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 seasonings (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 advice: 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 moves-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, put them in 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 plan- 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.

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

In the era of 10-second Snapchats and endless digital notifications, it can be tough to slow down—especially when it comes to eating. We often find ourselves scarfing down some sort of breakfast on the commute into work or devouring lunch at our desk between meetings.

No good can come of this. For one, we disconnect from act of eating, limit enjoyment of our food, and lose the ability to register our body’s appetite and fullness. And this mindless approach can cause us to pack on the pounds over time, says Emily Kyle, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N.

Enter mindful eating, which promises freedom from diet rules and food stress, and encourages naturally healthier habits, she says. If you can figure out how to do it, that is.

What ‘Mindful Eating’ Really Means

Mindful eating is all about the mind-body connection. By tuning into how hungry you really are, the stimuli around you that may affect your meal, how you’re feeling, and what you really want to eat, you can become a more aware and balanced eater, Kyle explains.

“By turning our attention to how we feel physically and emotionally throughout a meal, we can learn more about what our bodies want and need from the food we consume,” she says. The more aware we become of our eating behaviors and patterns, the better we are able to control portions, keep from overeating, and maintain a healthy weight.

“Mindful eating is not about eating ‘perfectly’ all the time,” she says. “It’s about learning to listen to our bodies’ wants and desires and explore how those wants and desires make us feel physically and emotionally.” So, when we can quiet our cravings, slow down, and tune into our body, emotions, and the eating experience, we can better approach eating from a place of self-acceptance, health, and positivity.

4 Ways To Eat More Mindfully

Mindful eating sounds pretty great, right? After all, who doesn’t want to feel free and balanced about their food? Here are the experts’ four best pieces of advice to help you get there.

1. Check in with yourself before eating.

That glazed donut in the office might be staring at you, but before you grab it, ask yourself if you need it. If the answer is yes, go for it. If not, keep on walking. Regardless of your decision, asking yourself this question gives you the space to really think about your decisions instead of making food choices based on impulse, explains Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.

“I always encourage my clients to ask themselves, ‘Does my body need this?’ before they eat something,” says Harris-Pincus. It’s okay if you make the choice to eat it, she says. If so, own it, savor it, and move on.

More often than not, though, asking yourself this question will help you make better choices. “It really creates enthusiasm for nutritious foods and discourages us from eating foods with empty calories,” Harris-Pincus says.

Related: Not All Calories Are Created Equal—Here’s Why

A few other questions Harris-Pincus recommends asking yourself before eating: Am I feeling tired? Stressed? Bored? Will I feel better or worse after eating?

One general rule of thumb: If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. Mindful eating is all about listening to your body, so you don’t have to eat lunch at noon just because it’s ‘lunchtime,’ says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D. Eating only when you feel hungry will help you establish a healthier relationship with food and appetite, long-term.

If you’re ready to eat, continue this evaluative approach throughout your meal. Check in with yourself mid-meal by asking: Am I still hungry? Does my belly feel full? Am I still really tasting and enjoying this food? And, afterward, consider the following questions: Can I step away for 20 minutes to evaluate if I’m satisfied or still hungry? Was that an enjoyable meal?

Asking these questions will help you get into the routine of really connecting with your body and how you nourish it.

2. Eat without distractions.

At mealtime, turn off the television and put your phone down, so you can really focus on your meal and how you feel, says Rizzo. If you need some sort of ambiance, light a candle, put on some quiet music, or enjoy your meal with good company.

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“TV and technology keep us from really thinking about our food and hunger levels,” she says. “If we ditch the screens, it’s much easier to listen to our bodies and be mindful about our meal.”

3. Really ‘taste’ your food.

When you sit down to eat, take it bite by bite. “Think of eating like a wine tasting,” says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D., author of The MIND Diet. You want to take your time and experience your food.

“Look at the food on your fork, smell it, appreciate it,” says Moon. “Then place it in your mouth and just let it be. Try to identify all the flavors you’re experiencing. Then, chew slowly and completely, noticing how the bite changes in your mouth.” Honing in on each step of the eating process will help you slow down, savor each bite, and better identify when you feel satisfied.

To go even further, put your fork down between bites, she says. Allow yourself to look around, breathe, and be still throughout the meal. Your plate’s not going anywhere!

4. Keep a satiety log.

To really see your mindful eating progress over time, keep a journal of your food, appetite, and satiety levels.

Write down when and what you eat, how hungry you feel before eating (on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being ravenous), how full you feel afterward (on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being Thanksgiving-level stuffed, and what time you feel hungry again, Rizzo suggests.

By laying out all of your eats and satiety levels, you’ll be able to see if and when you eat for reasons other than hunger, like boredom or stress, which can be common, she says. The next time you’re tempted to eat impulsively, ask yourself if an apple would satisfy you. If you still want a chocolate donut instead, it’s a sure sign you’re dealing with cravings, not hunger. In these moments, distract yourself by taking a walk, listening to music, popping in a stick of gum, or calling a friend or family member, Rizzo suggests.

The more you can acknowledge and accept the emotions or triggers that lead you toward food, the more you can separate hunger and cravings, and the more mindful and temptation-free you can become, she says.

