You’re Probably Not Getting Enough Omega-3s

Given their brain, heart, eye, and other health benefits, you’d think we’d all be loading up on omega-3s left and right. Thing is, most Americans don’t—at all. Here’s how to finally up your intake and reap the benefits.

The Omega-3 Basics

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that supports healthy blood pressure and triglyceride levels, makes up much of our brain, and more.

Of the three types of omega-3s—EPA, DHA, and ALA—DHA and EPA are regarded as the most important.

“DHA and EPA are the forms of omega-3s found in abundance in the body,” says Johane Filemon, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T., owner of Wonderfully Nutritious Solutions. “Therefore, they’re the most important for consumers.” EPA and DHA are found in the foods we often think about as omega-3 sources, like fish and eggs.

Then there’s ALA. Found in plant foods like walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds, ALA can be converted into EPA and then DHA in the body. Issue is, the body’s ability to convert ALA to DHA is pretty inefficient.

How Many Omega-3s We Need

The National Institutes of Medicine recommends men and women consume 1.6 and 1.1 grams of ALA a day, respectively. (An ounce of walnuts provides more than two grams.)

Though there’s no official daily recommended intake for EPA and DHA, many experts recommend an intake of about 250 milligrams of the two fatty acids combined per day. (Just an ounce of wild-caught Atlantic salmon provides twice that.)

People with heart health issues may benefit from consuming more omega-3s, and should work with their doctor to determine the intake that’s right for them.

Eating Omega-3s

Since ALA is such an inefficient source of DHA and EPA, you can’t rely on it alone to fulfill your needs. That’s why most experts emphasize the importance of eating foods like fish and eggs, which contain DHA and EPA.

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

However, research suggests few Americans actually eat the recommended amounts of omega-3s. Unless you’re going out of your way to eat omega-3s (and EPA and DHA in particular) pretty much every day, chances are you’re falling short, too.

The Omega-6 Issue

Eating too few omega-3s isn’t our only omega issue: Eating too many omega-6 fatty acids (which is common in the standard American diet) can also offset the benefits of eating omega-3s. Omega-6s, which support growth and development, brain function, and reproductive health, and more, do contribute to our health; however, because the vegetable oils used in just about every processed food Americans eat contain omega-6s, we consume far too many.

“Studies have shown that omega-6’s, although essential, are more pro-inflammatory, while omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory,” says Filemon. “Over-consumption of omega-6 fatty acids can prevent the body from using the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.”

Research suggests that the ideal ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s consumed is less than four to one. Most Americans, though, consume a ratio closer to 20 to one. Without seriously slashing our omega-6 intake, we benefit little from the omega-3s we consume.

What’s At Stake With Omega-3 Deficiency

Consuming too few omega-3s—or too few omega-3s compared to omega-6s—comes with big consequences.

“Deficiency in DHA, specifically, can lead to a decrease in the brain’s ability to function optimally,” says Filemon. People with omega-3 deficiencies may also experience reduced vision and immunity, and even skin issues.

Low levels of omega-3s have also been associated with increased risk for certain chronic diseases, like coronary heart disease (the leading cause of death in the United States).

How To Optimize Your Omega-3 Intake

Before you even worry about eating more omega-3s, slash your omega-6 intake by avoiding processed foods—especially fast food—as much as possible. Even packaged foods marketed as ‘healthy’ often contain omega-6 oils, so keep an eye out for ingredients like soybean and sunflower oil on labels.

From there, try to eat 3.5 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards) of cooked fish, such as salmon, trout, tuna, or Pollock, twice a week. If you’re not a big enough fan of fish, supplementation is a good option.

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, load up on plant-based foods such as walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds, and also consider adding a supplement to your routine.

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Most fish oil supplements contain about 500 milligrams of EPA and DHA a pop, while vegan omega-3 supplements, which are made from algae, can provide up to a few hundred milligrams of EPA and/or DHA per serving. Ora’s Nothing Fishy Here Vegan Omega-3 Spray, for example, provides 600 milligrams of DHA.

Just talk to your doctor before taking all the omega-3s you can get your hands on—high doses may interact with certain medications.

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9 Easy Ways To Increase Your Protein Intake

You know that protein is important for all of the tissues in your body—from your skin to your quads. And if you’re looking to build strength, chisel your physique, or just perform like a beast, meeting your protein needs is nonnegotiable.

“Protein is the building block for muscle, and muscle is super-important for our metabolism, looking good, and feeling good,” says Tom Holland, C.I.S.S.N., exercise physiologist and author of Swim, Run, Bike, Eat: The Complete Guide to Fueling Your Triathlon.

To reap those muscle-related benefits, though, you may need to eat up to a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day (especially if you work out a lot). Yeah, that’s a lot of protein—but getting there can be easier than you think. Just follow these expert-approved tips and you’ll pack in all of the muscle-building macro you need, no problem.

1. Eat Protein At EVERY Meal

The best way to guarantee you’re hitting your daily protein intake goals: Make protein a part of every single meal.

Related: 7 Protein-Packed Breakfasts Trainers Love

Divide your total protein goal by how many meals and snacks you’ll eat throughout the day and plan from there. For example, if your goal is to eat 150 grams per day, that could be five 30-gram servings split amongst three meals and two snacks.

2. Shake It Up

Protein powder and ready-to-drink protein shakes make upping your protein intake incredibly easy—and can help you crush any sugar cravings that threaten to derail your eating.

Add protein powder to your morning smoothie or grab a shake as you head to work. Or, instead of hitting up the vending machine when your energy tanks mid-afternoon, swig a protein shake. “Adding protein in at that three o’clock time slot is crucial for so many people,” says Holland, who sips on a protein shake between breakfast and lunch, and again between lunch and dinner.

“You should try to get protein from real food as much as you can, but it’s often impossible for busy people trying to get in large amounts,” he says. Keeping protein supplements on-hand keeps you on-track in a pinch.

