What Happened When 6 Whey Lovers Did A Blind Plant Protein Taste Test

We know what you’re thinking: Plant-based proteins taste like dirt. Ten years ago (um, okay, maybe five) that may have been true, but today’s plant proteins are smoother and tastier than ever—so good, in fact, that whey has some serious competition.

Whether dairy bothers your stomach, you live the vegan life, or your morning smoothie is itching for an upgrade, plant protein is just waiting to win you over. (And select tubs are 20 percent off until 2/25, if you need a little extra motivation to make the switch.)

We put a bunch of whey devotees in a room to prove once and for all that plant protein is seriously good—and we’re willing to bet that their three favorite picks from our blind taste test will make converts out of you, too.

 

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Plant Protein

With 24 grams of protein, four grams of BCAAs and four grams of glutamine, Optimum Nutrition pulls out all the stops in making sure their plant protein is as muscle-friendly as their whey. Made with a variety of plant-based proteins—from peas, brown rice, sacha inchi nuts, quinoa, and chia—and naturally flavored and sweetened, Optimum Nutrition’s plant protein was the across-the-board favorite of our taste-testers. The vanilla’s pleasant ‘note of cinnamon’ and the chocolate’s ‘mocha-y vibe’ make these proteins delicious when mixed with plain ol’ water. Once you’re hooked, try the berry flavor.

 

Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder

One of the OGs in plant protein game, Orgain has mastered the texture and flavor of their brown rice-, chia-, hemp-, and pea-based proteins. A two-scoop serving offers 21 grams of protein and five grams of fiber for just one gram of sugar. (It’s sweetened with a variety of ingredients, like erythritol, stevia, and monkfruit.) Multiple taste-testers identified it as the closest to whey, thanks to its thick, creamy texture. In addition to creamy chocolate fudge and sweet vanilla bean, the peanut butter and iced matcha latte flavors are also scrumptious with every sip.

 

Garden Of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein

One of our testers loved Garden of Life Sport’s plant protein so much she now swears she’ll never take another protein home. This buzzy protein packs everything the most active us could need from a protein supplement, including 30 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of BCAAs, five grams of glutamine, probiotics, tart cherry, and turmeric. The chocolate and vanilla flavors are simple and un-messed-with; our taste-testers said they’d drink them both with H20 and in smoothies.

Blind Taste Test: Which Natural Proteins Reigned Supreme?

The clean eating trend is no longer just for hippies and health nuts. And if you’re looking for a cleaner, meaner whey protein supplement, you’ve got plenty of options. But can a shake really exude the spirit of a chocolate fudge brownie or vanilla ice cream without artificial flavors and sweeteners? Yes, friends. Yes, it can.

We gathered a bunch of whey lovers in one room to taste test shake after shake (chocolate and vanilla), and pit the latest and greatest natural proteins against each other.

Here were their top picks.

 

Garden Of Life Organic Grass-Fed Whey Protein

Garden of Life has finally gifted us all with a line of organic whey proteins. Our expectations of the latest product from the leader in super-clean, natural supplements were high, but we weren’t disappointed: Both the chocolate cacao and vanilla flavors were crowd favorites. The vanilla had a ‘buttery vanilla flavor’ that our taste-testers compared to vanilla pudding, and said they could sip on all day. Meanwhile, the chocolate boasted a ‘pleasant, genuine cocoa flavor.’ Garden of Life uses ingredients like organic cacao, organic vanilla flavor, sea salt, and organic stevia for flavor that’s rich (but real!) and a serving packs 21 grams of protein.

Want to mix things up? Try the strawberry or peanut butter flavors.

 

Optimum Nutrition Naturally-Flavored Gold Standard 100% Whey

It was only a matter of time before protein giant Optimum Nutrition launched a natural whey protein—and no surprise that it was another taste test winner. With 24 grams of protein and 5.5 grams of BCAAs, it packs all the muscle-building power of your favorite Gold Standard, but swaps out artificial sweeteners for good ol’ sugar (just four grams a serving, don’t worry). Taste-testers loved the smooth, subtly sweet flavor of the vanilla and compared the chocolate to hot cocoa.

 

Isopure Natural Whey Protein Isolate

With just three grams of carbs and a solid 25 grams of protein per scoop, Isopure’s natural protein also swaps artificial flavors and sweeteners for sugar. The testers’ taste buds loved Isopure’s slightly thicker consistency, along with the caramel vibe of the vanilla flavor.

Isopure also packs added vitamins and minerals—including B vitamins, calcium, and magnesium—for a more nutritionally-balanced refuel. Win win!

6 Carbs That Can Help You Lose Weight

Carbs have it pretty rough. Meal after meal, they do their job, tirelessly working to fuel our bodies with the energy we need to thrive, be active, and, yes, even lose weight. And how do we repay them? By cutting them out of our diets.

“Many fad diets like the Atkins Diet have vilified carbohydrates as a dietary evil and blamed them for weight gain,” explains Georgie Fear, R.D., C.S.C.S., author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss. These fad diets (and the slew of best-selling books that accompany them) have used cherry-picked shreds of evidence to suggest that obesity is caused solely by carbohydrates—and as convincing as they may be, they’re wrong, she says.

It’s time set things straight: Carbohydrates are not the enemy.

Carbohydrates are our body’s primary energy source, helping to power everything from brain function to our workouts. The key is making sure that the carbs we eat are from whole, nutritious foods—straight from good ol’ mother nature, says Canada-based nutrition counselor Abby Langer, R.D. These carb sources, like whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, contain fiber, which increases satiety, regulates digestion, and is consistently linked to weight loss. (Men need 38 grams a day, while women need 25.) Studies have even shown that just increasing fiber intake can be as effective for weight loss as full-fledged dieting.

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To reach your daily fiber (and other nutrient) needs and hit your healthy weight for good, Langer recommends incorporating about half a cup of healthy carbs into each meal. Here are your six most weight loss-friendly options.

1. Potatoes

Potatoes are subject to tons of hate from the low-carb clan, but sweet potatoes, white potatoes—they’re all good. “I cannot say anything bad about potatoes. There’s nothing unhealthy about them,” says Langer. One particular perk: Potatoes are full of resistant starch, a type of fiber that literally resists digestion, filling you up but never making its way to your bloodstream. (It’s one reason potatoes are often identified as one of the most satiating foods around!)

Related: Why Everyone Needs To Stop Hating On White Potatoes

Carb up: Try serving up your spuds baked, and play around with healthy toppings like Greek yogurt, black beans, poached eggs, or cheese. Be creative; just don’t fry them or drown them in butter and sour cream.

2. Starchy Vegetables

Potatoes are technically starchy veggies, but the other carb-rich veggies out there—think carrots, squash, corn, and beets—deserve a shout-out too, Langer says. Starchy vegetables sometimes get a bad rap simply because they contain more carbs than non-starchy vegetables (think spinach or asparagus), but that’s not a bad thing! For example, a third of a medium carrot’s six grams of carbs come from fiber, plus a carrot packs a full day’s-worth of vitamin A.

Carb up: Exactly how you integrate starchy veggies into your meals depends on which you prefer. Fear’s personal favorite? Kabocha squash. “I love it cubed, tossed with olive oil and salt, and roasted,” she says. “It’s a great thing to toss on a salad to make it more filling than it would be with just leaves.” The cube, roast, and toss rule-of-thumb applies to pretty much any starchy veggie out there, whether it’s squash, beets, or parsnips.

3. Whole Grains

This is a big category, and includes everything from whole-wheat bread and brown rice to ancient grains like spelt, millet, barley, oats, freekeh, bulgur, sorghum, farro, quinoa, and amaranth. Unlike refined grains, these good-for-you grains all have one thing in common: fiber—and lots of it. Replacing any white carbs in your diet with whole grains can both reduce overall calorie intake and boost your metabolism, according to 2017 research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Carb up: If you regularly eat white carbs, swap them out for their whole-grain counterparts. Or, cook up your favorite ancient grain and mix in your favorite veggies and protein for a satisfying, balanced meal, suggests Langer.

4. Legumes

Carb- and fiber-rich legumes (think beans, chickpeas, peas, and lentils) are all over your weight-loss goals. After all, a single serving provides about half your daily fiber needs, and according to one 2016 meta-analysis, simply adding about three quarters of a cup of legumes into your daily diet can directly contribute to weight loss. Not to mention, legumes are also a great source of plant-based protein, which makes your meals more satisfying and revs your metabolism. A cup of cooked lentils packs 18 grams!

Carb up: Stock up on canned legumes, rinse them to remove excess sodium, and then throw them on top of everything from salads to pastas to potatoes to open-faced sandwiches—the options are endless!

5. Fruit

Fruit—be it bananas, apples, or blueberries—can absolutely be a part of your weight-loss plan. Despite the fact that they’re rich in simple sugars, fruits are linked to better blood sugar control, which supports healthy weight loss.

Carb up: When you need a healthy snack, pair your favorite fruit with a source of fat and protein, like string cheese or peanut butter, for example. The combo will help slow digestion and keep you feeling fuller, longer, says Fear. Just stick to three or fewer servings of fruit a day and you’ll be golden.

6. Dairy

Aside from being a great source of vitamin D, calcium, and protein, dairy can help your weight-loss efforts. In fact, one Harvard University review found that dieters who ate a serving of yogurt daily lost more weight than those who didn’t.

Carb up: Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, and even regular cheese can all help you hit your goals. And, no, you don’t have to opt for low-fat; new research shows that full-fat diary might be more effective for weight loss, since fat is so satiating. As long as dairy doesn’t bother your stomach, feel free to incorporate up to one serving of full-fat dairy with each meal, Fear says.

Consider this infographic your quick healthy carbs guide:

Is Drinking Raw Water Really A Good Idea?

Twenty years ago the idea of eating raw food was brave and adventurous, but nowadays preteens are noshing on tuna sashimi at the mall and the ‘raw food movement’ has an ever-growing membership.

Just when we were getting really used to the idea of tossing our pots and pans, however, a new raw trend had emerged: drinking raw water.  In the wake of the Flint, Michigan crisis and with watchdog groups like the Environmental Working Group raising questions about harmful contaminants in tap water across the country, raw water companies like Live Spring Water and Tourmaline Spring claim to offer a bottled-at-the-source alternative that’s so pure it doesn’t need to be treated or filtered—basically the next best thing to dipping your cup into a bubbling mountain stream.

