This New Study Has A Lot To Say About Fat, Carbs, And Our Health

By now you’ve already heard that low-carb diets are out—as are high-carb diets, if trends like Paleo, Whole30, and keto have anything to say about it. And one study, dubbed the PURE Study, is aiming to quiet the constant flip-flop of this sort of diet advice.

The study looked into how the diets of people around the world—specifically how much fat and carbs they ate—impacted their health. The researchers, from McMaster University’s Population Health Research Institute, followed more than 135,000 men and women throughout 18 countries over the course of about seven years. The participants, from those in North America to those in South Asia, completed food questionnaires and reported major health events like heart attacks or strokes.

Though it’s not the first study of its kind, the PURE Study was the first to represent such wide-ranging geographic and class-based diversity.

Here’s the thing: Studies like this can’t determine cause and effect—but they can identify patterns and connections. The PURE Study didn’t find any connections between carb and fat consumption and cardiovascular risk, but it did identify two striking connections: one between high-carb diets and higher risk of total mortality (a.k.a. dying of any cause), and one between higher-fat diets and lower risk of total mortality.

On Carbs

Carbs—especially the refined ones—have come under fire in the nutrition world lately, and the PURE Study backs up the idea that eating tons of carbs can backfire on our health.

The study found that when people consumed more than 60 percent of their total calories from carbs, their risk of mortality increased, explains lead study author Mahshid Dehghan, MSc., Ph.D. (For someone that eats a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s about 1,200 calories or 300 grams of carbs a day.)

Who eats the most carbs? People in China, South Asia, and Africa—where poverty and food scarcity are more widespread—were more likely to be eating upwards of 60 percent of their calories from carbs. Most people in the U.S. don’t eat quite this many carbs, though. The study found that the average person in North America or Europe got about 52 percent of their total calories from carbs (which is about 1,040 calories or 260 grams).

Why? Though the study didn’t address the types of carbs people ate, it’s likely that people in these lower-income countries relied on refined carbs like white rice and bread, which tend to be more available and affordable, according to Dehghan.

For optimal health outcomes, the study suggests that a diet consisting of 50 to 55 percent of daily calories from carbs is the sweet spot, says Dehghan.

On Fat

Contrary to decades of diet advice telling us to go low-fat, the PURE Study actually found that people who ate a higher-fat diet had a lower risk of mortality.

In fact, people who ate about 35 percent of their daily calories from fat (that’s about 700 calories or 78 grams) had a 23 percent lower risk of mortality than people who ate 11 percent of their daily calories from fat (about 220 calories or 24 grams). Just keep in mind that as people ate more fat, they ate fewer carbs, says Dehghan.

Related: 7 Fatty Foods That Are Good For Your Health

The researchers also dove into saturated fats, finding a connection between low saturated fat consumption and increased risk of mortality. “While there seems to be a benefit to consuming about 10 percent of calories from saturated fat, mortality risk almost doubles when you drop down to three percent,” says Dehghan.

Those in lower-income nations, the study found, tend to eat less saturated fat. (In fact, the average person in China only got about six percent of their calories from saturated fat).

On the flipside, people in North America and Europe, where foods containing saturated fats tend to be more accessible than in other parts of the world, get about 11 percent of their daily calories from saturated fat.

The debate about how much saturated fat is too much continues to ping-pong, with some recent research questioning whether saturated fat is as bad for heart health as previously thought, and many health organizations (like the American Heart Association) disagreeing. Not only does this study fail to identify a connection between saturated fat intake with cardiovascular disease-related death, but it also calls attention to the potential dangers of eating too little saturated fat, which might be a first.

The Takeaway

The study supports the more-popular-than-ever argument for a diet higher in fat and more moderate in carbs. What’s more, it emphasizes the impact global poverty and food access has on diet and health.

From here the researchers will be looking into associations between specific types of food (like whole grains, sugar, and refined grains) and health, according to Dehghan.

(Read more specifics on the study from The Lancet.)

 

 

 

 


 

Interview: Dr. Mahshid Dehghan, MSc., Ph.D. – lead study author

 

Walk me through the basics of the study.

 

Prospective cohort study – included 135000 men and women from 18 low to high income countries in both urban and rural areas – collected health history and lifestyle factors – measured diet by country through questionnaire – we used a validated questionnaire for each country because cuisine is so different

 

5700 deaths and 4800 major CVD

 

Strength of study is size and international factor

 

Higher consumption of fat compared with low intake is associated with lower mortality risk – about 35% from fat had 23% risk of mortality (around 11%)

 

Increased carbs associated with increased risk – including people from low and mid income countries, we have people with very high carb consumption, it’s not common for people in the US to eat 68% calories from carbs – we had a wide range of nutrient intake by including all of these factors

 

What were the findings related to carb intake?

 

 

 

Was there a particular threshold at/above which carb intake was associated with mortality?

 

More than about 60% of total calories = adverse impact on total and non-cardiovascular mortality – the highest risk from 68% + — quintiles 4 and 5 have highest risk of mortality

  • More than half of the study participants at this much carbs or more
  • Mean carb intake varied from 46 to 77% of total calories
  • 50-55% carbs more appropriate

 

Did the source/quality of the carbs come into play?

 

Sources are important because we need to differentiate whole grains from refined carbs – we did not report different sources here, but are publishing soon

 

Low and mid income countries, majority of carbs come from refined carbohydrate – like rice and bread

 

What were the findings related to fat intake?

 

 

 

            At/above what threshold was fat intake associated with lower mortality risk?

 

  • 35% fat (along with a concomitant decrease of carbs) inversely associated with total mortality

           

            What did you find regarding saturated vs. unsaturated fat?

 

We observed that an association with all fats and lower mortality – true for all 3 types

 

Association stronger for unsaturated – but still for saturated

 

We showed that low fat consumption is harmful – what we know is mainly data from North American and Europe where people consume more saturated and total fat than low income countries – our finding wasn’t shown before – those with very low saturated fat consumption had higher risk of mortality – we are not suggesting high saturated fat consumption – 11-13% of energy, but if lowered to 3% there is a negative association

 

Were any of the findings particularly surprising to you?

 

Yes and no

 

  • No association between fat and major risk of CVD – clinical trials from Europe have shown that high fat consumption is protective

 

  • Such a high carb diet was not reported on before – we are trying to emphasize that when you push people to low fat consumption, they make up for it with carbs and we are observing the impact of a high-carb diet – previous studies didn’t have this amount of data

 

Did any particular spread of nutrients seem to be the ideal?

 

The message from our study is moderation for carbs and fat – we are not supporting very low carb diet, though we see 46% of energy from carbs have lower risks, but we are not suggesting low carb diets—you need energy for physical activity which can be provided by carbohydrates

 

50-55% energy from carbs seems to be fine from our data – and up to 35% energy from fat

 

Is there a next step you see for digging deeper into what you’ve learned here?

 

We need to look at food – when you go to supermarkets you buy food not nutrients – we need to look at associations between foods and health events/outcomes to make it more real-life – we are looking at the different types of starches (refined grains, whole grains, sugar) and meat, and dairy and health outcomes – we have them next year

 

 

8 Snacks That Make Perfect Hiking Partners

Sure, hiking may offer up a great workout (the average person burns more than 400 calories per hour), but it is so, so much more than that. While you’re moving, you’re surrounded by trees, natural scents, and the calm of a quiet trail—so it’s no wonder we feel so good after a hike. In fact, the euphoria we experience after hiking is so powerful it’s even been shown to help reduce feelings of hopelessness in people with severe depression, according to an Austrian study.

So lace up your shoes, grab a backpack, and go get lost in the woods for a little while. Just make sure you’ve got the fuel you need to enjoy every step.

“When I plan a hiking trip, I bring snacks that contain mostly fats and carbs,” says Michael Wolfe, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., dietitian for The Vitamin Shoppe. These two macronutrients provide the energy your body needs to keep going—especially if you’re hitting a challenging trail. And though protein isn’t your body’s go-to for fuel, it will help your body recover after longer day hikes or multi-day trips, he says.

The following snacks are easy to stuff in your pockets or pack in your backpack the next time you head off the grid:

1. RXBARs

Bars are all-star hiking snacks because they’re usually small and can pack a ton of fuel. RXBARs, which are made from whole ingredients like egg whites, dates, and nuts, provide a balanced dose of carbs, fats, and protein.

2. DIY Granola

Kathleen Jones, M.S.A.C.N., C.N.S., nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe likes to bring homemade granola on hikes because it provides the fat and carbs your body needs for fuel and is a lightweight way to get calories in. Check out her naturally-sweet recipe:

Ingredients:
1/8 tsp pure Himalayan sea salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. MCT oil
2 Tbsp. amber maple syrup
¼ cup seedless golden raisins
¼ cup hemp seeds
½ cup sliced almonds
2 cups gluten-free rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly so everything is well-combined and coated with the wet ingredients. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or just until very lightly toasted. (Keep an eye on the oven.) Let cool before storing in bags or an air-tight container. (Makes six servings.)

3. Health Warrior Chia Bars

These plant-based bars are just about 100 calories and great for shorter hikes. You’ll get both healthy fats (omega-3s for the win!) and filling fiber from the chia seeds—and, bonus perk: Each bar has only four grams of sugar.

4. Jerky

When you’re taking a break on the trail or heading home from a day hike, it’s time for protein! Wolfe packs jerky because it provides protein and doesn’t spoil easy. Ostrim’s beef and elk sticks pack 14 grams of protein in just 90 calories—and their shape makes them super portable. To keep your taste buds happy when you’re off the grid, you can also find jerkies in fun flavors, like Three Jerks’ filet mignon hamburger jerky.

Related: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

5. DIY Trail Mix

The ultimate outdoorsy snack, trail mix is easy to customize and offers the perfect combo of carbs and fat. We don’t completely hate that many store-bought trail mixes are roughly 50 percent M&MS, but you can keep your mix more wholesome by bagging it at home.

Wolfe likes this combo: half a cup each of peanuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, dried cranberries, dried pineapple, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. In a third of a cup (about a big handful), you’ll get about 42 grams of carbs and 16 grams of fat to keep you climbing.

6. BHU Fit Protein Bars

In flavors like salted caramel pecan and peanut butter white chocolate, BHU Fit bars are a delicious, guilt-free snack to take out on the trails with you. “They have very clean ingredients, tend to be higher in fat, and are very small and lightweight,” says Jones. You’ll get 13 grams of fat, 14 grams of carbs, and 14 grams of protein per bar.

7. Electrolyte Mix

Okay, what’s in your water bottle may not technically be a snack, but it’s just as important (if not more so!). Kick up your hydration by stirring in an electrolyte mix. These minerals (magnesium, potassium, and sodium) help your body balance fluids and keep your muscles firing properly, says Wolfe. Add grape or raspberry electrolyte power to your H2O with Ultima Refresher’s electrolyte powder, or go for lemon lime with BodyTech’s electrolyte fizz.

8. Barnana Organic Peanut Butter Chewy Banana Bites

Bananas provide just the carbs you need for an energy boost, but they’re easily smush-able in a backpack. Barnana’s chewy banana bites make the fruit more hiking-friendly, and the peanut butter flavor adds a bit of fat for a more satiating and fueling snack.

Related: Check out a ton of guilt-free snacks for on-the-go.

