and carcinogenic chemical.” (They filed another complaint against an additional 40-plus defendants less than a month later.)

The nonprofit claimed that coffee sellers were violating a 1986 law known as Proposition 65, which requires the state of California to maintain a list of harmful chemicals “known to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity” and for businesses to inform citizens of any exposure to those chemicals. The chemical acrylamide, which is produced in a chemical reaction called the Maillard reaction that occurs between the sugar and asparagine when coffee beans are roasted, has been on California’s list of harmful chemicals since 1990.

Two years ago, the case went to trial to determine whether the amount of acrylamide in coffee was significant enough to warrant our favorite coffee sellers having to warn people about it. After much back-and-forth, the court ruled that, yes, a cup of Joe sold in the state of California should be labeled as possibly carcinogenic.

But does this really mean your favorite brewed beverage can cause cancer? Put simply: You don’t need to worry, says Dr. Taylor C. Wallace, Ph.D., C.F.S., F.A.C.N., disease prevention researcher and founder of nutrition consulting firm Think Healthy Group. “You have to remember that there is always a threshold of toxicological concern, which California isn’t really taking into consideration,” he says. “Acrylamide has been suggested to increase cancer, but not at levels present in a few cups of coffee,” he says—even if you’re sipping on a few brews most days.

The concern about acrylamide stems from rodent studies, which have shown that extremely high doses of the chemical—not the amount the average human coffee-drinker would ingest on a regular basis—increases cancer risk. “Rodent studies are helpful in identifying potential mechanisms when validated models are used, but many times do not translate to humans since they have a different set of genetics,” Wallace says. In other words, while animal studies are a good scientific starting point, they don’t necessarily apply or translate directly to human health, and shouldn’t send us running from coffee in fear.

If you’re still concerned, consider a similar case: A few decades back, saccharin, an artificial sweetener often found in sweetener packets and diet beverages like soda, was called into question after animal research suggested it could be carcinogenic. “But the dose needed to get that effect would have been something like 20,000 diet beverages per day for 20 years,” Wallace says. “Dose matters.”

Not to mention, coffee also contains many health-promoting bioactive compounds, such as the antioxidant chlorogenic acid, which has been associated with a lower risk of certain cancers. “You can’t look at each compound in isolation,” he says. This case just highlights the fact that science and the legal system don’t always intersect well.

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So for now, keep on drinking your coffee. “There is a long history of safe use and a ton of safety data in the scientific literature,” Wallace says. Some research even suggests a connection between coffee and long-term health benefits, like reduced risk of age-related cognitive decline. Just remember that these health benefits are seen at a consumption level of about two cups of java per day.

To keep your daily coffee run as beneficial to your health as possible, the best thing you can do is limit the amount of sugar and saturated fat you add to your brew, since high calorie and sugar consumption are associated with weight gain, which can be a big driver of cancer, says Wallace.

Related: 5 Scary Ways Eating Too Much Sugar Can Mess With Your Health

And if you’re concerned about acrylamide, you’re better off focusing your effort on avoiding foods like baked goods, processed snacks, and potato chips, which also contain acrylamide—in addition to offering zero nutrition, Wallace says.

3 Old Wives’ Tales About Your Health That Are Kinda True (And 5 That Really Are Bogus)

Most of us still have a slew of old wives’ tales stuck in our heads from childhood—and though our mother’s warnings about swallowing gum and sitting too close to the TV may have scared us silly in our younger days, we can’t help but wonder now if there’s actually any truth to them.

To put decades of myths to bed, we asked health experts to separate fact from fiction and de-bunk some of the most popular old wives’ tales in the book. Here’s the truth about eight of our favorites.

1. Chicken Soup Helps You Get Better When You’re Sick

Verdict: TRUE-ISH

While no scientific human studies have ever identified chicken soup as an effective cold remedy,  “It can be a nutrient powerhouse, delivering important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to your body that can help boost your immunity,” says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T., C.P.T. Carrots and onions, in particular, provide carotenoids (a type of antioxidant that can support healthy aging and eye health) and prebiotic fiber (which acts as food for the healthy bacteria in your gut), respectively.

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Plus, nutrition aside, chicken soup can just be plain old comforting—and that’s especially important when your body is in a state of stress, like when you’re not feeling well, says Shaw. So while it may not be a miracle-worker, it’s certainly worth sipping on.

2. You’ll Catch A Cold From Going Outside With Wet Hair

Verdict: FALSE

“The very act of walking out the door with wet hair won’t in itself cause you to develop a cold,” says Robert Glatter, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwell Health. “You have to be exposed to the specific virus in order to develop an illness.”

That said, exposure to extremely cold weather does put stress on the body, which can hinder your immune function and increase your chances of getting sick when you are exposed to a bug. Plus, “certain respiratory viruses thrive in dry cold temperatures, so you have a greater chance of being exposed in that environment,” he says.

Ultimately, your best bet at preventing sickness is washing your hands (for at least 20 seconds!) frequently and coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue—especially during cold season.

3. Sugar And Dairy Give You Acne

Verdict: TRUE-ISH

While factors like hormones, bacteria, and excess sebum, are typically the main drivers of acne, there’s no denying that some connection exists between our diet and our skin, according to a review published in Dermatoendocrinology

That connection is just…murky. Preliminary research suggests a link between eating a high-glycemic (think refined carbs and sugar) diet and prevalence of acne, and some studies suggest the hormones in milk can influence acne, but the findings are limited, at best.

Related: Raise Your Hand If You Have Trouble Digesting Dairy

If you have sensitive, oily skin, though, experts still recommend you proceed with caution. “Milk contains precursors to testosterone and other androgens [male sex hormones], which influence the hormone receptors in the skin to turn on the process that causes acne,” says board-certified dermatologist and founder of customized skincare company Curology, David Lortscher, M.D. “Dairy and high-glycemic foods send insulin levels sky-high and trigger more oil production in the sebaceous glands,” he explains.

If you’re having trouble with acne and drink more than three servings of milk (skim seems to be more of an issue, though why isn’t clear) per week, consider eliminating dairy for at least a few weeks to see how your skin reacts, says Lortscher. The same goes for any type of food: If you notice a trend of breaking out the day after eating it, consider cutting it out.

4. If You Eat Fruit Seeds, They’ll Grow in Your Stomach

Verdict: REALLY?

As you probably guessed, this one is totally bogus. “Seeds need the right environment to germinate and grow, and the highly-acidic stomach isn’t it,” says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D., and author of The MIND Diet. Swallow a raw seed whole and it’ll just pass through your system pretty-much undigested.

That said, you should chew the seeds in some fruits and veggies—like pumpkin or watermelon seeds, for example. In fact, they make for a portable, nutritious snack! “Each one-ounce serving of watermelon seeds packs a surprisingly high eight to 10 grams of protein and also provides iron,” Moon says.

5. Cure A Hangover With Hair Of The Dog

Verdict: FALSE

We’re not going to say you can’t enjoy a brunch-time Bloody Mary after a night out, but don’t expect it to benefit your body in any way. The phrase ‘hair of the dog’ is short for ‘hair of the dog that bit you,’ and it comes from an old superstition that you could cure yourself of rabies by taking a potion made with the hair of the rabid dog that bit you. Ya know, super-scientific.

In reality, trying to cure a hangover with more alcohol is like trying to lose weight by eating more junk food. “When you’re hungover, your body is in a state of dehydration and elevated inflammation, so your best bet is to stick with water and eat antioxidant-rich foods like sweet potatoes, blueberries, black beans, tea, and sorghum,” Moon says.

6. ‘Feed A Cold, Starve A Fever’

Verdict: FALSE

“While it ​is ​common to lose ​your appetite when ​you ​have​ a fever​, there is no need to starve yourself,” says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition. Regardless of whether you have a cold or a fever, you want to eat nutrient-rich food​s to​​ provide your body with the fuel it needs to recover. Focus on colorful fruits and vegetables—especially vitamin C-packed foods like kiwi and carrots—and even chicken soup.

7. Cracking Your Knuckles Will Give You Arthritis

Verdict: FALSE

“Knuckle cracking has gotten a bad rap throughout the years, but claims about it causing arthritis don’t seem to have any scientific backing,” says Axe. In fact, a 2011 study published in the ​​Journal of American Board of Family Medicine found that rates of arthritis were no higher in people who frequently cracked their knuckles than in those who did not crack their knuckles.

Here’s what happens when you crack: The sudden change in how your joints are positioned releases gases (nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide) that are dissolved in your joint fluid, causing a popping or cracking sound, explains Axe. That’s why you can only get a particular knuckle to crack every so often; those released gasses have to dissolve back into your joint fluid. Interesting but not harmful.

8. An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Verdict: TRUE-ISH

No, you don’t need to eat an apple every single day to stay healthy, but there is some truth to this old wives’ tale. “An apple is a great healthy addition to an overall healthy diet because it provides dietary fiber, which can help ward off common health concerns like constipation, and key nutrients like vitamin C and potassium,” says Axe.

“In general, scientific evidence has shown us that consuming fruits and vegetables helps lower your risk of major chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease,” he explains. “So yes, eating fruit, like an apple, can definitely provide health benefits.” Of course, that doesn’t mean you can load up on processed foods and unhealthy habits (like smoking or never exercising) and think that as long as you have an apple a day, you’ll never have a reason to see the doctor.

5 Signs You Need A Break From Caffeine

If even the thought of giving up coffee sends shivers down your spine, you’re far from alone. More than 150 million Americans—and 90 percent of adults worldwide—drink caffeine every single day.

In safe doses (up to 400 milligrams a day), caffeine offers some serious perks, including improved alertness, sports performance, and reaction time. Research has even linked regular coffee consumption with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and dementia.