Related: Sip away cravings with a mug of soothing herbal tea.

Your Guide To Cooking With Healthy Oils

Olive, peanut, canola, coconut… There are so many cooking oils out there, it can be hard to figure out which to use—especially if you’re trying to eat healthy.

To spare you from Googling “olive oil or canola oil?” during your next trip to the supermarket, we asked a few dietitians to weigh in on the best and worst oils for your health—along with how to properly use them. The right oil can not only do your body good, but it can also take that garden salad or stir-fry to a whole new level of deliciousness.

Before we get to the good stuff, take note of the not-so-friendly oils out there…

The Bad

First things first: Steer clear of any oils identified as ‘partially-hydrogenated.’ (Note: these are commonly vegetable oils.) These fats, which are chemically altered to have longer shelf lives, are sources of the infamous trans fat. You’ve probably heard that trans fats are no good, and that’s because these artificial fats have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke, says bestselling author Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., R.D. They’re so bad that the FDA is rolling out regulations to have them completely removed from foods by 2018—but for now, look out! Most foods remove trans fats even margarine. By 2018 FDA has ruled all trans fats banned from foods.

The Iffy

Other oils you need to be careful not to overdo it with: those high in saturated fats, such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oil. “Coconut oil is made up of about 90 percent saturated fat, palm kernel oil about 85 percent, and palm oil about 50 percent,” says Zuckerbrot. While saturated fats play a number of roles in the body, eating them in excess can raise LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels, which increases your risk for heart attack and stroke, she explains.

Related: Finally, The Truth About Coconut Oil

For that reason, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that 10 percent or less of our daily calories come from saturated fat. So if you eat 2,000 calories a day, that’s a max of 200 calories (or about 22 grams) of saturated fat per day—about two tablespoons-worth of coconut oil.

You can certainly benefit from eating saturated fat in moderation. Coconut oil, in particular, offers two beneficial components: lauric acid and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which may help to raise HDL (‘good’) cholesterol and boost our metabolisms, respectively. Just don’t consider it your ‘staple’ oil.

The Good

Most experts recommend opting for unsaturated fats—which support heart health and reduce inflammation—over saturated fats whenever possible. There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

“Monounsaturated fats have been linked to reducing LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and triglycerides, while raising HDL (‘good’) cholesterol levels,” says Zuckerbrot. Plant-based oils high in monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil. Avocado oil is also high in monounsaturated fats—and it’s becoming more and more popular. The oil made from our favorite green fruit also offer vitamin E, which helps keep skin healthy, says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D.N., author of The MIND Diet.

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Polyunsaturated fats also offer health benefits—with two particular fatty acids in the spotlight: omega-3s and omega-6s. “These two essential polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in plant oils and play a crucial role in brain function and normal growth and development,” says Zuckerbrot.

Related: All The Things You Didn’t Know Omega-3s Could Do For Your Health

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in flaxseed, walnut, and cod liver oil, while omega-6 fatty acids can be found in soybean, safflower, sunflower, and grapeseed oil. “We need a balance of both types of essential fatty acids,” says Zuckerbrot. Here’s the thing, though: The average American gets plenty of omega-6s and not enough omega-3s, which are especially important for cognitive function, a healthy heart, and reducing inflammation, Zuckerbrot says. So if you don’t eat fish, grass-fed beef, eggs, walnuts, flax seeds, or chia seeds regularly, try to pick omega-3-containing oils whenever possible.

How To Cook With Healthy Oils

So which healthy oil do you use when? First and foremost, the method of cooking that you’re using will help you pick.

If you’re pan-frying, for example, you need an oil with a higher smoke point (above 375 degrees), says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T. (Once an oil starts to smoke, it becomes ineffective, wrecks the flavor of your dish, produces harmful fumes and free radicals and may even set off your smoke detectors…) If you’re just sautéing something though, Shaw recommends a mild-flavored oil with a lower smoke point. For baking? A neutral-flavored oil. Dressings or drizzles? Something with a stronger flavor.

For Frying: When you need to crank up the heat, certain oils will work better than others. Some of your best options: avocado oil (smoke point of 520 degrees), safflower oil (smoke point of 450 degrees), and canola oil (smoke point of 400 degrees).

These oils all have a mild flavor, so they won’t take the spotlight away from your other ingredients. Moon likes using avocado oil to sear chicken breast or salmon, and make avocado or veggie tempura fries.

Related: Stock your pantry with a variety of healthy oils for all your cooking and baking needs.

Sesame and peanut oil also have high smoke points (410 degrees and 450 degrees, respectively), so they’re safe for high-heat cooking—but they’ll also add an extra layer of flavor. Zuckerbrot likes using them in Asian-inspired dishes.

For Sautéing Or Roasting: Zuckerbrot also likes canola oil for sautéing or roasting because its neutral flavor lets the flavor of your food shine through. Similarly, mild-flavored avocado oil also works well for sautéing veggies or making eggs, says Moon.

Stir-frying veggies? Sesame oil can add robust Asian-inspired flavor and take the meal to the next level, says Zuckerbrot.