16 Snacks That Will Help You Survive The Whole30

Could you cut out alcohol, grains, dairy, sugar, soy, legumes, and all things processed for 30 days? That’s the premise of the ever-popular Whole30, a 30-day elimination diet plan that claims to reset your relationship with food, improve energy levels and body composition, ease digestive struggles, and help manage health issues, among a number of other benefits.

Let’s be real: Eating that clean for a month is no easy task—especially if you’re coming off a diet that involved a lot of food out of bags and boxes (think frozen dinners, tortilla chips). And perhaps one of the biggest challenges of the Whole30 is snacking. After all, 99 percent of the goodies in the vending machine or convenience store are a no-go under Whole30’s rules. Honey-wheat pretzel twists? Nope. Granola bars? Nah-uh. Even snacks that seem healthy, like whole-grain crackers and hummus are off-limits.

Arm yourself with Whole30-compliant snacks, though (yes, they exist!) and you just might survive your month-long food experiment without turning into the cookie monster. Here are 15 yummy options, so you can snack your heart out, Whole30-style:

Apple (Or Banana) With Almond Butter

Since peanut butter is off the menu on Whole30 (sob), you’ll have to explore other nut butter options for spreading on fruit. If you’re not a fan of almond butter, try sunflower seed or the incredibly-creamy cashew butter instead.

Frozen Grapes

Fruit will be your sugar craving savior throughout the Whole30, and frozen grapes in particular may rock your taste buds so hard that they’ll be a staple even when your 30 days are up. Every single frozen grape is like a mini sorbet—super sweet and fun to eat.

RXBars

The label says it all: “No B.S.” RXBARs are made with a handful of whole ingredients, without added sugar or anything artificial. Just egg whites, dates, nuts, a few natural spices and flavors—and sometimes unsweetened cocoa or cacao. Bonus: They pack a solid 12 grams of protein. (Just stay away from any of the flavors that involve peanuts.)

Related: Is Sugar Really All That Bad For You?

Veggie Sticks And Guacamole

Because, yes, guacamole is allowed on Whole30 (just check your ingredients if it’s pre-made), and there are plenty of things you can dip with besides chips. Baby carrots, zucchini sticks, or even green beans in a pinch, all get the dipping job done—for far fewer calories and much more nutrition than chips.

Epic Bar Beef Habanero Cherry Bar

When making yourself a snack just isn’t happening—or if you’re traveling—Epic Bar’s protein-packed snacks are perfect for stashing in your purse or gym bag. With just a few whole ingredients like organic beef, walnuts, dried cherries, and seasoning, these bars are some of very few official Whole30-approved packaged eats.

Salted Mixed Nuts

When you cut out pretty much all processed snacks and meals, there’s a good chance you’ve also cut out a ton of salt. Lightly salted nuts make for a satisfying and hunger-squashing snack. Just make sure your mix is peanut-free! Cashews, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds, and all of the seeds under the sun are still fair game.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Protein lovers, this snack is for you. Hard-boiled eggs are an easy way to squeeze in some protein when you’re on the run and can’t turn to a protein bar or shake. Two large hard-boiled eggs pack about 12 grams of protein.

Related: An Ode To Egg Yolks (Yes, They’re Good For You!)

Zucchini, Beet, Sweet Potato, or Kale Chips

Sometimes you just need crunch—and with a mandolin slicer, an oven, and a little patience, you can make chips from pretty much any vegetable you have in the kitchen. Sprinkle your veggie slices (or kale leaves) with a little olive oil and sea salt, pop them in the oven at 350 degrees until crisp, and enjoy every crunchy bite.

LaCroix Blackberry Cucumber Sparkling Water

Okay, this may not quite be a snack, but if fizzy sips get you through the day, LaCroix naturally-flavored sparkling waters can help you survive soda cravings and ward off snacking out of boredom.

DIY Trail Mix

When tons of store-bought trail mixes involve candy pieces, added sugar, and things like yogurt balls (there’s no way they’re actually yogurt), enjoying this staple snack on Whole30 may mean throwing together your own. All you really need are some nuts, seeds, and dried fruit—but you can also add unsweetened coconut flakes if you want a little extra sweetness. If you’re feeling extra tropical, try a mix of Brazil nuts, cashews, dried pineapple, and coconut flakes.

Sunfoods Superfoods Berry Adventure Mix

There is some hope for store-bought trail mixes though—just hit up a health food store and look for a mix with just a few whole ingredients. Sunfoods Superfoods’ berry mix has a short and sweet ingredient list, containing just cashews, goji berries, and golden berries.

Chia Pudding

The small-but-mighty chia seed packs protein, fiber, and healthy fats—but they can be tricky to eat. To make chia pudding, combine three tablespoons of chia seeds with a cup of coconut milk in a jar and let soak overnight. The chia seeds absorb some of the liquid to form that satisfying pudding texture. You can add unsweetened cocoa powder, chopped nuts, or fresh fruit into the mix for extra flavor.

Veggie Slices And Salsa

Going without hummus is hard for many a Whole30-er—so finding other ways to satisfy the need to dip is essential. Plenty of pre-made salsas are a-okay on Whole30—and super useful for spicing up eggs, ground turkey, and more. Slice up your favorite veggies (we love cucumbers or jicama) and dip away! (And since salsa is lower in calories than guac, you can dip your heart out without going overboard.)

Melon And Prosciutto

When you’re feeling fancy, a few strips of prosciutto wrapped around slices of cantaloupe makes for a great salty-sweet snack. Plus, you can even trick people into eating a Whole30-compliant appetizer at your next barbecue or dinner party.

Collagen Smoothie

Grab your blender and whip yourself up a satisfying and refreshing smoothie—complete with a boost of protein from Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides, which, yep, is Whole30-approved. Just add water, frozen fruit, a scoop of collagen peptides, and a spoonful of nut or seed butter and blend. Frozen mixed berries and almond butter make for a good go-to smoothie—and you can always throw some spinach into the mix for extra veggies.

Related: How To Make The Best Smoothie For Your Goals

Chicken Avocado Lettuce Wraps

This snack feels like a mini meal—and is a great way to clear leftovers out of the fridge. Just grab a few romaine leaves, leftover chicken breast (or whatever other protein you have), a few avocado slices, and wrap it all up. Protein and veggies, all in one! You can add some Whole30-compliant hot sauce or mustard in there, too.

Related: Check out a number of spices, seasonings, and sauces for health-conscious cooking.

5 Protein Myths—Debunked

Of the three macronutrients that make up our diet (carbs, protein, and fats), protein often gets all the glory.

And, yeah, it’s pretty magical. Protein is a part of all cell structures (like our organs and muscles), and it helps us build enzymes and hormones, support our immune system, and feel full, says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. All important things—especially if you’re physically active!

But that doesn’t mean you need to eat chicken breast for every meal of the day. Get your head straight about these protein myths to make sure you’re getting the most benefit out of this muscle-building macro.

Myth #1: More protein is always better.

Exactly how much protein you need per day depends on a few things, like your size, sex, and activity level. But generally, the most you really need is about a gram per pound of lean body mass per day (if you’re working out really hard), says Albert Matheny, M.S., R.D., C.S.C.S., co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab. The key here is lean body mass. So if you weigh 200 pounds and 175 of that is lean mass, you’d need 175 grams of protein per day. (Most gyms or trainers can help you estimate your lean body mass.)

When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into molecules called amino acids, which are then sent to your muscles and tissues where needed. “The body can use about 25 to 30 grams of protein at a time for things like muscle growth and repair,” says Harris-Pincus. For example, a smaller woman who trains a few times can probably utilize about 20 grams at a time, while a larger, active guy may tap out around 35 grams per sitting, says Matheny. Once you’ve fulfilled your body’s needs, any protein you consume is just extra calories.

“Too much of anything can be a problem,” says Matheny. So eating tons of processed foods like bacon just because they contain protein isn’t a great idea. Look at the food as a whole, not just its protein content. “Get your protein from whole foods instead of processed stuff that comes along with additional calories but few nutrients,” says Harris-Pincus.

Myth #2: Protein automatically goes to your muscles.

So now you know that your body can only use about 25 to 30 grams of protein for your muscles and tissues at a time. Anything beyond that is a different story…

Protein is great and all, but it does still have calories—four calories per gram, to be exact. The protein your body can’t use for its primary purpose basically gets broken down like a carb, says Matheny. That means it’s either used for energy or stored as fat. So, hate to burst your bubble, but more protein doesn’t automatically equal more muscle.

It’s all about balance: Too much protein (and calories) and you can still gain weight, says Harris-Pincus. Meanwhile, too few calories (even if they’re all protein) and you won’t build an ounce of muscle, says Matheny. “If you’re not meeting your calorie needs, your body focuses on maintaining the muscle it already has, not building more,” he says.

Myth #3: Plant proteins aren’t as good as animal proteins.

No two proteins are created equal—but that doesn’t mean they don’t all deserve a spot in your diet. Different protein sources contain different types and amounts of amino acids, and there are nine ‘essential’ amino acids we can only get from food, says Matheny.

“Animal proteins have higher amounts of branched-chain amino acids in amounts that have been shown to support muscle synthesis and growth,” he says. Meanwhile, plant proteins are often lower in branched-chain amino acids or other essential amino acids.

As long as you eat a balanced diet, though, chances are you’re getting all of the aminos you need. The full nutritional picture of a food is more important than how much protein (and how many of which amino acids) it contains, says Harris-Pincus. “Your body needs a variety of foods for a variety of nutrients to prevent disease and keep you healthy all life-long,” she says. Harris-Pincus recommends mixing up your protein sources and incorporating plant proteins (like beans and whole grains) and animal proteins (like chicken and whey supplements).

Related: 7 Protein Sources For Vegetarians

Just because those plant proteins don’t pack as mean an amino acid punch, doesn’t mean they’re not valuable: Plant-based diets not only help protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation, but also help ward off issues common later in life, like metabolic syndrome and neurodegenerative diseases, according to a review published in Trends in Food Science and Technology.

Myth #4: Eating too much protein is bad for your kidneys and bones.

Yes, protein gets processed through your kidneys. But if you have healthy kidneys and eat a balanced diet that includes a sane amount of protein, you’re not going to damage them, says Harris-Pincus. (And by ‘sane amount’, we mean Matheny’s recommendation of one gram of protein per pound of lean body weight per day, or less. Not 300 grams of protein a day.)

And what about your bones? The theory here is that eating too much protein increases the amount of acid in your body, so you pull calcium from your bones to neutralize that acid, says Harris-Pincus. But not to worry, a high-protein diet hasn’t been clearly shown to harm bone health, according to a review and meta-analysis published in Current Opinions in Lipidology. The paper’s authors suggest that a high-protein diet may actually support bone health and that healthy people should not limit their protein intake for fear of leaching calcium from their bones.

Myth #5: Protein Supplements Are The Same As Whole Food Proteins.

If you’re eating just plain, skinless chicken breast, yeah, you’re getting mostly protein—but whole food protein sources are typically a package deal, and provide protein along with other nutrients, says Matheny. (The additional vitamins and minerals are often accompanied by some fat or carbs, adding some calories to many whole food proteins.)

Protein supplements, though, are all about getting as much protein per calorie, says Matheny. And while they’re a more calorie-efficient source of protein than most animal sources (25 grams of protein from whey is about 120 calories, while 25 grams of protein from sirloin steak is up around 245), supplements shouldn’t be your only source of protein. “If you’re just getting your protein from supplements, you’re missing out on a lot of vitamins and minerals and losing the balance needed in your diet for general health,” says Matheny.