However, too much of a good thing can backfire fast—and sweet, sweet caffeine is no exception. People with heart problems (like arrhythmias or high blood pressure), certain mental health conditions (like anxiety or attention disorders), and pregnant women should all be extra cautious with caffeine—but anyone who experiences any of the following six symptoms should also consider cutting back.

1. Your Heart Rate Is All Over The Place

Caffeine stimulates your nervous system and tells your body to up production of the ‘fight or flight’ hormone adrenaline, which elevates your heart rate (blood pressure and breathing rate, too), says Sushrutha Nagaraj, AMRSB, research scientist for nutritional research company Almeda Labs.

Depending on your age and health, your resting heart rate should typically be somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute. If you notice a resting heart rate that’s 20 to 30 beats per minute higher than normal—even when you’re sitting at your desk with your cup of Joe—be wary. An unnecessarily high heart rate means your blood isn’t being efficiently pumped and transported throughout your body, says Nagaraj.

2. You Feel Unusually Anxious

The extra adrenaline that caffeine tells your body to churn out can also cause feelings of restlessness and anxiety in some people—especially as your heart rate and breathing pick up. Caffeine also stimulates production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can have similar effects.

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In fact, people who consume five or more cups of coffee a day are significantly more likely to experience anxiety, depression, panic disorder, and antisocial behavior, says endocrinologist Caroline Messer, M.D., F.A.C.E., E.C.N.U.

3. You Stare At The Ceiling All Night

Caffeine also blocks our receptors for adenosine, a chemical that typically makes us feel fatigued and sleepy. “So if people drink a caffeinated product within a few hours of bedtime, it stimulates the brain and keeps them from sleeping,” says Nagaraj. Long-term, drinking caffeine too close to bedtime can pull the body out of its natural sleep cycle and cause insomnia.

4. You Go Through Withdrawal

If a day or two without caffeine leaves you feeling irritable, tired, or barraged by headaches, you might want to consider extending your break from it.

We may not think of caffeine the same way we think of alcohol or other drugs, but it is, in fact, a drug that can be abused. The World Health Organization considers caffeine dependence a clinical disorder.

Relying on caffeine to get through work or social events, having a high tolerance to its effects (needing to consume more than 300 milligrams a day), and experiencing withdrawal symptoms without caffeine can all indicate dependence.

5. You’re Shrouded In Brain Fog

Your body naturally develops a tolerance to caffeine over time, meaning you need more and more of the stuff to feel the same ‘boost’. Eventually you can develop such a high tolerance that your body becomes completely desensitized to caffeine, and you stop feeling any boost at all. At this point, which also indicates dependence, you’ll likely even experience the state of tiredness and mental fatigue we often describe as ‘brain fog,’ says Nagaraj.

How To Cut Back (Without Being Miserable)

If any of these signs sound familiar, it’s time to get some space from caffeine. Just take it slow: Instead of going cold turkey, decrease your caffeine intake by about 25 percent every three to four days, suggests Nagaraj. And if your caffeine consumption comes in more than one form (coffee, pre-workout supps, tea, etc.), like a pre-workout, eliminate each beverage one-by-one over the course of about two weeks. This way you can wean yourself off completely without getting smacked with withdrawal.

Related: 11 Caffeine-Free Ways To Power Your Workouts

5 Healthy Eating Commandments Everyone Should Follow

Healthy eating looks a little different to all of us—and considering we all have different bodies and lifestyles, that’s totally okay. But regardless of your personal preferences, dietary restrictions, or health concerns, are there some across-the-board nutrition rules you should follow? Absolutely.

Trends and gimmicks aside, here are the five laws of healthy eating top dietitians agree will help you stay true to your health and wellness goals long-term.

1. Enjoy Food Without Guilt

Any long-term healthy lifestyle depends on your ability to enjoy the foods you love in a balanced way that never leaves you feeling deprived. “Food should be savored, not feared,” says Keri Gans, R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet. “No one is saying you can’t eat fries, pizza, and burgers—but maybe sometimes you bake the fries, top the pizza with lots of veggies, or take your burger bun-less.”

Related: What A Day Of 80:20 Eating Actually Looks Like

To find this balance, most dietitians recommend following the 80:20 rule: 80 percent of the time, you go for the better-for-you foods, and 20 percent of the time you choose whatever your heart desires most.

2. Keep Healthy Food Around At All Times

That said, sticking to healthy eating 80 percent of the time is a lot easier when you have the good stuff on-hand. Think about it: When is it that we find ourselves noshing on greasy drive-thru food or inhaling a Dunkin’ muffin? When we’re starving and desperate for grub, but don’t have any quality options handy.

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The solution: Always (always!) have healthy snacks on you. “I keep what I like to call ‘emergency snacks’ everywhere,” says Kelly Jones, M.S., RD., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. “Whole-food bars (like RXBARs) and roasted beans (like edamame or broad beans) are my go-to’s because they provide fiber and protein to hold me over; I have them in my purse, my car, my gym bag, and my work bag.”

3. Fiber, Fiber, Fiber

The more we learn about fiber, the more we realize how crucial it is to our health. A diet rich in fiber helps control blood sugar, decrease cholesterol levels, and improve digestion, says Gans—research has connected higher intake with weight loss and a lower risk of all-cause mortality. The National Institutes of Health recommends women eat 25 grams of fiber a day and men eat 38—but most Americans only reach a measly 15.

Every single snack and meal you eat should offer some fiber, says Gans. Some of the highest-fiber foods out there include lentils, avocados, chickpeas, chia seeds, nuts, and berries—but you’ll score some fiber from all sorts of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. 

4. Focus On Protein At Breakfast

Starting the morning with protein helps ensure you last until lunchtime without falling victim to the munchies and makes healthy eating easier throughout the rest of the day. In fact, high-protein breakfasts have been associated with slowed digestion and reduced levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.

“Many people turn to oatmeal or cereal at breakfast, which can be carb-heavy and lacking in protein,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., who recommends incorporating at least 15 to 20 grams of protein into your morning meal.

Rizzo’s go-to’s include smoothies made with Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs with toast, veggie omelets, or even protein bars. “For a quick protein-rich breakfast option on-the-go, I love the new Chobani ‘hint of flavor’ yogurts, which provide 12 grams of protein for just nine grams of sugar,” she says.

5. Don’t Fear Fat

Fat gets a bad rap because it has more calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein (nine calories for fat versus just four for carbs and protein), but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it.

As a matter of fact, research shows that eating healthy fats—think nuts, fatty fish, olive oil, and chia seeds—decreases our production of the hunger hormone ghrelin and prevents blood sugar spikes, so we don’t overeat and feel satisfied for longer after snacks and meals, Rizzo explains. In addition to supporting a healthy weight, fats also help us absorb nutrients, build cell structures, and manage inflammation.

Rizzo loves snacking on guacamole or subbing smashed avocado in for mayo. According to a recent study, adding half an avocado to lunch can increase satiety by 40 percent in the following hours, without affecting blood sugar.

Pin this helpful infographic to keep healthy eating top-of-mind:

5 Natural Ways To Soothe A Sore Throat

If you feel like you spend half of winter with a sore throat, you’ll try anything to be able to swallow without cringing. No matter how torturous your sore throat may be, though, there’s only so much cherry-red syrup you can chug.

Luckily, there are a number of natural foods and drinks that can soothe your soreness. The next time your throat is a fiery tube of anger, keep these five throat-savers in mind.

 

1. Licorice

A Twizzler has never (ever) cured a sore throat, but actual licorice root might be able to help. The sweet root has been traditionally used for its soothing, coating properties and can benefit your everyday sore throat, says Kelly Jones, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N.

You can find licorice in supplements, candies, and teas—just be careful to only use regular licorice when needed, since over-consumption can increase sodium levels and affect blood pressure, Jones says. If choosing a supplement, look for ‘deglycyrhizinated licorice’ (DGL), which doesn’t affect sodium levels.

 

2. Ginger

Need a break from your same old throat drops? Try ginger candies instead. Not only are they deliciously warm and spicy, but ginger is packed with antioxidant compounds called ‘gingerols’ and ‘shogaols’ that can help your immune system pull through.

Research suggests that through its interaction with our immune systems, ginger has a calming, soothing effect throughout the body. In addition to candies, it’s also popular in teas and capsule supplements.

 

3. Sage

This delicious herb—a staple of Mediterranean diets and Eastern schools of medicine alike—is revered for its potent antioxidant activity, making it a helpful immune system-booster when you’re feeling under the weather. In fact, one study found that throat spray made from sage and Echinacea (another herb known for its immune benefits) can soothe a sore throat.

Related: 5 Supplements Nutritionists Take During Cold Season

Incorporate more sage into your routine by sprinkling it into warm soups or sipping on sage tea.

 

 4. Tea & Honey

Speaking of tea… “The warmth of tea alone can work wonders on a sore throat, but certain ingredients, like honey, ginger, and slippery elm bark can add extra benefit to your mug,” says Jones. Raw local honey has long been thought to support the immune system, thanks to its polyphenol and antioxidant content, but honey’s thick consistency also provides some relief by coating the throat. You can add it to your tea or eat it straight out of the spoon.

Like honey, slippery elm bark also coats the throat, Jones says. Its moistening effect makes it able to relieve dryness and itchiness.

 

 5. Applesauce

If your sore throat has left you with a hot or burning sensation, integrative medicine expert Elizabeth Trattner, A.P., recommends eating cool, smooth foods like applesauce for relief.

In addition to its slightly throat-numbing chill, applesauce also contains pectin, a type of fiber found in fruits, that becomes gel-like and can coat and soothe the throat, Trattner says.

Don’t Expect To See Results From These Exercise Moves Anytime Soon

If you’re taking the time out of your busy day to get to the gym, you want every moment to really count. But if you’re dedicating any of your precious gym time to less-than-effective exercises, you’re probably cheating yourself out of the results—like building muscle and burning fat—that you’re after.