Olive oil is another popular choice for the sauté pan or roasting sheet—just keep in mind that extra-virgin olive oil has a lower smoke point of 320 degrees. But despite its low smoke point, EVOO offers more brain, heart, and skin benefits than more refined olive oils, so it’s still worth picking, Zuckerbrot says.

For Baking: Coconut oil, walnut oil, and canola oil are all great options for baked goods. Coconut oil’s nutty flavor works particularly well in cakes and frostings, says Shaw. Since it has a bolder flavor though, consider using walnut or canola oil in milder recipes. Zuckerbrot likes using walnut oil in desserts like pound cake and cookies because of its nuttier flavor, which often becomes bitter when heated too much in other cooking methods.

For Dressings, Drizzles, And Extra Flavor: Looking for a milder oil to use for a simple, healthy salad dressing? Zuckerbrot likes pairing walnut, olive, and grapeseed oils with herbs to top fresh greens with. Grapeseed oil tastes light and a little sweet, while olive oil can vary from floral to fruity to herbal to bitter, depending on the variety, says Moon. Try drizzling your favorite olive oil over grains and salads or adding it to basic soups and sauces.

And, of course, peanut and sesame oils also add tons of flavor to Asian-style dressings and sauces, whether you’re topping fish, chicken, or a salad.

The Right Balance

While these healthy oils do offer some benefits, they’re still calorically dense. All fats, including oils, contain nine calories per gram, Zuckerbrot says. (That’s twice as calorically dense as carbs and protein.) One tablespoon of any oil—healthy pick or not—is about 135 calories. To prevent over-oiling, try putting your favorite oils in spray bottles to coat pans, baking sheets, veggies for roasting, or salads.

Save this infographic for a quick cooking oil reference:

How Much Does One Night Of Pigging Out Really Affect Your Body?

When a scoop of ice cream turns into a pint, or a slice of pizza turns into four, we’ve probably all asked ourselves, ‘What have I done?’ And, often, we feel pretty dang guilty.

But does the once-in-a-blue-moon pig-out really affect more than our conscience?

Breathe easy—you can’t actually gain weight from just one double cheeseburger, nacho fries, and a chocolate milkshake kind of meal. So nix the guilt, enjoy your indulgence, and resume a healthy diet the next morning, says Kelly R. Jones M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. “With 3,500 calories in a pound, it would take a very unhealthy binge to gain real weight in one sitting,” she says.

But, still, that doesn’t mean a night of junk doesn’t affect your body in other ways.

What Qualifies As A Pig-Out?

You’re probably wondering exactly how many calories it takes before a treat turns into an all-out nosh fest. We all have individual calorie requirements, but it’s safe to say that eating 1,000 calories in one sitting qualifies as a pig out, says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D.N., author of The MIND Diet.

And it’s easier to get there than you might think. A big drive-thru burger with a medium fries and soda comes in close to 1,100 calories, while even salads at some chain restaurants break that 1,000-calorie mark, says Moon. Yep, we’ve definitely done it more than a handful of times.

Why You Feel So Crappy After A Pig Out

Immediately post pig-out, you’ll probably deal with an array of digestive issues. (Let’s be real: You might start feeling crummy even before you put your fork down.) Big meals slow your digestion, so your food spends extra time processing in your system, and often makes you gassy, Moon says.

And then there’s the heartburn. “The stomach secretes hydrochloric acid to begin the digestive process and to kill as much bacteria as it can before the food moves on through the digestive system,” Jones says. The more food you eat the more acid you produce, and some of that extra acid can find its way back up the esophagus and cause discomfort, she says.

As your body calls all-hands-on-deck to digest your junk, it sends more blood to your GI tract, which means less blood is available to transport oxygen and nutrients to other parts of your body, Moon says. This can leave you feeling sluggish and maybe even light-headed, she says.

And, beyond the stomach upset, an all-out eat fest will spike your blood sugar—especially if your food was high in carbs or sugar—giving you a quick energy boost. When your blood sugar rises like this, you release the hormone insulin, which ensures the nutrients you’ve consumed are taken up by our cells to be used, Moon says. But when you overeat, you release too much insulin, which signals to your body that you don’t need all of the energy as fuel—and so you store some as fat. And as quickly as that blood sugar rises, it crashes—making you feel like a sloth.

This barrage of discomfort often leads to a crummy night of sleep, especially if you have acid reflux. “Lying down after eating a big meal can really exacerbate your discomfort,” she says. And the aftermath of that poor sleep can throw off your entire next day.

All the insulin that your pancreas churned out the night before can actually set off hunger cues and eventually make you feel even hungrier than you were before. “This can obviously lead to overeating,” Moon explains. And when your blood sugar dips too low after spiking, you may experiences headaches, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and brain fog, because your body needs glucose (a.k.a. sugar) to fuel itself, she says.

Related: Is Sugar Really All That Bad For You?

Finally, while that one trip through the drive-thru won’t make you actually gain a pound of fat, it will lead a couple pounds of bloating and water retention, says Moon. So when you step on the scale the next morning and notice it ticks upwards, it’s because your body is holding onto water after taking in excess fats, salt, and sugar. Basically, when there’s too much sodium in your system, for example, your body retains water to dilute its concentration, she says.