That being said, protein supplements can be hugely helpful tools. “Protein powder is great for augmenting foods that otherwise don’t provide much protein, like oatmeal,” says Harris-Pincus. A protein shake is also a portable alternative to skipping breakfast or making a desperate stop at a drive-thru.

And, since that protein shake is digested quickly, it can be especially beneficial before or after exercise, when your body needs protein quickly in order to rebuild the protein in your muscles that break down during training.

Related: Find the best whey or plant-based protein supplement for your lifestyle.

 

 

10 Protein-Packed Meals In Mason Jars

Healthy work lunches can be a struggle—if you’re not a master meal prepper (…yet), you either end up spending 15 dollars at an overpriced salad bar, or eating the same mixed greens day after day (or snagging yet another bagel leftover from a morning meeting).

Grab a six-pack of Mason jars, though, and you’ve got the perfect vehicle for healthy—and beautiful!—work lunches all week long. Yes, a lot of Mason jar recipes out there are salads—but they’re anything but boring.

What better motivation do you need to kick your meal-prep game into high gear?

We rounded up some of the most enchanting Mason jar recipes on the world wide web so you’ll never have to wonder about what to bring for lunch again. And, since each of these meals packs a solid dose of protein, you’ll be satisfied straight through quitting time.

photo: Comfortably Domestic

Chef Salad

This classic salad is the perfect starter Mason jar lunch. With a variety of flavors, textures, and cheesy goodness, Comfortably Domestic’s recipe is easy to prep and enjoy all week long. Cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, hard-boiled eggs, lean turkey, and lean ham all provide protein, for a total of about 13 grams total per jar.

photo: Savoring the Thyme

Shrimp and Feta Cobb Salad

Something about Savoring the Thyme’s recipe feels like summer. The shrimp puts a fun spin on your usual Cobb salad—but all of the other usual flavors (like red onion, cucumber, and tomato) are there, too! With the combo of feta cheese, shrimp, egg, and bacon, this salad comes in around 30 grams of protein.

photo: Cookie+Kate

Chickpea, Farro, and Greens Salad

Cookie+Kate’s meat-free Mason jar salad recipe is perfect for #MeatlessMonday—and every other day of the week. Plus, it packs the protein you need, plant-style, providing about 19 grams of protein per serving.

Related: 7 Vegetarian Protein Sources

photo: Foxes Love Lemons

Asian Noodle Salad

This is not your average Mason jar meal. Foxes Love Lemons puts a twist on the usual jarred salad with this Asian-inspired noodle dish. And, there’s spicy peanut dressing—need we say more? This flavor-packed meal contains about eight grams of protein from the edamame, noodles, and good ol’ PB.

photo: The Seasoned Mom

Chicken Taco Salad

Tacos are pretty much impossible to eat at your desk—otherwise we’d do it all the time. But swap the taco shell for a jar and throw in some extra lettuce, and you can make a salad that tastes just as good. This recipe from The Seasoned Mom uses Greek yogurt for a lightened-up dressing, and packs additional protein from black beans, cheddar cheese, and chicken breast, for about 38 grams (oh yeah!) of protein a pop.

photo: Hungry Girl

Cup o’ Zucchini Noodles and Chicken

Nothing is as comforting (or bloat-inducing) as a nice cup of noodles. But Hungry Girl gives this quick lunch a healthy makeover (sans-bloat, since the noodles are replaced with zucchini) with her chicken and zoodle soup jar recipe. It provides all the yummies from your favorite chicken noodle soup—like mushrooms, peas, and carrots—and packs 30 grams of protein per serving.

photo: Food Faith Fitness

Turkey Burger Salad

Pack all the flavor of a burger into a portable lunch with this recipe from Food Faith Fitness. Caramelized onions and a tomato sauce dressing kick up the flavor of often-bland turkey for a meal that contains 28 grams of protein.

photo: The Girl on Bloor

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Another plant-based meal, The Girl on Bloor’s chickpea-based recipe is aromatic and bursting with fresh ingredients. Sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, red onion, and plenty of herbs make for a taste bud party that also provides about seven grams of protein (if you divide the recipe into three portions). You can always bump up the protein by adding tuna or another type of bean into the mix.

photo: Eating Bird Food

Strawberry Spinach Salad

If your sweet tooth is in full swing all day long (no judgment!), this is the Mason jar recipe you need in your life. Eating Bird Food’s salad sweetens up lunchtime with fresh strawberries and a citrusy poppy seed dressing. You’ll get your dose of veggies from asparagus, cucumbers, and avocado—plus a good 30 grams of protein from the chicken and spinach.

Related: 8 Nutritionists Share How They Satisfy Their Sweet Cravings

photo: The Healthy Maven

Tropical Sriracha Chicken Salad

Were you sold at sriracha? Us too. The Healthy Maven’s recipe definitely provides the funky flair you need after weeks and weeks of lame work lunches. The chicken marinade and dressing are both full of big flavors, like sriracha and lime, that blend perfectly with the avocado and pineapple in the salad. Each sweet and spicy serving packs upwards of 30 grams of protein.

Related: Mason jars not your thing? Check out a number of other meal-prep containers.

Here’s What A Day Of Clean Eating Actually Looks Like

On any given day, a casual scroll through Instagram will lead you through picturesque snacks, meals, and tabelscapes labeled #cleaneating. But what exactly falls into that category? And do you need to shell out hundreds of dollars at a health food store or create a three-page recipe to eat that way?

In the broadest sense, clean eating is all about eating ‘whole foods’ that have not been processed, says Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D., R.D., C.S.S.D., assistant professor of nutrition and exercise science at Central Washington University and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Think produce, lean proteins, plain Greek yogurt, nuts, beans, and whole grains, and no conventional frozen meals or packaged snacks. Some people may choose to buy organic and non-GMO whole foods, but that’s not a requirement of eating clean, Pritchett says.

By ditching processed foods, you cut back on sodium, added sugar, and saturated fat, which can contribute to chronic disease in large quantities, Pritchett explains. That doesn’t mean any food that comes in a package is off the table, though. Frozen fruit, for example, is just as nutrient-dense as fresh fruit. Just take a look at your ingredient labels. A few whole-food ingredients? You’re good to go. Long lists or obscure words? Leave it on the shelf.

To take all of the guesswork out of clean eating, we worked with a few healthy-eating experts to map out an entire day of clean eating for you. Snacks are included, of course!

Breakfast

Our morning meal is often the trickiest when it comes to eating clean. With sugary flavored yogurt, processed cereals, and refined carbs off the table, the options seem slim. But that’s not the case!

If you’re a novice in the kitchen—or just crunched for time—whip up a quick egg-veggie scramble recommends Stacey Mattinson, M.S., R.D.N., L.D. (Mattinson likes adding spinach, mushroom, onion, asparagus, and/or bell peppers to her scrambles—but any leftover veggies you have in the fridge will do!)

Related: Stock your kitchen with staple ingredients for clean cooking.

If you like your breakfast on the sweeter side, top plain Greek yogurt with your favorite fresh fruit and a sprinkle of nuts for crunch. You could also prep some overnight oats the night before. Just mix equal parts old-fashioned oats and milk or Greek yogurt along with your favorite toppings (think cinnamon, honey, peanut butter, chia seeds, and/or fruit) in a jar and stash in the fridge overnight. Mattinson likes these breakfast options because they’re high in protein and fiber, which help keep you feeling full all morning long.

If you have a little extra time to spend in the kitchen, try this gluten-free shakshuka recipe from Abbey Sharp, R.D. Shakshuka is basically tomato stew with eggs baked into it—and makes for a warm and comforting breakfast. Sharp’s recipe also adds spinach and zucchini into the mix for an extra dose of vegetables.

Lunch

If you’re ready to ditch the sodium-heavy deli sandwich for a clean, feel-good lunch, your main objective is to strike a balance of protein, vegetables, whole grains, and maybe some fruit, recommends Marisa Moore, R.D.N. That way you’re more likely to get all the nutrients you need throughout the day.

If you didn’t have eggs for breakfast, they’re a great option for a clean midday meal. Moore likes to make omelets filled with sautéed seasonal veggies (like peppers, onions, and spinach) and topped with a few slices of avocado.

A simple tuna bowl is another easy-to-make lunch, suggests Michelle Dudash, R.D.N., author of Clean Eating for Busy Families. Mix a can of tuna, olives, diced tomatoes, chickpeas or cannellini beans, and toasted pistachios or almonds into a bowl of greens. Top it with a drizzle of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a sprinkle of seasoning—like smoked paprika. Dudash likes this meal because it includes two sources of protein and some omega-3s.

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

Have leftovers to get rid of? Try a veggie-packed wrap. Grab some leftover protein like chicken or salmon and wrap it into a whole-grain wrap with a healthy helping of spinach or arugula, avocado slices, and drizzle of vinaigrette, recommends Dudash. Serve with a side of crunchy sugar snap peas and you’ve got a meal with lean protein, whole grains, fiber, and antioxidants, she says.

Dinner

Dinner is your last opportunity to squeeze in some nutrition before bed, but it doesn’t have to be a high-maintenance meal. For a simple, clean eating meal, try roasting a bunch of veggies and a lean protein on one pan, says Dudash. This way you have less prep work and cleanup to worry about. Dudash likes seasoning salmon with fresh dill and lemon zest and roasting it alongside some asparagus—but you can mix and match whatever protein and produce you like! (Check out our favorite one-pan recipes here.)

Make clean eating flavorful and fun by upping the health-factor in some of your favorite meals. Mattison recommends trying meatballs with no-sugar-added sauce over spaghetti squash, or making homemade fajitas with whole-wheat tortillas, lean beef, plain beans, grilled onions and peppers, tomato, and avocado.

Another quick-but-tasty meal: Shrimp and veggie kebabs served over brown rice, says Mattison. Zucchini, red onion, and bell peppers all make for delicious kebabs.

If you have a slow-cooker handy, Dudash recommends making a batch of pulled turkey or chicken breast, which can be served atop a salad or wrapped into a whole-wheat wrap with lettuce, salsa, and avocado.

Snacks

When you start to feel hangry between meals, having a few clean eating snacks prepared can keep you from falling off the deep end. Pritchett recommends grabbing a hard-boiled egg, or carrot sticks or apple slices and almond butter, which provide more nutritional bang for their buck calorie-wise.

A perk of eating whole-food snacks is that they’ll satisfy you for a lot longer than a processed snack out of the vending machine—often because they pack more protein and fiber, without refined grains or high levels of sodium, says Mattinson. She likes plain Greek yogurt topped with chopped pecans or veggie sticks (like carrots, cucumber, or zucchini) with hummus.

If sweets are your thing, swap candy for frozen grapes, adds Moore. “They are a sweet treat and natural source of antioxidants and other polyphenols” she says. Plus, they take longer to eat when frozen, helping you satisfy your sweet tooth without downing a whole bag.

Consider this infographic your quick and easy guide to eating clean all day long:

3 Weight-Management Supplements That Aren’t Stimulants

When it comes to managing weight with supplements, many people go the route of caffeine, caffeine, and more caffeine. It’s understandable, considering caffeine (and other stimulants) ramp up our metabolism. But if caffeine makes you jittery—or if you’re already overloaded on the stuff—there are a few other supplement options that can support your goals.