We asked trainers to share the most eye-roll-worthy moves in the game—and what you should be doing instead—so you can have more efficient workouts and become your fittest, healthiest self.

 1. Smith Machine Squats

The idea of the Smith machine makes a lot of sense: By using a barbell that’s attached to fixed tracks, people who are afraid to do barbell squats can feel more comfortable working on the important movement, says Todd Nief, C.S.C.S., owner and founder of South Loop Strength & Conditioning in Chicago.

The thing is, the way the Smith machine’s bar moves forces you into a movement that’s not really a squat. “Most people end up doing some sort of bizarre knee-folding movement,” says Nief. The direction of the barbell track can force you to shift your weight forward and put extra stress on your knees and back, which not only prevents you from learning proper squat form, but also puts you at risk for injury.

Related: 3 Ways To Improve Your Squat

The Smith machine may be useful for bodybuilders targeting specific muscle groups, but for most people it just forces them into pretty unnatural movement patterns, says Nief. Working on other variations of squats, like goblet squats or jump squats, will do more to improve your technique and your results.

2. Upright Rows

“Upright rows are one of my least favorite moves,” says Katie Dunlop, C.P.T., founder of Love Sweat Fitness in Orange County, California. This exercise puts your shoulders in a compromising position and puts unnecessary stress on your wrists, making it more likely to land you with an injury than the boulder shoulders you’re after.

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For a more effective (and safe) shoulder burn, Dunlop recommends sticking to your standard dumbbell shoulder press. If you want to hone in on your rear delts (the backs of your shoulders), swap in dumbbell reverse flies instead.

3. Basic Crunches And Sit-Ups

There are two major issues with these classic core moves: they only focus on the rectus abdominis (or ‘six-pack’) muscles and they’re often performed incorrectly.

“People typically rely too heavily on pulling themselves up with their hands behind their head rather than with their abs,” says Dunlop. “This not only leads to potential neck or back injuries, but also means you don’t actually strengthen your core.”

Related: 4 Mistakes People Make On The Quest For Abs

Instead, choose moves that light up all 360 degrees of your core (and burn more calories), like forearm planks, mountain climbers, and Russian twists.

4. Machine Leg Extensions

If efficiency is your goal, Dunlop generally recommends avoiding weight machines, since they often allow you to use momentum you wouldn’t have when using your body weight or free weights, and tend to isolate just one muscle group.

“The other problem with exercises like machine leg extensions is that they don’t reflect movements you use in real life,” she says. Your exercises should be functional, meaning they mimic movements you might use outside of the gym—so if you want to hit your quads hard, swap those leg extensions for good ‘ole weighted squats.

5. Weighted Side Bends

It’s rare to go an entire gym session without seeing someone in the gym bending from side to side with a dumbbell or weight plate in-hand. “People think they are targeting their obliques and working their abs, but really all they are doing is putting undo pressure on their spine,” explains Danielle Natoni, C.P.T., founder of Fit and Funky.

If your obliques are top priority, Natoni recommends performing Russian twists with that dumbbell or weight plate to better activate your core without stressing out your spine. (Here are eight more moves worth trying.)

6 Quick And Painless Ways To Soothe Sore Muscles

We’ve all experienced can’t-walk soreness that leaves us struggling to get up off the toilet—and most of us think we’re doomed to just tough it out, bottle of ibuprofen in-hand.

But groan not! There are a number of things you can do after that particularly grueling sweat to help your body relax, boost blood flow to your recovering muscles, and kick-start the repair process.

1. Drink Tart Cherry Juice

Montmorency tart cherry juice has long been valued for its antioxidant properties, and new research suggests that it may reduce muscle pain and weakness after intense strength training, explains Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D. Meanwhile, a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, found that runners who drank tart cherry juice for a week leading up to a race reported less pain and quicker recovery time afterward than runners who downed a placebo juice.

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Polyphenolic compounds called flavonoids and anthocyanins are thought to be the antioxidants behind tart cherry juice’s muscle-soothing effect, Rizzo says. So quench your thirst with some tart cherry juice after a challenging workout—eight ounces is all you need!

2. Drink Watermelon Juice

Tart cherries too…tart? Sip on sweet watermelon juice instead. It’s rich in an amino acid called l-citrulline, which has been shown to help with muscle soreness, as it speeds the removal of lactic acid that’s formed during exercise, says Rizzo.

In fact, one study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that drinking 16 ounces of watermelon juice improved muscle soreness and recovery heart rate in participants who completed a high-intensity cycling test.

3. Eat Something High In Potassium

While the jury is out on whether potassium can prevent muscle soreness, this electrolyte does ward off dehydration and related muscle cramping, explains Rizzo. Most Americans don’t reach the recommended 3,500 milligrams of potassium per day, which is especially problematic for your muscles if you don’t hydrate properly and exercise. That’s why Rizzo recommends including potassium-rich foods (like bananas, which provide 400 milligrams) every day—especially after working out.

4. Foam Roll

Instead of bolting out of the gym, do your muscles a favor and foam roll. By using a foam roller or massage ball to apply pressure to your muscles, you essentially give yourself a massage—called ‘self-myofascial release.’ And while you might cringe a bit as you roll, you’ll boost blood flow and help alleviate tightness and soreness, which can both make you feel better and prevent injury, says Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S., SoulAnnex and Master SoulCycle Instructor, and creator of Le Stretch. A review published in Current Sports Medicine Reports concluded that it’s particularly helpful after strength training.

“When pressure is applied to the knot, the elastic fibers move from their bundled position back towards their true alignment,” she says. “We are then able to get into lengthening body positions and restore proper movement patterns.” (A.k.a. foam rolling can also improve your flexibility and range of motion.)

Related: The Beginner’s Guide To Foam Rolling

Whether you’re an active athlete or a weekend warrior, Atkins recommends focusing your foam rolling on three common problem areas: your hips, lower back, and shoulders.

5. Apply Heat And Ice

A great way to soothe achy muscles is to alternate between applying hot and cold temperatures. “The idea is that you create an external ‘pumping’ of the blood by cooling your muscles—pushing blood out—and then heating muscles—pulling blood back in,” says Dustin Raymer, M.S., C.E.S., C.H.W.C., Fitness Director at Structure House. “This should bring fresh blood and nutrients into the muscles for quicker recovery.” One Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study found ice and heat therapy effective in relieving some muscle soreness within 24 hours of a workout.

An easy way to do it at home: in the shower. Alternate between 20 to 30 seconds with the water as hot as you can handle and 20 to 30 seconds with it as cold as you can handle, Raymer suggests. Complete 10 rounds, trying to make the water progressively hotter and colder as you go to maximize that ‘pumping effect.’

6. Take An Epsom Salt Bath

Hot baths pretty much always make us feel good—but they can be especially beneficial after a tough workout. “Along with ridding toxins from the body, hot baths soothe aches and pains, boost circulation, and relax the mind and body,” says Rebecca Lee, R.N., founder of Remedies For Me.

Make your steamy tub extra muscle-friendly by adding Epsom salt (a.k.a. magnesium sulfate), which can soothe muscle cramps, aches, and soreness. “Magnesium is a natural relaxer and in salt form it pulls excess water and lactic acid buildup away from the injured tissues,” she explains.

Fill your bathtub with warm water, add two cups of Epsom salt, and soak for at least 15 to 20 minutes, up to three times a week.

5 Exercise Moves That’ll Make You Feel Like A Superhero

We’ve all witnessed some feat of fitness that’s made us want to lace up our sneakers and run up the stairs like we’re Rocky. But even if we’re not flipping tires or walking on our hands, exercise has a wonderful way of making us feel like superheroes—no cape required. If you’re craving the feel-good endorphin rush only a truly epic workout brings, try one of these totally doable moves. We guarantee you’ll torch calories, build strength, and feel like you just took down all the bad guys.

1. Double Kettlebell Front Rack Carry

Want to pretend you’re rescuing innocent bystanders from a super-villain? The double kettlebell front rack carry will help you build the core strength and stability you’d need to carry them off to safety.

Not only does this move develop muscular endurance throughout your torso, but it also fires up your biceps, forearms, and shoulder stabilizers, says Todd Nief, C.S.C.S., owner and founder of Chicago CrossFit® studio South Loop Strength & Conditioning.

How to do it: Grab a pair of kettlebells and hold them at chest height with your palms facing each other. Tuck your elbows down into your sides so the bells rest on the outsides of your forearms. (It’s not a comfortable position, but you shouldn’t feel pain in your wrists or forearms.)

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Like you would with a farmer’s carry, hold this position and walk around. Keep your core tight and your posture upright to avoid putting extra pressure on your low back.

To focus on strength, use heavy kettlebells and walk for 50 to 100 feet—pacing back and forth if you need to, Nief suggests. To incorporate this move into a circuit-style workout, just use more moderate weight.

2. Dumbbell Snatch

The dumbbell snatch is one of the most effective conditioning moves around, and ends with you standing with one arm extended overhead as if you’re about to fly through the air like Superman. In this move, you’ll fire up your glutes and hamstrings while using your back, abs, and shoulders to maintain stability, says Nief.

How to do it: Stand with a dumbbell between your feet and drop your hips down to grab it with one hand. Keep your chest up and spine neutral. Then, push through your legs to lift the dumbbell off the floor. As you pull the dumbbell upward, extend your hips and let your elbow bend so you can press the dumbbell straight up overhead when it reaches shoulder-height. Finish in a stable standing position with the dumbbell extended up over your head. Lower it back down and repeat on the other side.

To maximize the dumbbell snatch’s cardio and muscular endurance benefits, use a moderate weight dumbbell and moderate-to-high repetitions (between 15 and 25).