What Are The Long-Term Effects?

An occasional Saturday night pizza run with friends won’t do much damage, but if pig-outs become a habit, you may be in for some pretty gnarly side effects.

Like, yes, stretching your stomach. “The average stomach is about the size of a fist and can hold less than a cup when empty, but it can expand about five times that size to hold more than four cups of food and drink,” says Moon. YIKES. Pigging out too often and stretching out your stomach can actually disrupt your hunger and stopping-point cues, which can lead to a cycle of overeating, she says.

Plus, when you chronically spike your blood sugar levels, you promote fat storage, says Jones. This weight gain may increases your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, Moon adds. Basically, when you put too much demand on your pancreas to churn out insulin over and over again, it struggles, leading to higher blood sugar—a condition known as insulin resistance, she explains.

Going too hard on the junk food too often can also change the bacteria in the gut, which can lead to worsened digestion over time, Moon explains. Whole foods—especially plant foods that contain fiber—are the ideal food for the good bacteria in your gut, she says. That pint of ice cream or cheese-steak? Not so much.

Perhaps most scarily, eating super large meals at night can increase your risk of obesity and heart disease, says Moon. (Sad but true: A recent review published in Nutrients supports backs this up.)

Get Back To Business

When your eat fest is over, the best thing you can do is move on. Moon recommends doing 15 minutes of light exercise, whether it’s a walk or light housework, and sipping on water, which can move digestion along after you’ve let your belly settle enough to get moving.

Also, stay away from booze, which can further delay digestion and make you hungrier, she adds. Spend the next few days loading up on high-fiber foods (like fruits and vegetables) and water to nourish your body, keep your digestive tract chugging along, and flush out your system, Moon says. As long as you get your healthy eating back on track, any water weight you gained after noshing should disappear, says Jones.

Related: Try a fiber supplement to help get things moving. 

Keep in mind that while some people might recover in 24 hours, others might need up to three days to get rid of the sugar, salt, and carb bloat, says Jones. Sticking to clean eats and being mindful of your body and how it responds will help you bounce back from your pig-out and keep you from going overboard in the future.

So You’ve Lost The Weight—Now What?

If you’ve been watching what you eat and getting your sweat on to tone up and slim down, you deserve some major kudos when you hit your goal—whether that’s fitting into your favorite pair of jeans, setting a new personal best in the gym, or just feeling more confident in your own skin. But once you cross that major goal off your to-do list, you may wonder: Now what?

Hustling to get those strong, toned legs or slim midsection was hard—and now that you’ve got ‘em, you want to keep ‘em! At this point, you’re entering what’s called the ‘maintenance phase.’ That means staying smart about eating healthy choices and working out so you can hold onto your hard-earned progress forever and ever.

Here, experts share the next-steps that will help you eat and train to make your recent health accomplishments sustainable.

The Food: Fuel Yourself Right

When it comes to your grub, take a flexible but focused approach. Turning down ice cream, a glass of vino, or an extra-cheesy slice of pizza 24/7 is just exhausting. Besides, you can maintain your weight and enjoy the good stuff as long as you indulge with a strategy. Take an 80:20 approach to your eats: Focus on nutrition and eating for your goals 80 percent of the time, and on enjoying your favorite indulgences the other 20 percent. That might mean having a piece of dark chocolate after dinner every night, or saving treats for a special meal on the weekends, Trattner explains. Go with whichever approach keeps you sane and satisfied.

And whether you’re eating for your goals or for the pure bliss of your go-to comfort meal, keep an intuitive attitude. Any successful weight management nutrition plan should focus on hunger cues over calories, says dietitian Ilyse Schapiro M.S., R.D., C.D.N. Eat when you feel hungry and stop when you’re about 80 percent full so you don’t get stuffed or end up overeating. Also, keep proper portions in mind, she says. This way you can eat in moderation, indulge occasionally, and stay healthy and trim.

During that 80 percent of your eating (when you’re focused on clean eats and fueling your body right), be sure to eat a balance of lean protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, fiber, and drink plenty of water. Schapiro recommends eating 30 to 50 percent of your calories from carbs, 25 to 35 percent from protein, and 25 to 35 from fat for weight maintenance.

A food-tracking app, like MyFitnessPal, can help you understand how much of your total calories come from which macronutrient (carbs, protein, and fat), but the following guidelines should land you in that healthy balance.

Protein: Eat at least three servings of protein a day, recommends weight-loss specialist Elizabeth Trattner A.P., L.Ac., N.C.C.A.O.M. Healthy options include four to six ounces of fish or lean chicken, three to four ounces of red meat, a cup of unsweetened plain Greek yogurt, an ounce of nuts, and two tablespoons of nut butter. Eating ample protein is huge for weight management because it’ll keep you feeling full and help prevent mindless munching throughout the day, she explains.

Produce: Shoot for seven to 11 servings of produce—about eight servings of veggies and three of fruit—per day, Trattner says. And the more green veggies the better. Eat a variety of veggies, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, kale, and carrots, and enjoy fruits like apples, berries, pears, kiwi, and bananas. The great thing about fruits and veggies? They add lots of volume—but not a lot of calories—to your meals.