3. Go For Green Peas

If being forced to eat tons of peas as a kid still has you scarred, consider giving the little green guys a second chance. Not only do peas pack eight grams of protein per cup on their own, but pea protein is also making an appearance in all sorts of supplements and protein-packed food products, like Ripple Pea MilkStarLite Cuisine Enchiladas, and, of course, the famous Beyond Meat Burger.

Pea protein is great for anyone that doesn’t eat animal products or has issues digesting dairy proteins. Plus, it’s typically easier on the stomach than other plant proteins.

4. Sprinkle Hemp Seeds

All things hemp are trendier than ever right now, and hemp seeds are no exception. Just three tablespoons of these nutty, chewy seeds contains 10 grams of protein—and they’re super-versatile. Sprinkle a few tablespoons on your yogurt or salads, blend them into smoothies, or even grind them and add to baked goods.

5. Stir In Spirulina

Spirulina, a blue-green algae found in the ocean, is about 60 percent protein and boasts tons of antioxidants, vitamins, and iron. One tablespoon of spirulina powder contains four grams of protein. Mix a spoonful with olive oil and vinegar for salad dressing or toss a scoop into the blender when making smoothies or protein shakes. You can also find the super supplement in tablet or flake form.

6. Eat More Beans

Beans rarely receive the credit they deserve for their impressive protein (and fiber!) content. One cup of garbanzo beans or black beans, for example, offers 14 grams of protein and about just as much fiber, a nutrient most of us need more of. Like supplements and seeds, beans are easy to incorporate into your daily grub. Add a handful to your salad at lunch, snack on hummus, or swap conventional pasta for noodles made of garbanzos or black beans.

7. Gain From Grains

Get picky about the grains you eat, and you can serve up a dose of protein, too. Half a cup of amaranth, for example, contains five grams of protein, while half a cup of quinoa contains eight. (Grains like rice and corn, on the other hand, offer little protein for the carbs.)

That goes for bread, too! “Certain breads can be a surprising source of protein,” says Holland. “It’s a simple way to get more protein in, especially for kids.” Ezekial’s Sprouted Whole-Grain bread, for example, offers four grams of protein per slice from sources like lentils, spelt, and soybeans.

8. Snack On Jerky

Jerky or meat stick snacks, like Epic Bar’s Turkey Almond Cranberry bars, are an often-overlooked way to enjoy protein on the go—and make a great alternative to shakes. “Shakes don’t satisfy the need to chew,” says Holland. “Beef, chicken, and turkey jerky give you something to chew while providing protein,” says Holland.

One serving or bar can pack more than 10 grams of protein! Just look for brands labeled ‘nitrate-free’ and keep the sodium as low as possible.

9. Sip On BCAAs

The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAsleucine, isoleucine, and valine are major constituents of animal proteins like chicken and whey—and play significant roles in muscle protein synthesis.

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Powdered BCAA supplements are easy to add to your water throughout the day. Though a serving may only contain a few grams of each amino acid, it can support the muscle-building you’re trying to support by eating protein in the first place. In fact, “the leucine content of a protein is the strongest determinant of its capacity to affect muscle protein synthesis,” states a 2016 Nutrition & Metabolism review.

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How Much Do The Dates On Food Packages Really Matter?

If you stand in the middle of the grocery store confused about the difference between the expiration, ‘use by’, and ‘best by’ dates on foods, you’re not alone! Clients ask me all the time what the dates printed on foods really mean—and how much they really matter.

Before we get into it, you may be surprised to know that those confusing dates aren’t actually required to be there in the first place. While the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulates the safety of packaged foods and drugs and the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) regulates fresh produce and meats, the states decide whether or not food items must be dated somehow—and just more than half of them require it. In fact, in many parts of the U.S., the food supply isn’t dated at all. (The one exception to this: baby formula, which must display a use-by or expiration date to ensure each nutrient listed is at peak value when it’s sold.)

If there are dates on the packaged foods you pick up at the grocery store, though, here’s what they actually mean.

‘Sell By’ Dates

You typically find ‘sell by’ or ‘pull by’ dates printed on dairy and meat products. These indicate the last date a food should be sold, and help you understand how fresh it is. If stored properly, these foods should still be safe to consume a few days beyond their ‘sell by’ dates date, but they should not be on store shelves past it. If you see a product on-shelf with a ‘sell by’ or ‘pull by’ date that’s come and gone, don’t buy it!

Egg cartons may also display ‘sell by’ dates, but eggs can stay fresh for up to three to five weeks after purchase if you store them in the coldest part of your fridge.

‘Best If Used By’ Dates  

‘Best if used by’ or ‘best if used before’ highlight when a food is at its highest quality. Though still safe to eat after this date, the food may lose some of its freshness, flavor, and nutritional value.

Cans often display ‘best if used by’ dates. You’ll notice that high-acid foods—like canned tomatoes, grapefruit, and pineapple—are best used within 12 to 18 months, while more stable, lower-acid foods—like canned meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables—can last for up to two to five years if stored in a cool, dry place.

Pack Dates

Used for foods that have a longer shelf life—like anything canned or frozen—a pack date is the date a food was manufactured, processed, and packaged. It’s either written as ‘packed on,’ followed by the date in ‘month/day/year’ form or as a three-digit number (with ‘001’ being January 1 and ‘365’ being December 31).

If a food doesn’t have a ‘best by’ date, the pack date can help you figure out when it’s at its best. Most unopened canned goods can last a year from this date before starting to lose flavor and nutrient quality, while frozen foods lose some flavor and nutrition after a few months.

Related: 10 Foods Nutritionists Always Have In Their Pantries

Another place you may find ‘pack’ dates: eggs.

Expiration Dates

An expiration or ‘use by’ date indicates the last date a food should be eaten, according to its manufacturer.

Unless you freeze meat, poultry, or fish upon purchase, abide by their expiration dates. Properly refrigerated milk can keep for a few days beyond this date, but carefully observe and smell it before pouring a glass. Meanwhile, unopened yogurt can last a few weeks past its expiration date, but should be used within a few days once opened.