Related: 6 Dumbbell Moves That Build Muscle AND Burn Calories

3. D-Ball Over-Shoulder Throw

Chucking a big, heavy ball up and over your shoulder fires up most of your major muscle groups while making you feel like you’re rescuing people trapped in a rock slide. Nief likes performing these with a D-ball, which is filled with sand and a bit softer than a medicine ball.

Like the dumbbell snatch, this move fires up your lower body and core as you pull the ball off the ground, and challenges your core and upper body as you throw it up over your shoulder, says Nief.

How to do it: Place the ball between your feet and drop down so you can get your hands under it. Keep your hips low, your chest up, and your back flat. Push through your hips and legs to lift the ball off the floor, keeping your elbows down and close to your sides.

If needed, drop your hips back down into a squat to get under the ball so you can push it up over your shoulder. Otherwise, the ball should have enough momentum to roll up your chest and back over your shoulder. Repeat, but chuck the ball over your other shoulder this time.

Get some cardio in by performing these HIIT-style, like in the following quickie from Nief:

 

4. Turkish Get-Up

The Turkish get-up is a complicated but worthwhile exercise that requires full-body stabilization and coordination as you move through a number of positions to go from lying down to standing up while holding a weight.

If you thought the ending position of a dumbbell snatch was satisfying, just wait ‘til you make it through the slow, grueling Turkish get-up.

How to do it: Lie on the floor on your back with a kettlebell pressed up in the air in your right hand. Lock your elbow out and let the bell rest flat against the back of your forearm. Bend your right knee to plant your foot firmly on the floor. Leave your left leg extended on the ground. This is your starting position.

From here, keep your right arm locked out over your shoulder and roll up to rest on your left forearm. Then press up onto your left hand so you’re in a tall seated position. Then press through your right foot to lift your hips off the ground so your torso forms a straight line (like a modified side plank). Swoop your left foot back under your hips and plant your knee in line with your left hand. From here, push up into a half-kneeling position with your left arm at your side. Push through your left foot to stand up, still keeping your right arm locked out above your shoulder. Pause in this flying Superman position, then slowly reverse the movement to return the bell to the floor. That’s one rep. Repeat on the opposite side.

To build strength, perform five sets of just a few reps (five tops) per side using heavy weight, Nief suggests. For a conditioning challenge that leaves you sweating and gasping for air, perform a few sets of two-minute Turkish get-up AMRAPs (shoot for about 20 reps) on each side using a moderate weight.

5. Sorensen Hold

This move quite literally makes you feel like a superhero as you hold a position that looks a whole lot like flying.

In a Sorensen hold, you hold your torso in a solid horizontal position by engaging your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, explains Nief. By building endurance in these muscles, you can maintain proper posture in and out of the gym.

How to do it: Set up a hyperextension bench so that your hips rest right at the edge of the pad. Hold your torso straight out and level, engaging your muscles to maintain a neutral spine, without arching or rounding in your lower back.

Build up to the deal of a two-minute hold be performing three to five sets of 30 to 60-second holds, giving yourself enough rest in between to make it through the next set.

10 Products Health Experts Can’t Live Without

We look to our favorite health and fitness icons for everything from motivational quotes to breakfast recipes to workout tips—and often their Instagrams, Snapchats, and Facebook posts inspire us to live healthier lives.

Our go-to gurus have taught us that clean eating can be fun, a good sweat can be joyous, and self-care is non-negotiable. They’ve also gotten us hooked on the trends and products they love—like yoga, RXBARs, turmeric, countless books, and, of course, kombucha.

To get a closer look at their routines, we asked popular personalities in wellness to share the supplements they use to support their healthy lifestyles. Below are the 10 most mentioned.

1. Probiotics

“I always have a probiotic supplement in my cabinet,” says food blogger Lindsay Freedman of The Toasted Pine Nut. These healthy bacteria have held a front-and-center place in the spotlight for their ability to support our digestive and immune health and help us absorb nutrients from food. “I try to eat probiotic-rich foods like certain yogurts or fermented veggies, but I always have my probiotic supplement as a backup,” she adds.

Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet, is also a huge fan of these good gut bugs. “I take a probiotic daily because they have been associated with maintaining a healthy gut,” she says.

Want to add some good bacteria to your routine? Try The Vitamin Shoppe brand’s Ultimate 10 Probiotic, which contains 13 billion bacteria.

2. Vitamin D

“As much as I love the warm weather, I prefer to stay out of the sun, so I supplement with vitamin D3,” says Gans. Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium, which is important for bone health.

Ellie Burrows, CEO of MNDFL, takes vitamin D3 to help maintain healthy D levels and avoid adrenal fatigue. (The function of our adrenal glands, which produce hormones like cortisol, has been linked to vitamin D and other calcium-related hormones.)

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If you’re interested in taking a D supplement, your doc can help you determine the best dose and formula for you.

3. Calcium

Another bone-boosting staple in wellness influencers’ cabinets: calcium. “Being thin, I am at a higher risk for osteoporosis, so I supplement with calcium daily,” says Gans. In addition to contributing to our bone structure, this essential mineral also plays a role in muscle and nerve function as well as blood clotting. Gans loves Adora chocolate calcium discs, which pack 500 milligrams of calcium, as a treat after lunch or dinner.

4. Magnesium

This mineral, which is involved in over 300 biological processes, is crucial for energy production and helps various parts of our body (like our heart, blood vessels, and muscles) ‘relax’—so we’re not surprised it’s lauded by health and fitness influencers.

“My go-to is magnesium lotion,” says Julia Stern, trainer at Body By Simone in New York City. She likes to slather her overworked muscles in the stuff post-workout to relax.

In addition to foods like leafy greens, nuts, and legumes, you can also find magnesium in a variety of supplements, including tablets, capsules, and flavored drink mixes—which is a good thing considering more than half of adults in the U.S. don’t get enough of the stuff.

5. Collagen Powder

Collagen, a type of protein that’s crucial for our hair, skin, nails, and joints—especially as we age—is arguably one of the buzziest supplements out there right now.

“My go-to supplement is collagen powder,” says blogger Maya Krampf of Wholesome Yum. “It makes my morning bulletproof coffee creamier, makes the drink more satisfying, and most importantly, does wonders for my hair, skin, nails, and joints,” she says.

Related: I Drank Collagen For 30 Days—Here’s How It Turned Out

“I cannot go a day without my Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides,” agrees food blogger Krysten Dornik of Krystenskitchen. “I add it to my smoothies or coffee every single day.”

6. Bone Broth Protein Powder

Yep, the bone broth craze is still going strong. “There have been a ton of studies on bone broth as an immune supporter, so being able to reap those benefits from a pre-made protein powder without spending 24 to 48 hours making it myself is a huge time-saver,” says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of DrAxe.com, best-selling author of Eat Dirt, and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition.

Bone broth contains a number of beneficial components, like collagen, gelatin, and glucosamine, which promote hair, skin, nail, and joint health.

Want to finally give this trend a shot? Try Ancient Nutrition’s bone broth protein, which comes in a variety of flavors like chocolate, vanilla, coffee, banana crème, and cinnamon apple.

7. BioSil

“I love BioSil, which is a supplement for hair, skin, and nails,” says integrative nutrition health coach Maria Marlowe, C.H.C., author of number-one Amazon new release The Real Food Grocery Guide. The healthy beauty and aging supplement contains three proteins (collagen, keratin, and elastin), which contribute to the condition of our hair, skin, and nails, along with choline, an essential nutrient for our cells.

8. Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart, brain, and eye health, are another staple of the health-minded. They’re also largely missing from the standard American diet.

“I have a family history of heart disease, so another supplement I take is omega-3 fish oil,” says Gans. “I prefer Nordic Naturals since they come in a mini size and are easy to swallow.”

9. Green Coffee Bean

“I chew green coffee bean extract to support my sugar metabolism,” says Alonzo Wilson, founder of Tone House in New York City. Studies suggest green coffee bean modulates blood sugar and lipid (fat) levels, which both play a role in maintaining a healthy body weight.

Green coffee bean extract also contains a number of antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid, which may support healthy blood sugar levels. You’ll often find supplements in capsule form.

10. Ginger

“I travel with ginger candy and keep ginger extract at home to cook with or make ginger turmeric lemon water or digestive tonics,” says natural health, wellness, beauty, and integrative medicine expert Elizabeth Trattner, A.P. You can also add a few ginger candies to hot water to make ginger tea, she suggests.

Ginger is prized in traditional Chinese medicine for its warming nature, digestion benefits, and soothing properties, Trattner says. You can add it to your routine however strikes your fancy; it’s available in capsules, candies, teas, and more.

6 Super-Spicy Spices That Will Fire Up Your Health

From apple cider vinegar tonics infused with chili peppers to hot teas with a gingery kick, some of the most popular health foods and elixirs out there are also quite spicy. Whether you crave the heat or need a glass of water after just smelling an extra-hot bowl of curry, you can’t deny there’s something intriguing about spice.

You can consider that tongue-on-fire flavor a sign of these spices doing your body good—because as it turns out, a lot of the compounds responsible for spices’ heat are also responsible for their powerful health benefits

Below are six of the most flavorful, fiery spices in the market, why they’re so great for you, and how to use them to spice up your diet.

1. Paprika

A staple of Mexican, Spanish, and Hungarian cuisine, paprika is a spice made from peppers in the Capsicum annum family, which includes everything from jalapeños to poblanos to bell peppers. You can find sweet, spicy, and smoky paprika, each of which is made with different peppers to yield the desired flavor.

This spice is just as chock-full of nutrients as it is colorful. For starters, paprika contains vitamin A, which supports immune and eye health, from compounds called carotenoids. These give red and orange-y peppers their color and act as antioxidants in the body, warding of cell damage from free radicals. The peppers used to make paprika also provide some iron, vitamin B6, and vitamin E, says Kelly R. Jones, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N.