Fruits and veggies are packed with fiber, which slows your digestion and keeps you satiated, and helps keep your bathroom time regular, Trattner says. She recommends shooting for up to 40 or 50 grams of fiber per day.

Related: Add a supplement to your routine to get your daily fiber fill.  

Healthy Fats: Aim for three to four servings of healthy fat per day, she recommends. (Think half an avocado, ten olives, or one ounce of walnuts). Like protein and fiber, healthy fats also help us feel satiated—plus, unsaturated fats (like those in olive oil and nuts) are heart-healthy, according to Harvard Medical School.

Carbs: We may think of carbs as lean physique enemy number one, but that’s not necessarily the case. Our muscles store carbs for energy so we can power through workouts (as well as recover from them!) and move throughout the day, Trattner explains.

Related: Are You Eating Too Few Carbs?

To get the most fiber—and other nutrients—possible, eat your carbs from complex, whole-food sources, like quinoa, whole-wheat bread, black beans, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, and squash, says Trattner. Start with a quarter to a half a cup at each meal and gauge how you feel. If you trudge through your workouts and feel fatigued often, you may need to add more.

Water: Drinking enough water helps keep you regular, prevents you from eating when you’re not really hungry, and can ward off swelling and bloating, Trattner says, She recommends drinking at least 64 ounces of plain water, oolong, green, white, or herbal tea, or seltzer water per day.

The Workouts: Sweat With A Purpose

Nutrition is super important for weight management, but it needs a trusty sidekick. Enter exercise.

Chances are, regular dates with the gym were a big part of your get-fit journey—and you will need to keep up with them to maintain your fitness long-term. But if you hate working out every day, don’t worry, you should be able to hold onto your results with three or four solid workouts a week, says Andrea Fornarola, C.P.T. and founder of Elements Fitness Studio in NYC.

To make sure those three or four workouts get the job done, though, you’ll need to mix them up and give them your all. “Mixing interval training, cardio, and strength training and toning is your best bet,” says Fornarola. You might go for a run or do intervals on the treadmill in one workout, lift weights in the next, and take a Pilates class in the last, she suggests. Not only will this variety keep you motivated and excited for your workouts, but it will also challenge your body in different ways so you’ll continue to adapt, get fitter, and continue to see results.

Strength training with moderate-to-heavy weights can help you build muscle, which boosts your metabolism and helps ward off fat-gain, says Fornarola. And the muscle you build gives your body more shape and definition. Focus on compound movements, like squats, that work multiple muscle groups at once, to get the most benefit. The bodyweight resistance you use in Pilates and yoga—and in exercises like pushups and bodyweight squats—can also help you build strength and endurance.

When it comes to cardio, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is a particularly effective way to reap major benefits without spending hours in the gym, she adds. By alternating between quick bursts of all-out effort and rest, you push your aerobic and muscle capacity to the limit, and burn a ton of calories in a short amount of time—and throughout the rest of the day. HIIT workouts offer more metabolic benefit for your time than steady-state cardio, which is a huge plus if you’re trying to maintain your weight.

Related: 7 HIIT Workouts That Incinerate Fat

Just limit HIIT to a few sessions a week, because the max effort required to charge through it (and recover) can lead to fatigue and muscle exhaustion if you hit it too often, she warns. But that doesn’t mean you need to give up steady cardio cold-turkey. Steady-state cardio still challenges your aerobic capacity (how efficiently your body can get oxygen to your working muscles) and puts less stress on your system than HIIT does, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Finding a balance of different types of training that you enjoy—and that fits your lifestyle—is key to staying active long-term.

The Max Amount Of Calories You Should Cut And Burn In A Day

If you’re on track to shed some serious pounds, you still need to watch your pace. (Insert inspirational ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’ quote here.) While it’s tempting to go all in, cut back on calories, and crank up your workouts, a hardcore approach to losing weight often leaves you stressed beyond belief and physically burnt out. And, dropping too many pounds too fast can actually backfire on your goals—and your health.

Do your grumbling tummy, your metabolism, and your waistline a favor: Read on to make sure your weight-loss pace is healthy and sustainable—and free yourself from the whiplash of ‘yo-yo dieting’ forever.

How Much Is Too Much?

The number of pounds you can safely lose per week depends on your body size—but for most people, losing more than one or two pounds a week is overdoing it, says Partha Nandi, M.D., F.A.C.P., leading physician and author of Ask Dr. Nandi.

“The more body fat you carry, the more you’ll be able to safely lose per week,” he says. Generally, you can lose about one percent of your total body weight per week, which is about a pound and a half per week for someone who weighs 150 pounds and two pounds a week for someone who weighs 200 pounds.

Crash Dieting 101

Losing more weight per week requires some extreme measures (like swearing off carbs and overdoing it at at the gym) that drive your willpower into the ground—and ultimately aren’t very healthy for your body, Nandi says.

Even when you’re doing it the healthy, slow-and-steady way, losing weight is a numbers game. To lose a pound a week, you need to create a 500-calorie daily deficit, according to Nandi. To bump that up to two pounds per week, you need a 1,000-calorie daily deficit.