Closed Dates

Closed or ‘coded’ dates are used by the manufacturer to identify and locate their products. You’ll see these as a series of letters and numbers somewhere (often on the bottom) on shelf-stable cans and boxes. The jumble refers to when and where the food was manufactured. It often starts with three numbers to indicate the day packaged, followed by another number to indicate the year.

These coded dates are more for the food manufacturers than for consumers—unless, of course, in the event of a recall. When manufacturers need to recall certain foods, they often release these coded dates so consumers can identify whether their particular product may be tainted.

The Bottom Line

“For the vast majority of products out there, shelf life is based purely on quality—not safety,” says Scott Hood, director of Global Food Safety at General Mills. “If you’re Spring cleaning, it is highly likely that the dry and canned products in your pantry are safe beyond whatever date is printed on them.” Same goes for the foods in your freezer (though temperature fluctuations can negatively impact quality).

While you do need to be more careful with the foods in your fridge, your gut instinct usually means more than whatever dates are printed on them. If stored properly, a product should last beyond whatever date is listed; just pay attention to how the food looks, smells, and tastes. My mantra is “when in doubt, throw it out.” If it looks, smells, or tastes funky, ditch it.

If you have any other questions about food storage and safety, check out foodsafety.gov, a resource created by the USDA, FDA, and CDC. And know this: Changes to food packaging are coming! Recently-proposed legislation aims to clear up the confusion about the dates printed on foods and standardize the wording used.

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.

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I Tried Pegan—The ‘World’s Healthiest Diet’—For 30 Days

I love testing the latest diet trends in order to figure out what works for me—and which crazes may actually stand the test of time. So when I read about the paleo-vegan, or pegan, diet—which not only seems impossible but also claims to be the healthiest diet out there—I figured I had to give it a shot.

Hold Up, What Is Pegan?

If you’re wondering how a pegan diet is even possible, you’re justified.

At first, I just didn’t comprehend how paleo and vegan could possibly fuse together. The paleo ‘caveman’ diet emphasizes lots of proteins like meat and fish, but vegans completely avoid animal products—even eggs!

Bear with me, though—the diet actually makes a lot more sense than you might think. The brainchild of Mark Hyman, M.D., founder of The Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and one of the most prominent functional medicine experts in the country, the pegan diet combines the best of the paleo and vegan philosophies.

First, you cut out dairy, processed foods, vegetable oils, and added sugar, and carefully limit grains, legumes, starches, and alcohol. Instead, you fill your plate with plants—mostly vegetables, some healthy fats, and a little fruit. You can have meat and eggs, but instead of making them the focal point of your meal, think of them more as condiments. (Hyman also recommends they’re organic and sustainably raised.)

Make sense? Here are the Spark Notes:

  • No dairy, processed foods, sugar, or gluten
  • 75 percent plant-based
  • Lower in carbs, higher in healthy fats
  • Limited use of quality animal proteins

Getting Started on Pegan

I’ve eaten mostly whole, unprocessed foods for years now, I felt confident that I could eat like Dr. Mark Hyman for a month without much issue and decided to put pegan to the test.

However, there were certainly a few non-pegan-friendly indulgences—like milk in my coffee—I groaned about having to give up. I also worried that cutting down on animal protein would leave me unsatisfied and hungry. Not to mention, I expected nixing most packaged foods would force me to spend more time grocery shopping and cooking than usual.

On day one, I walked into my kitchen pouting that I would have to put coconut milk in my coffee instead of the real stuff. However, after adding a few tablespoons straight from the can and taking a sip, I was very pleasantly surprised by the hint of coconut flavor and slight sweetness of my coffee!

Unsure how to make creative meals that also happened to be made up of at least 75 percent plants, though, my joy didn’t last. For the first few days, I ate pretty much nothing but salads. I visited the farmers’ market for fresh greens and swapped in different nuts and seeds, but grew bored quickly. I missed Greek yogurt with nuts and berries and took the loss of cheese—my favorite snack—pretty hard.

My overall protein and calorie intake had definitely taken a hit, and I felt generally hungry and unsatisfied.

On the verge of going salad mad on day three, I hopped onto Pinterest to search for inspiration and found plenty of fresh ideas, like egg salad made with cream avocado, homemade veggie burgers, and easy grill packets of protein and veggies. Finally excited, I hit the grocery store and stocked up on staples like veggies, burgers, eggs, tons of fresh fruits and veggies, and buckets of avocados and nuts.

Pegan Progress

Within just a few days of turning it all around, I woke up feeling lighter and more focused, and noticed less achiness in my joints. I think cutting out dairy really did the trick here. I had regularly used butter, milk, cheese, and yogurt, and my pegan experience was the first time I’d truly given them the boot.

To combat my initial hunger, I ramped up the healthy fats, drizzling everything with olive oil and adding avocado, nuts, or seeds to every meal I could.

After a week or so, I found a vegan protein shake recipe for breakfast that was a total game-changer.

The Perfect Pegan Morning Shake:

The combination of the fat in the almond butter, the fiber and nutrients in the berries and greens, and—of course—the protein, kept me well-fueled all morning long.

As I shifted my snacks away from cheese to veggies, I fell in love with flavored hummus from Hope Brand and Lantana, and paired it with jicama sticks or endive ‘chips.’ I also made lots of guacamole.

Yes, I did continue to eat salads often, but I started making my own dressings with fresh herbs (like basil and chives), lemon, garlic, and even Dijon mustard to keep things interesting.

The more creative I got with my meals, the more I enjoyed myself. I threw foil packets of shrimp and summer squash on the grill for quick meals and experimented with a dozen different varieties of cauliflower rice. As the weeks continued, just two ounces of grilled chicken became really satiating—and I couldn’t believe I used to eat six ounces at a time.

The Pegan Verdict

The weeks flew by, and suddenly I found myself a month into living the pegan life. And I felt really good. My stomach? Noticeably flatter. My skin? Bright and clear. My cravings for cheese—and even my desire to have a glass of wine—diminished. I also noticed I had a real clarity of mind and much more energy than usual.