Here’s the scoop on the ‘big three’: EGCG, CLA, and L-carnitine.

EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate)

Some of green tea’s weight loss-supporting cred comes from its caffeine content. But other reasons for green tea’s many health benefits? Antioxidant plant compounds called polyphenols—the most well-known of which is EGCG. (Antioxidants help fight damage from free radicals and support our cardiovascular health and immune function.)

This powerhouse antioxidant does you some good in the weight-management department by helping your body ward off the stress of a reduced-calorie diet or frequent workouts, according to Brian Tanzer, M.S., C.N.S., manager of scientific affairs for The Vitamin Shoppe. “When you’re exercising and consuming fewer calories to manage your weight, you may not be taking in enough antioxidants, so having extra antioxidant support is helpful,” he says.

Plus, EGCG blocks your body’s uptake of the hormone norepinephrine, which is released to shift your body into ‘fight-or-flight’ mode when it’s faced with stress—like working out. Because norepinephrine boosts your heart rate and blood pressure, it also kicks up your metabolism. So, by keeping norepinephrine circulating in your system, EGCG helps your body stay stimulated, and burn more calories, Tanzer explains.

Related: 7 Natural Ways To Kick-Start Your Metabolism

Check this out: According to a study published in Clinical Nutrition, obese women who supplemented with 857 milligrams of EGCG daily for 12 weeks saw better improvements in waist circumference and body mass than those who did not.

Picking A Supp: Many supplements list just “green tea extract” on their labels, but if you want to maximize the benefits of EGCG, look for a supplement that specifically says it’s standardized to 50 percent EGCG, says Tanzer. You’ll want at least 500 milligrams of EGCG throughout the day, so look for two to three daily doses of between 500 and 1,000 milligrams total. Just keep in mind that in many supps, EGCG is paired with caffeine, so look for something that’s just straight-up EGCG if you’re staying stimulant-free.

CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)

CLA is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid naturally found in animal proteins like beef and dairy products. Yes, we’re talking about a fat in relation to weight management. Why? “CLA inhibits an enzyme that’s involved in activating fat storage,” says Tanzer. Basically, CLA can reduce how much of the fat you consume actually gets stored as fat.

CLA is well-researched, with a meta-analysis published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluding that CLA consumption has a small, but notable impact on body composition. For example, a study published in Journal of Nutrition found that when postmenopausal women consumed 5.5 grams of mixed CLA daily for 16 weeks, they experienced better improvements in body weight and fat mass than those who did not.

Picking A Supp: Since the dosage that’s been effective in studies is fairly high, you’ll want to look for a CLA supplement that provides between three and six grams total per day, says Tanzer. (Often that’s broken up into one or two grams at a time, two or three times per day.)

L-Carnitine

Made from the amino acids lysine and methionine, L-carnitine is a natural-occurring compound that helps the body turn fat into energy. (It’s also found in red meat.) “Basically, L-carnitine carries fatty acids into the mitochondria, which is the cell’s furnace, where they can be turned into cellular energy called ATP,” says Tanzer. Because of its role in fat metabolism, L-carnitine may play a role in body composition and support weight management, according to a review published in Obesity Reviews.

Plus, being well-stocked on L-carnitine is also especially important if you’re doing lots of cardio—since your body relies mostly on fat for fuel after an hour or so, when you’ve probably burned through your glycogen stores, Tanzer says. (Glycogen is the fuel we store from carbs.)

Picking A Supp: L-carnitine is a common component of preworkout formulas, so there’s a chance you’re already taking some! To make the most of its benefits, though, Tanzer recommends supplementing with between one and three grams of L-carnitine per day. Since many preworkouts don’t include quite that much, you can also find L-carnitine in some recovery supplements or as a stand-alone liquid.

Like with any supplement, just make sure to talk to your doc before adding these to your daily regimen.

Related: Find the recovery supplement of your dreams.

 

23 Confusing Fitness Terms—Decoded

If you’ve read a fitness article—ever—you’ve probably come across a science-y term or two that sounds cool and all, but doesn’t quite click. It’s not every day people throw around words like hypertrophy and catabolic state, after all. (If those terms are, in fact, part of your everyday conversations, color us impressed.)

Consider this your nearly-complete glossary of buzzy exercise lingo a.k.a. your guide to sounding like you know what you’re talking about. (But for real: Actually understanding these concepts can help you make the most of our workout routines and see better health and fitness gains.)

Aerobic Exercise:

(a.k.a. cardiovascular exercise)

Exercise in which our muscles use oxygen, carbs, and fat for energy. It increases our heart rate and breathing, builds endurance, and supports cardiovascular health (Examples: swimming, running)

Anaerobic Exercise:

Exercise in which the muscle uses just carbs (but not oxygen) for energy and builds muscle and strength. (Examples: pushups, weight-lifting)

Related: The Hard-Gainer’s Guide To Building Muscle

Anabolic State:

Think of this as your body being in ‘building mode,’ when you are able to repair tissue, build muscle, and keep inflammation under control with the help of hormones like testosterone and growth hormone.

Catabolic State:

This is the opposite of an anabolic state, when your body is in ‘breakdown mode.’ In a desperate search for energy, your body bumps up production of chemicals like epinephrine and the stress hormone cortisol. Blood pressure and heart rate are often increased.

Concentric Movement:

When a muscle can exert force that’s stronger than the resistance against the muscle, and contracts and shortens in length. (Example: curling a dumbbell)

Eccentric Movement:

When a load forces a muscle to lengthen—often during the reverse movement of many strength-training exercises. (Example: un-curling a dumbbell in a controlled manner)

Pronated Grip:

(a.k.a. overhand grip)

When you grab training equipment, like a barbell, with palms facing down and knuckles facing up.

Supinated Grip:

(a.k.a. underhand grip)

When you grab training equipment, like a barbell, with palms facing up and knuckles facing down.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):

The calories we burn just to maintain basic body functions (like breathing) when there’s no food in our system and we’re just lying in bed after a night of sleep.

Related: Find a performance supplement to take your training to the next level.

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR):

Often used interchangeably with BMR, our RMR is the total energy our bodies need to maintain basic functions at rest throughout the day—not just when we’re in a fasted state after waking up. It’s slightly higher than BMR.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE):

The total amount of energy someone uses throughout the day (i.e. the total number of calories they burn). Includes their resting metabolic rate plus eating plus physical activity, and is affected by factors like muscle mass.

Protein Synthesis:

The process in which our muscles repair and build after being under stress (like exercise). This requires molecules in protein called amino acids, hence why eating protein after a workout is recommended.

Lactate:

A chemical produced in our muscles during exercise. That burning sensation in our muscles we incorrectly describe as “lactic acid buildup” actually occurs when our muscles can’t produce lactate quick enough as hydrogen ions build up during high-intensity resistance training.

Hypertrophy:

The increase in size of muscle fibers (and the whole muscle itself) that occurs when a load, like the weight of a dumbbell, is put on the muscle. (Basically, muscle growth.)

Plyometrics:

Exercises in which muscles use maximal force in as little time as possible. They require and develop our explosive power. (Examples: box jumps, medicine ball throws)

Isometrics:

Exercises or positions in which a muscle is not contracting or lengthening, but holds rigid and still. (Examples: planks, hollow holds)

Periodization:

How you structure and vary your workout routine over a period of time in a way that helps you reach your specific goals. Think of it as ‘the long-term plan.’

Ketosis:

When the body burns fat, instead of carbs, for fuel. It takes a few weeks of eating a diet that’s about 75% fat, 15% protein, and just 10% carbs to get there.

Compound Set:

When you perform back-to-back sets of two moves that work the same muscle group (Example: barbell bicep curl and dumbbell hammer curl)

Superset:

When you perform back-to-back sets of two moves that work opposing muscle groups (Example: barbell bicep curl and tricep pushdown)

Drop Set:

When after finishing a set of a strength-training exercise, you reduce the weight you’re lifting and perform additional reps until fatigue at that lower weight.

Metabolic Conditioning:

(a.k.a. “met-con”)

Technically, any exercise that helps boost your body’s ability to make and use fuel. Most workouts we label as “met-con” consist of intervals of hard work and intervals of rest. Over time, our metabolism becomes more efficient and we become better able to perform high-intensity exercise, burn fat for fuel, and see results.

VO2 Max:

This measures your aerobic fitness, or how efficiently your body uses oxygen during exercise. VO2 max is the fastest possible rate that you’re able to deliver oxygen to your muscles. The higher your VO2 max, the better your endurance.

Sources: National Institutes of Health (NIH), Harvard Health Publications, Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, UC San Diego, University of New Mexico, American Council on Exercise (ACE); National Institute for Fitness and Sport (NIFS), Tufts University

8 Simple Recipes That Will Have You Screaming For ‘Nice Cream’

We may not be kids anymore, but we still practically scream for the ice cream truck in the summer. (And if it came around in the winter, we’d probably do it then, too.)

Here’s the thing, though: If you’re watching your weight, trying to cut hard-to-pronounce ingredients out of your life, or are lactose intolerant (an adulthood struggle many of us know all too well), regular ol’ ice cream may not have much of a spot in your daily grub. And that’s a little heartbreaking.

With a quality food processor and a few creative ingredients, you can still get your ice cream fix without messing with your stomach or healthy-eating goals. You probably know these healthified ice cream concoctions as ‘nice cream,’ and we rounded up the best recipes the internet has to offer—along with a few straight from our in-house nutritionists—to turn around your dessert game.

1. Banana Almond Butter Nice Cream

‘Naners and nut butter are a match made in heaven, whether in a smoothie, a sandwich, or on their own. This two-ingredient nice cream recipe from Shana Brierley, nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe, couldn’t be any easier to make. It’s a quick save when ice cream cravings strike.

You’ll need:

Blend the two ingredients in the food processor until creamy and, voila! Brierley loves this blend because it’s free of added sugar and contains less than a gram of saturated fat (compared to about five grams in the regular stuff). Try topping yours with chopped almonds for extra crunch.

2. Mint Chocolate Chip Nice Cream

There’s simply no way to enjoy the wonderful green of chocolate chip mint ice cream without artificial colors, right? Wrong. Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe is an all-natural alternative to the refreshing ice cream flavor.

Frozen bananas, peppermint extract, coconut cream, and dark chocolate chips hop into the blender along with a pinch of salt and spirulina (for that green color) for a mint chocolate chip nice cream that takes just five minutes to make. Those green superfoods sure come in handy!

3. Mango Frozen Greek Yogurt

Feeling tropical? Brierley’s healthy fro-yo packs fruity frozen drink flavor, without the sugar hangover.

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups mango chunks, frozen
  • 6 oz. plain Greek yogurt

Blend the two ingredients in the food processor until creamy. Top with unsweetened shredded coconut for healthy fats and extra flavor. And because this mix packs protein from the Greek yogurt, it’s super satisfying, Brierley says.

4. Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean NIce Cream

This healthy take on the most classic ice cream flavor in the land takes added sugar and funky ingredients out of the equation—without sacrificing the distinct sweetness of vanilla bean. The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Karen Cooney, R.D., loves this recipe for its wholesome ingredients.