In order to accomplish that, you need to consistently burn more calories in the gym and put less on your plate. So if you normally eat 2,000 calories a day, you’d need to cut 500 calories out of your grub and burn another 500 through exercise—every day.

That sounds tough enough as it is, right? To lose any more than that per week, you’d need to create a caloric daily deficit closer to 1,500 or 2,000 calories, which would likely require a dangerous combination of calorie restriction and over-exercising, Nandi says.

First of all, when you cut calories this hard, you end up missing out on the nutrients you need, he explains. But beyond falling short on important vitamins and minerals, you also don’t give your body the calories it needs to fuel your day, which becomes an even bigger problem if you’re cranking up your workouts, says LA-based celebrity trainer Astrid Swan.

Getting ample calories—and the carbs, fats, and protein they provide—is crucial for powering through and recovering from exercise. So if you try to go hard at the gym while on a very low-cal diet, chances are you’ll feel exhausted while you’re there, crazy sore afterwards, and possible even land yourself with an injury, she says.

Related: Not getting enough protein? Try a powder or bar.

And, ultimately, crash dieting wrecks your metabolism (which determines how many calories you need), backfiring on your weight-loss efforts, says Nandi. “Drastically cutting your calorie intake will slow your metabolism to a point where your calorie deficit is significantly smaller than what you planned it to be,” he explains. Basically when you give your body too few calories it adapts by slowing your metabolism down so you can survive on the calories you are getting. (Ever heard of ‘starvation mode’? Yeah, this is it.)

With that slower metabolism, your weight loss stalls—and you’ll put pounds back on as soon as you go back to your old ways. So begins the vicious cycle of “yo-yo dieting,” many people get trapped in, Nandi says.

Are You Digging Yourself Into A Calorie Deficit Hole?

If you’re losing weight too rapidly, your body will let you know. You’ll probably feel fatigued 24/7, and may notice a slew of digestive issues, like nausea, diarrhea, and constipation, says Nandi. You may also feel lightheaded and sick to your stomach when working out. These symptoms all indicate that your body is running on empty—and constipation in particular can signal that you’re not getting enough fiber or calories to keep things moving, Swan says.)

You may even have trouble sleeping and experience mood swings, according to Swan. Eating too little and exercising too much can affect your hormones and blood sugar, which then leave you tossing and turning at night and stressed out during the day. The stress on your body and the mental and emotional stress of depriving yourself and working so hard make for a slippery slope to feeling pretty terrible. In extreme cases, this stress can even make your hair fall out, says Swan.

Get Your Sanity—And Your ResultsBack

First things first, make sure you’re getting enough calories to lose weight safely. “The average woman needs to eat about 2,000 calories per day to maintain weight, and 1,500 calories per day to lose one pound per week,” says Nandi. “The average man needs about 2,500 calories to maintain, and 2,000 to lose a pound a week.”

Nandi recommends meeting with a dietitian or doc to determine how many calories you need for your body size, lifestyle, and goals. From there, you’ll begin to add calories back into your diet to ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs to thrive.

You may also need to rethink your workout routine. If you’re not taking a rest day, make sure to add one, says Swan. “When I am working with clients, they are shocked to see that when they eat more calories (and the correct nutrients), and take a rest day, their results improve,” she says.

Focus your workouts on strength training, which builds muscle and supports your metabolism, and turn to HIIT for cardio, so you can reap extra benefits in less time, Swan recommends.

Related: 7 Natural Ways To Kickstart Your Metabolism

 

8 Tips For Picking The Healthiest Packaged Foods Possible

We’ve all been told to eat lots of whole foods—like fruits, veggies, meat, poultry, and dairy—and to watch our intake of processed foods. But let’s be serious: Most of us aren’t about to blend up our own mayo. Avoiding supermarket aisles stocked with jars, bag, cans, and boxes just isn’t always doable.

When we buy food from a bag, box, or jar, it can be tricky to tell just how healthy (or unhealthy) it really is. After all, plenty of packaged foods contain terrifyingly long lists of ingredients, which often include preservatives and additives we don’t recognize and can’t pronounce. (What the heck is ‘dextrin,’ anyway?) Not to mention, many packaged foods come with a boatload of extra calories—on top of added sugars, fats, and sodium, says Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D.N.

To save you from spending 20 minutes trying to pick between two jars of tomato sauce or boxes of crackers, we asked dietitians for their supermarket navigation tips.

1. Check the sugar content.

Natural sugars that are found in whole foods like fruit and dairy have a place in a healthy diet, but sugars added to many packaged foods and drinks can lead to weight gain and health concerns, , says Amidor. So how much sugar a food contains—and whether it’s naturally-occurring or added—is something you’ll want to look at.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends limiting added sugars to just five percent of our total daily calories, which is 100 calories or 25 grams. So if a food contains more than 10 grams (or 40 calories) of added sugar per serving, it should probably be a no-go, Amidor says.

And don’t expect that added sugar to reveal itself willingly in the ingredient list: “Added sugars can show up on food and drink labels under names like anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, sugar, syrup and white sugar,” says Amidor. Yikes.

Related: Is Sugar Really All That Bad For You?