While your average paprika is pretty mild, hotter paprikas, which are made from spicier chili or cayenne peppers, boast added benefits because they contain a powerful antioxidant called capsaicin, says Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of DrAxe.com, best-selling author of Eat Dirt, and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition. This compound gives spicy peppers their kick and benefits our bodies in a number of ways (more on that soon). The hotter the paprika, the more capsaicin it contains, Axe says.

Jones likes to cook with paprika by incorporating it into Mexican dishes, meat rubs, and salsas. “I add it to chili and taco seasonings and use it in blackening rubs for proteins,” she says. Paprika’s sweet and spicy flavor also pairs incredibly well with sweeter ingredients, like chocolate or mango.

Not a fan? You can also find some of paprika’s good stuff—namely vitamin A and capsaicin—in supplement form. Look for a supp identified as ‘cayenne extract.’

2. Cayenne Pepper

This super spice, originally from the Cayenne region of French Guiana, is made from ground cayenne powder.

Like paprika, cayenne contains vitamin A—but this fiery spice is hotter than even hot paprika. Cayenne peppers are about 10 times hotter than jalapeños and owe their heat to a boat load of capsaicin, that compound we mentioned earlier, says Axe.

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This power antioxidant supports immune and joint health, and can stimulate your metabolism and digestive system by creating heat in your body. Cayenne and capsaicin have been widely researched, and have been shown to support cardiovascular and digestive health, blood sugar, and metabolic function, per one Molecules review.

Cayenne is a staple of spicy Mexican dishes and works well with soy sauce and other Asian flavors, says Jones. It also pairs well with cacao in oatmeal and smoothies—and even cakes and cookies—for a little Mexican hot chocolate-style sweet heat.

If you can’t handle the heat, try a non-eye-watering cayenne extract supplement instead.

3. Habanero

Habanero peppers, which are native to Central and South America and the Caribbean, hold the title for hottest commercially-grown pepper, which means they also contain the most capsaicin, says Axe. “The benefits of habanero are similar to those of other hot peppers because they center around carotenoids and plentiful capsaicin,” he says.

“Since it’s much spicier than cayenne, habanero is best mixed with creamy ingredients or fat to mute the heat,” says Jones. (Think creamy soups and spicy tahini dressings.) Vibrant herbs like cilantro, parsley, and rosemary, can also mute habanero’s spiciness. Good to keep in mind the next time you whip up a super-spicy salsa!

4. Ginger

Ginger spice, which is made from dried, ground ginger root, originated in Southern Asia and is a staple in all sorts of Asian and Asian-inspired dishes.

Ginger gets its unique spiciness and wide-ranging health benefits from compounds called gingerols and shogaols. These compounds are powerful antioxidants and support the immune system and have a soothing effect that can benefit digestive health and promote relaxation. They also promote healthy blood sugar and circulation, says Jones.

Specifically, studies suggest gingerols can ward off muscle soreness related to post-workout inflammation and ease digestive discomfort.

Freshly grated or dried ginger complements any Asian-style or sushi dish, but it’s also an all-star in wintertime baked goods like pumpkin pie, and, of course, gingerbread.

You can also get your ginger fix with ginger candies, teas, and supplements (typically labeled ‘ginger root.’ “I really enjoy making ginger tea by boiling fresh ginger root in green tea,” says Axe.

5. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is ground from the bark of the Cinnamomum tree, which is native to Southeast Asia and Africa. One of the most popular spices in the world, cinnamon is used in all sorts of cuisines and dishes.

In addition to its sweet, warm spice, cinnamon is jam-packed with antioxidants from compounds called ‘cinnamaldehydes’ and supports heart health, healthy blood sugar, and brain health. One study published in Diabetic Medicine, for example, found that supplementing with two grams of cinnamon extract a day supported healthy blood pressure and long-term blood sugar levels in people with metabolic issues.

You can easily sprinkle it into oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt, or onto baked fruit for a healthy dessert. Since the spice is so versatile, it can also be added to teas, grains, and Indian-style curry dishes. You can find cinnamon supplements in tablet or liquid form.

6. Curry

Curry isn’t a spice in itself, but a blend of a bunch of spices. There are two main types of curry you’ll find in the spice aisle: curry powder, which is a golden mix of dry spices native to Indian cuisine, and curry paste, which is a yellow, green, or red mixture native to Thai cuisine.

“Depending on where you are in the world, curry powder contains a large variety of spices, including coriander, turmeric, cardamom, sweet basil, red pepper, and cumin—and sometimes cinnamon and ginger,” says Axe.

Curry powder gets a lot of its health benefits from curcumin, the antioxidant compound that gives turmeric its yellow color, says Axe. Curcumin supports immune, brain, liver, and digestive health, with studies finding it helpful for digestive discomfort and people with joint issues. Curry powder tends to have a fragrant flavor and often contains some cayenne pepper, which adds a little kick and an extra antioxidant boost courtesy of capsaicin.

Related: 12 Easy Ways To Incorporate Turmeric Into Your Diet

Meanwhile, curry paste tends to more pepper-centric, starting yellow, red, and green chili peppers for different heat levels. Curry paste packs a capsaicin punch from those peppers, and also includes ingredients like lime leaves, lemongrass, shallots, and garlic that give it its pasty consistency.

Curry powder works well in rice dishes and soups, while curry paste works best in Thai-inspired dishes, like coconut curry, and in protein and veggie stir fries. To reap some of the benefits of these spicy curry creations, you can also turn to supplements like curcumin, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne.

The Benefits Of Eating Frequent, Smaller Meals—And How To Do It Right

You know those days when it feels like you can never really stop eating? Sure, it might be an issue if you’re near-constant munching consists of the leftover donut holes and chocolate-covered almonds from the office kitchen, but grazing throughout the day can be a totally okay—and quite healthy—way to eat.

In fact, “eating more regularly can positively influence your metabolism, physical and mental energy levels, productivity, mood, and appetite later on,” says Kelly Jones, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. Of course, what you’re eating matters (we’ll get to that). Do it right and you may notice that eating smaller, more frequent meals could be just the mind and body-boosting routine change you need.

Read up on what our go-to nutritionists have to say about the mini-meal way of life—and how to make it work for you.

The Basics

Americans’ long-held ‘three square meals a day’ attitude towards eating often means people eat a lot at once. “We love big portions,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D. Yet when we have so much food in front of us at a time, we often eat more than we need, and even more than we want—setting us up for bloating and food comas in the short-term and weight gain in the long-term.  

Plus, when we eat a full day’s-worth of calories in just a few sittings and go long periods of time without eating, our blood sugar drops, leaving us tired and more likely to reach for unhealthy foods (and too much of them), Rizzo says.

That’s where ‘grazing,’ or eating a bunch of mini-meals throughout the day instead of a few big ones, comes in handy. Grazers swap breakfast, lunch, and dinner (or lunch, dinner, and late-night snacks) for six balanced snacks throughout the day, says Rizzo. For example: Someone who eats about 2,000 calories a day would munch on six 330-ish calorie snacks instead of three 660-ish calorie meals.

The Benefits

One of the biggest potential benefits of eating frequently is that it can help keep blood sugar levels stable,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. In fact, research has even linked a ‘grazing’ eating style with lower fasting insulin levels—an indicator of healthy blood sugar function and metabolism. Meanwhile, the blood sugar roller-coaster often associated with infrequent meals and giant portions can contribute to weight gain and blood sugar control issues, like insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, over time, says Rizzo.

Stable blood sugar also helps us maintain steady energy levels and a balanced appetite throughout the day, making us less likely to impulse-eat foods that are high in sugar, fat, and sodium (like a sleeve of sandwich cookies or nacho cheese chips) and better able to maintain or lose weight, says Rizzo.

Need A Little Help Conquering Cravings?

Case in point: One study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that people who ate smaller, more frequent meals ate fewer total calories, had lower BMIs, and were more likely to choose healthy foods compared to those who ate fewer, larger meals.

Finally, eating more frequently can also make you happier. How? The drops in blood sugar that occur when you go hours without eating signal your body to release stress-related hormones like cortisol and epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline), which can contribute to sleep and mood issues. The more under-control these hormones are, the more likely you are to feel energized during the day and able to rest well at night. Plus, eating often supplies the brain with a steady stream of glucose, helping to bolster mental sharpness and productivity. All good things for both your work life and personal life!

Issues To Look Out For

First and foremost, regardless of when you eat, what you eat is hugely important. If you’re grazing on refined or sugary foods, you miss out on the balance of fiber, fat, and protein your body needs and experience the blood sugar spike and crash that grazing is meant to prevent, says Jones. To be as blood sugar-friendly as possible, avoid refined foods that contain white flour or added sugar, and pair carbs with protein and healthy fats.

Related: 9 Healthy Snacks Nutritionists Always Keep On Hand

Grazing can also go awry if you focus more on the digital clock than your body clock. If you tell yourself you need to eat every two hours or so, you can easily fall out of touch with your natural hunger cues and end up falling into a pattern of overeating.

To keep your mini-meals in-line with your needs, divide your total calories up evenly and plan out mini-meals that contain a balance of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs from whole ingredients like nuts, fresh fruit, roasted chickpeas, and low-sugar yogurt, says Rizzo. This way you set yourself up for the right amount of nourishing munching.

Then, tune into your body and let your hunger and satiety levels guide your grazing. Eat when you feel hungry, but don’t wait until you’re ravenous, says Jones. After each mini-meal, you should feel satisfied but not super full. If you’re still hungry (or just want to keep eating), wait 20 minutes or so and reevaluate your body’s signals before doing so.

Related: ‘Mindful Eating’ Is Everywhere—Here’s How To Actually Do It

5 Key Exercises That Will Help Women Build Upper-Body Strength

Solid upper-body strength makes everything from carrying heavy groceries to nailing perfect pullups much easier—but for many women, building a strong upper body can be challenging (and even a little intimidating).