I had always been intrigued by the idea of being vegetarian or vegan, but the seeming difficulty of the task always scared me off. Without feeling extreme, the pegan diet helped me realize that I could eat a delicious, satisfying diet that incorporated plenty of veggies without having to shun meat all together.

Thing is, though, I really didn’t miss eating a lot of meat after I cut back. In fact, I came to think I’d been overeating animal protein before going pegan. Without having to spend so much effort breaking down animal proteins all day, my body felt energized.

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

I also really enjoyed finding new plant-based snacks and yummy recipes. Sugar snap peas with hummus, macadamia nuts with baby carrots, and mini eggplant ‘pizzas’ have become go-to’s.

Oh, and did I mention I lost about six pounds without even trying in those 30 days? I couldn’t believe how different I looked after such a short period of time. But as great as the added perk of weight loss, was, how I felt remained the true prize.

Though I often return to my usual eating habits (hi, cheese) and staple recipes after completing different diet experiments, I’m going to continue eating pegan-style from here on out.

Liz Josefsberg is a weight loss and wellness expert with over 15 years in the industry, as well as a member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. A mom, author, fitness enthusiast, and weight loss success story herself (65 pounds lost!), Liz consults all over the world. She loves testing every diet, exercise regimen, device, and piece of gear she can get her hands on. 

 

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Bulletproof Coffee Is The Ultimate Keto Beverage

Whether it’s with a splash of cream, some almond milk, a sprinkle of cinnamon, or even a scoop of collagen powder, we’re always looking for ways to upgrade our morning cup of Joe. Healthy coffee connoisseurs are infusing all sorts of ingredients into their mugs these days, including one that many people still can’t wrap their brains around: butter.

Self-described biohacker Dave Asprey started the butter-in-coffee trend back in 2014, coining the concoction “Bulletproof Coffee” and praising it as “a high-performance drink that has a massive impact on energy and cognitive function.”

Today, with diets like keto singing the praises of healthy fats, it’s no wonder this trend is alive and well.

Bulletproof Coffee Basics

Asprey’s Bulletproof Coffee is simply coffee blended with grass-fed butter or ghee, along with an optional serving of MCT oil, explains Amy Shapiro, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., founder of Real Nutrition in New York City. Just whip the ingredients together in your blender and enjoy the frothy, rich result.

Bulletproof Coffee Benefits

So, why exactly would you load your mug with fat? According to Shapiro, adding butter to your coffee can actually help keep your energy stable throughout the day. The fat in the butter slows down your body’s metabolism of the caffeine in your brew, so instead of feeling an adrenaline rush first thing in the morning and crashing by lunchtime, you sail through the day with steady energy.

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Plus, if you usually skip breakfast or turn to something sugary, those fat calories make a satiating way to start your day. “Because buttery coffee contains fats, but no sugar, your body uses those fats for fuel, which keeps you from getting hungry,” she says. With ample calories—but no blood sugar spike and crash—you’ll feel satisfied all morning long.

“Not to mention, many people who enjoy their coffee this way describe having a very clear head and clear thinking,” Gorin adds. (This is totally anecdotal for now, since large-scale studies have yet to confirm a boost in cognitive function after fueling with fatty coffee in the morning.)

Rules For The Road

If you’re going to put butter in your coffee, it’s essential that you stick with grass-fed, says Shapiro. Grass-fed butter contains more heart- and brain-friendly omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid that supports our ability to use fat for fuel, than the conventional stuff.

If you’re sensitive to dairy, try ghee (a.k.a. clarified butter), which is boiled down to just the pure fat, suggests Shapiro.

Asprey’s recipe calls for one to two tablespoons of grass-fed butter or one to two teaspoons of grass-fed ghee blended into your coffee.

You could stick with the butter and call it a day, or you could take your fat-filled brew a step further by adding MCT oil. Made by filtering coconut oil and/or palm oil, MCT oil contains fatty acids called medium-chain triglycerides, which are often used for energy instead of stored as body fat. Some research suggests MCTs can have a positive impact on your satiety hormones, though more research is needed to back up Asprey’s claims that they help you ‘think faster.’

Related: Why Is Everyone Talking About MCTs?

Start with a teaspoon of MCT oil and slowly work your way up to a tablespoon or two. (This stuff can do a number on your stomach if you down too much too soon.)

Is Bulletproof Coffee Right For You?

If you’re following a keto diet and your body relies on fat for energy, loading up on that much fat in one sitting makes sense. Bulletproof Coffee is best for those on a low-carb, higher-fat diet who don’t typically have breakfast or need to up their calories to meet their exercise needs.

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6 Calcium-Packed Foods That Aren’t Dairy

One of the major reasons your mom made you drink milk as a kid was for the calcium, the mineral your body needs for proper muscle, nerve, and blood function, and healthy, strong bones.

With an average glass of milk providing 300 milligrams of the calcium (30 percent of our 1,000-milligram daily needs), dairy is by far the richest source of the mineral we can put on our plates and in our glasses. Unfortunately, though, milk, cheese, and other dairy foods leave many of our stomachs in shambles.

Forgoing calcium isn’t an option if you want healthy bones and muscles, but there are non-dairy sources out there. Here are your six best options, each of which offers about 10 percent (or more!) of your daily calcium needs per serving. With a little mixing and matching, you can absolutely get your fill.

1. Figs

Looking to switch up your snacks? “Swap out your afternoon apple or banana for half a cup of dried figs, which delivers almost 250 milligrams of calcium for just 145 calories,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D. Not to mention, they contain plenty of fiber to keep you regular.

You can find dried figs in the bulk section of the grocery store year-round, and they’re delicious in both sweet and savory dishes. Add them to trail mix, stir them into yogurt, or slice them to top toast along with a spread of goat cheese, ricotta, or burrata.