Any water that’s untouched, directly from its natural source—be it a spring or the rain—is technically raw water. Drinking water this way was normal practice throughout most of human history, but companies marketing it to the public in the age of widespread water treatment? That’s something different.

These new raw waters—sometimes also called ‘live’ or ‘living’—are said to taste better and contain beneficial compounds like minerals or probiotics that are often removed from treated water. They are also marketed as free of sewage remnants, antibiotic and medication residue, and other undesirable substances that can leach into the tap water.

These waters also don’t contain chlorine and fluoride, which are added to public drinking water to kill bacteria and prevent cavities, respectively. (Despite the CDC’s assurances that the amounts of chlorine and fluoride in drinking water are safe for human consumption—and data confirming the widespread benefits of fluoride—there are still skeptics out there, which makes raw water appealing to these groups). Raw water companies even promote the fact that their H20 doesn’t pass through lead pipes, which, despite being banned in 1986, have again become a major concern in recent years.

But is it all too good to be true? In a word: yes.

Sure, raw water, with all the claims of its beneficial nutrients and probiotics, sounds great in theory, but it can actually be pretty dangerous, says Christine Moe, Ph.D., the Eugene J. Gangarosa Professor of Safe Water and Sanitation at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Water treatment (which includes multiple steps to filter out any potentially-harmful components and disinfect the water that reaches our sinks), though not perfect, has a long history of preventing diseases like cholera and typhoid, and protecting people from pathogens like E.coli. These diseases are still significantly more common in parts of the world that lack this infrastructure, explains Moe.

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“Raw water is a huge question mark in terms of its contaminants and supposed benefits,” Moe says. It’s very possible that straight-from-the-source water contains substances like soil, microorganisms, and even remnants of animal feces (yes, poop) that can be dangerous—especially for people with compromised immune systems, she adds.

Related: 10 Products Health Experts Can’t Live Without

The bottom line: It’s much more important for your drinking water to be free of contaminants than it is for it to contain extra minerals and come from an exotically-named spring. If you see bottled water labeled ‘raw’ on your supermarket shelf, though, consider it a marketing ploy, since bottled water is regulated by the FDA and has to undergo testing and whatever treatment necessary to ensure the water is safe.

If you’re concerned about drinking your local tap water, Moe recommends using a reverse osmosis filter system—which pushes water through a semi-permeable membrane that filters out potential contaminant particles—instead of turning to raw water.

Are Lectins The New Gluten?

When it comes to nutrition, there’s always a new bad guy. First, we avoided fat. Then, carbs got the boot. It seems the more we dissect the foods we eat, the more likely we are to find something to worry about.

Take the gluten-free craze, for example: Life-changing for people with Celiac’s disease or gluten sensitivities—but pretty darn confusing for the rest of us. Ask two different experts about whether or not you should avoid gluten and you’ll get two different answers.

Adding to the confusion, lectins—a protein found in plants—are on the chopping block now, too.

You’ll find some type of lectin in all sorts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dairy—with grains, legumes, and nightshade vegetables often at the center of the controversy. Cut out chick peas? Say it ain’t so!

First, a little background: Lectins are basically a defense mechanism, protecting plants from harmful pathogens—like fungi, insects, molds, and diseases—in their environment by binding to the cell membranes of certain sugar and carb molecules. Lectins also help seeds travel through animals’ (humans included) digestive systems unscathed, so they can make it back to the soil and grow.

Since we don’t digest lectins, they may cause GI issues like gas and bloating (you know what they say about beans, after all) and even trigger our immune system’s inflammatory response as they pass through our systems, according to Precision Nutrition. And since lectins bind to sugars and carbs, they can interfere with our absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Related: 6 Possible Reasons Why You’re So Gassy

While some experts suggest issues are more pronounced in people who already have compromised guts or immune systems, others go as far as to label lectins as straight-up toxic. According to the best-selling book, The Plant Paradox, one of the leading works on the anti-lectin train, lectins “incite a kind of chemical warfare in our bodies, causing inflammatory reactions that can lead to weight gain and serious health conditions.” The author, Steven Gundry, M.D., suggests lectins are implicated in everything from autoimmune diseases, cancer, heart disease, mental health issues, and dementia.

But don’t freak out just yet. Some lectins can be toxic (which is why we don’t eat castor beans, for example), but others can have powerful beneficial effects, such as modulating inflammation and grabbing onto harmful molecules associated with disease. (After all, oxygen is technically a toxin, but that doesn’t mean you should stop breathing!)

You don’t need to stop eating foods that are otherwise healthy just because they contain lectins, confirms David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. Most of the research on lectins out there is done on small animals or cell cultures, not humans, and while some do suggest the potential toxic effects of certain lectins, the results are very preliminary and don’t necessarily translate to humans, Katz says.

And even then, “the research suggests this tends to be the case only if lectin foods are consumed raw—and when’s the last time you ate a raw chickpea?” says Abbey Sharp, R.D. When you cook your food, lectins often bind to compounds in whatever you’re eating instead of molecules in your body, so cooked beans are completely safe and healthy.

It’s also possible that the culprit behind the stomach issues often associated with legumes is actually a type of carbs called ‘oligosaccharides,’ which humans also don’t digest well, Sharp adds.

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Ultimately, most people have more to gain by eating lectin-containing foods than they have to lose. Research overwhelmingly supports that people who eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains have a lower risk of obesity and chronic disease, and one study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology estimates that up to 7.8 million deaths could have been prevented in 2013 if everyone ate 10-plus servings of fruits and vegetables a day. How? Higher consumption of these whole foods is associated with lower risks of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

What’s more, eating just one serving of fiber– and protein-loaded beans, peas, chickpeas, or lentils a day can help keep your weight in check, according a review published in The American Journal of Clincal Nutrition.

The bottom line: There’s really no reason to lose sleep over lectins just yet. Until larger, human studies show that lectin-rich foods offer more risk than reward, eating a diverse diet loaded with whole plant foods—whether they contain lectins or not—should be your number-one nutritional priority. If you have any immune or gastrointestinal issues (like an autoimmune condition or Crohn’s disease), talk to a dietitian about trying an elimination diet to identify any food sensitivities that might be involved.

5 Nutrients That Are Good For Your Heart—Other Than Fish Oil

As inconvenient as fish burps may be, they’re well worth the heart health benefits that omega-3s offer. After all, these fatty acids bolster our immune system, support artery function, and play a crucial role in our cell membranes and receptors.

Loading up on salmon, taking your fish oil, and penciling in those cardio workouts aren’t the only things you can do to take care of your heart, though. “The food you eat is the most important factor that directly impacts your heart health,” says Rebecca Lee, R.N., creator of natural health and wellness site Remedies For Me. In addition to a balanced diet of lean proteins, unsaturated fats, vegetables, and fruits, there are a number of specific nutrients (like omegas) out there that help keep your ticker ticking on strong. Make sure they make it onto your plate regularly, or consider adding a supplement to your daily routine.

 

1. Magnesium

Magnesium is crucial to many processes in the body, including muscle and nerve function, and blood sugar and blood pressure regulation. “Higher magnesium intake has been associated with lower blood pressure, and helps stabilize the cardiac membrane,” says Amnon Beniaminovitz, M.D., cardiologist at Manhattan Cardiology.

We need 310 (women) to 400 (men) milligrams of magnesium daily, which is found in leafy greens, like spinach (78 milligrams per half cup) and Swiss chard, cashews (74 milligrams per ounce), black beans (60 milligrams per half cup), avocados (44 milligrams per cup), edamame (50 milligrams per half cup) and dark chocolate (41 milligrams per ounce).

To supplement with magnesium, you can stir powdered magnesium citrate into water and sip throughout the day or pop a magnesium tablet or capsule.

 

 2. Turmeric (Curcumin)

Turmeric, the yellow spice used in Indian curries, has been a star in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and your Instagram feed because it contains an antioxidant compound called curcumin, which supports our cardiovascular health by bolstering our body’s immune response. The antioxidant helps promote blood flow and blood vessel wall function.

Related: 12 Tasty Ways To Eat Turmeric (Other Than Golden Milk)

Experts recommend pairing turmeric with black pepper, since piperine, the active compound in black pepper, increases our absorption of turmeric’s curcumin. Look for a turmeric supplement that contains both curcumin and black pepper, or brew yourself some golden milk with coconut milk, two and a half teaspoons of turmeric, and a quarter teaspoon of black pepper.

 

3. Vitamin D

Not only does vitamin D regulate how much calcium makes its way to our bones, but it’s also crucial for our immune and cardiovascular systems. While we can get some vitamin D from egg yolks, fatty fish, and fortified dairy, between 50 and 90 percent of our vitamin D should ideally come from the sun, says Lee. Given the limited time many of us spend outside—especially in the wintertime—most of us fall short.

Lower concentrations of vitamin D are associated with a number of cardiovascular issues, while higher concentrations appear to support overall cardiovascular health.

Our vitamin D needs increase as we age and there’s a lot of back and forth about just how much D we need to reduce disease risk. Doctors now recommend as much as 1,000 to 2,000 IUs—but too much of this vitamin can damage our kidneys, so the National Institutes of Health recommends adults get 600 IUs of vitamin D a day. If you’re concerned about your D levels, talk to your doctor about testing your levels to find the right dose for you.

 

4. Red Yeast Rice

Made from a strain of yeast that’s grown on rice, red yeast rice is a staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Chinese cuisine. Its heart health benefits come from a compound called monacolin K, which helps support healthy cholesterol—particularly that LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, says Beniaminovitz.

Since red yeast rice isn’t a staple in the American diet, Dr. Beniaminovitz suggests supplementing with 600 milligrams daily after checking with your doctor. (It can interfere with certain medications.)

 

5. CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 (a.k.a ‘CoQ10’) is a naturally-occurring compound found in organ meats, chicken, sardines, cauliflower, and broccoli, that acts as an antioxidant and helps cells produce energy. Research suggests CoQ10 has a number of cardiovascular benefits, including supporting healthy blood pressure.

There are two types of CoQ10 supplements out there: an active form called ubiquinol and an oxidized form called ubiquinone. Most of the CoQ10 found in our bodies is in ubiquinol form, and some studies have found it to be more bioavailable, though you’ll find supplements containing both forms. Most CoQ10 supplements offer about 100 milligrams a pop, but check with your doctor before supplementing if you’re on blood thinners.

Pin this handy infographic for heart health reference!