You’ll need:

  • 1 can organic full fat coconut milk
  • ½ cup soft pitted dates (about 8)
  • 1 vanilla bean (soaked overnight) or ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups almond milk
  • 1 tsp guar gum (optional thickener)

Puree coconut milk, dates, and vanilla in the blender until smooth. Then add the almond milk and thickener, and puree until smooth. Pour into a bread pan-sized dish and freeze for a few hours before serving. (Recipe makes about a quart.)

photo: Beaming Baker

5. Dark Chocolate NIce Cream

This one’s for you, chocolate lovers! The Beaming Baker’s dark chocolate nice cream requires just four simple ingredients—and comes together much quicker than a batch of brownies.

Blend frozen bananas, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and unsweetened cocoa powder. Enjoy your nice cream immediately if you’re into melty—otherwise freeze for a few hours before serving. This delicious chocolatey base practically begs for fun add-ins or toppings, like cacao nibs or berries.

photo: Feasting on Fruit

6. Vanilla Oatmeal Nice Cream

All the comforts of grandma’s best cookies and our go-to breakfast have transformed into your new favorite summer treat. This nice cream recipe from Feasting On Fruit combines coconut milk, rolled oats, dates, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt, for a simple yet tasty spoonful. To bump up the oatmeal flavor, we’ll be adding a pinch of cinnamon—and perhaps some chocolate chips or raisins—to our bowl.

Related: 4 Protein Cookies That Taste Just Like Grandma’s Classics

7. Strawberry Banana Nice Cream

Whether you’re trying to sneak more fruit into your kids’ diet or just trying to cool off while you enjoy some yourself, Cooney’s all-fruit nice cream is the way to do it. With an all-fruit and non-dairy base, this simple recipe lets its natural flavors speak for themselves.

You’ll need:

  • 4 bananas
  • 4 cups strawberries
  • 1 tsp stevia

Put berries in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle with stevia. Microwave for a minute to dissolve the stevia. Then add the berries and bananas to the blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a freezer-safe bowl or baking dish and let harden for about two hours.

photo: My Crazy Good Life

8. Dairy-Free Coffee Nice Cream

Get your java fix while satisfying your sweet tooth with this nice cream recipe from My Crazy Good Life. Just brew up some strong espresso, let it cool, and blend it with frozen bananas, vanilla extract, and a drizzle of honey. We’ll be replacing our travel mug with a bowl and a spoon, please.

Related: Find all of the healthy cooking and baking ingredients your heart desires.

15 Keto Snacks For All You Fat-Fuelers Out There

The ketogenic diet, a high-fat style of eating, has grown in popularity for bodybuilders, CrossFit® lovers, low-carb weight-loss dieters, and even Pinterest recipe fanatics.

The goal on a ‘keto’ diet: To shift your body into ketosis, a state in which it burns fat for fuel instead of glucose from carbs, explains Theresa Hennig, R.D.N., dietitian for The Vitamin Shoppe. That means cutting way back on carbs—as well as protein—and eating mostly fats.

We’re talking a lot of fat—like 75 percent of your total calories. And carbs? You’re looking at fewer than 50 grams per day, ideally somewhere as low as 30, says Hennig. Since your body can convert some protein into glucose, that needs to be cut down, too.

Because it keeps your blood sugar levels so stable, eating keto can be helpful for losing weight or managing blood sugar issues, like type 2 diabetes, Hennig says. But since many of our go-to snacks tend to be carb-y (lookin’ at you, PB-filled pretzel nuggets), snacking while on a keto diet can be a little tricky.

Eliminate the guesswork for successful high-fat snacking with these 15 keto-friendly snack ideas—because everyone needs something to munch on:

Nuts And Seeds

Nuts are a perfect food for keto eaters,” says Hennig. “They’re higher in fat and contain a little bit of protein.” A handful of walnuts or sunflower seeds will crush any hunger between meals and are incredibly portable when you’re out and about.

Cheese Cubes

Another easy-peasy keto snack staple is the star player of any appetizer platter: cheese. A serving of cheesy goodness—whether you’re a Swiss or Colby Jack kind of person—offers a dose of fat with a side of protein. And it’s just so dang delicious. Just keep those portions in check, since cheese contains protein, says Hennig.

Bacon And Cream Cheese Pinwheels

Whether you’re keto or not, bacon always sounds like a good idea. These pinwheels combine bacon with ranch seasoning, cream cheese, olives, and deli meat for a portable snack that’s loaded with flavor. 730 Sage Street’s recipe could also be perfect for that dinner party you promised to bring an appetizer to—no one even needs to know it’s keto.

No-Bake Keto Brownies

When you’re in need of something sweet—and low-carb—this keto brownie recipe from The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Karen Cooney, R.D., come in clutch. No cooking required!

You’ll need:

Heat the cream in the microwave and add the xylitol (optional). Then stir in pieces of the chocolate until it’s melted and thoroughly mixed in. Let the mixture cool off a bit. Next, add nut butter, coconut flakes, and protein powder. Mix well. Roll batter into 15 balls and store in the fridge.

Avocado

Feel free to sprinkle a little salt and pepper onto half an avocado and dig right in with your spoon for a creamy, healthy fat-packed snack. Easily our favorite green food, avocados also contain some fiber to fill you up. You can even top yours with bacon bits if you’re feelin’ feisty.

Lemon Fat Bombs

These fat bombs (bite-sized snack that deliver a dose of fat) are sweet but refreshing! KetoDiet App’s recipe incorporates fresh lemon zest into a base of coconut oil and coconut butter. Perfect for when you need a quick energy boost.

Related: 6 Fat Bombs You Don’t Have To Be Keto To Love

Cream Cheese Pancakes

Described by I Breathe I’m Hungry as “skinny fried cheesecakes,” these four-ingredient pancakes make this breakfast treat possible on a ketogenic diet. No flour, oats, or mashed banana here! We’re willing to be they’d also make for great low-carb crepes…

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Another portable staple? Hard-boiled eggs, suggests Hennig. They’re easy to make in bulk and then stash in the fridge for whenever the snack monster strikes. If you’re not a huge fan, know this: A little hot sauce goes a long way.

Keto Coffee

When you just need a little something to satisfy your belly and perk you up, blend up Cooney’s keto coffee and you’ll be ready to conquer the day—or at least the next few hours. All you need is:

Blend your three ingredients on high for about one minute, until it’s all creamy and frothy.

Cinnamon Keto Granola

This usually-carby snack just got a fat-friendly makeover. You can nosh on Keto Connect’s granola straight out of the bag or with milk. It’s made with ground flaxseed, coconut flakes, chia seeds, chopped nuts (like pecans and almonds), sugar-free syrup, and cinnamon.

Cloud Bread

Sandwiches seem like they’re off the table when you’re basically cutting most carbs out of your life. That’s where cloud bread comes in. This recipe from Fat For Weight Loss makes for a fluffy, light bread substitute. You’ll just need eggs, cream of tartar, cream cheese, and salt. One fat fueler-friendly ham and cheese sandwich, comin’ right up!

Parmesan Crisps

Keto is basically a cheese lover’s dream diet. Get your cheese fix in an out-of-the-ordinary way with these crisps from Low-Carb Yum. All you need is Parmesan cheese and an oven to bake yourself a batch of cheesy chips.

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Keto Cookies

Low-carb baked goods can be tricky, but these cookies from Karen Cooney definitely get the job done.

Here’s what you need:

Fire up your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet (or line with parchment paper). In a bowl, whisk together ground flaxseed and let sit for five minutes to gel, if not using a regular egg. Then, in a medium bowl, combine the almond butter, coconut sugar, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Then fold in cranberries and chocolate chips. Use a tablespoon to separate dough into 12 cookies. Wet hands and roll each drop of dough into smooth balls. (Dough will be very moist.) Bake cookies for about 13 minutes and cool for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Cheesy Jalapeno Fat Bombs

Who said fat bombs had to be sweet or chocolate-y? These savory fat bombs from Low-Carb Yum are super cheesy and offer up a perfect balance between salty and spicy. Bacon to the rescue, yet again.

Super Seed Crackers

Seeds, spices, and water come together to allow these seedy crackers to satisfy your need for a crunchy, dip-worthy snack. The Healthy Maven’s recipe combines ground flaxseed, whole flaxseeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds with spices like dried onion, garlic, and sea salt. Spread your mixture across a baking sheet, bake for a half-hour, and dip away.

Related: Shop a variety of spices to kick up the flavor in your homemade snacks.

5 Plant-Based Protein Bars That’ll Make You A Believer

Of the bajillion protein bars fighting for your taste buds’ attention, 99.9% are made with whey. Which is great and all—unless you have a dairy allergy or eat a plant-based diet.

It’s true, the selection of plant-based protein bars is a little more limited (although it’s growing!), but that doesn’t mean you can’t find the right grab-and-go snack to match your fitness and nutrition goals.

Kiss your whey woes goodbye—these five delicious plant protein bars could make converts out of dairy farmers.

Orgain S’mores Organic Plant-Based Protein Bar

Lower in calories than many protein bars, Orgain’s plant-based bars make for a healthy and convenient light snack. They’re low in sugar (four grams), high in fiber (six grams), and provide 10 grams of protein from a blend of peas and brown rice. And it’s not every day you find yourself a s’mores-flavored protein bar!

Garden of Life SPORT Chocolate Mint Organic Plant-Based Performance Protein Bar

The plant-based post-workout bar, Garden of Life’s performance bar packs 20 grams of protein to refuel your muscles after going hard. It’s a little higher in calories (290) and carbs (33 grams) to help replenish your body. Plus, nine grams of fiber will help you feel full for hours. The chocolate mint is our personal favorite—it’s like a healthy peppermint patty.

D’s Naturals Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip No Cow Bar

D’s has mastered a slew of unique flavors (try their blueberry cobbler bar), but this pb classic is still one of the best. Loaded with peanut-y flavor and the perfect amount of roasted cocoa nibs, this bar gets you 20 grams of protein for 170 calories. And, since 19 of its 25 grams of carbs come from fiber, it’s a good option if you’re watching your carbs.

Related: Check out all eight flavors of D’s Naturals plant-based bars.

BHU Fit Vegan Apple Chunk Cinnamon Nutmeg Protein Bar

Made with actual chunks of dried apples and just enough spice, BHU Fit’s vegan bar contains just a single gram of sugar and 20 grams of protein—but packs all the flavor of grandma’s classic pie. It’s a breath of fresh air in a world of super-sweet protein bars.

Garden of Life Fit Chocolate Fudge Organic High-Protein Weight Loss Bar

These 200-calorie bars from Garden of Life provide 14 grams of both plant protein and prebiotic fiber for a satisfying, waistline-friendly snack. Plus, it also packs a few unexpected goodies, like green coffee bean extract (to support your metabolism) and ashwagandha (to support vitality). The chocolate fudge flavor is brownie-level good—but saves you the blood sugar spike.

Related: 6 Fat Bombs You Don’t Have To Be Keto To Love

7 Guilt-Free Popcorns That Put Movie Theater Popcorn To Shame

What’s crunchy, salty, and—welp—loaded with fat? Yep, that’d be movie theater popcorn. Though a medium bag comes in at just about 160 calories and nine grams of fat, the golden butter we drench it in slaps on another 130 calories and 14 grams of fat—per tablespoon. And we don’t even want to know how many tablespoons we go through in the solid six seconds we hold down that butter button for.

If the thought of all that greasy, unhealthy butter makes you cringe, you have options! These guilt-free popcorns offer plenty of flavor (whether you’re craving classic or something funky) but won’t throw your macros completely out the window. Munch on!