That said, you don’t necessarily have to nix a food because it contains a little added sugar. If the other ingredients are simple and offer health benefits like fiber or other nutrients, you can cut yourself some slack.

2. Feel out the fat.

One of the reasons packaged snacks can be so dang addicting: They contain added fat for enhanced flavor, says Amidor.

And while fat can be healthy (think of the unsaturated fats in avocados, nuts, and olive oil), many packaged foods are higher in saturated fats and contain trans fats.

Trans, or ‘hydrogenated’ fats have been linked to heart disease and should be avoided as much as possible, says Amidor. Meanwhile, the USDA 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting saturated fat to 10 percent or less of your daily calories, since excess consumption can affect cholesterol, she says.

So when you’re deciding between two packaged foods, compare the amounts of saturated fat per serving and go with the product that has less. Stay away from anything that contains 15 percent of your total daily allotment of saturated fat, Amidor suggests.

3. Beware insane amounts of salt.

The recommended daily max for sodium is 2,300 milligrams, or about one teaspoon of salt, but many packaged foods are bursting with the stuff, sometimes packing half your daily allowance in one serving.

Ideally, though, you want somewhere around 200 milligrams of sodium max per serving, says Benjamin White, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., L.D.N. So look for foods labeled ‘low-sodium’ or ‘no salt added’ and add flavor with herbs and spices at home.

4. Count the ingredients.

To keep your eats as clean as possible, pick packaged foods that contain as few ingredients as possible, says White. A food with few ingredients is less processed, and often healthier, than one with a long laundry list, he says.

And, since ingredients are listed in order of the amount contained in the food (high to low), looking at the first three can tell you a lot about what you’re eating, White adds. If one of the food’s first three ingredients is a sweetener, non-whole-grain flour, or oil, it’s probably not a great choice.

5. Do some quick nutrient math.

To make our snacks and meals as filling and waistline-friendly as possible, make sure they pack two things: fiber and protein. (You generally want at least three grams of fiber and seven grams of protein, White says.)

To figure out if a packaged food has enough of this good stuff to outweigh the bad stuff that may also be lurking, add up the grams of protein and fiber on the Nutrition Facts. Then add up the grams of total fat and sugar. If the total grams of protein and fiber are higher than the total grams of fat and sugar, you’re good to go, White says.

6. Look for added nutrients.

According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, there are four nutrients in particular that Americans fall short on: vitamin D, calcium, fiber, and potassium. (Vitamin D, calcium, and potassium are found in milk and many dairy products, while potassium and fiber can be found in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, according to Amidor.)

Related: 9 Nutrients You May Be Short On If You Don’t Eat Dairy

But since so many of us miss out on these four nutrients, they’re often added to packaged foods (like breakfast cereal) to help us get our fill. So if a food packs a boatload of these important nutrients despite having some rather unappealing qualities—like some added sugar—it might still be worth eating, she says. Just make sure the food provides at least 10 to 19 percent of your daily value of one or more of these nutrients per serving.

7. Cut out artificial colors and flavors.

You’ll want to avoid as much artificial anything as possible, and nixing artificial colors and flavors is a good place to start. “Color additives are used for aesthetic purposes, and do not provide any nutritional value to the food,” says Amidor. The same goes for artificial flavors. So go ahead and leave that cupcake icing colored with ‘blue number whatever’ or artificially-flavored nacho chips on the shelf.

8. When in doubt, use an app.

If you just can’t decide whether to put a product in your cart or leave it on the shelf, let your phone do the thinking for you. An app like the Environmental Working Group’s Food Scores, gives you quick feedback on the overall quality of a food, says White. “The app gives a rating for thousands of foods based on their nutritional value, ingredients of concern (like additives), and the extent to which they’re processed,” he says. The closer to a rating of ‘1,’ the more worthy the food.

Related: Check out a selection of packaged staples and snacks that keep your health in mind.

Pair These Nutrients Together For Maximum Absorption

It’s important to get your greens in, but keeping a healthy diet doesn’t always mean you’re getting all of the nutrients you need. Some nutrients actually maximize or interfere with one another’s function within your body—so depending on what you eat and when, you may be boosting or missing out on the benefits of those healthy foods (and supplements!).

To get the full nutrient bang for your buck and prevent wasting any of the good stuff, you’ll want to pair some nutrients together and avoid eating others together.

Perfect Pairings


There’s a reason you find many bone support supplements combining vitamin D and calcium. These two nutrients work together in our bodies, says Rebecca Lewis, M.S., R.D.N., dietitian for HelloFresh.

Here’s what’s going on: “The majority of the calcium in our body is stored in our bones, and vitamin D helps absorb, carry, and deposit that calcium into our bones,” she says. So if you’re short on vitamin D, your body won’t be able to carry the calcium into the bones to be absorbed and stored, she adds.

Vitamin D can be found in animal-based foods like eggs, fatty fish, dairy, and fish oils, while calcium can be found in dairy, beans, and kale, she says. You can knock out both of these nutrients at once by eating dairy—but otherwise try to pair calcium-rich foods with vitamin D-rich foods. (Good to know: A lot of foods, like milks and cereals, are fortified with vitamin D.)