6 Keto Diet Myths—Busted

With over 14.4 million Google search results for the term ‘keto diet,’ there’s clearly a huge (and growing) appetite for this unconventional way of eating. But with so much information—and misinformation—floating around out there, it’s hard to get a clear picture of what the diet really is.

On a ketogenic diet, the bulk of your calories come from fats from a variety of plant and animal sources, with protein and carbs making up the few remaining calories. Eating this way shifts the body into a state called ketosis, in which it uses fat for energy instead of the usual sugar. Keto eaters report weight loss, more stable blood sugar, and steady energy as its major perks.

That doesn’t mean you’ll eat nothing but spoonfuls of butter and oil, though. To reap the potential benefits of eating keto, you need to separate fact from fiction. Look out for these keto misconceptions the next time you take to Google.

Myth #1: Keto Is Protein-Heavy

Contrary to what you may have heard (or what’s tagged #keto on Instagram), protein isn’t the focus of the keto diet—and too much of it can actually throw keto off track. Our body can convert protein into glucose, which it can then use for fuel instead of fat, shifting you out of the fat-burning state you’re striving for.

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While protein won’t be the star of your plate, you can still meet your needs on a keto diet. Most people need between 0.8 and one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, which is just about 55 grams a day for someone who weighs 150 pounds, says dietitian Kristen Mancinelli, M.S., R.D.N., who specializes low carb diets. Getting there takes just three ounces of salmon (20 grams), three ounces of chicken (28 grams), and either an egg or an ounce of almonds (six grams each).

Myth #2: Low-Carb And Keto Are Basically The Same

Though a keto diet is certainly low-carb, a low-carb diet isn’t necessarily keto, says Mancinelli. For most people, about 100 grams of carbs a day would be considered low-carb. On keto, that intake needs to be significantly lower, around 20 to 30 grams a day—though people who are very active and have a lot of lean body mass may be able to handle a little more. Eat just a few grams of carbs too many and your body shifts right back to burning sugar for fuel, she says.

Myth #3: Eating Fat Automatically Makes You Fat

With plenty of low-fat foods still inhabiting grocery store shelves, many people still can’t shake the idea that eating fat will make them gain weight—but we now know that it’s the combo of fat with highly-processed carbs and sugars that leads to weight gain, says fitness and nutrition expert Carrie Burrows, Ph.D., C.P.T.

With processed carbs and sugar off the table in keto, you’ll get your fats from wholesome, nutritious sources like grass-fed butter, avocado, and nuts. You may even end up eating fewer calories overall, since ketones—the energy-producing compounds your body produces from stored fat—have an appetite-suppressing effect, adds Jadin.

Related: 8 Low-Carb Food Swaps That Won’t Make Your Taste Buds Cry

An article recently published in the Journal of American Medical Association notes that keto dieters tend to have fewer hunger pangs than other dieters. And while keto dieters may initially shed a few pounds of water weight (from slashing carbs), the diet supports continued weight loss by encouraging the body to tap into fat stores for energy.

Myth #4: Keto Isn’t Heart-Healthy

The illusion that keto is high-protein diet loaded with saturated fat-containing burgers and bacon also leads to the fallacy that it isn’t optimal for health, since a disproportionately high intake of saturated fat is linked to an increased heart disease risk, says Mancinelli. (A higher intake of unsaturated fats reduces this risk.)

A healthy keto diet contains a variety of fats: monounsaturated fats from olive oil, avocado, and nuts; polyunsaturated fats from fatty fish; and saturated fats from meat, eggs, and coconut oil. “Remember: a ketogenic diet is one in which you consume mostly fat from a variety of plant and animal sources, not mostly meat,” Mancinelli says.

It’s also important to keep in mind that heart disease develops over time due to many factors, including smoking, weight, family history, and more, says Sarah Jadin, M.S., R.D., C.S.P., C.D., C.N.S.C, of Keto Diet Consulting. “To draw a direct (and short) line from eating a high fat diet to having a heart attack is oversimplified and cartoonish at best,” she says.

Myth #5: You Don’t Eat Veggies On Keto

One big misconception about keto is that there isn’t room for vegetables on your plate, primarily because they contain too many carbs. But plant-based foods—and the vitamins, minerals, and fiber they offer—are key to a balanced keto diet, urges Jadin.

It’s true, you’ll want to steer clear of starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn, which rack up the carbs quickly; but you can (and should) still load up on non-starchy vegetables—especially fiber-rich leafy greens. Spinach, arugula, and broccoli, for example, all contain less than two grans of net carbs per serving.

When building your meals, start with your fat source, and then incorporate a non-starchy veggie, says Jadin. For breakfast, you might have a vegetable omelet; for lunch and dinner, help yourself to a serving of greens sautéed in oil.

Myth #6: Keto Isn’t Sustainable Long-Term

It’s true, keto’s strict nature isn’t for everyone, but people who enjoy structure and routine can do really well on the diet long-term, says Jadin. “There are many people who have been following a keto lifestyle for years,” she says. The key to making keto stick is to think of it as a lifestyle and not just a ‘diet’—and many people are so motivated by the weight loss and health benefits the experience after going keto, that they readily make it a permanent lifestyle, says Jadin.

Going keto for good may still sound intimidating, but a growing body of research suggests it may have some benefits for metabolic and cognitive health.

Planning out meals in advance and carrying keto-friendly snacks like nuts, seeds, cheese sticks, and hard-boiled eggs can help you stay on-track with keto long-term.

Keep your keto facts straight with this handy infographic:

What Happened When I Started Drinking Bulletproof Coffee Every Morning

I take my coffee black. Aside from the fact that I genuinely enjoy the taste, I prefer the no-fuss approach: coffee, mug, done. Plus, I’ve seen a lack of creamer in the office kitchen ruin a co-worker’s entire morning, and I just don’t need that kind of stress in my life.

But when I heard that a coffee concoction called Bulletproof coffee promised boundless energy and all-day satiety, I was intrigued. The supposedly life-transforming latte is the birth-child of ‘biohacker’ David Asprey and consists of just three surprising ingredients: coffee, MCT oil, and clarified butter (a.k.a. ghee).

 
As a writer who works full-time and freelances on the side, the idea of steady energy from early morning interviews to late-night writing definitely appealed to me. Curious to see if this fatty brew could ‘hack’ my biology and help me become a master of using and storing energy, I armed myself with the ultimate Bulletproof coffee ingredients—Bulletproof brand coffee grinds, Asprey’s MCT Brain Octane Oil, and ghee—and decided to give it a go for two weeks straight.

Day One

According to Asprey, a proper Bulletproof coffee is made by blending a cup of black coffee, up to two tablespoons of Brain Octane Oil, and one or two tablespoons of grass-fed ghee until frothy. But on that first morning I was running late for a call with a cardiologist for a heart health article I was working on, so I just threw all of the ingredients into a mug as I dialed the phone.

Big mistake; the concoction was gross.

I choked down my oily cup of Joe as I asked the cardiologist to walk me through what he eats on a typical day—and that’s when fate intervened. The first thing Rohan Bhansali, M.D., Chief of Cardiology at LIJ Medical Center told me? “I start my morning with a cup of something called ‘Bulletproof coffee.’”

I couldn’t believe it. “Wait, I’m literally drinking that right now!” I told him, eager to pick his brain about how this stuff actually works.

Related: Why Is Everyone Talking About MCTs?

He explained it all: “Bulletproof coffee calls for medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. This specific type of fat is more easily used by the body and brain for energy, and Bulletproof’s Brain Octane Oil is a refined form of MCT oil that eliminates some of the less effective medium-chain triglyceride,” he said. While our body turns all fats into compounds called ketones that can be used for energy, MCTs are processed in the liver and can churn out those ketones more effectively.

From there, the butter adds calories to help keep you feeling satisfied and energized all morning.

After hanging up the phone and finishing my coffee, I realized that skipping the blender hadn’t been my only mistake that morning: I’d used two full tablespoons of Brain Octane Oil. Asprey recommends starting with just a teaspoon and working your way up—and the sudden lurch in my stomach explained why. The contents of my extra-fatty first Bulletproof coffee had shot straight through my system. I’ve never been so grateful for the short sprint to the bathroom in my studio apartment.

The Next Few Days

The next morning, I used just half a tablespoon of the Brain Octane Oil and blended my Bulletproof coffee until it was nice and frothy. Much to my delight, it tasted like a fancy, creamy cappuccino from an overpriced coffee shop—and my stomach kept quiet.

 
Throughout the next few days, I definitely felt more awake during the first half of the day. I continued eating breakfast as I had been before, and felt hungry for lunch around 11 o’clock—earlier than usual. As always, I ran out for coffee around three o’clock when my energy tapered off, but more and more noticed I didn’t need to finish it.

On day three I signed up for a boot camp class, wondering if my new Bulletproof beverage would help me power through, and was bummed when it still felt like Struggle City. So far, my life did not feel biohacked.

One Week In

By the end of the first week I had successfully worked up to the full tablespoon of Brain Octane Oil, and that’s when the magic started happening.

Suddenly my go-to breakfast of two eggs, a lean protein (usually homemade turkey sausage), and a handful of strawberries felt like way too much food, so I cut it down to just an egg and a few berries. I also stopped going for that second cup of coffee around mid-afternoon—my three o’clock slump had faded away!

I didn’t exactly feel a turbo boost of energy (it was more like a slow burn), but I found it easier to make it through the day and head home to work some more without dragging my feet. I happened to glance over at the clock while working on a freelance project one night about a week in and was shocked to see it was 10:30—much later than I’d ever been productive!

My newfound steady energy also started to make a difference in my workouts. I was unusually ready to jump into the two morning workouts I’d scheduled that week, and didn’t feel like a sloth as I boxed or got my HIIT on.

After 2 Weeks

By my fourteenth Bulletproof morning, I’d stopped eating breakfast altogether. I’d always sworn by my morning meal, but I just wasn’t hungry. I felt energized and ready to take on whatever chaos was thrown at me all morning long. Around noon I was ready for lunch, but even then I wasn’t ravenous. I let half of my go-to bowl of veggie soup go cold most days and noticed my dinner portions shrink a bit, too.

At that two-week mark, I also made it through my boot camp class without feeling wiped after the warm-up. I didn’t even skimp on that last round of burpees like I usually would!