Buddha Bowl Himalayan Gold Organic Popcorn

Rub the Buddha Bowl for good luck—and eat it for straight-up deliciousness! With just three simple ingredients (organic popcorn, organic coconut oil, and Himalayan salt), this snack comes in at 110 calories and four grams of fat per serving.

Related: Are There Any Benefits To Eating Salt?

Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop Caramel & Cheddar Popcorn

When your taste buds feel like taking a walk on the wild side, caramel and cheddar popcorn is just what you need. (Sounds weird, tastes amazing.) One and a quarter cups of Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop is 120 calories, with five grams of fat.

Skinny Pop Black Pepper Popcorn

We all love salt on our popcorn, so why has it taken us this long to invite pepper to the party? Skinny Pop’s black pepper popcorn comes in around 80 calories and five grams of fat for two cups-worth of munching.

Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn

When you’re craving caramel corn—without the sugar rush and sticky teeth—this Boom Chicka Pop kettle corn is just sweet (and salty) enough to get the job done. Two cups come in at 140 calories with eight grams of fat and eight grams of sugar. Your average caramel corn might pack around twice the sugar.

Related: Is Sugar Really All That Bad For You?

Pirate’s Booty Aged White Cheddar Puffs

Okay, Pirate’s Booty may not be popcorn exactly, but it’s in the same family. These cheesy puffs are free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives—which is a hard find in snack aisles loaded with fake orange cheese powder. A serving of these white cheddar puffs is 130 calories and five grams of fat.

Icon Meals Protein Popcorn

With drool-worthy flavors like dark chocolate and sea salt, white chocolate peanut butter, and FREEDOM (yep, it’s red, white, and blue), this heavenly popcorn is a little more indulgent—but it makes for a muscle-friendly dessert. A one-cup serving is 150 calories, with 15 grams of sugar and 10 grams of protein. Who knew you could put protein in popcorn? Consider us hooked.

Pop Time Spicy Jalapeño Popcorn

This popcorn packs heat, and makes for a great replacement for spicy chips that are often loaded with fat and artificial gunk. A serving (just more than two cups) is 140 calories and eight grams of fat.

Related: Check out a full selection of health-focused snacks.

 

8 High-Protein Snacks That’ll Satisfy Your Salt Cravings

’Nice’ cream, protein cookies, and mug cake recipes are all over internet. We get it—people want to eat healthy while indulging their sweet tooth. But what if you’re a ‘salt person’? Does no one understand the struggle of turning down nacho cheese corn chips?

Fear not, salt-lovers, we’ve got your back. These savory, health-conscious snacks will satisfy even the greatest itch for greasy potato chips without catapulting you into the world of salt, fat, and calorie-overload. Plus, these eats all contain at least five grams of protein per serving, so they’ll fill you up and keep your health and fitness efforts on track.

SuperEats Chipotle BBQ Protein Puffs

Cheese Doodles don’t quite fit into our healthy-eating routine—but these SuperEats protein puffs pretty much nail the light, airy, crunch of those frighteningly-orange supermarket snacks. The chipotle BBQ flavor is sweet and spicy at the same time, and a serving of puffs provides eight grams of protein with only eight grams of carbs.

Quest Cheddar And Sour Cream Protein Chips

We’d be lying if we said we didn’t secretly love the powder that covers our fingertips after polishing off a bag of cheesy-good chips. Quest’s cheddar and sour cream Protein Chips are perfectly flavored for that finger-licking purpose—without the stomach ache and salt-burned lips other chips might leave us with. With just five grams of carbs and 21 (yes, 21) grams of protein, these might just be the most macro-friendly chips in all the land.

Related: What Is The “If It Fits Your Macros” Diet—And Should You Try It?

Salt & Vinegar Kale Chips

Honestly, is anything better than the pungent, salty flavor of salt and vinegar chips? Yes—when that same flavor is coming from a super-good-for-you piece of kale instead of a grease-soaked potato. Gimme Some Oven’s recipe for salt and vinegar kale chips will make you want to eat your leafy greens. There are about seven grams of protein in an ounce of kale chips, plus a bonus dose of minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Protes Spicy Chili Lime Protein Chips

With a little paprika and jalapeño, these spicy chili lime chips pack just enough heat. They get their 15 grams of protein per serving from pea protein, and they’re a flavor-filled way to sneak some extra protein into your day—whether you’re vegan or not. We’ll take ‘em with a side of guacamole, please.

Seapoint Farms Sea Salt Dry-Roasted Edamame

Edamame (a.k.a. soybeans) aren’t just for sushi night. Just dry the beans, add sea salt, and you’ve got a portable crunchy snack that also happens to provide 13 grams of plant-based protein along with a whopping eight grams of fiber. Now that’ll hold you over ‘til your next meal!

Spicy Garlic Oven-Roasted Chickpeas

You know those chickpeas that have been sitting in your pantry for the past six months? Grab ‘em, and then fire up the oven for this too-easy healthy snack. These spicy garlic roasted chickpeas from Yuri Elkaim will throw a crunchy flavor party in your mouth while using simple, wholesome ingredients you already have in the kitchen. And since an ounce of chickpeas contain about five grams of protein and five grams of fiber, they’ll fill you up, not out.

Enlightened Foods Sea Salt Bean Crisps

These bean crisps will satisfy your need for the crunchy goodness of thick-cut kettle chips. And with just four simple ingredients, these crisps are significantly lower in fat. A serving comes in at 100 calories, with just three grams of fat, 15 grams of carbs, five grams of fiber, and seven grams of protein, for a well-balanced snack.

Three Jerks Original Filet Mignon Jerky

This is not your average jerky. This is buttery, tender filet mignon jerky—and, yes, your taste buds will know the difference. With a powerhouse posse of flavors and spices—including soy sauce, salt, black pepper, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce—this is the chewy, meaty snack your salt-loving taste buds need. Oh, and a serving packs 12 grams of protein. Not too shabby!

Related: Satisfy your sweet tooth, too, with protein bars and cookies.

What Are Thermogenics, Really?

Thermogenic (or ‘fat-burner’) supplements are all over the place. But whether you’ve tried them yourself, considered picking up a bottle, or just seen a hundred commercials—how much do you really know about how they work?

First, let’s back up a few steps. Your metabolism is the amount of energy your body needs for various functions, from breathing to digesting food to contracting your muscles. The more muscle mass you have and the more you exercise—among other things—the more energy (a.k.a. calories) your body burns through every day, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Whenever our body needs to produce or use energy, the chemical reactions that occur create heat as a by-product, says Brian Tanzer, M.S., nutritionist and manager of scientific affairs for The Vitamin Shoppe. The resulting increase of heat in our bodies is called thermogenesis. We measure thermogenesis—and how much ‘burned’ energy it represent—in calories.

Here are the Spark notes: Thermogenesis boosts our metabolism—which means we burn more calories. And burning more calories is, of course, a major factor in maintaining a healthy body weight or shedding body fat.

Related: 7 Natural Ways To Kickstart Your Metabolism

Thermogenesis occurs to some degree pretty much whenever we need energy, but the shtick of thermogenic supplements is that they boost that thermogenesis—and our calorie-burning—even further, says Tanzer.

But, uh, how does a supplement magically burn calories? Most thermogenic supps contain stimulants, ingredients that speed up the function of certain parts of your body, boosting your heart rate and breathing rate, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Because these systems are chugging at a quicker rate, your body burns through more energy, says Tanzer.

Some stimulants also increase your production of certain stress hormones, like epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) sending a ‘fight or flight’ signal to your body. This increases blood pressure and boosts your ability to tap into fat stores for fuel, according to the University of Delaware.

The most well-known stimulant is something many of us already have a daily relationship with: caffeine. Caffeine does all of the stuff we just mentioned, and is found in most thermogenic supps, often along with other ingredients that relate to metabolism in some way, says Tanzer. Some of these other common ingredients include: yohimbe, green tea extract (EGCG), capsicum extract, and B vitamins.

First up is yohimbe, a compound found in the bark of an African tree. “Yohimbe works somewhat similar to caffeine, and can increase your production of hormones involved with fat metabolism,” Tanzer says. But since these hormones are part of your body’s stress response, they can make some people feel on edge, he adds.

EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) is one of the most abundant polyphenols found in green tea, says Tanzer. (Polyphenols are plant compounds that have antioxidant properties.) And, according to a review published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, EGCG has been shown—often in combination with caffeine—to slightly boost energy expenditure (calorie-burning) and fat oxidation (fat burning) over a 24-hour period. How does EGCG work? By preventing the breakdown of the hormone epinephrine and keeping your body in high-alert stress-response mode, Tanzer says.

‘Capsicum extract’ is just the science-y way of saying ‘hot pepper extract.’ This one works by just straight-up producing heat in the body without stimulating the stress hormones that tell your heart rate and breathing rate to kick up, Tanzer explains. “Your body wants to get back to homeostasis [a.k.a. its normal temperature] and burns calories to get there,” he says.

And then there are B vitamins. While B vitamins don’t directly stimulate your body, they enable your body to convert food into energy, Tanzer says. They may not be the lead actor, but they play an important supporting role in your body’s energy breakdown and creation process.

Sounds Great And All—But Hold Your Horses

Anyone who’s had one too many cups of coffee knows, you can have too much of a good thing. Stimulants can make some people feel restless, irritable, or jittery, according to The Mayo Clinic. And when you take a number of stimulants together, it’s hard to know how that combination will affect you, says Tanzer.

Considering that, anyone with high blood pressure, cardiovascular issues, prone to seizures, on psychiatric medications, or with a family history of heart issues or stroke, may run into trouble with these supplements, Tanzer explains.

If you check with your doctor and get the go-ahead to try a thermogenic supplement, follow the instructions on the label very carefully, Tanzer says. (Most labels will tell you to test your reaction to the supp first by taking just a small dose.) If you notice any side effects—at any point—it’s time to breakup with your fat-burning friend.

The no-B.S. bottom line: No supplement can replace the foundational aspects of a healthy lifestyle that support your calorie-burning efforts. “Strength-training, proper nutrition, and cardiovascular exercise are the backbone that drive any health or fitness goal,” Tanzer says.

Related: How I Kicked My Coffee Habit For Tea—And Lived Happily Ever After

7 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Protein

When we think protein, we think muscle. And while this nutrient is crucial for repairing, maintaining, and building muscle, it also offers a long list of other important functions.

“Protein helps our body maintain fluid and pH balance, structures our hair and nails, and supports organ function,” says Pamela Nisevich-Bede, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., owner of Swim, Bike, Run, Eat! Sports Nutrition. Because we need protein for so many things, it’s crucial, especially for active people—who are constantly breaking down and rebuilding muscle—to get enough of it in our diet.

“The minute we get up and start moving around and sweating, our protein needs go up,” says Nisevich-Bede. So unless you’re sitting in bed all day, chances are you’re not getting too much of the stuff. In fact, Nisevich-Bede recommends most people—like frequent exercisers, those looking to lose weight or maintain a lean physique, and the middle-aged or older—aim to eat close to one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. (That’s 190 grams per day for a 190-pound lifting junkie, and 120 grams per day for a 120-pound runner. FYI: A four-ounce serving of chicken breast packs about 34 grams.)