Another way to better absorb calcium: Pair it with inulin-type fructans (a type of nondigestible carb), suggests research published in The Journal of Nutrition. You can find insulin-type fructans in wheat germ, bananas, garlic, onions, and leeks. So consider adding some wheat germ or banana slices to your morning yogurt.


In addition to pairing vitamin D with calcium, one of the best ways to increase your absorption is to ensure you are getting enough dietary fat, says Andrea Conner, M.P.H., R.D.N., C.D.E.

“Vitamin D is fat-soluble, meaning it needs fat to be absorbed,” says Conner. For that reason, she always recommends pairing vitamin D-rich foods with a high-quality fat, like olive oil, flax seeds, avocado, fish, chia seeds, or nuts. Just a couple teaspoons of oil or a handful of nuts will do the trick, she says.

Those healthy fats will also help you get the most benefit from carotenoid-packed foods (think yellow, orange, and red produce, like peppers, carrots, and tomatoes), according to research out of Ohio State University. The fats make plant compounds like beta-carotene (which we convert into vitamin A) and lycopene more available to our body.

Related: 7 Fatty Foods That Are Good For Your Health


Iron can both enhance and mess with the absorption of other nutrients, says Kelly R. Jones M.S., R.D.N., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. So, while the mineral is a pretty important staple in our diet, what you eat iron with is especially important. 

The biggest concern about iron absorption is whether you’re getting it from plant or animal sources. “Iron from animal foods, like beef, is much more absorbable than iron from plant foods, like spinach, beans, and whole grains,” says Jones. That’s because other factors in plant-based sources can inhibit your uptake of iron—like oxalic acid in spinach, she says. So vegetarians and vegans who get their iron from plant-based sources should be extra vigilant about what they eat it with.

This is where vitamin C comes in handy, Jones says. (You’ll find vitamin C in all sorts of citrus fruits, red peppers, kale, and broccoli.) The vitamin enhances your absorption of iron, so Jones recommends that vegetarians pair the two together whenever possible. “It can be as simple as adding lemon juice to their water while eating a plant-based meal,” Jones suggests. Or just make sure vitamin C-containing veggies make it onto your plate along with those beans or whole grains.


As with iron, any acidic food can also help increase your absorption of vitamin B12, says Jones.

“We all produce stomach fluid in response to hunger and smelling and eating food, and part of that stomach juice is hydrogen chloride, which helps us break down protein and absorb B12,” explains Jones. Adding acidic foods, like vitamin C-containing citrus fruits, can help boost the acid in your stomach needed to absorb that B12, which is found in organ meats, fish, eggs, and feta cheese. Jones likes to spritz lemon on fish or add it to salad dressings to help that B12 get to where it needs to go. You can also sip on some apple cider vinegar and water to boost that acid, she suggests.

 

Sparring Sources


All three of these nutrients are essential for a healthy diet, but they can interfere with one another’s absorption if consumed together in high amounts, says Jones.

“Because the same receptors in the digestive tract absorb zinc, iron, and copper, if there is an excess of one nutrient, it crowds out the others from making it through the intestinal wall,” she explains.

You know you’ll find iron in meats, spinach, beans, and whole grains. But what about copper and zinc? Copper is found in shellfish, organ meats, whole grains, beans, and nuts, while zinc is found in oysters, red meat, and poultry. You’ll want to avoid eating too much of these foods at one time, but the real concern here is with iron supplements. If you take an iron supplement, leave a few hours between popping your pill and eating a meal that includes zinc or copper-containing foods, says Jones. She recommends taking your supplement with a piece of fruit, crackers and hummus, or avocado toast, which are all low in zinc and copper.


Like with copper and zinc, iron competes with calcium to be absorbed in your intestines, so these two minerals reduce each other’s uptake in your body. (And this impairment can occur in either supplement or food form, according to research published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research.)

The competition between these two nutrients is particularly serious for people with certain health conditions. Many people with anemia are told to avoid taking their iron supplements for up to four hours after eating something high in calcium (like a bowl of yogurt or cottage cheese), says Jones. Similarly, women with osteoporosis should avoid taking calcium supplements within a few hours of eating foods high in iron (like beef, spinach, or beans.)

So, you might want to consider avoiding combos that go heavy on meat and cheese, especially if you’re suffering from one of these health conditions.


Sadly, there are a couple circumstances in which you should turn down avocado toast: If you’ve just taken a vitamin K supplement or noshed on a bunch of cruciferous veggies. Why? Vitamin E (which is found in avocado) can mess with vitamin K (which is found in cruciferous veggies and many supplements).

“Excess amounts of vitamin E can actually reduce the absorption of vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting, calcium metabolism, and bone mineralization,” says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T. While moderate amounts in combination—like spinach (vitamin K) and oil-based salad dressing (vitamin E)— shouldn’t do much harm, higher doses can be problematic, she says. Just be sure to stick to a tablespoon of oil in your salad dressing, she adds.

Foods rich in vitamin E include wheat germ oil, grains, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, avocado, and dried prunes, while veggies, like broccoli, kale, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are high in vitamin K.

Related: Check out a number of vitamins, minerals, and other supplements to fill in nutritional gaps.