Yes, making Bulletproof coffee definitely takes more effort than dumping black coffee into my mug and calling it a day, but I’ve continued to drink it even after completing my experiment. My 1980s-era relic of a blender is now a permanent fixture on my counter-top and I’ll take my coffee with plenty of fat in it, thank you!

6 Foods That’ll Put You To Sleep

From work to hyper kids to newly-released shows on Netflix, there are a million reasons why many of us (one in three, to be exact) fail to get the Zzz’s we need. And in addition to our already-late bedtimes, many of our sleep cycles are also sabotaged by our late-night eats (like ice cream, cookies, and even wine) or four o’clock cappuccinos.

One way to ensure you drift off to dreamland as soon as your head hits the pillow? Switch out your usual nighttime snack for one that works with your body to help you sleep. Below are six foods that’ll wind you down; if they could talk, they’d practically sing you a lullaby.

1. Cheese

This protein-packed snack is also chock-full of calcium, magnesium, and tryptophan, all of which support sleep.

Tryptophan (which so many of us associate with turkey) is an amino acid that produces the ‘feel-good hormone’ serotonin, which stimulates the production of melatonin, the hormone our body releases when it’s time to slow down and sleep. Calcium helps our brain use that tryptophan, while magnesium also activates sleep-related neurotransmitters and regulates melatonin.

Just choose a lower-fat cheese and stick to one serving, since eating more calories—especially from fat—before bed can leave you counting sheep.

2. Chamomile Tea

A relaxing mug of chamomile tea should be a bedtime staple—especially if you’re frequently kept up by digestive issues. Chamomile has long been used in traditional medicine for its calming, relaxing effect—both on our mood and bellies—plus, the tea’s warmth has the power to soothe.

Related: How To Find The Best Herbal Tea For Your Needs

3. Tart Cherries

Tart cherries are magical in that they actually contain that sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. In fact, research shows that drinking tart cherry juice can even help troubled sleepers score a whopping 85 extra minutes of shut-eye. What’s more, the cherries are jam-packed with antioxidants, and their sweet-tart flavor may squelch late-night cravings.

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If you’re going for dried tart cherries, stick to a quarter cup to avoid calorie and sugar overload—but you can also drink tart cherry juice or munch on the fruit fresh in the summertime when they’re in season.

 4. Bananas

Bananas are a natural source of melatonin, and take literally zero work to prepare. As an added bonus, research published in Sports Health suggests that the potassium in bananas may prevent you from waking up during the night with muscle cramps after tough workouts. When you’re craving ice cream, mash up a frozen banana for a healthy, sleep-supporting substitute.

5. Kiwi

The fuzzy brown fruit makes a great vitamin C and serotonin-filled bedtime snack. In fact, research published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate two kiwis one hour before hitting the hay slept almost an hour longer than those who didn’t.

6. Nuts

Different nuts provide different nutrients, but many varieties can help promote a quality snooze.

Let’s start with almonds: These popular snack-time nuts contain tryptophan, magnesium, calcium, and protein, so they can both satisfy cravings and promote rest. Next: walnuts, which have been shown to increase our production of melatonin. And last but not least: pistachios, which are basically the bedtime jackpot because they contain protein, magnesium, and vitamin B6, which plays a role in our production of certain neurotransmitters and processes related to sleep.

Pin this infographic for the perfect sleepytime snack in a pinch:

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label To Table.

What To Know If You’re New To Plant Proteins

If you want to up your fitness game, taking a protein supplement is an easy way to get more of the tissue-repairing, muscle-building nutrient your body needs. Milk-derived whey protein has long been the go-to for people interested in showing their muscles a little extra love, but plant-based proteins are now more popular (and delicious) than ever.

Whether you follow a plant-based diet, can’t stomach dairy, or just want to try something new, plant protein supplements are definitely worth a try.

What’s Actually In Plant Proteins?

Most plant-based protein powders out there today contain about as much total protein per serving as whey protein, but different types of plant proteins contain different levels of different amino acids (there are 20 total). Most—like the popular pea and hemp proteins—don’t contain adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids (which our body can’t make) to fulfill our daily needs, with one exception: soy protein.

Considered the OG plant protein, soy is the subject of a lot of controversy because it contains compounds called isoflavones, which mimic estrogen.

That said, the research on soy is all over the place, and most people can try soy protein without worry, says Alix Turoff, R.D. (She does recommend, though, that vegetarians—who may rely more on soy foods and products—chat with an R.D. about their total intake.)

Featured Plant Proteins

Most of the plant-based protein supplements out there today combine multiple types of plant protein in order to fill and balance out their amino acid content so that it’s more similar to that of whey. Check out a tub or two in your local The Vitamin Shoppe, and you’ll see blends of proteins from peas, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, alfalfa, hemp seeds, brown rice, chia seeds, sacha inchi nuts, and more!

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

If you’re still hung up on plant protein containing every single milligram of every single amino acid that whey contains, consider this: “You don’t have to get all nine essential amino acids in one sitting,” says dietitian Andy Yurechko, R.D. So if you find a pea protein powder you like or a combo plant protein that doesn’t quite match the amino acid content of whey, that’s okay. As long as you eat a varied, healthy diet, you should be able to get enough of the essential amino acids you need throughout the course of the day.

Find The Right Plant Protein Powder For You

Ready to play for Team Plant-Based? When you shop, make sure your protein powder lists its plant protein source as the first ingredient (and the next few, if it’s a combo protein), says Yurechko.

From there, pick a powder that’s unsweetened or naturally sweetened (like with stevia) and contains less than five grams of carbs. This way, you keep your supp au-naturale and your sugar intake low.

Today’s plant proteins are tasty enough to mix into water or almond milk and drink straight—though recent whey converts may want to add a touch of honey at first, since plant proteins aren’t quite as creamy as milk-based proteins.

If you’re blending your plant protein in a shake, Turoff likes the following balanced blend: four to eight ounces of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, a scoop of protein powder, a tablespoon each of chia seeds (for fiber) and flaxseeds (for omega-3s), and one cup of fruit.

Spread the plant protein love with this quick infographic!

13 Fun Protein Snacks For When You’re Bored Of Bars

Protein bars help us reach our daily protein needs, satisfy our appetites, and squash sugar cravings when we don’t have time to sit down for a meal. But like any other routine, at some point your usual bar gets kind of, well, stale.

Switching things up can keep your taste buds entertained and your fitness results on track, and there are tons of fun and portable high-protein eats out there to help you do it. Here are 13 of our favorites—cookies, popcorn, chips, and brownies all included.

 

1. Buff Bake Protein Sandwich Cookies

Whether you bite straight into sandwich cookies or twist to eat the icing first, you’ll be satisfied by Buff Bake’s new cleaned-up version of this sweet classic. Made with ingredients you can recognize, like dry-roasted peanuts, whey protein, gluten-free oat flour, whole eggs, and organic cane sugar, Buff Bake’s sandwich cookies are guilt-free as can be. If PB isn’t your style, try Snickerdoodle or Double Chocolate.

 

2. Quest Protein Cookies

You already love their bars, and you’re going to love their cookies. Quest’s new Oatmeal Raisin, Double Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter, and Chocolate Chip protein cookies pack 15 grams of protein and nine grams of fiber but less than one gram of sugar. They’re soft, chewy, and gluten-free.

 

3. Power Crunch Wafer Cookie Protein Bars

These may look like bars on the outside, but take a bite of any one of Power Crunch’s 10 dessert-worthy flavors (including Salted Caramel and Peanut Butter Fudge) and you’ll become a believer in their layers of wafer cookie and creamy filling. With 14 grams of protein and just five grams of sugar per bar, they’re basically a Kit Kat’s older, more ripped sibling.

 

4. Nuts ‘N More High-Protein Cookie Butter Spread

Whether you’re topping rice cakes or apple slices, or just dunking your spoon in the jar, this protein-loaded (12 grams a serving) cookie butter spread will be your new go-to. After all, it contains about six grams of sugar less than your average cookie butter.

 

5. ProSupps MyCookie Protein Cookies

Raw cookie dough lovers will dig the soft, chewy texture of ProSupps’ MyCookies. The cookies’ seven flavors include Carrot Cake and Iced Lemon Pound Cake in addition to the usual crowd-pleasers so you can satisfy every craving under the sun (and muscle up with 18 grams of protein).

 

6. ThinkThin Protein Cakes

No sweet tooth can get in the way of your weight-loss goals with these low-sugar, high-protein cakes from ThinkThin on your side. The two bite-sized, chocolate-covered cakes make for a great afternoon pick-me-up or dessert.

 

7. Bhu Fit Protein Cookies

Plant-based eaters and carnivores alike will appreciate these vegan protein cookies. Made with organic cashews, plant protein, and sweetened with monk fruit and stevia, these cookies are perfectly crumbly and clean as can be—and they’re loaded with nine grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein.

 

8. Lenny & Larry’s Muscle Brownies

Already a fan of Lenny & Larry’s protein cookies? You’re going to want to try their brownies. Whether you go for Triple Chocolate, Peanut Butter, or Cookies and Cream, you’ll load up on 10 grams of protein while enjoying the rich flavor and texture of those homemade box mix brownies.

 

9. Quest Sour Cream And Onion Protein Chips

When you’re craving salt but need to hit your protein goals, swap your usual dessert-inspired bar for something crunchy, savory, and equally macro-friendly: protein chips. Quest’s sour cream and onion chips are just 120 calories and contain a whopping 21 grams of protein, with just five grams of carbs, zero fat, and all the eye-watering sour cream and onion flavor you could ever want.

 

10. MHP Chocolate High-Protein Pudding

Satisfy your inner-child and fuel your fit lifestyle with MHP’s protein pudding. This ready-to-eat treat offers 30 grams of protein (for zero sugar) and is thick and creamy enough to keep you satisfied. It’s a welcome change of pace when you’ve been chomping on bars day in and day out.

 

11. Icon Meals Protein Popcorn

Sweet, salty, and crunchy all at once, you’d swear this protein popcorn belongs in the candy aisle. And while Icon Meals’ extravagantly-flavored popcorns are a little more indulgent (they’re sweetened with real sugar), you can treat yourself knowing you’re also scoring an extra 10 grams of protein. Your taste buds will also go berserk for the Banana Split, Chocolate Mint, and Canadian Maple flavors.

 

12. Optimum Nutrition Protein Cake Bites

ON’s protein cake bites (they pack 20 grams of protein) are the perfect fitness-focused treat when cake pops and coffee shop baked goods are calling your name. Available in flavors like Birthday Cake, Chocolate Frosted Donut, and Red Velvet, these truffle-like bites have a satisfying, chewy texture—and they’re just plain fun to eat.