While men carry more of their muscle in their upper bodies, women naturally carry more in their lower bodies—hence why many ladies are naturally better at squatting than churning out pushups, says Rebecca Kordecki, C.P.T., L.M.T., master instructor at Burn 60. As frustrating as it is to feel weak in certain muscle groups or exercises, feeling lame at pushups and pullups is exactly why women need to give their chest, back, and arms some extra attention.

Not only will building upper-body strength make daily errands easier, but it will also rev your metabolism, help ward off osteoporosis, and work wonders on both your confidence and your posture. So, ladies, are you ready to get to it? The following five moves are trainers’ go-to’s for helping women build strong, capable, sculpted upper bodies. To make that grocery bag feel light as a feather in no time, incorporate three sets of 8 to 12 reps of these moves into your routine.

1. Pushups

This bodyweight move is a classic for a reason: It lights up everything from your chest to your shoulders to your triceps to your core, helping you build a stronger upper body without any equipment.

Start in a plank position with your core braced. Bend at the elbows to lower your chest down as close to the floor as possible, allowing your elbows to flare out diagonally. Pause, and then push through your hands to rise back up into the starting plank position.

If you can’t do full pushups yet, drop your knees to the floor to make them easier until you’ve built up enough strength to perform the full move. When you’ve built up to 10 to 15 full pushups per set, you’re golden.

2. Renegade Rows

Renegade rows are a great way to work multiple muscle groups at once to both build strength and burn tons of calories, says Kordecki. They’ll challenge your back, core, biceps, and shoulders.

Related: 5 Moves For Sculpted Shoulders

With a dumbbell in each hand (start with five or eight-pounders), get into a plank position. Keeping your left hand wrapped around the dumbbell and pressed into the floor, brace your core and bend your right elbow to row the right dumbbell up to the side of your torso. Maintain proper plank form as you lower the weight with control and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating until all reps are complete.

3. Assisted Pullups

Pullups light up your back, biceps, and core in a big way—and even if you can’t do full pullups (yet), performing assisted pullups can transform your upper-body strength. By using an assisted pullup machine (most gyms have one) you can select the amount of assistance you need to do the move properly.

Select just enough resistance to get through your three sets with proper form. Stand or kneel on the assistance pad or platform and grab the pullup bar with a wide overhand grip. Engage your core and bend at the elbows to pull your body up until your head is between your hands. Slowly lower back down to the starting position and repeat.

Power Your Progress With A Performance Supp

If your gym doesn’t have an assisted pullup machine, sub in lat pulldowns. Attach a long, slightly bent bar to a cable lat pulldown station. Grab the bar with a wide overhand grip and sit with your legs secured beneath the pads. Keeping your torso upright, pull your shoulder blades down and back and bend at the elbows to pull the bar down close to your chest. Pause, and then slowly return to the starting position.

4. Bench Dips

This bodyweight move targets your chest, shoulders, triceps, and rhomboids (upper back).

Sit on the side of a bench with your hands planted on the edge beneath your shoulders. Slide your butt off the edge of the bench and walk your feet out until your legs are straight out in front of you and your heels are planted on the floor. Bend at the elbows to lower your body down until you feel a slight stretch in your chest and shoulders. Press through your hands to push your body back up to the starting position, keeping your back and butt close to the bench throughout the movement.

 5. Tricep Dumbbell Chest Press

Tricep chest presses work your chest and shoulders, and place even more emphasis on your triceps than your standard press. Kordecki likes pressing with dumbbells to prevent muscle imbalances and really engage your core and stabilizer muscles.

Grab two dumbbells with a neutral grip and lie back on a flat bench. Plant your feet on the floor and keep your back flat on the bench. Press through your chest and arms to extend the dumbbells straight up overhead, keeping your elbows tight into your sides instead of letting them flare out. Pause, and then lower the dumbbells back down until your upper arms are next to your sides.

6 Ways To Burn More Calories During Your Workouts

Whether you’re peeling yourself out of bed to hit the gym on a Saturday morning or lacing up your sneakers after a long day at work, you want your workout to really pay off—and chances are that means torching tons of calories.

A number of factors—like the type of workout you do and how long and hard you go for—determine how many calories you may burn. But there are a few things you can do during your workouts—no matter how crunched for time you may be—to turn up your burn.

These expert-backed tips will boost your sweaty efforts—without taking much effort themselves! Keep these strategies in mind when you work out and you’ll shed more fat and perform better than ever. And who doesn’t want that?

1. Hit The Weights

While many people might think that cardio is king when it comes to calorie burn, skimping on strength training is a sure way to stall your progress. Why? Unlike cardio, strength training signals your body to build muscle, and increasing how much muscle you have can boost your metabolism, according to Todd Nief, CF-L3, head coach and founder of South Loop Strength and Conditioning in Chicago.

Muscle is ‘metabolically active tissue,’ meaning you use calories just to maintain it. Having more muscle versus fat increases how many calories your body burns throughout the day—even when you’re resting—making it progressively easier for you to shed fat and get fitter.

Related: 6 Ways Building Muscle Benefits Your Health And Well-Being

You don’t need to quit your beloved cardio cold turkey, though. For maximum calorie-torching effect, Nief likes to combine strength moves with cardio in circuit-style workouts. Create your own combo workout by jumping back and forth between weighted exercises (like barbell squats, dumbbell presses, or kettlebell swings) and cardio bursts (like burpees, jumping jacks, or skaters).

 2. Focus On Compound Exercises

You can bicep curl until the cows come home, but if you want to burn major calories with strength training, you need as much of your workout as possible to involve as many muscles as possible.

While bicep curls isolate a single muscle in your arms, moves like squats and deadlifts (called ‘compound exercises’) require a bunch of your muscles, like your core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings to get working.  The more muscles you’re using in a single move, the more calories you’ll burn, says Tyler Spraul, C.S.C.S., head trainer at Exercise.com.

Try to hit as many muscles as possible in a given workout by incorporating moves like pullups, squats, lunges, and pushups.

3. Try Interval Training

If you normally work out at a steady pace, mix things up—and torch more cals—with interval training. Research shows that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness, increase muscle, and promote fat loss more effectively than steady-state cardio.

When you alternate between periods of all-out effort and recovery, you put greater demand on your body and continue to burn calories long after you hit the showers. The experts call this ‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption,’ or EPOC.

Give Your Workouts A Boost

To boost the intensity—and benefit—of your workouts, try intervals like Tabata (20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of recovery) or AMRAPS (performing ‘as many reps as possible’ of a move in a certain amount of time), suggests Nief.

You can play around with HIIT by adjusting how long you work and rest for, but the key is to keep your rest intervals short. “Since you’ll have less time to recover, you’ll be spending more time with an elevated heart rate, which translates into additional calories burned,” says Spraul.

4. Use A Fitness Tracker

Tracking devices, which can sometimes be inaccurate, are a little tricky. Use them wisely, though, and they can both motivate you and help you work out smarter.

Trackers’ estimates about how many calories you burn may be a little off, but having a number to shoot for can encourage you to push yourself and burn more calories during your workout, says Nief. Just consider that number with a grain of salt and don’t use it to justify post-workout calorie overloads.

Devices that track your heart rate, though, can be incredibly helpful during your workouts, says Nief. If you’re doing a HIIT workout, keeping close tabs on your heart rate can motivate you to go harder during your sprints and ensure you get enough rest during your recovery periods.

5. Down Some Joe Before Working Out

You count on coffee to get you through Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday) mornings, but that sweet, sweet caffeine can also power you through your workouts.

“Caffeine is one of the few proven ergogenics, or exercise performance enhancers,” says Nief. If you’re able to move faster and work with greater effort and intensity with a little help from caffeine, you’re going to blast more calories and see better results.

Drink a cup of coffee (typically somewhere around 120 milligrams of caffeine) about 30 minutes before working out and it’ll kick in just in time for you crush every squat or sprint. Just keep it black or limit add-ins to just a splash of milk. Slugging a sugary, creamy drink before sweating will just make you feel sluggish and crampy. If coffee isn’t your style, try a pre-workout supplement that contains caffeine.

6. Switch Up The Temperature

Sure, we all prefer to exercise in the perfect-temperature setting—not too hot, not too cold. But research suggests that working out in a hot or cold environment can benefit your health and boost your results. We’re not talking either a desert or tundra-level extreme here—just hotter or colder than you’d like.

When you get moving in a hot environment, your heart and body have to work harder to regulate your body temperature and keep you from overheating, which requires extra energy and burns through calories, says Nief.

On the flipside, when you work out in the cold, your body begins to shiver to produce heat and increase your body temperature, which requires energy, too. Research published in Cell Metabolism shows that cold exposure also stimulates hormones and activates genes that boost fat burning

 7. Drink Cold Water

Okay, you probably don’t want to sip on a warm mug of tea during a workout, anyway, but filling your water bottle with ice cubes can give your calorie-burning a little lift.

For every icy glass of water you down, you’ll burn about eight calories, says Nief. As the ice chills your insides, your body burns through a little energy to warm itself back up. Eight calories a glass isn’t much, we know, but every little bit counts, right? And considering how crucial it is to stay hydrated when you exercise, we consider it just another reason to keep our water bottles handy in and out of the gym.

Pin this checklist to maximize your burn every time you hit the gym:

6 Of The Healthiest Grains You Can Eat

If your go-to grub includes oatmeal for breakfast and sushi rolls for dinner, you’re certainly not alone. Carbs are a beloved (and important!) part of our daily meals, but if we don’t eat the right carbs, we can load up on calories without getting the filling fiber and nutrients our bodies need to thrive.

That’s why it’s so important that our carbs come from whole grains, which contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and beneficial phytochemicals that are stripped from refined grains during processing. Oats and brown rice aren’t your only whole-grain options, though.