If you’re consistently missing the mark on protein, your workouts will certainly be affected—but the negative impacts on your body don’t end there. Look out for these seven signs you’re not getting enough of this macro:

  1. Your Workouts Have Been ‘Meh’

If you’re consistently feeling crummy in the gym or on runs, you may not be getting enough protein to support your efforts. “If your usual workouts feel more and more taxing and you’re not seeing results from intense exercise, the first thing you should do is look at your macronutrients,” says Nisevich-Bede.

According to a paper published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine, missing out on protein leaves the body without ample ability to build muscle, and with too little nitrogen, which can spur muscle breakdown, slow recovery, and tanking performance.

  1. You’re Constantly Sore

While it’s totally normal to be can’t-get-up sore after trying a new workout or cranking up the intensity, something is off if you’re usual ‘ole workout is leaving your muscles wrecked. “If you’re doing the same workout day in and day out, you should be adapting and shouldn’t be constantly sore,” says Nisevich-Bede.

Soreness seems to be an indicator of the muscle breakdown that occurs during and after exercise, so feeling that pain all the time could mean you’re not getting the protein your muscles need to rebuild. Plus, protein is especially important for our recovery from exercise-related injuries, and falling short may even prolong or worsen those injuries, according to a review published in Sports Nutrition.

Related: 4 Possible Reasons Why You’re Still Wrecked Days After A Workout

  1. You’re Losing Muscle Instead Of Fat

Muscle breakdown doesn’t only impact how sore you feel, but it can also wreak havoc on your physique. When you don’t eat enough protein and can’t recover from your workouts properly, you may start to lose muscle mass—without losing an ounce of fat, says Nisevich-Bede. So though the scale might not change much, the proportion of your body weight that comes from fat is increasing. And since how much muscle you have affects how many calories your body needs, melting muscle is a recipe for a metabolism slowdown and potential weight-gain.

Related: 11 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Metabolism

  1. You Feel Pooped All. The. Time.

Fatigue can be caused by a number of things, like dehydration or being low in iron—but if you feel wiped out all day long in addition to being sore and having lame workouts, inadequate protein is the likely culprit. “If you have that leaden leg feeling all the time, chances are your protein intake and overall recovery are lacking,” says Nisevich-Bede.

  1. Your Sweat Smells Like Ammonia

No, you’re not crazy! Windex-like sweat is a very real thing—and it means your body is burning through your muscles for fuel when it doesn’t have another fuel source, like glycogen (energy stored from carbs) or amino acids (the molecules that make up proteins) available, says Nisevich-Bede. Having amino acids available during exercise helps keep muscle out of a catabolic state (a.k.a. breakdown-mode), according to research published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. So it’s no wonder why so many experts recommend your pre-workout fuel contains some protein.

  1. You’re Under The Weather—A Lot

You’ve definitely never blamed a cold on not eating enough eggs or chicken breast, but protein has a very real influence on your immune system because it supports your organs and produces antibodies, which fight off harmful substances. “When you can’t maintain organs or antibodies, you’re at a disadvantage and can’t fight off infection very easily,” says Nisevich-Bede. Recent research has found that amino acids—especially arginine, glutamine, and cysteine—have a variety of immune functions, like activating T-cells, confirming that inadequate intake can increase our susceptibility to infectious disease. Yikes.

  1. Your Hair And Nails Have Looked Better

Super dry hair or brittle nails? Since the structures of your hair, skin, and nails are made up of protein, extreme cases of not-enough-protein can have a very visible impact, according to Nisevich-Bede. Just as the body struggles to maintain muscle mass without enough protein, it struggles to keep up with the constant protein needs of our hair, skin, and nails. The amino acid cysteine is especially important because it provides rigidity to the protein keratin, which makes up your hair and nails, per research published in the Journal of Biochemistry.

Related: 8 Possible Reasons Why Your Hair Is Falling Out

How To Boost Your Protein Intake

If you’re falling way short on that one gram of protein per pound recommendation—and paying for it in and out of the gym—your first step to getting more of the good stuff is to look at your meals. “Make sure you’re getting lean proteins at breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” says Nisevich-Bede. While many women can get by with closer to 20 grams of protein at each meal, most guys should shoot for 30, she says.

We know breakfast is a toughie; Nisevich-Bede suggests incorporating eggs, Greek yogurt, or a smoothie with protein powder into your morning meal to make sure your protein intake is steady throughout the day.

And then come snacks, which are often more carb-y foods, like pretzels or fruit. To reach your daily needs, make sure even your in-between-meal eats contain some protein. Go for easy bites like half a turkey sandwich, a protein shake, or hummus with vegetables, Nisevich-Bede recommends.

If you’re still not sure how much of the macro you’re getting—or are having trouble hitting the mark—using a food-tracking app or meet with a dietitian who can help you get there.

Related: Find a protein supplement to help you reach your daily macro needs.

Pin this infographic and keep your protein intake on track: 

Why Is Everyone Talking About MCTs?

It all started when people began dropping dollops of butter—instead of creamer, milk, or sugar—into their coffee. These days, fat seems to be the ‘it’ health trend—with a particular type of fat, known as MCTs, at center stage.

MCTs, or ‘medium-chain triglycerides,’ are a type of fat with a shorter molecular structure than many of the other fats we eat, says Ryan Andrews, M.A., M.S., nutrition coach at Precision Nutrition. Some of the fats with longer molecular structures, called LCTs or ‘long-chain triglycerides,’ that are common in our diets include olive oil and nuts, while the MCTs stealing the spotlight include butter and tropical oils like palm or the endlessly-popular coconut oil. “Because of their shorter length, these fats are absorbed differently in the body,” says Andrews. While LCTs go from the intestine to the lymphatic system before reaching the liver, MCTs can travel straight from the intestine to the liver because of their smaller size, says Andrews.

Related: 12 Health And Beauty Uses For Coconut Oil

Cool, But Why Does That Matter?

Since MCTs hit your bloodstream faster, the body can use them as an energy source more quickly than it can use LCTs, explains Andrews. According to a review published in The Journal of Nutrition, that quick absorption suggests MCTs aren’t stored as body fat as often as LCTs are.

Also thanks to that quick absorption, some research suggests MCTs, as compared to LCTs, have a greater metabolism-boosting effect in our bodies. This metabolism-boosting process is known as ‘thermogenesis,’ in which our body uses extra energy, burning more calories, in order to process, absorb, and store the nutrients we consume. Case in point: A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men who ate a meal including MCTs (30 grams, to be exact) burned more calories throughout the following six hours than men who ate a meal including a similar amount of LCTs (38 grams).

Researchers also suggest that since MCTs are absorbed more rapidly, they make us feel satiated faster, which can help reduce how many calories we end up eating, according to that Journal of Nutrition review. That effect may even influence weight loss over time, according to a study out of Columbia University. In the study, overweight adults consumed 12 percent of their daily calories from either MCT oil or olive oil (an LCT) for 16 weeks. The MCT oil group lost more body fat, specifically around their midsections, than team olive oil. Though we already know that the amount of fat we consume can affect our total caloric intake and body weight, this research suggests that the source of that fat makes a difference, too.

Related: The Truth About Belly Fat

What’s The Catch?

Before you start smothering everything in coconut oil or butter, keep in mind that as intriguing as MCTs sound, they still pack as many calories per gram as all fats—and too much can still have a negative impact on your body, says Andrews.

While many LCTs are unsaturated fats that support cholesterol and heart health (like omega-3s, for example), MCTs are saturated fats—and the jury is still out on their long-term impact on health, according to the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). There’s been some back-and-forth on saturated fat recently, with some research questioning just how much they impact our risk of chronic disease, but the HSPH still suggests that consuming unsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, and their oils can better support heart health over time. It’s totally fine to cook with coconut oil or butter sometimes, just don’t go out of your way to make them staples in your daily diet, says Andrews.

But what about those weight-loss perks? When it comes to reaching or maintaining a healthy body weight, your nutritional foundation is much more important than whether or not you add MCT oil to your smoothie, Andrews says. If you’re putting butter and coconut oil in your morning coffee but then downing a bagel and a glass of OJ for lunch every day, those MCTs aren’t going to be a weight-loss magic bullet, he says.

A dietitian can evaluate the bigger picture of your diet and help you establish a balanced nutrition plan that will support your weight-loss goals. And, yes, MCTs can be a part of that plan. “There’s a level of individuality to nutrition, so I encourage people to experiment and see how they feel,” says Andrews. If you’re interested in hopping on the MCT trend, talk to your dietitian about how to incorporate them in a healthy, weight loss-friendly way.

Related: Check out our buzziest MCT oils. 

People Are Whitening Their Teeth With Turmeric—Obviously We Had To Try It

Turmeric, a golden yellow spice popular in Indian cuisine and a long-used natural remedy in ancient Eastern systems of medicine, is, well, everywhere. (And rightly so, since it’s packed with a powerful antioxidant called curcumin.)

First came ‘golden milk’ (a latte made with coconut milk, turmeric, and honey), then came turmeric face masks, next an explosion of turmeric teas, and now—turmeric teeth whitening?

Yep, Pinterest junkies and DIY beauty lovers are slathering the brightly-colored spice all over their chompers to whiten them. Here’s how it works, according to the many ‘experts’ of the internet: Mix two parts ground turmeric with one part coconut oil (and sometimes one part baking soda, too), brush your teeth with the paste for two minutes—and voila—(potentially) pearlier whites.

So, is this a fad or is turmeric a long lost cousin of Colgate? Well, according to a review published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, turmeric does possess some oral health potential: Both turmeric water rinses and turmeric paste have been used in Chinese and Indian traditional medicine for minor mouth maladies, like irritated gums. And a 2015 study published in the International Quarterly Journal of Ayurveda found that turmeric gel supported gum and oral health. However, while the antioxidants in turmeric might support healthy gums, the only ingredient in this mixture that bears any real whitening potential is the baking soda, says Jonathan Levine, D.M.D., program director of advanced aesthetics in dentistry at NYU School of Dentistry. “Sodium bicarbonate [that’s baking soda] is a great ingredient for the mouth,” he says. “It’s not very abrasive and won’t scratch teeth, can deodorize the mouth, and lift some of the stains off of teeth.” Turmeric, though? There’s very little research to support its whitening powers, Levine says. Womp.

Facts aside, I still had to try it for myself—if just to compare it to brushing with activated charcoal…

I wouldn’t call my teeth yellow—I don’t miss a millimeter when I brush, and I floss pretty much every day. But I would call my teeth dull. Perfectly meh—a lameness that seems especially obvious against my translucent-pale complexion.

after teeth

Related: I Brushed My Teeth With Charcoal For Two Weeks—Here’s What Happened

So I raided the kitchen to make my own turmeric teeth-whitening paste. I mixed turmeric, baking soda, and coconut oil in a small bowl and headed to the bathroom. Here goes nothing. I dipped my toothbrush into my golden paste, and got to work.

ingredients

The mixture was pretty gloppy (more like mud than paste) and the smell of it hit me before my brush even touched my teeth. My minty toothpaste-accustomed taste buds were surprised by the savory flavor. Definitely weird—not unpleasant, though.

paste

I glanced in the mirror: My teeth were a frightening mustard color. I kept brushing, with golden goop dripping into the sink and oozing out of the corners of my mouth. Ew. What a mess.

turmeric teeth

When my two minutes were up, I spit out the turmeric paste and rinsed my mouth with water. It took four rounds of swishing to wash everything out. I spent a minute or two scrubbing my sink (which is white) to get rid of the faint orangey hue the paste had left behind. I tried washing it out of my toothbrush, but that turmeric tint was going nowhere—so I just accepted the fact that the bristles would be permanently stained. Another place the turmeric color lingered? The corners of my mouth. Two little patches of jaundiced-looking yellow—how cute. So began round three of scrubbing. Luckily, the color disappeared with a wet paper towel and a little elbow grease.