 

13. Enlightened Marshmallow Treats

Few vending machine temptations even come close to competing with the appeal of sticky, sweet marshmallow treats. With 15 grams of protein, nine grams of fiber, and nine grams of sugar, Enlightened Foods’ take on crispy marshmallow treats offers a more balanced alternative than what’s lurking in your office vending machine.

11 Smart Tips For Cleansing Your System, Straight From Health Experts

When someone utters the word ‘cleanse,’ a few things might come to mind—hunger and suffering among them. Thankfully, expert advice (and horror stories) has shown us that putting ourselves through the misery of week-long liquid diets doesn’t do our bodies any good long-term. In fact, these intense cleanses often deprive us of the calories we need to function properly and leave us lacking in important nutrients like protein, essential fatty acids, fiber, and electrolytes, according to Harvard Medical School.

So, no, you don’t need to go hardcore to press the ‘reset’ button, but that doesn’t mean you can’t jump-start a healthier routine after slacking. To help you do it in a healthful, balanced way, we asked top health and fitness pros to share what they do when they’re in need of a clean slate.

In the Kitchen

Wake up with water. Every expert we talked to had the same top tip: drink more water. Why? “Your kidneys are your body’s natural cleansing organ, and they need water to make sure you’re flushing your system out so that you feel your best,” says Abbey Sharp, R.D., founder of Abbey’s Kitchen. It doesn’t matter so much how you drink it—whether it’s plain water, sparkling water, or lemon water—just that you do.

To make sure you’re getting enough, pay attention to your pee. “If you’re seeing bright yellow, it’s usually a sign that you’re not getting enough water,” explains Sharp. The goal is for it to be a pale-yellow hue—any darker and you need to grab a glass of H20, stat. “If you feel thirsty, you’re probably already really dehydrated,” she adds.

Add apple cider vinegar. If you want to level up your morning hydration routine, Molly Kimball, R.D., nutrition manager at the Ochsner Fitness Center in New Orleans, suggests spiking your glass with apple cider vinegar, which supports healthy blood sugar, and contains B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and antioxidants. She likes to add two to three tablespoons of ACV to warm water, green tea, or sparkling water every A.M. to start the day on a healthy note.

Related: What Happened When I Drank Apple Cider Vinegar Every Morning For 2 Weeks

Focus on fiber. If there’s one nutrient you should hone in on when hitting the reset button, it’s fiber. “It’s important for promoting a healthy gut, and also keeps us feeling full longer so we don’t get blood sugar spikes,” says Sharp. A few of Sharp’s fibrous go-to’s include: split peas (16.3 grams per cooked cup), broccoli (5.1 grams per cup), raspberries (eight grams per cup), pears (5.5 grams per medium fruit), and bran cereal (seven to eight grams per cup). Women should aim for 25 grams each day, while men should shoot for 38 grams.

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Juice your veggies. Though we’re definitely not suggesting you consume nothing but juice for days at a time, there are some upsides to keeping it in your daily routine. For instance, Kimball likes to drink cold-pressed veggie juice in the afternoon—typically a blend of greens (like spinach or kale), beets, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and cilantro—to help her get in an extra serving of vegetables and feel energized for the rest of the work day.

Pro tip: If you don’t have a juicer or a quality juice shop nearby, Kimball recommends adding powdered greens (Amazing Grass is her favorite brand) to water or smoothies. Just peek at the label to make sure your powdered greens contain a variety of different-colored vegetables and no added sugar, she says.

Add collagen to your coffee. “Instead of adding sugar or drinking it black, I make my coffee pull double-duty as breakfast or a snack by adding a scoop of Vital Proteins collagen to it,” says Kimball. This protein is important for strong, healthy nails, hair, skin, and joints—and can make your usual cup of Joe more satiating.

Switch up your shopping. When Carrie Underwood’s trainer, Eve Overland, C.P.T., needs to revamp her healthy-eating routine, she heads to the farmers market or grocery store with three missions: Buy a vegetable you like but rarely cook with, one that you’ve eaten before but have never cooked with, and one you’ve never tried or seen before. Once you’ve picked your produce, “find some yummy recipes and go to town,” she suggests. “Doing this with friends can also be fun and motivating.”

Watch your language. Don’t worry, potty mouths—we’re not saying you can’t drop an F-bomb when necessary, but a crucial part of giving your health that fresh slate is getting rid of the ‘good food’/‘bad food’ language we often use, says Sharp. “When we label foods as ‘bad,’ we tend to feel so deprived that we want them even more and end up bingeing,” she explains. The best way to approach a healthy cleanse is to concentrate on choosing the foods that make you feel the best and celebrating those awesome choices. Focus on the following: fiber- and nutrient-rich green veggies (like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard), eggs (for satiating protein and a range of nutrients), nuts (for unsaturated fats, fiber, and protein), and Greek yogurt (for calcium, vitamin D, and protein).

In the Gym

Prevent procrastination. It’s easy to stay in bed, scrolling through social media until—boom—all of a sudden a half-hour has flown by and you don’t have time to exercise. That’s why fitness coach Tiffany Rothe uses the “1,2,3 Go” trick. “The first thing I do when I wake up is count ‘1, 2, 3,’ then I jump out of bed, brush my teeth, and work out for at least 10 minutes,” she says. “I’ll even sleep in my workout clothes if I have to.” Why? Working out in the A.M. means there’s no ‘I need to exercise’ cloud hanging over your head later in the day—and Rothe says it encourages healthy decisions and productivity all day long.

Do a fasted workout. After going off the healthy diet and fitness rails, Joey Thurman, C.P.T., co-host of Home Sweat Home, often schedules fasted cardio first thing in the morning when his body is primed to utilize fat for energy, rather than carbs. Exercising before breakfast can significantly increase fat-burning throughout the day, according to a small study published in PLoS One.

Thurman recommends intervals: “I do eight rounds of 30-second sprints, followed by one-minute breathers.” He follows up his morning sweat with some greens, fruit, and a protein source to fuel muscle recovery.

Step in the sauna. “I am a big fan of infrared saunas,” says Overland. “Nothing says ‘cleanse’ to me more than a good sweat.” Many people leave the sauna feeling renewed—likely from sweating out so much water—and Overland finds the heat can also soothe sore muscles and rejuvenate the skin. Research suggests saunas work their magic by increasing circulation, and that regular sessions can support heart health long-term. Overland hops in the sauna for 30 minutes at a time, and follows it up with a cool shower. Just make sure you’re well-hydrated, and listen to your body when you’ve had enough.

Sign up for class. “If you’re used to doing the same old workout routine, it may be more of a challenge to get motivated to go back into doing it,” says Overland. That’s why she suggests signing up for a group exercise class. “You know you have to show up at a certain time, there is a clear beginning, middle, and end, and you won’t be tempted leave early,” she explains. “The energy is high, the music supports you, and you don’t have to think. Just do.”

If group classes aren’t your thing, consider hiring a trainer or online coach. “It doesn’t have to be for forever or a huge financial commitment,” says Overland. “Just enough time to change up your protocol.” You’ll get a fresh perspective that supports your goals and a workout that’s designed just for you.

What’s The Best Type Of Protein Supplement For Your Goals?

We all know someone who never travels without a protein shake in hand (hey, maybe you are that someone!). Protein supplements may have gotten their start with gym rats, but getting your fill of the macronutrient is important for everyone. In fact, all sorts of people with all sorts of health goals can benefit from a diet rich in protein.

Protein is key for the growth and repair of many tissues and structures in our bodies, which is why most experts recommend it make up 15 to 25 percent of our daily calories. “Our muscles, bones, tendons, hair, skin, and nails all need protein for both maintenance and growth,” says Linzy Ziegelbaum, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. Plus, protein boosts our satiety, supports balanced blood sugar, and can help us maintain a healthy weight.

Downing protein supplements won’t achieve all your health and fitness goals for you, but it can be a major game-changer. “Whether you’re in a hurry, on the road, don’t eat meat, or just don’t want to buy, eat, cook, and consume a couple of pounds of animal protein a day, a protein supplement can be massively beneficial,” says Coleman Collins, C.S.C.S, running coach and author of The Road Warrior: A Practical Guide to Maintaining Your Health, Productivity, and Sanity While Traveling for Work.

And whether you want to manage your appetite, build muscle, or show your skin some love, there’s a specific protein supplement out there for you. Consider this your complete guide.

Want To Build Muscle?

Looking for a boost in the gym? Your number-one protein is whey. Whey protein, which is made from milk, is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) our bodies can’t make on their own. Whey contains the highest amount of leucine, an amino acid that helps trigger the muscle protein synthesis process, and is especially important for building muscle, explains Becky Kerkenbush, M.S., R.D.-A.P., C.S.G., C.D. Whey also digests and enters your blood stream faster than any other protein, so it’s a rock star at fueling your muscles during exercise and helping them repair afterwards. Chocolate lovers will dig Optimum Nutrition’s Double Rich Chocolate Gold Standard 100% Whey while vanilla heads will savor BodyTech’s French Vanilla Whey Protein.

If you want to build muscle the plant-based way, Kerkenbush recommends soy protein powder, which is made from ground soybeans that have been dehulled and defatted. “It’s a complete protein and considered the most effective plant-derived source for building or maintaining muscle,” she says. Soy protein digests slower than whey protein, but it’s a good option for those with milk issues or who follow a plant-centric diet, she says. We like Jarrow Formulas’ Iso Rich Soy Protein because it’s free of artificial flavors or sweeteners.

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

You can also find a variety of plant proteins that use a variety of sources (like soy, pea, and brown rice proteins) to ramp up their amino acid content, such as the uber-popular Vega Sport Chocolate Performance Protein.

Have A Sensitive Stomach?

If most proteins don’t sit well, Kerkenbush recommends trying pea protein, which is derived from the yellow pea and is the most easily digested of the plant proteins. “It’s a good alternative for anyone with a sensitive stomach or doesn’t want to do dairy or soy,” she says. Just keep in mind that it’s not a complete protein. Pea protein is low in some amino acids, like cysteine (which has antioxidant properties and supports digestion) that you’ll need to get from other foods (like soybeans, beef, lamb, eggs, or legumes) throughout the day. Plnt’s naturally-flavored Vanilla Pea Protein is our go-to.