 2. Canned Salmon

While three ounces of grilled salmon steak provide just 24 milligrams of calcium, an equal serving of canned salmon provides 183 milligrams of the bone-strengthening, muscle-boosting mineral (about 18 percent of your daily needs). Why the difference? Canned salmon contains the bones, which soften over time and provide an extra boost of calcium. In addition to calcium, this fish also offers heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and plenty of protein, says Elizabeth Shaw, M.S., R.D., C.L.T., C.P.T.

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

Shaw recommends using canned salmon as a protein-packed salad topper, in sandwiches, or just eating it straight out of the can with a few whole-wheat crackers.

 3. Chia Seeds

Along with healthy fats, protein, and fiber, an ounce of chia seeds also offers 179 milligrams of calcium.

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“Try adding chia seeds to your morning smoothie or afternoon fruit parfait to enjoy the benefits of a delicious and nutritious snack,” says Shaw. These babies make any recipe more satiating—and add a bit of texture to anything creamy.

4. Edamame

“With 10 percent (100 milligrams) of your daily calcium needs and almost 20 grams of muscle-building protein in one cup, edamame is a bone-boosting snack that’s ready in less than a minute,” says Rizzo, who suggests stashing a bag in the freezer to microwave up when hunger strikes.

You’ll also find roasted edamame—often in a variety of flavors—in many snack aisles these days, if you’re looking for a satisfying snack that packs some crunch. Rizzo also recommends adding edamame to salads and making veggie burgers with the beans.

5. White Beans

“While I love to encourage consumption of all varieties of plant proteins, like beans and lentils, white beans are actually one of the highest in calcium,” says Shaw. Half a cup cooked provides just shy of 100 milligrams of the mineral.

Pair white beans with your leafy greens and chicken breast for dinner, or toss a serving into a homemade soup, chili, or salad.

6. Almonds

“A quarter cup of almonds offers about 80 milligrams of calcium—a little less than 10 percent of your daily needs,” says Rizzo. Even though they’re a little lower in calcium, almonds are still a great, nutritious snack, and provide protein, healthy fats, and fiber to fill you up and kick cravings to the curb.

Related: 8 Nutrition Myths That Hurt Dietitians’ Feelings

Add almonds to homemade trail mixes, toss a handful of whole, chopped, or sliced nuts into chia seed pudding, acai smoothies, oatmeal, and salads and veggie sides, or use ground almonds as breading for chicken or fish.

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Pair Your Collagen With These Nutrients For Extra Oomph

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already pretty familiar with collagen. This protein—the most abundant in the body—is responsible for the health of your skin, nails, bones, joints, and other connective tissues.

Thing is, our diet today doesn’t provide much (if any) collagen, and our ability to produce it declines as we age. That’s why wellness warriors have been incorporating collagen supplements—which range from collagen capsules, to bone broth (which contains collagen), to just-add-water powders and teas—into their diets. Supplement fans praise the extra protein for everything from boosting their digestive health, to keeping their joints in tip-top shape, to working some serious skin-smoothing magic—and the trend only continues to grow.

Adding collagen alone to your routine can boost your health in a number of ways, but it turns out that it can do its job even better when paired with certain nutrients. Here are six of collagen’s nutritional besties; keep them in mind the next time you’re blending up a protein-packed smoothie or taking your daily supplement.

1. Vitamin A

“In order to make collagen, our bodies use certain amino acids, along with vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin C, and copper,” says dietitian Maggie Michalczyk R.D.N, creator of the website Once Upon A Pumpkin. She suggests taking collagen supplements alongside the vitamins our bodies use to make it naturally, for what she calls ‘a collagen double-whammy.’ Vitamin A, for example, not only aids in collagen production, but it also supports immune function, vision, and healthy skin. Talk about an overachiever!

You’ll find vitamin A in foods like sweet potatoes, kale, berries, and organ meats—so try adding kale or berries to your collagen smoothies! If you opt for a supplement to take alongside your collagen, Michalczyk recommends beta-carotene, which our bodies can convert into vitamin A as needed.

2. Vitamin C

“Like vitamin A, vitamin C supports collagen synthesis in the body, so combining collagen with vitamin C-rich foods or a vitamin C supplement is a win-win,” says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council. In fact, one study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found that vitamin C boosts collagen’s youth-promoting powers to support an even, glowy, and supple complexion.

Related: Which Beauty Supplement Is Right For You—Biotin Or Collagen?

Vitamin C is already added to many collagen supplement formulas (like Reserveage Collagen Replenish), but you can also just take your collagen alongside a vitamin C supplement or C-packed foods like citrus, bell-peppers, broccoli, or strawberries to reap the benefits, Axe says.

3. Zinc

Zinc is another molecule that’s required for collagen synthesis,” says Michalczyk. Problem is, older people and anyone under a lot of stress (which is far too many of us) tend to be low in the mineral.

“You can find zinc in foods like oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, spinach, organ meats, tahini, sardines, brown rice, wheat germ, and tempeh,” says Michalczyk. If these foods aren’t regulars in your diet, consider taking a multivitamin that contains zinc alongside your collagen supplement.

4. L-Arginine

“The amino acid arginine supports the normal build-up of collagen in the body, and can be especially useful for the collagen in our skin,” says Axe. One paper published in The Journal of Nutrition suggests that the collagen synthesis necessary for healing wounds depends on adequate nutrition, and particularly on adequate arginine intake.

Arginine is also known for its ability to boost production of nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes our blood vessels to increase blood flow and shuttle more oxygen, protein, and other nutrients to our heart, brain, and muscles. This increased flow supports collagen production, too, because the better the blood flow, the better and faster the body can create new cells, Axe says.

“Arginine can be found in cage-free eggs, dairy, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry, organ meats, wild-caught fish and several types of nuts and seeds,” says Axe. Consider this an invitation to add a spoonful (or two) of nut butter to your next collagen smoothie.

5. Whey Protein Powder

The downfall of collagen protein, though minor, is that unlike whey, hemp, and soy protein, collagen is not a ‘complete’ protein, meaning it does not contain all nine of the 20 essential amino acids our body needs to build proteins and function, explains dietitian Jonathan Valdez, R.D.N., owner of Genki Nutrition and spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Collagen only contains eight of the nine essential amino acids,” he says. Plus, the levels of these aminos in collagen aren’t as equally balanced as they are in protein supplements made from complete proteins.