But my teeth! After all that, I inspected the final result: bright and shiny. They felt squeaky clean and perhaps looked even a little bit whiter. This skeptic was quite surprised—though I knew my sparkly-looking smile was likely thanks to the baking soda, not the golden turmeric.

before teeth

I won’t be making this a new nightly ritual, but I’d certainly try it again…on a rainy day when I’ve got some time on my hands for clean-up.

As long as you are still on top of your usual brushing and flossing routine and checking in with the pros regularly, using a DIY treatment every so often (like once a week or so) can be totally safe for your mouth, says Levine. For optimal at-home whitening, he recommends brushing with a mixture of baking soda in diluted hydrogen peroxide (one part peroxide, one part water) once a week. “Hydroxide is the only true teeth whitener, because it oxidizes the surface of the tooth,” Levine explains.

Related: Not feelin’ the golden toothpaste? There are plenty of other ways to get more turmeric in your life.

How To Clean Your Home Without Turning It Into A Chemical Wasteland

Cutting the chemicals and artificial ingredients from our daily grub is no new trend. And if you’ve ever experienced that nose-crinkling, burning sensation after spraying the kitchen table with household cleaner, you’ve probably considered stripping down your home products, too.

While most common home cleaning products are safe when used as directed, according to The Cleveland Clinic, some contain harsh chemicals that can cause skin, eye, and respiratory irritation, allergic reactions, and more.

Whipping out those stronger cleaning products might be a necessary every once in a while—especially if someone at home has been sick or has a weakened immune system. However, gentler cleaning ingredients will get the job done day to day, says Samara Geller, database and research analyst with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization that investigates ingredients, products, companies, and more that influence the environment and human health. “Many of the gentler ingredients people are starting to use are often already familiar and found in the house,” she says.

So if you’re ready to break up with that aqua blue liquid (or eye-watering detergent and drying dish soap), these gentler, more natural home-cleaning products and easy DIY recipes are just waiting to win your affections.

4 DIY ingredients

DIY Natural All-Purpose Cleaner

One of the most common chemicals in your average all-purpose cleaning spray, ammonium hydroxide (you’ve heard it referred to as ‘ammonia’) is a type of alkali salt that helps remove grease and grime from surfaces, according to New Mexico State University (NMSU). Its in-your-face fumes can irritate your eyes and lungs, and leave burns or rashes on your skin. Ammonia is also infamous for causing respiratory problems, like asthma, says Geller.

A simple cleaning spray for wiping down the kitchen table is so easy to make yourself. Grab an empty spray bottle and try this combo:

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which can be used for general household cleaning, to remove hard water deposits, sink rust, and tarnish on brass and copper, according to NMSU. Castile soap, which is typically made using natural oils, like coconut oil, is mild on skin and surfaces, says Geller. She recommends Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, which boasts an ‘A’ rating from the EWG.

From there, choose your favorite essential oils to create a scent you like. Lavendar, lemon, and eucalyptus oils are all popular picks! Just don’t go too crazy in the fragrance department. “Because essential oils are so concentrated, they may still be irritating to people with sensitive skin or allergies,” says Geller. Just a couple of drops will do!

Related: 14 Practical (And Unexpected) Uses For Apple Cider Vinegar

detergent

GrabGreen Unscented Automatic Dish Detergent Pods

With a ‘B’ rating from EWG, GrabGreen’s unscented automatic dish detergent pods are free of phosphates, a type of chemical often added to conventional dish-cleaning products. According to NMSU, phosphates act as ‘builders,’ making detergents more efficient. These chemicals have been largely phased out because of their negative impact on the environment, but they might still be lingering in some products, says Geller.

The pods are also free of chlorine (a.k.a. sodium hydrochloride), which is used for bleaching, cleaning, and killing bacteria—and usually found in dish and laundry detergents. This ingredient can be an issue for asthma and allergies, and can burn skin and eyes, says Geller.

3 DIY ingredients

DIY Toilet Bowl Cleaner

No one likes cleaning this part of the bathroom—and intense fumes in toilet bowl cleaning products don’t help. Chemicals like sodium bisulfate and hydrochloric acid can (you guessed it) cause major eye, throat, and skin irritation, according to NMSU.

Two natural alternatives to some of these ingredients? The EWG recommends vinegar and baking soda, says Geller. Acetic acid is popular in all sorts of homemade cleaning products, and is a gentler natural swap for stronger acids. Meanwhile, baking soda (a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate) makes for a milder ingredient than stronger alkali salts, like ammonium compounds, which help break up grime.

Try this simple homemade toilet bowl cleaner recipe, starring both acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate:

  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 2-3 drops tea tree oil

You know the drill. Let this mixture sit in the toilet bowl for about 15 minutes to work its magic before scrubbin’ and flushin’.

laundry powder

Biokleen Free And Clear Laundry Powder

Some of the troublemakers in many laundry detergents are quaternary ammonium compounds, known as ‘quats,’ says Geller. “They can be problematic for asthma, skin, eyes, and the environment,” she explains. These compounds often don’t break down once they’re in our water system, and can end up in natural bodies of water.

Many gentler laundry options are chlorine and ammonia-free, like Biokleen’s Free And Clear laundry powder. This one’s got an ‘A’ rating from EWG—plus it’s safe to use in high-efficiency washers.

Related: Check out a variety of home-cleaning products.

What A Day Of 80/20 Eating Actually Looks Like

We all strive to eat a balanced diet—but figuring out what that ‘balance’ actually looks like? Not so simple.

That’s where the ‘80/20 rule’ comes in. The popular eating philosophy brings some much-needed structure to healthy eating, which can so often be hard enough to navigate that we dive face-first into a sleeve of Oreos. The 80/20 concept, though, is simple: “Basically, you eat healthy and purely for nutrition 80 percent of the time, and indulge or eat for pleasure 20 percent of the time,” explains Rebekah Blakely, R.D., dietitian for The Vitamin Shoppe.

Your 20 percent might mean having that dessert, ordering white pasta, or having a drink when you’re out with friends—all of which can fit into your goals, even if you’re trying to lose weight. “When you take away the guilt associated with foods you consider ‘bad’ or unhealthy, you can decrease the negative cycle of guilt and deprivation many people get stuck in when trying to lose weight,” Blakely says. That’s a major plus for making any healthy eating or weight-loss plan sustainable in the long-run.

The key to successful 80/20 eating, though, is to make sure that 20 percent isn’t a complete free-for-all. “We should be mindful of what we’re putting in our mouths 100 percent of the time,” says Blakely. While your 20 percent may be higher in calories than your usual grub (like having a burger instead of grilled chicken), it should still provide some nutrition.

So say you eat 1600 total calories per day. With 20 percent of your total calories ‘free’ for those more indulgent foods, that leaves you 320 calories with more wiggle room than the other 80 percent of your calories.

If your 20 percent becomes a calorie, sugar, and fat binge that doesn’t offer any nutrition, it can easily undo the healthy eating you stick to the other 80 percent of the time. So make sure to always listen to your body’s hunger cues—eat when you’re physically hungry and stop when you feel satisfied, Blakey recommends.

Related: 6 Possible Reasons You’re Gaining Weight (That Have Nothing To Do With Food Or Exercise)

If you tend to go overboard, or know your 20 percent will consist of processed nacho-cheesey chips and frosting straight from the jar, Blakely suggests bumping the 80/20 rule up to a 90/10 rule, just to be safe.

If you eat 1600 calories per day under the 90/10 rule, that gives you 160 flexible calories per day.

Want to try the 80/20 (or 90/10) rule for yourself, but don’t want to do the math? The following meal plans—straight from Blakely herself—will guide you through confusion-free balanced eating.

*Note: We based this eating plan off of the following profile: 40 year old woman (180 pounds, 5’5”), who exercises two to four times per week and wants to lose about one pound per week. Your individual calorie needs may vary.

Related: Shop a variety of foods and ingredients for a healthy kitchen.

Here are two days of 80/20 eating:

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And two days of 90/10 eating:

90 10 eating.jpg

Could Nitric Oxide Give Your Workout The Boost It Needs?

If protein and caffeine are the basics of fueling for performance, nitric oxide boosters are the next level. Yeah, nitric oxide sounds like something that’d make your car fast and furious, but this naturally-produced chemical can actually help you get your butt in gear, too.

How Nitric Oxide Works

Nitric oxide, or N.O., stimulates hormones in your body involved in your blood circulation and blood vessel relaxation, explains Brian Tanzer, M.S., nutritionist and manager of scientific affairs for The Vitamin Shoppe. Our body produces N.O. when a lot of blood is trying to get through our blood vessels. The chemical then dilates those blood vessels (called ‘vasodilation’) to make it easier for the blood to get through, according to the University of Michigan. Because our blood transports oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, better blood flow is good news for all of your system’s major players, like your heart and brain.

And when you’re exercising, better circulation means more blood—plus oxygen, protein, and nutrients—gets to your working muscles. This, in turn, helps your cells churn out more energy.

Here’s how: These tiny powerhouses in your cells, called mitochondria, create energy called ATP that your body uses to chug through whatever it’s doing. Oxygen is one of the ‘ingredients’ in ATP, so by boosting your circulation—and oxygen flow to your muscles—N.O. helps fire up your energy production, according to a review published in Sports Medicine.

“So whether you’re strength-training or doing cardio like running or swimming, that extra flow of blood and oxygen into the muscles can boost performance,” Tanzer says. And, in case you were wondering—yes, dilated blood vessels may also mean getting that super ‘vascular’ look where your veins really pop.

Plus, in theory, the extra blood and nutrients flowing to your muscles can also promote recovery after you finish lifting or pounding pavement, according to the University of Michigan.

Boosting Your N.O.

So yeah, we’ll take one nitric oxide power-up, please. Our bodies produce a bit of nitric oxide on their own to help support our working muscles when we exercise, and the more we train, the better our bodies become at making N.O., according to a review published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal. But there are other ways we can boost our production even more, says Tanzer.

Amino acids (the molecules that build protein) contain the nitrogen our bodies need to produce nitric oxide. Protein is your only food source of nitrogen, explains Tanzer, but you can also get that nitrogen from an amino acid supplement

Related: Could Creatine Take Your Fitness To The Next Level?

Two aminos in particular, citrulline and arginine, are best known for their nitric oxide-producing abilities. Arginine was the original all-star for boosting nitric oxide, though citrulline now seems to be the more effective of the two, Tanzer says.

One study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, for example, found that cyclists who supplemented with citrulline regularly performed better on a time trial test and reported feeling less fatigued afterward as compared to those who took a placebo.

This is why you’ll see citrulline in tons of preworkout formulas—and even as a supplement on its own. Tanzer recommends about six grams before you exercise, though you’ll still benefit from the smaller amounts found in preworkouts.

Another way to pump up that nitric oxide production: dietary nitrates. These compounds can also be used to create N.O. and are found in a bunch of fruits and veggies (often because of the fertilizer used). Beets, in particular, are high in nitrates and quite trendy as a performance booster. (Read more about that here.)

Related: Check out a variety of performance supps for your next training session.