Want To Manage Your Appetite?

If your goal is to feel full and satisfied—and not ready to sprint to the vending machine when three o’clock strikes—try casein protein, which is made from the other protein in cow’s milk: the ‘curds.’ While casein may not provide the quick rush of amino acids you want after a tough workout, research shows it’s more satiating than whey over a period of six hours, which can help keep you from reaching for extra calories or less-than-healthy snacks between meals, says Kerkenbush. Plus, a study published in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism found that overweight people following a diet and exercise program lost more body fat when they supplemented with casein than they did with whey. Dymatize’s Rich Chocolate Elite Casein is delicious in shakes, oatmeal, and on its own.

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Another option: egg protein, which is made of dried egg whites. While this one digests faster than casein, it’s still slower-absorbing than whey and makes a good substitute for anyone with a dairy allergy. Jay Robb’s Egg White Protein is a fan favorite.

For a shake that really feels like a meal, try a meal replacement protein powder, which contains protein, some healthy fat, and fiber to keep you satisfied and craving-free for longer. These mixable meals—like Next Step’s Fit N Full Shake—are especially helpful if you’re on a tight schedule or watching your calories.

Want To Nourish Your Skin And Joints?

Collagen, a protein found in our connective tissues (think muscles, ligaments, and bones), has been one of the buzziest protein supplements in the game recently. And rightly so, considering research has shown it can bolster the appearance and healthy aging of skin, and help those with joint issues.

Collagen has a very specific amino acid profile, with 45 percent of its total amino acids coming from proline and glycine, two non-essential aminos that provide its hair, skin, nail, and joint benefits. (Only about a quarter of collagen’s amino acids are essential aminos, while more than 60 percent of whey protein’s aminos are—which is why you’d still choose whey over collagen as your primary, all-purpose protein supplement.)

You can take collagen in capsule form or add collagen powder (like Vital Proteins’ eternally hot Collagen Peptides) to your favorite foods and drinks.

Ready To Go? A Few Rules For The Road

Nailing down the protein that best fits into your goals and lifestyle is key—but only if you’ll actually take the stuff!  “Choosing something that you like and will use is more important than taking the ‘perfect’ protein supplement for your situation,” Collins says. So if building muscle is high-priority but you just love the creamy flavor of casein, don’t sweat it.

From there, just make sure the type of protein you want is the first ingredient listed on the package and look for a short ingredients list (five or less is a good benchmark) and natural sweeteners, suggests Kerkenbush.

Pin this handy infographic for future reference: 

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

Headlines from every corner of the internet have told us: We eat too much sugar. After all, this addicting sweet substance is added to just about everything we see on supermarket shelves.

If you’ve scrolled through dozens and dozens of tips about cutting down on sugar with glazed eyes—and then proceeded to order that glazed donut with your coffee the next morning—allow us to (gently) shake you out of the caramel macchiato-induced daydream. There’s no doubt about it: A diet loaded with sugar can lead to some serious health issues.

Here’s everything you need to know about how too much sugar affects your body long-term—along with expert advice for making sure your sweet tooth doesn’t derail your diet and health.

1. Obesity

Weight gain is rampant in the U.S., with over a third (yes, a third) of Americans suffering from obesity. One of the epidemic’s major contributors? Too much sugar.

When you eat sugar, it enters your blood stream and signals your pancreas to produce the hormone insulin, which transports it to be used as energy or stored in your liver, muscles, or fat cells. However, when you consistently eat too much of the sweet stuff, it can’t all be utilized and begins to overwhelm your system—and ends up being stored as fat.

Simply put, this type of energy imbalance (along with other factors, like genetics, lack of sleep, and lack of exercise) leads to obesity. In fact, one 2013 BMJ review found that people with the highest intake of sweetened drinks were almost twice as likely to be obese than those with the lowest intake.

2. Type 2 Diabetes

Perhaps the most well-known of the conditions related to a sugar-laden diet is type 2 diabetes, a chronic illness marked by excess sugar in the blood.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when either the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin (the hormone that transports sugar) to send sugar from the blood to the cells, or when so much insulin has been churned out over time that the cells themselves become resistant to its effects (called ‘insulin resistance’).

While consuming excess sugar alone doesn’t directly cause diabetes—activity level, family history, race, age, and other health conditions all contribute—it does seem to be a big part of the problem. For example, one study published in Diabetes Care found that people who drank one or two sweetened beverages (think soda, ice tea, energy drinks) per day were 26 percent more likely to develop diabetes than those who did not.

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People with type 2 diabetes often experience weight gain, fatigue, and excessive hunger and cravings. Type 2 diabetics are also at greater risk for kidney damage, nerve damage, bladder problems, heart disease, and stroke—which leads us to…

3. Heart Disease + Heart Attacks

Coronary heart disease (CHD), a condition in which plaque builds up in your coronary arteries (which supply your heart with blood), potentially leading to blood clots, heart attacks, and heart failure, is responsible for one in every six deaths in the United States. Though saturated fat was long thought to drive CHD, a paper recently published in Open Heart suggests that eating too much added sugar is in fact a primary nutritional factor.

High blood sugar and insulin resistance both increase risk of CHD, as excess sugar that’s stored as fat can enter the blood stream and begin to clog arteries, says Vanessa Rissetto, R.D.

Related: 8 Foods That Pack A Surprising Amount Of Sugar

According to that Open Heart paper, sugar’s impact is significant. In fact, those who get more than 25 percent of their total calories from added sugar are three times more likely to die from a cardiovascular disease-related issue than people who eat fewer than 10 percent of their calories from added sugar.

4. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Like its name suggests, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) occurs when excess fat builds up in liver cells for reasons other than heavy alcohol use. In its severe form, it can involve inflammation and permanent damage to the liver, and even lead to liver failure. According to the University of California San Francisco, over 31 percent of American adults suffer from the disease.

Though NAFLD isn’t fully understood, it has been linked to being overweight or obese and having high blood sugar or type 2 diabetes, according to The Mayo Clinic. Fructose, a type of sugar that occurs naturally in fruit and is added to many processed foods, seems to be particularly problematic. Unlike other sugars, fructose is processed in the liver, and when consumed in large amounts, appears to be toxic to the liver, just like alcohol.

People with NAFLD may feel fatigued and experience pain in the upper right abdomen—but often don’t have symptoms at all. Experts recommend a plant-based diet, plenty of exercise, and weight control for preventing this condition.

 5. Cognitive Decline And Alzheimer’s

In recent years, a growing amount of evidence has linked blood sugar issues to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies have identified that those following high-sugar diets performed worse on cognitive tests, with one Neuroscience study finding that a diet high in refined sugar can reduce levels of a protein called BDNF in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain associated with memory.

What’s more, type 2 diabetes has been linked with greater risk of Alzheimer’s, a progressive disease that affects memory, thinking, and behavior, in which people eventually lose the ability to converse or respond to their environment.

Though the origins of Alzheimer’s are not completely understood, one 2017 Scientific Reports study found that sugar can damage an enzyme called MIF, which plays a key role in the immune response necessary for us to ward off the disease.

Cut Sugar, Cut Your Risk

This is scary stuff—but it doesn’t mean you can never enjoy something sweet again. Like everything else, just enjoy the sweetness in moderation, eat as many whole foods as possible, and try to avoid pre-packaged processed foods and snacks, which are often loaded with refined sugars, says Rissetto.

The American Heart Association, recommends a max of 100 calories (or 25 grams) of added sugar per day for women and 150 calories (or about 37 grams) per day for men. (For reference, your average glazed donut from Dunkin’ contains 12 grams.)

Of course, the occasional treat is okay, but when sugar cravings strike, try reaching for fruit or dark chocolate, and swapping table sugar out for maple syrup or honey, which contain antioxidant compounds called polyphenols, suggests Jackie Ballou, R.D., owner of Balancing Act Nutrition.

What Exactly Is Nutritional Yeast—And How Do You Eat It?

If we suggested you sprinkle yeast into your soup or pasta, you’d probably be pretty perplexed. After all, isn’t yeast something used to bake bread or make beer?

Well, yes. Yeasts, which are technically fungi, are live organisms. The types of yeast you’re thinking of are called ‘baker’s yeast’ and ‘brewer’s yeast.’ These live yeasts make bread rise and beer ferment by feeding on their sugars—but there’s another type of yeast out there that may claim a spot on your plate.

Nutritional yeast, a type of deactivated yeast used as a seasoning, has become a staple for vegans and vegetarians looking to add savory flavor and nutrients to their food. Unlike the yeasts used to make bread and beer, this yeast is pasteurized (heated) so it no longer grows and packaged into seasoning-style bottles. The yellow, crumbly yeast tastes nutty, cheesy, and creamy, and is easy to shake or spoon onto your grub like you would with Parmesan cheese.

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Yeast Is Good For You!

Aside from adding flavor to food, nutritional yeast offers a number of nutritional benefits. A one-tablespoon serving contains 18 amino acids, beta-glucan (a type of fiber that supports cholesterol and heart health), and glutathione (an antioxidant made of amino acids), along with two grams of protein and a gram of fiber. Win!

While the exact nutritional profile of nutritional yeast varies by brand, many are fortified with B vitamins. This is great for vegetarians and vegans, explains Boston-based dietitian Kate Scarlata, R.D. That’s because most people get their B vitamins from animal-based foods like meat and poultry. Vitamin B12 is key for our nervous system, energy production, and food digestion and absorption—and people who fall short on the nutrient may experience fatigue, mood changes, and sleep issues.

Related: 7 Tips For Doing A Plant-Based Diet Right

For example, Bragg nutritional yeast seasoning provides a powerful dose of three key B vitamins: thiamine (B1), vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. In one tablespoon, you’ll get two milligrams of thiamine (180 percent of the daily value), 1.8 milligrams of B6 (140 percent of the daily value), and just shy of one microgram of B12 (40 percent of the daily value).

Yeast Up Your Grub

You can find nutritional yeast in the seasoning or health foods aisle of most supermarkets, and can keep it stashed in your pantry for a couple of years.

Just check the ingredient label before dropping the yeast into your cart. If you have any issues tolerating synthetic ingredients, look for a brand that doesn’t contain added B vitamins. From there, just make sure ‘inactive dry yeast’ and any added vitamins are the only ingredients listed.