This means that collagen protein powder isn’t ideal for optimal muscle recovery and growth after working out, though its particular amino acid ratio does come with unique benefits. “Collagen has a high concentration of glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine,” says Valdez.

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According to one study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, glycine combines with two other amino acids in the body (glutamine and cysteine) to create an antioxidant called glutathione—and antioxidants have been shown to support healthy skin by fighting off free radical damage and oxidative stress.

To reap collagen’s benefits and give your body the aminos it needs after a workout, Valdez recommends combining it with whey protein or looking for a collagen-enhanced protein powder (like Vital Proteins’ Collagen Whey Protein).

That said, collagen protein is better than no protein supplement at all when it comes to muscle-building. One study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that when older men with muscle loss took collagen peptides—a type of easy-to-digest form of the protein—while following a strength-training program, they built more muscle and lost more fat than those who took a placebo.

6. Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is found alongside collagen in the connective tissues of your body, and helps bind collagen with another protein, elastin, which gives your skin its stretch, explains Valdez. Since hyaluronic also has hydrating properties, a lack of it can lead to dull, dry, lifeless-looking skin. (That’s why you’ll find it in serums and lotions in the beauty aisle.)

Since collagen and hyaluronic acid work together to keep skin youthful, Valdez recommends combining collagen with a hyaluronic acid supplement, or magnesium, which is found in spinach, almonds, dark chocolate, avocado, and seaweed, and has been shown to boost hyaluronic acid production. If you’re feeling creative, try mixing a scoop of collagen peptide powder into mashed avocado for a powered-up version of avocado toast.

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Take A Peek Inside Dr. Axe’s Fully-Stocked Fridge And Pantry

If your kitchen is brimming with pre-packaged snacks and processed junk, your odds of going for something healthy when your stomach starts grumbling aren’t too high. But fill your fridge and pantry with fruits, vegetables, and superfoods, instead, and it becomes infinitely easier to make healthy choices when hunger strikes.

I truly believe that food is medicine, and keeping your kitchen well-stocked with nutritious ingredients is one of the most effective ways to stay on track towards better health. Here are a few of the items I always have stocked in my fridge and pantry, and why they make the cut.

In The Refrigerator


1. Kombucha

This refreshing fermented drink does double duty by promoting hydration and supporting the gut microbiome by giving the beneficial bacteria in your gut a healthy boost. Drinking kombucha regularly can boost your immune function and brain power, and even help keep your waistline in check. I drink at least one glass a day and love trying new organic and raw varieties from brands like GT’s Living Foods.

2. Blueberries

Tiny but powerful, blueberries pack a serious nutritional punch. They’re loaded with antioxidants, which fight the free radical damage and oxidative stress that have been implicated in so many chronic diseases. Blueberries also contain fiber to support regularity and curb cravings, and they’re highly versatile; I enjoy sprinkling them over some yogurt, throwing a handful into my morning smoothie, or adding them into a delicious berry salad.

3. Organic, Grass-Fed Bison

If bison meat isn’t currently in your weekly dinner rotation, there are plenty of reasons to add it. Bison is lower in fat but richer in flavor than grass-fed beef, and it’s jam-packed with protein and an array of important micronutrients such as vitamin B12, zinc, and selenium. I often simmer up some slow cooker bison chili, use it to make avocado bison burgers, or add it to stir-fries and tacos to give my dinner a healthy and flavorful twist—but you can swap it into any recipe that calls for beef!

4. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens such as kale, romaine, and spinach are staples in my diet—and for good reason. Greens contain a concentrated dose of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to optimize your health. They’re also low in calories but high in fiber, so they keep you feeling full without driving up the scale. I love to bake kale chips, sauté the greens for an easy side dish, or mix them into crustless spinach quiche.

5. Avocado

Avocados have it all: heart-healthy fats, fiber, vitamin K, and even more potassium than bananas. Interestingly enough, research has even associated eating avocados with better overall diet quality and nutrient intake, and a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. And, trust me, the potential uses for avocados extend way beyond guacamole: Use them to spice up your grilled cheese, add them to soups and salads, or whip them into a chocolate mousse to satisfy your sweet tooth, guilt-free. I also enjoy them drizzled with some olive oil and a bit of seasoning for a nutritious and delicious snack.

6. Lemon

Unfortunately, lemons are often dismissed as little more than a garnish. In reality, though, this citrus fruit offers up plenty of nutrition, including a solid dose of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and iron to ramp up immunity. I like to start my day with a refreshing cup of lemon water, make lemony-delicious protein bars, and add a squeeze of lemon to side dishes and main courses for a little extra zing.

In the Pantry

1. Collagen

As the most abundant protein in the body, collagen plays a central role in the health of your muscles, skin, bones, digestive system, and tendons. As you get older, however, collagen production slows down, allowing some undesirable changes—like wrinkles, joint pain, and saggy skin—to start popping up.

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

To support my body as I get older, I add collagen to my daily post-workout smoothie, but you can also use it to bump up the protein content of baked goods, mix it into chia pudding, or even stir a scoop into your coffee.

2. Bone Broth Protein

Bone broth is rich in gelatin, collagen, amino acids, and trace minerals, making it another great addition to your daily routine. In fact, studies show that the compounds found in bone broth can support intestinal integrity, skin health, and joint health.

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And now that bone broth protein is available in a wide range of flavored powder supplements, it’s easy to add to everything from baked treats to soups, smoothies, and shakes. I love using the powder to make pancakes for a protein-packed way to start the day.

3. Tea

Derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinesis plant, white tea, green tea, and black tea are loaded with beneficial compounds like catechins, antioxidants that combat damaging free radicals. Some research suggests that drinking tea can preserve brain health, kick up fat-burning, and even improve oral health. Since the different varieties of tea vary in both their methods of processing and the range of health benefits that they provide, be sure to switch up your cup to make the most of this amazing beverage. Gaia Herbs and Organic India are two of my favorite brands, and offer a wide array of tea varieties to mix into your weekly rotation.