There are so many types of grains out there that it can be hard to pick which to put on your plate—so we asked nutritionists to expand your whole-grain horizons by sharing their favorites. Add these six healthy grains to your shopping list and not only will you have a more nourishing love affair with carbs, but you’ll also discover a few new flavors and textures to get your taste buds buzzing!

1. Barley

One of the larger grains you’ll find, barley has a chewy texture and nutty flavor. A serving of barley (a third of a cup) is 60 calories and contains 13 grams of carbs, two grams of fiber, and a gram of protein, says Tanya Zuckerbrot M.S., R.D., bestselling author, and founder of The F-Factor Diet. This grain is also a great source of manganese (important for the metabolism, bone health, and antioxidant activity), selenium (important for antioxidant activity and thyroid function), and thiamine (important for energy metabolism).

At the supermarket, look for hulled barley, which contains the whole grain, Zuckerbrot says. Pearl barley is refined and stripped of the fiber and nutrients in the outer layer of the grain.

This grain makes for a great brown rice substitute. Zuckerbrot likes using barley to make a higher-fiber mushroom risotto.

2. Black Rice

Move over brown rice, there’s a new variety in town. “Known as forbidden rice or emperor’s rice in ancient China, black rice is sort of sweet and nutty in flavor with a beautiful dark purple color,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. Sounds alluring, right?

A quarter cup of cooked black rice contains 50 calories, 11 grams of carbs, 1.5 grams of protein, and a little less than a gram of fiber. “It’s packed with antioxidants and vitamin E,” she says. In fact, one serving contains about as much antioxidants as a serving of blueberries. Anthocyanins, the antioxidants that give black rice and berries their dark, purple-y color, can’t be found in other varieties of this grain!

Related: What You Should Know If You’re Considering Cutting Refined Carbs

Harris-Pincus likes using black rice in Thai and Asian-style dishes and veggie bowls. Because of its slightly sweet flavor, black rice also works well in desserts, like this cranberry coconut black rice pudding.

3. Sorghum

Sorghum is a gluten-free grain grown in the U.S. that looks similar to Israeli couscous. It’s got a mild flavor and a gentle texture reminiscent of wheat berry.

A quarter cup of cooked sorghum clocks in at 57 calories, with 14 grams of carbs and two grams of protein (not much fiber here, though). It’s also a source of phosphorus, vitamin B6, magnesium, niacin (vitamin B3), iron, potassium, and selenium, all of which can keep energy up and the body balanced, says Harris-Pincus.

Because sorghum is so mild, it pairs with almost anything and easily swaps in for rice in soup, stew, chili, paella, salad, and Buddha bowls, she says. You can also pop it, just like you would with popcorn! Harris-Pincus likes to add popped sorghum into a parfait with Greek yogurt and fruit. (And since sorghum doesn’t have a hull like popcorn does, it won’t get stuck in your teeth).

4. Amaranth

Small, round amaranth is technically more like a seed—but has a similar nutritional profile to many whole grains. It’s very nutty and earthy in flavor.

A quarter cup of cooked amaranth (which is gluten-free) is 62.5 calories, and contains 11.5 grams of carbs, 2.5 grams of protein, and 2.5 grams of fiber. It’s high in calcium, magnesium, and iron, which can prevent muscle soreness and fight fatigue, says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T.

Amaranth also contains B vitamins, which help our body turn food into energy, adds Zuckerbrot.

Cooked amaranth can be used like cooked quinoa (we’ll get to that soon!) and makes a great base for nourishing Buddha bowls. Like sorghum, amaranth can also be popped or puffed, and adds texture to parfaits, oatmeal, salads, and soups.

5. Quinoa

You probably already know that quinoa is a rock star—but did you know that it’s technically a seed?! This small, delicate, and fluffy ancient staple is gluten-free and has an earthy, nutty, almost sweet flavor.

A quarter cup of cooked quinoa is 56 calories, with 10 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein, says Zuckerbrot. Unlike many plant foods, quinoa contains all nine of the essential amino acids our bodies need, so it’s also considered a complete protein. It’s also high in phosphorus and iron. “Phosphorus is needed to maintain strong bones, and iron is important to sustain energy and oxygen transport,” she says.

Try adding quinoa to chilis and stews, or sprinkling it into salads.

6. Bulgur

Bulgur is a quick-cooking form of whole wheat that has a somewhat nutty taste and chewy texture.

A quarter cup of cooked bulgar comes in at 38 calories, 8.45 grams of carbs, two grams of fiber, and 1.4 grams of protein. It’s also a good source of the minerals manganese, magnesium, and iron, says Zuckerbrot.

Bulgar is a great way to add bulk to just about anything—especially salads and beans. Zuckerbrot also likes using it to make high-fiber stuffing.

Are You Getting Enough Fiber?

7 Comfort Foods That Taste Delicious With Cauliflower Swaps

Cauliflower, like other cruciferous veggies, is good for your ticker, brain, and bowels (not so sexy, but definitely important), thanks to its high fiber, folate, and antioxidant content. And at less than 60 calories per cup, it’s low-calorie way to fill up.

As chock-full of nutrients as it may be, cauliflower also happens to taste rather bland—and unless you’re picking up an orange or purple variety, it’s not particularly pleasing to the eye, either.

That said, cauliflower’s subtle flavor makes it a versatile, healthy substitute in all sorts of recipes—from dips to ‘meatballs’ to smoothies—because it masterfully takes on whatever other flavors you’re cooking with. If you’ve ever tried cauliflower mashed ‘potatoes’, you know exactly what we’re talking about.

Save major calories and up your intake of the good stuff with these seven nutritionist-approved cauliflower recipes—all of which are bursting with flavor.

1. Cauliflower Fritters

These healthier fritters are sure to be a crowd pleaser at any potluck, game day get-together, or holiday gathering. After all, who doesn’t love a bite-sized appetizer?

These healthy bites are also easy to make: “First, mix together two cups of finely chopped cauliflower florets with two eggs and your favorite spices (like salt, pepper, and fresh parsley, or garlic, ginger, and cilantro) to make a batter,” says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D., author of The MIND Diet. Form the batter into palm-sized fritters and cook in a shallow non-stick pan in a little olive oil over medium-high heat, until lightly browned on both sides (about two or three minutes per side).  

Then, top each fritter with a dollop of plain Icelandic or Greek yogurt (both are higher in protein and lower in sugar than most yogurts) and garnish with herbs and spices like cilantro, mint, sriracha, turmeric, capers, and good old fashioned salt and pepper, Moon says.

2. Cauliflower Romesco Spread

Your usual Romesco spread gets a nutritional boost with the addition of cauliflower. “This spread is amazing as a veggie dip, on top of chicken or fish, or simply spread on whole-wheat crostini,” says Moon. And, even better: “It’s 100-percent plant-based and packed with healthy fats, fiber, and whole grains,” she adds.

Pop the following into the food processor: one head of roasted cauliflower florets, one blanched and peeled tomato, two cloves of garlic, half a cup of toasted almonds, two slices of whole-grain bread (look for one high in fiber and protein, like Dave’s Killer Bread), a tablespoon of either ancho chili or mild paprika powder, and half a teaspoon of thyme.

Blend until smooth, and then slowly add two tablespoons of red wine or pomegranate vinegar and a quarter cup of olive oil. Add a little water if too thick and season with herbs and spices like garlic, onion powder, rosemary, turmeric, or pepper, to taste.

3. Cauliflower ‘Meatballs’

Cauliflower is a great substitute to use in meatless burgers and ‘meatballs,’ but you can also swap it in for half the meat portion of any burger or meatball recipe to slash both calories and saturated fat while increasing fiber, folate, and antioxidants.

If you’re going halfsies, Moon recommends combining a cup of steamed and drained finely-chopped cauliflower with a pound of lean ground turkey or beef. If you’re going all-out veggie, she recommends combining one cup of cauliflower with one cup of a grain (like cooked quinoa or brown rice) and half a cup of bean paste (think smashed cooked chickpeas or black beans).

Related: 7 Vegetarian Protein Sources

To keep the patties or meatballs packed with flavor, season with your go-to herbs and spices, like onion powder, ginger, or red pepper flakes, or even a dollop of your favorite sauce, like tahini, sriracha mayo, mustard, or pesto.

4. Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Craving a rich, creamy soup to warm you up in the winter months, but not interested in downing tons of fat-laden calories? Cauliflower to the rescue.

Start by blending boiled or steamed cauliflower until smooth. Add that ‘creamy’ blend to any of your favorite soups to thicken them up and add make them feel more indulgent—without the saturated fat and calories in cream, Moon says.

5. Cauliflower-Powered Smoothies

Don’t be alarmed—cauliflower makes for a healthy but undetectable addition to any smoothie. “Adding frozen cauliflower to smoothies is a great way to add bulk and nutrients for few calories,” says Moon.

If you tend to feel gassy after eating cruciferous veggies, steam your cauliflower before popping it in the blender to make it easier to digest, she adds.

Cauliflower’s mild flavor will get lost beneath the other flavors and ingredients in your smoothie, but it’ll add bulk, creaminess, and fiber to keep you feeling more satisfied.

6. Cauliflower Crust

Cauliflower crust has become so popular you can buy it pre-made in tons of grocery stores these days. Nutritionists love cauliflower crust because it adds nutritional value to a pizza or flatbread while cutting back on carbs, says Moon.

To make your own cauli crust, start with one head of boiled cauliflower rice. (Press with a towel or cheesecloth to get as much moisture out as possible.) Then, mix the cauliflower rice with two eggs, and salt and pepper to taste. If desired, you can add other herbs and up to a cup of your favorite cheese here, too. Combine well. Lightly spray a baking sheet, spread out the dough, and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees (or until medium brown). Then add your desired toppings and bake for another five to 10 minutes, or until any cheese is melted.