Some people worry about nutritional yeast containing the controversial food additive MSG (monosodium glutamate) because it contains an amino acid called glutamic acid. Fear not, though: While the two sound similar, they’re not the same thing. As long as MSG isn’t listed on the ingredient list, you’re good to go.

Nutritional yeast’s cheesy flavor makes it a popular dairy-free option for sprinkling and seasoning on whatever snacks and meals you’d typically add cheese to. Walsh suggests sprinkling it on popcorn and kale chips and adding it to soups, salads, and pasta dishes (mac and cheese, included).

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

Have to taste it to believe it? Try the following vegan mac and cheese recipe from vegan dietitian Andy Bellati, R.D.

While your favorite mac pasta cooks, you’ll make a vegan cheese sauce using the following ingredients:

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¾ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
1/3 tsp salt
¾ – 1 cup unsweetened soy milk
2 Tbsp oat flour
4 – 6 Tbsp nutritional yeast
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Heat olive oil in a sauce pan, add garlic, and cook until golden. Add onion powder, garlic powder, salt, cayenne pepper, oat flour, soy milk, and nutritional yeast. Cook at high heat until sauce thickens to desired consistency. Combine with cooked pasta in a large pot and stir over medium heat until well combined.

Is A Higher-Fat Diet Right For You?

From Paleo to keto to Whole30, there are lots of trendy diets out there these days—and one thing many of them have in common is that they slash many carbs in favor of healthy fats. At the forefront of the trend is the ketogenic diet—which requires eating more than 75 percent of your daily calories from fat, a little protein, and as few carbs as possible.

Not ready (or just don’t want to) go full-blown keto? You can still reap the benefits of those healthy fats by upping your healthy fat intake to 40 percent or more of your daily calories and cutting down on carbs. Here’s everything you need to know about the ups and downs of eating more fat—and what it looks like in practice.

How Higher-Fat Looks On The Plate

To start making the shift to a higher-fat, lower-carb diet, first nix processed foods with added sugar, like cookies, cake, and soda, says Jeff Stanley, M.D., a physician with Virta Health. Then, you’ll cut out other highly-processed carbs, like bread, pasta, and rice, and sub in low-carb alternatives like zucchini noodles and cauliflower rice.

As you do so, you’ll also up your fat intake by incorporating whole-food sources, like eggs, nuts and seeds, seafood, olive oil, avocado, and coconut oil (even butter!) into your meals.

Related: 7 Fatty Foods That Are Good For Your Health

You might start the day with scrambled eggs, build a salad topped with chicken, sunflower seeds, and an olive oil-based dressing for lunch, and cook some salmon with a side of cheesy or buttery broccoli for dinner. For snacks, you might pick on some nuts or dip veggie sticks in guac.

The Benefits Of Eating More Fat (And Fewer Carbs)

Boosting fat and slashing carbs like this can support weight loss and help regulate blood sugar levels and triglycerides (a type of fat stored in your blood that can up your risk of heart disease), says Amy Gorin, R.D.N., owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition.

Though keto has just recently been blowing up our news-feeds, low-carb, higher-fat diets have been popular for weight loss for years. The Atkins Diet, for example, slashes carbs to ketogenic levels—just 20 grams a day at first—and emphasizes fat and protein. This approach leads to better weight-loss outcomes in obese individuals over time than higher-carb weight-loss diets, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Much of the high-fat research out there looks at purely ketogenic diets, and supports its potential for boosting weight loss, regulating blood sugar and metabolism, and improving cholesterol. On keto, your body enters a state called ‘ketosis,’ in which it uses fat for energy instead of glucose (sugar) from carbs, which primes your body to utilize your body fat, says Stanley, who follows keto himself and often utilizes it for patients with type 2 diabetes or weight-related issues.

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You’ll still benefit from a diet that’s in the more doable ‘40 percent calories from fat’ realm, though. “Fat tends to be more satiating,” says Stanley. That means you’ll feel less hungry and may eat fewer calories without even trying. You’ll also likely reap the benefits of more balanced blood sugar and stable energy throughout the day, he says.

When To Pass On A High-Fat Diet

Going low-carb, high-fat offers some pretty appealing benefits, but it’s not necessarily right for everyone. People with type 1 diabetes, for example, should probably steer clear, because high levels of ketones are a risk factor for a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis in which ketones build up in the blood, says Gorin.

Those with kidney issues should also be wary of high-fat diets, since they often tend to be high in protein, she says. Since protein needs to be processed by the kidneys, eating a lot of it may be a burden to already-compromised kidneys.

High-fat diets may also be tricky territory for people with genetically high cholesterol, so Stanley recommends talking to your doc if you fall into this category and want to up your fat intake.

Whip out some knowledge on higher-fat diets with this infographic:

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

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

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

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

The Basics

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

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

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

The Benefits

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

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

Need A Little Help Conquering Cravings?

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

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

Issues To Look Out For

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

Related: 9 Healthy Snacks Nutritionists Always Keep On Hand

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

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

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

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

6 Nutrients Your Body Needs For Energy

We’ve all been there: You have an insanely productive morning, breeze through a third of your to-do list before noon, and take a load off at lunch. But then 3:00 o’clock hits, and you feel your energy slipping—hard.

Unfortunately, that midday slump isn’t the only time you might feel your energy waning. Many of us trudge through much of the day feeling like we’ve got rocks in our shoes. What gives?

You’ve probably heard the saying ‘food is fuel’—and it’s very true. When you don’t get enough of the right nutrients, your body can’t keep humming along at its best. Below are six nutrients you shouldn’t skimp on, and how to avoid that midday slump.

1. Carbohydrates

“Carbs are the body’s primary source of fuel, like gasoline to a car,” says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., C.D.N. Our bodies convert carbs into glucose (a type of sugar), which it depends on in order to function properly. We use glucose to perform both voluntary actions, like walking up the stairs or sprinting on the treadmill, and involuntary actions, like breathing and pumping blood.

What happens when carbs run short: Most of us eat enough carbs, but recent diet trends like Paleo and keto have made slashing carbs trendy. When you don’t eat enough carbs, not only do your energy levels dip, but you might also experience issues like headaches, muscle cramps, and constipation.

Where to get them: According to The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, carbs (the right kinds!) should make up 45 to 65 percent of our daily calories. Instead of white or refined carbs, go for whole foods like quinoa, oats, brown or wild rice, says Moskovitz.

Related: 8 Possible Reasons Why You’re so Tired All The Time

Add fresh fruits to smoothies and protein shakes or snack on them when your midday slump hits. The USDA recommends filling a quarter of your plate at meals with each whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—all of which provide wholesome carbs.

2. Fat

Eating ample fat, which is more calorie-dense than carbs and protein, helps you meet your daily calorie needs. Plus, it also promotes stable blood sugar levels, which helps you avoid any midday energy crashes, explains Georgie Fear, R.D., C.S.S.D., author of Lean Habits For Lifelong Weight Loss.

The downside of being low-fat: Without ample fat in your diet, your energy levels shoot up and down, you feel hungrier faster, and you might have trouble concentrating.

Where to get it: Most adults should eat at least 20 percent of their daily calories from fat (with less than 10 percent of them coming from saturated fat.) According to the American Heart Association, the majority of your intake should come from unsaturated fats, which have been shown to support heart health. Good sources of these unsaturated fats include olive oil, avocados, nut butternuts, and fish like salmon or tuna.

“Most people get more than enough fat, but if you have been stringently avoiding it or cutting calories as low as possible, adding a small amount of fat to each meal could keep you going feeling better fueled than rice cakes,” says Fear. Consider adding a quarter of an avocado to your eggs, a tablespoon of nut butter to your yogurt or oatmeal, and a drizzle of olive oil (about a tablespoon) to your vegetables before roasting them.

3. Fiber

Okay, so all carbs will give you some kind of energy boost, but some are more efficient than others. The MVP here: fiber. A type of carb we can’t digest, fiber regulates our blood sugar and appetite, in addition to supporting digestive and heart health.

What low-fiber living looks like: While whole, fiber-filled foods keep us feeling satisfied and steady for hours, refined foods that have been stripped of fiber (like white pasta or cookies) spike our blood sugar and give us a rush of energy, which is followed by a crash as our body fires into overdrive to get our blood sugar under control, explains Moskovitz. When you fall short on fiber, you may experience all-over-the-place energy levels, along with digestive issues like constipation.

Where to get it: Men should eat 38 grams of fiber per day, while women should aim for 25 grams. In addition to whole grains, fruit, and vegetables, you can also load up on fiber by eating lentils, black beans, chickpeas, and almonds.

Make sure you’re eating enough by filling at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal, says Moskovitz. (If you don’t quite meet the mark, a fiber supplement—like Miracle Fiber®, which provides five grams—can help you get there.)

4. Magnesium

The mineral magnesium supports your body’s production of ATP, the chemical form of energy it needs to keep your heart, muscles, and kidneys performing at their best, as well as helping our muscles and blood vessels relax. It also supports the production of feel-good chemicals like serotonin and interacts with certain receptors to help us get the rest we need, says Fear.

What happens when you’re low on magnesium: “Magnesium doesn’t directly make a person feel energetic, but a deficiency can certainly lead to feeling less than your best,” says Fear. People who are deficient in magnesium may experience low mood, restlessness, trouble sleeping, and muscle spasms.

Where to get it: Women and men need 320 and 420 milligrams of magnesium per day, respectively, but people who exercise frequently or take diuretic medications may need a little more.

“Spinach, nuts, and whole grains are all pretty good sources,” says Fear. Some of your highest-magnesium options are almonds, peanuts, cashews, spinach, black beans, and edamame. You can load up on magnesium from your very first meal of the day by making a smoothie with yogurt, kale or spinach, berries, almonds, and pumpkin seeds, suggests Fear. From there, consider munching on roasted pumpkin seeds or sprinkling them on yogurt, or adding spinach or kale to soups and sauces.

If you don’t eat a lot of magnesium-rich foods or have special needs, a magnesium supplement in the evening can promote quality rest and set you up for a more energized day, Fear says. (We love mixing The Vitamin Shoppe’s raspberry lemon calm magnesium powder into a glass of water after dinner.)

5. B Vitamins

All B vitamins support your metabolism and work to convert the food you eat into glucose, in addition to supporting mental and immune health.

When you don’t get enough B’s: Lacking certain B vitamins can cause issues like fatigue, low mood, and nerve problems (like tingling), depending on which you’re short on. B12 deficiency, for example, can even cause nerve damage.