4. Adaptogens

Adaptogenic herbs contain specific compounds that have been shown to bolster the body’s ability to deal with stress and help us restore and maintain a sense of balance and well-being. Many also boast other health benefits, such as enhanced energy and antioxidant protection against free radicals. Astragalus, schisandra, and ashwagandha are a few of my favorites, and can be conveniently consumed in capsule form. I also love ginseng, holy basil, licorice root, and cordycep mushrooms, which I typically use in powdered form to give broths and beverages a healthy upgrade.

5. Himalayan Pink Salt

High-quality Himalayan pink salt is an unrefined form of salt rich in a variety of trace minerals, including potassium, magnesium and calcium, which are absolutely vital to health. Thanks to its impressive nutrient content, Himalayan pink salt may aid in maintaining proper fluid balance in the body, support respiratory health, and even promote better sleep. It’s super-easy to add to your diet: Simply swap out regular refined salt for the pink stuff in your favorite dishes and recipes.

Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., D.C., C.N.S., is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, author, and member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. Dr. Axe operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites, sharing healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, and information on essential oils and natural supplements. Dr. Axe founded one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world, in Nashville, TN, and has served as a physician for many professional athletes.

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How Much Damage Is That Free Food At Work Doing To Your Diet?

It takes a colossal feat of willpower to pass on fresh bagels in the morning team meeting or holiday cupcakes made by a cube-mate. Most of us will crack under the pressure (and delicious scent) of free office treats at some point in the day, leaving us with a hefty side of empty calories. In fact, a recent study shows that your average office employee eats a whopping 1,300 extra calories at work each week—mostly from free food at catered meetings, birthday celebrations, and the like.

The study, which analyzed the diets of more than 5,000 people, found that nearly a quarter of office workers dig into food available in meetings and parties at least once a week—and that the average person racked up an extra 1,300 calories a week in doing so.

The study also found that those 1,300 calories typically came from foods high in sugar, sodium, and fat. Yikes.

Related: 9 Surprising Signs You Need To Cut Down On Sugar

“This study isn’t surprising to me,” says Seattle-based Ginger Hultin, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Candy bowls, donuts in the break room, and constant birthday party celebrations with cake and desserts are things my clients often struggle with.”

“Work can be a stressful environment and this study highlights a trend of mindless eating in the workplace,” she says. More often than not, we’re picking up these extra calories because they’re there, not because we’re hungry. Or, because we feel social pressure to join in on the splurges of our co-workers.

If the thought of 1,300 extra calories a week isn’t enough to make you rethink those frosted donuts, consider this: All that office snacking adds up to 70,000 extra calories a year—a recipe for weight gain in the long run. “We know that being overweight or obese is linked to serious health conditions, which is why these numbers are so scary,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D.

If you’ve been mixing work with salt-, sugar-, and fat-laden pleasure and want to cut back, ask yourself whether you’re truly hungry the next time you’re in a standoff with office treats, suggests Rizzo. And, when they’re available, opt for heartier spread options like yogurt, cheese sticks, nuts, or hard-boiled eggs, so you score some filling protein.

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Of course, that doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of goodies every once in a while, Rizzo says. If you’re making heart eyes at a pastry from your favorite bakery, have a taste! The key is to be mindful about what you’re choosing to indulge in, and not to go overboard.

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The Keto Diet, Explained In Under 2 Minutes

So you’ve seen the word ‘keto’ all over the internet—but how much do you know about the trendy, fat-filled diet? This video explains what keto really means, the benefits people are buzzing about, and what you need to do to make it work (hint: You can kiss carbs goodbye).

Ready? Let’s go!

Eating 75 percent of your calories from fat, 20 from protein, and just five from carbs can be tricky—especially when you’re on the go. High-fat, low-carb snacks like nuts, olives, and EAS Myoplex Keto Shakes can help make keto doable, even on your busiest days.

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9 Foods That Have More Potassium Than A Banana

Most people’s knowledge of potassium doesn’t extend further than the fact that it’s found in bananas. And that’s kind of a problem, considering being deficient in potassium puts you at risk for a number of health issues, including heart disease.

Potassium regulates our blood pressure, heart beat, muscle contractions, and neurological function, in addition to strengthening our bones, working with sodium to regulate the balance of fluids in our cells, and dilating our blood vessels to lower blood pressure. We’re supposed to log 4,700 milligrams a day, but most Americans aren’t getting nearly enough.

Suddenly motivated to add more of this mineral to your diet? Know this: Bananas are hardly your only option. Here are nine (yes, nine!) foods that pack more potassium than a banana’s 450 milligrams.

1. Soybeans

1,600 milligrams per half a cup

In addition to being a great source of protein, fiber and antioxidants, these green legumes are also jam-packed with potassium. Snack on steamed edamame or sprinkle soybeans onto your next salad.

Related: Almost No One Gets Enough Potassium—And That’s A Big Problem

2. Kidney Beans

1,300 milligrams per half a cup

Kidney beans are another legume loaded with potassium. Plus, “aside from potassium, kidney beans are a powerhouse of nutrients like fiber, folate, iron, and manganese,” says Jeanette Kimszal, R.D.N. Beans are so versatile, so you can do anything from blend them into hummus, make a three-bean salad, or just add them into a veggie side dish.

3. Dried Apricots

1,101 milligrams per half a cup

In addition to their significant potassium punch (31 percent of your daily needs), a serving of dried apricots also provides 19 percent of your daily fiber needs, almost 50 percent of your daily vitamin A needs, and 14 percent of your daily vitamin E needs, says dietitian Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., author of The Easy 5 Ingredient Healthy Cookbook and The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. Did we mention you’ll also score almost 10 grams of iron?

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Amidor likes to add dried apricots to trail mix or chop them up and add them to muffin batters or energy bites.