7. Cauliflower Grilled Cheese

Cauliflower also helps transform grilled cheese—one of our childhood favorites—into a healthier, veggie-based meal.

Ilyse Schapiro, M.S., R.D., C.D.N uses cauliflower to make the ‘bread’ for this comforting sandwich. Here’s how to do it: Mix one head’s-worth of cooked cauliflower rice with one egg, two ounces of grated cheese (like cheddar or Parmesan), and a sprinkle of salt. Form into two ‘slices of bread’ and bake at 450 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is dry and golden.

Then, heat a pan over medium heat. Butter one side of each slice of the cauliflower ‘bread’ and place them in the pan. Cover the other side of each slice with cheese, and form your sandwich. Cook until golden brown on each side (about two to four minutes). Schapiro likes to serve her sandwiches with hot sauce, sriracha, or pesto, and a side salad.

Featured Healthy Cooking Staples

10 High-Fiber Foods You’ll Actually Enjoy Eating

To keep things moving down there, one nutrient is key. Yeah, you know the one we’re talking about: fiber. Considering most of us don’t get enough of the stuff—and no one likes being constipated—the more fiber, the better.

Loading up on fiber (at least 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams for men) doesn’t seem so appealing, though, when you think of Grandma’s go-to: prunes. But how else are you supposed to get your daily fill? Luckily, you’ve got more options than you think.

Tune up your fiber intake—and your digestive health—with a few of these tasty, smooth move-promoting foods. We promise you’ll never have to contemplate prunes again.

1. Avocados

Believe it or not, this ever-trendy green fruit happens to pack a hearty dose of fiber. One serving (about a third of a medium fruit) offers three grams of fiber for 80 calories, according to Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D., author of The MIND Diet.

Plus, they are incredibly versatile—so have some fun beyond your basic avocado toast! “Avocados are rich and delicious, yet mild in flavor, so they go well in many dishes,” she says. You can blend avocados into smoothies, whip them into puddings, add them to omelets or soups, or mash them into guacamole, she recommends.

2. Chickpeas

Everyone knows that beans are filled with fiber (you can thank the childhood song “beans, beans” for that), and chickpeas are just as good.

“Half a cup of cooked chickpeas is 130 calories, and provides seven grams of protein and a whopping six grams of fiber,” says Moon.

Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas, are super easy to use. Keep a few cans stocked in the pantry and you’ll have a quick add-in for soups and salads ready at all times, she says. You can also blend them into hummus or bake them with spices like turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and onion for a zesty crunchy snack, she says.

3. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are super filling and fun to eat, thanks to the gooey-sticky texture they take on when they’re combined with a liquid. And they win bonus points because they’re also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect your heart, Moon says.

Two tablespoons of chia are 140 calories and provide a whopping 10 grams of fiber. Talk about small but mighty!

Try blending them into smoothies, mixing them into oatmeal, sprinkling them into salad dressings, or soaking them in almond milk to make chia pudding, suggests Moon, who likes topping chia pudding with fresh fruit.

4. Hemp Seeds

Hemp is another seed that brings on the fiber, texture, and healthy fats.

For 120 calories, three tablespoons of hemp seeds pack nine grams of fiber, says Kelly Jones, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. They also provide about 16 grams of protein along with key minerals like magnesium and iron.

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Jones likes adding whole hemp seeds to oatmeal, salads, fall soups (like butternut squash), and homemade energy bars.

5. Lentils

Perhaps one of the most powerful plant proteins out there, lentils are also loaded with good ‘ole fiber.

“Lentils are one of my favorite plant-based protein sources,” says Jones. A half-cup of green lentils contains 15 grams of fiber and nine grams of protein.

Related: 11 Meat-Free Meals That Still Pack Plenty Of Protein

And there are tons of delicious ways to cook with this pulse. Try mixing them with salad greens, veggies, and your favorite vinaigrette, or subbing them in for meet in tacos or chili, she suggests.

6. Pears

Throw a pear in your bag and you’re guaranteed to have a more satisfying and fiber-filled lunch. With six grams of fiber in a medium-sized pear, they pack more fiber than many other types of portable produce we snack on—including apples, which supply just shy of five grams per medium fruit.

Jones recommends adding pear slices to oatmeal, toast, or salads, or just eating the fruit fresh with some almonds. And, if you’re mixing together homemade trail mix, try adding dried pears, which offer 11 grams of fiber per 40-gram serving, she says.

7. Berries

Another high-fiber fruit option: berries. These naturally-sweet bursts of goodness are also some of the most nutritious eats out there, because they contain antioxidants that fight free radical damage and aging.

“Berries are a great source of fiber, and raspberries are especially high with four grams per half-cup,” says Adina Pearson, R.D.

Frozen berries are great for making smoothies or sauces for pancakes or waffles, or just mixing into yogurt or oatmeal, she says. And, of course, there’s nothing better than eating them fresh when they’re in season.

8. Pistachios

All nuts are rich in fiber, but pistachios have the highest fiber count of all, says Tanya Zuckerbrot M.S., R.D., bestselling author and founder of The F-Factor Diet.

A one-ounce serving of pistachios (about 49 kernels) is 159 calories and offers three grams of fiber, she says.

Related: Stock up on a variety of nuts for healthy, satisfying snacking on the go.

Zuckerbrot likes to add crushed pistachios to salads for crunch or sprinkle them into yogurt or oatmeal. These nuts are also a great travel snack—just portion out one serving size into a baggie, she says.

9. Brussels Sprouts

One of our go-to’s for veggie side dishes, Brussels sprouts offer almost four grams of fiber per cup—for just about 40 calories. (Not to mention they also contain about four grams of protein, too.)

If you have any distaste for Brussels leftover from childhood, try balsamic-roasted sprouts, says Zuckerbrot. “Cut the Brussels sprouts in half, toss them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper, and roast at 425 degrees for 25 minutes,” she says.

Or, make a salad by shredding Brussels sprouts in the food processor and mixing the shreds with toasted slivered almonds, grated Parmesan cheese, and a dressing of fresh lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper, she suggests.

10. Edamame

A terrific plant-protein, edamame (a.k.a. soy beans) are also high in fiber to keep cravings at bay and boost your digestive system, says Zuckerbrot.

A one-cup serving of the green beans clocks in at about 190 calories, with an impressive eight grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein, she says.

Steamed edamame makes for a delicious high-fiber and high-protein snack or appetizer, says Zuckerbrot. You can even add a little sea salt or soy sauce for extra flavor. You can also buy them shelled and add them into stir-fries or Asian-inspired chicken salads, she says.

Pin this infographic to ensure you’re noshing on enough fiber throughout the day!

What Exactly Is ‘Metabolic Conditioning’?

Workouts touted as ‘metabolic conditioning,’ or ‘met-con,’ are popping up in gyms and studios everywhere. The science-y term definitely sounds cool (and maybe even makes us want to sign up for that new class), but what does it actually mean?

In non-scientist speak, ‘metabolic conditioning’ is a type of workout specifically designed to boost our body’s ability to make and use energy. These workouts help our bodies work more efficiently, so we can exercise at higher intensities, burn fat for fuel, and see better muscle gains and fat loss over time.

Here’s everything you need to know about the increasingly trendy training style, how it works, and how to tell if you’re already doing it (you might be!).

How Met-Con Training Works

Basically, there are three ways your body can produce and use energy: the phosphagen system (which covers quick, max-intensity work), the, glycolytic system (which covers moderate-intensity work), and the aerobic system (which covers long-duration, lower-intensity work). The point of met-con training is to challenge these systems so they become more efficient, helping you develop different aspects of your fitness, like power, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular ability, says Todd Nief, CF-L3, head coach and founder of South Loop Strength and Conditioning, a CrossFit studio in Chicago.

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Your body relies on the phosphagen system when you perform super quick, powerful exercises like all-out sprints or Olympic lifts. These rigorous exercises may last just 10 seconds or so, but require at least a few minutes of rest afterward because they’re so intense.

Your body relies on the glycolytic system when you perform more moderate exercise, like running intervals or lifting weights. You can perform these moves for about a minute or so and will need to rest for about twice that time.

And lastly, your body relies on the aerobic system when you perform lower-intensity exercises like running or biking at a pretty comfortable pace. You can perform at this level for at least a few minutes at a time and may only need a few seconds of recovery between sets.

What Met-Con Workouts Actually Look Like

Tons of workouts fall into the met-con category, including anything that’s labeled as HIIT, bootcamp-style class, and (probably the most iconic) CrossFit® classes, says David A. Greuner, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.I.C.S., of NYC Surgical Associates, who specializes in fitness and sports medicine.

Related: 9 CrossFit® Workouts You Can Do Pretty Much Anywhere

Typically you’ll rotate through a bunch of different exercises (like burpees, box jumps, and squats) and use different types of equipment (like kettlebells and rowing machines) for set periods of work and recovery. Which exercises you perform, how long you perform them for, how long you rest, and how long you work for overall determine which of your energy systems you’re really challenging, Nief explains.

Often, met-con workouts involve a variety of different work and rest intervals to challenge all of your energy systems, explains Greuner. (Cardio and strength training in one!) But the beauty of met-con is that every workout is a little different, and if you want to focus on a specific goal, you can! For example, a workout that emphasizes quick all-out sprints or lifts will develop power, while one that emphasizes longer intervals of rowing or lifting will develop endurance.

Because met-con workouts are designed to push your energy systems to the max, as long as you give work intervals your all you can see results without spending hours in the gym, Greuner says.

That said, met-con training demands a lot of your body, so start out slow when adding it to your routine. If you’re not used to high-intensity workouts, jumping right into met-con can leave you incredibly sore, burnt out, and increase your risk for injury, he says. Start with one or two sessions per week and add a third after you can crush and recover from those two weekly workouts.

Related: Add a recovery supplement to your routine to maximize the benefits of your workouts.