Where to get them: The best sources of B vitamins are animal products like chicken, beef, eggs, and dairy, but you can find them in legumes, nuts, fortified cereals, and soy milk, too, says Moskovitz.

Related: Get Your B Vitamins Straight: A Guide To What’s What

To get your fill of the B’s, snack on nuts or seeds and incorporate lean protein into your meals. If you don’t eat meat (or at least don’t eat it often), you may have a harder time meeting your vitamin B needs. Since we need different amounts of each B vitamin, Fear recommends taking a multivitamin that contains close to 100 percent of the daily recommended amount of each. This way, you have a little help meeting your needs for each, regardless of your diet. (Plnt’s men’s and women’s whole-food multivitamins are our go-to’s.)

Non-meat-eaters may have an especially hard time getting enough of one B vitamin in particular: B12, which is important for a healthy nervous system and ability to break down fat. If you’re concerned about your B12 levels, talk to your doc about adding a supplement to your routine. (We like The Vitamin Shoppe’s black cherry B12 lozenges.)

6. Iron

Iron is crucial for the formation of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that helps transport oxygen throughout the body,” says Fear. The mineral also helps produce that chemical energy, ATP, we talked about earlier.

What low iron feels like: If you’re short on iron, you may feel fatigued, breathless on exertion, and even unusually cold, says Fear.

Where to get it: Animal-based iron sources include red meats like beef and egg yolks. Plant-based iron sources include beans and legumes, dark chocolate, spinach, and fortified cereals and breads.

Men need just eight milligrams of iron a day, while women need 18. Iron can have negative health effects when consumed in excess of our needs, so Fear recommends trying to get enough through food before you reach for a supplement. If you’re going to buy cereal, make sure it’s fortified, and add vitamin C-packed strawberries—which boost iron absorption—to your bowl.

Or, start the day with a few scrambled eggs, topped with slices of tomatoes (which are full of C). Just keep in mind that since animal-based iron is more bioavailable, plant-based eaters may need to eat a little more iron than their meat-eating counterparts. (Many supplements, like Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code Raw Iron, also contains vitamin C to boost absorption.)

If you’re concerned about low iron levels (which is much more common in women), talk to your doc about whether a supplement is right for you.

Full-Fat Foods Are ‘In’—Here’s What You Need To Know

For decades, we were told to eat low-fat everything: fat-free yogurt, skim milk, low-fat salad dressings, and even reduced-fat crackers.

It all started in the 1940s, when doctors began recommending low-fat diets for high-risk cardiac patients after a number of studies identified connections between a high-fat diet and high cholesterol. Throughout the next few decades, though, the low-fat diet recommendation spread far beyond heart patients. By the ’80s the low-fat trend had saturated the entire population—the government, doctors, food companies, and media pushed low-fat diets with the intention of preventing diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Times are a-changin’, though, as recent research—and the current sad state of health in the U.S.—calls into question whether going ‘low-fat’ was ever a good idea. Now, many nutrition experts are recommending people opt for full-fat foods, instead. (Yes, even whole milk.)

Confused? Maybe even a little resistant to the idea of buying full-fat yogurt, salad dressing, and more? You’re not alone! Here’s everything you need to know about why low-fat is ‘out’ and full-fat is ‘in’—and how to embrace the change in a healthy way.

The Problem With Low-Fat Everything

Millions of Americans adopted the low-fat way of life believing it would protect their health and keep them from gaining weight—but things didn’t quite pan out that way.

For starters, swearing off fat led many people to over-eat carbs and sugar. It’s easy to understand why: Without fat (which keeps us feeling satiated), people felt hungry soon after eating. Since fat was off the table, though, they turned to carbs and sugar, explains Rissetto. To make matters worse, people thought that a ‘low-fat’ or ‘reduced-fat’ label meant they could double or triple their portion sizes—which upped their total calorie consumption. In 1971, just 14 percent of Americans were considered obese—but by 2007 that number had more than doubled, reaching 34 percent.

Another major issue: When companies cut down on the fat in their foods (particularly processed foods) to satisfy the demand for low-fat foods, they typically replaced it with sugar to make up for lost flavor, according to Vanessa Rissetto, R.D. One of many examples: JIF’s reduced-fat peanut butter contains more sugar than its original counterpart, listing corn syrup solids and sugar as its second and third ingredients.

Related: 8 Foods That Pack A Surprising Amount Of Sugar

All this sugar not only contributed to expanding waistlines, but to a number of other concerning health trends. We now know that a diet high in sugar can increase risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. In fact, people who consume 25 percent or more of their daily calories from sugar may be twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who limit added sugar to less than 10 percent of their total calories. And while just over two percent of the population had diabetes in 1975, nearly 10 percent of Americans had it in 2012.

Beyond their role in weight gain, diabetes, and heart health issues, diets high in low-fat foods have been linked to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to a study published in Neurology.

The ‘Full-Fat’ Revolution

After decades of declining health nationwide, research has recently started to emphasize the role of fat in our diets and long-term health—and for good reason. Fat provides us with energy, helps us absorb certain nutrients, builds important cell structures, helps blood clot, and manages inflammation. Unsaturated fats, in particular, have been shown to protect heart health—while some research has connected consumption of full-fat dairy (which is higher in saturated fat) with a healthier body weight.

As of 2015, the federal government’s dietary guidelines reversed previous advice about restricting how much of our daily calories come from fat—though they do still advise we limit saturated fat. Meanwhile, more and more nutritionists and health experts now promote the importance of eating ample healthy fats, with many recommending that fats account for between 20 and 25 percent of our daily calories.

How To Ditch ‘Low-Fat’ For Good

To get the most out of the fat in your diet, there are a few guidelines nutrition experts want you to keep in mind.

First, be picky about where your fat comes from. Limit the fat you consume from processed foods (like potato chips) as much as possible, and focus on eating fat from healthy sources like nuts, avocados, salmon, and olive oil, says Rissetto.

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Ditch reduced-fat (and higher-sugar) kitchen staples like salad dressings, mayonnaise, and peanut butter for their full-fat versions. Same goes for cheese. And if you prefer the taste of full-fat milk and yogurt to the taste of the fat-free stuff, swap those back in, too, says Keri Gans, R.D.N. and author of The Small Change Diet. Plus—no more egg whites! Go ahead and enjoy full eggs, yolks and all.

Just be mindful of proper serving sizes, since these full-fat foods are a little higher in calories than their fat-free counterparts. For example, a serving of fat-free plain Greek yogurt is 100 calories, while a serving of full-fat plain Greek yogurt is 190. The additional calories from fat come with a major benefit, though: They’ll help keep you feeling full for longer!

That’s not to say you need to shun the low-fat versions of whole foods for life, though. Your top priorities are to avoid low-fat packaged foods, highly-processed foods, and added sugar, and to follow proper serving sizes in order to avoid adding extra sugar, carbs, and calories to your meals, Rissetto says. So, if you like skim milk here and there, go for it.

Related: 10 Fatty Foods That Are Good For Your Health

Aloe Isn’t Just For Sunburns: 4 Reasons To Drink It

Aloe is a lifesaver when a long day in the sun has transformed you into a lobster, so it’s no wonder it’s become such a popular ingredient in all sorts of soothing skin-care products. But if you stop into your go-to health store, you’ll most likely see aloe in another, unexpected place: the beverage aisle.

All the cool kids are chugging down aloe juice lately, for both its taste and numerous health benefits. Using aloe orally is hardly new, however—as far back as 3,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians were slurping down the plant’s sap to ease tummy issues.

The aloe juice you see on the shelf today is typically made from the two inner layers of the aloe plant: the mucus-y, gold latex that lines the insides of the leaves and the gel that fills the middle. Varieties labeled ‘whole-leaf,’ though, are made by blending and straining the entire aloe leaf to maximize the nutrient content of the juice.

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Intrigued? Read on for four reasons why aloe could make a great addition to your daily diet.

1. Aloe Is Ultra-Hydrating

Aloe is 98 percent water, so it should come as no surprise that it provides serious hydration benefits. “Because aloe is so water-dense, it’s an ideal way to prevent dehydration,” says holistic nutritionist Miriam Amselem. If you’re exercising hard or spending time outside, aloe juice makes a great companion.

2. Aloe Supports Your Belly

The aloe plant has long been used to support a healthy digestive system, says Lahana Vigliano, holistic nutritionist and owner of Thrival Nutrition. In fact, research published in the Journal of Research in Medicinal Sciences found that drinking aloe juice twice daily for eight weeks soothed discomfort in participants with GI issues.

Aloe latex also contains compounds called aloe-emodins, which have a stimulating effect and can help your gut get moving and grooving—especially when you’re feeling a little backed up. Because of aloe-emodin’s stimulating effect, though, guzzling too much aloe juice can leave you crampy and, well, quite the opposite of backed up, warns Valentina Olivadese, holistic health nutritionist at Valiant Nutrition. It can also reduce the absorption of drugs and medications, so if you’re on any prescriptions or taking antibiotics, check with your doc before sipping.

3. Aloe Helps You Glow From The Inside Out

Not only is putting aloe on your skin great—but drinking it can help your epidermis flourish, too. That’s because aloe contains vitamins A and C—two powerhouse skin ingredients. (Seriously, they’re in half the skin serums, oils, and creams you’ll find in the skin-care aisle.)

Vitamin A promotes the growth and health of cells in the body, while vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps fight the cell damage that causes aging.

4. Aloe Offers Antioxidant Power

In addition to vitamins A and C, aloe contains a few other antioxidants, including vitamin E and a compound called barbaloin. These nutrients help reduce oxidative stress caused by free radicals, which damages cell membranes and DNA, and can play a role in the development of autoimmune, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative issues.

Related: What Makes Antioxidants So Good For You, Anyway?

So not only do the vitamins and compounds in aloe contribute to a strong, glowing complexion, but they also support the integrity and resilience of your cells—and that’s all-around good news for your health.

How To Drink Aloe For Health

Ready to sip on some aloe juice? Before gulping down a bottle, check the ingredient label and make sure to pick a brand without added sugar, molasses, or high-fructose corn syrup, recommends Anselem.

From there, start with just an eight-ounce serving of juice per day to gauge how your tummy reacts—and be sure to give it time to adjust, she says. After a few days of successful sipping, you can gradually up your aloe intake to three or four eight-ounce glasses a day (any more and you might experience some stomach upset).

Want to hop on the aloe juice train? Pin this infographic!