4. Potatoes

926 milligrams per medium potato

This versatile root vegetable is chock-full of potassium, along with a host of other vital nutrients, such as vitamin C (half your daily needs!), vitamin B6, fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants. Whether it’s morning hash browns or a baked potato with dinner, there are so many ways to enjoy spuds and up your potassium intake.

5. Prunes

699 milligrams per half a cup

The thought of prunes might instantly transport you back to being forced to drink prune juice as a kid. And it’s true, prunes are famous for helping to ease constipation—but the fruit is good for far more than that. “Prunes are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral associated with a decreased risk of bone loss and osteoporosis,” says Amidor. Research published in the journal Nutrients even suggests that eating prunes supports bone health, especially in postmenopausal women. So go ahead, snack on a few prunes—or add them to your next batch of trail mix.

6. Beet Greens

654 milligrams per half a cup of cooked greens

Beet greens are a nutritional all-star. “In half a cup, you get a nice dose of potassium, as well as protein, folate, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, zinc, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese,” says dietitian Maya Feller, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. Sauté up some greens for a side dish or use as a salad base.

7. Spinach

558 milligrams per half a cup

Popeye taught you the importance of this iron-rich, muscle-loving nutrient, but spinach boasts many other benefits, too, including healthy skin, eyes, and blood pressure. In addition to potassium, spinach also contains fiber, vitamin C, and other antioxidants, says Kimszal. “It’s quite versatile and can be added to a variety of dishes, from morning eggs to dinnertime meatballs.”

8. Zucchini

512 milligrams per medium squash

Potassium aside, “this tasty squash provides an abundance of beneficial nutrients like fiber, B6, and more than half of your daily vitamin C needs,” says Kimszal. Try spiralizing zucchini into noodles for a healthy pasta substitute, baking it into breads, or tossing it in oil and spices and roasting it.

9. Acorn Squash

500 milligrams per half a cup of baked squash

Unlike some types of squash, you can eat the entire acorn squash, making it the perfect zero-waste food! Not only does acorn squash provide about 10 percent of your daily potassium needs, but it also offers other nutrients, like vitamin A. “You can roast acorn squash and eat the skin—and if you have the time, roast the seeds as well,” says Feller. Or, stuff a squash with legumes and non-starchy veggies and roast for an easy plant-based meal.

Pin this infographic and load up your cart with potassium-rich foods:

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This Collagen Cookie Dough And Dream Bar Put Pillsbury In A Corner

Collagen is one of the biggest trends in the world of health and wellness right now—and if you think coffee and smoothies are the only way to get your fix, your mind is about to be blown.

Collagen peptides, which dissolve easily in liquids, mix well with other ingredients, and don’t have any flavor, are easy to incorporate into pretty much any recipe in the book—including desserts.

These Chocolate Chip Collagen Cookie Dough and Collagen Dream Bar recipes use simple, wholesome ingredients (think coconut oil, maple syrup, and oats) and The Vitamin Shoppe brand Collagen Peptides Powder to transform some of your favorite indulgences into feel-good treats that pack extra protein.

To whip up this eat-out-of-the-jar cookie dough, you’ll need:

– ½ cup oats, ground into flour
– ¾ cup almond flour 
– 5 scoops The Vitamin Shoppe brand Collagen Peptides Powder
– 2 Tbsp maple syrup
– ¼ cup almond milk
– ¼ cup chocolate chips

 

For these decadent ‘candy’ bars, you’ll need:

Caramel Layer
– 2 scoops The Vitamin Shoppe brand Collagen Peptides Powder 
– 2 Tbsp plnt coconut oil, melted
– 6 large pitted dates

Shortbread Layer
– 2/3 cup almond flour
– 3 Tbsp plnt coconut oil, melted
– 7 drops plnt liquid stevia

Chocolate Layer
– ¾ cup chocolate chips

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How Eating More Food Can Actually Help You Burn Fat

When people want to lose weight, the first thing they think to do is eat less. After all, we’ve long been told that shedding pounds is a simple equation of taking in fewer calories than we use. The only problem is that cutting too many calories can completely backfire on our fat loss efforts.

“Everyone wants to lose weight quickly, and many people make the mistake of being too restrictive,” explains Torey Armul, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

True fat loss generally occurs at a rate of between 0.5 and two pounds per week. Any weight lost faster than that is either coming from water weight or muscle mass—especially if you’re seriously cutting calories. “The body finds fuel where it can,” explains Armul. “When there aren’t enough calories coming in, the body can actually break down muscle tissue for energy.”

When this happens, your metabolism takes a hit, explains Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., R.D., adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and author of The Portion Teller Plan. Muscle helps you burn more calories at rest, so when you lose that lean tissue, your weight loss can screech to a halt.

Related: 11 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Metabolism

Not to mention, when you drastically cut calories, you’re more likely to feel deprived and end up overeating when you do treat yourself—which can lead to weight gain if it becomes a pattern.

Sound familiar? If so, eating more—more of the right foods, that is—may be exactly what you need to finally start seeing the results you crave and drop fat for good.

“You shouldn’t be hungry when you’re trying to lose weight, and if you are, you’re not going to sustain it,” says Young. If you feel hungry throughout the day, you’re either not eating enough of the right foods, or enough calories overall.

“You need a certain amount of calories every day just to live, breathe, move, and support every cell and function in your body,” says Armul. Eating enough of the right foods helps you work better, sleep more soundly, crush stress, and burn more calories when you work out—all good things for your waistline.

Now, there’s no way around the fact that you still need to be in a caloric deficit to shed pounds—but if you load up on foods that are high in filling nutrients but low in calories, you can achieve that calorie deficit and reach your goals without stress or calorie-counting.

Of course, certain foods will have to go. Sugary breakfast cereals, frozen pizzas, chips, and fried foods, which are high in calories but provide little nutritional value and don’t fill you up, are off the menu. Think of it this way: You want as many forkfuls (or volume) as possible for as few calories as possible—and you can’t do that eating Hot Pockets.

Now, the fun part: Fruits and vegetables, which contain lots of water and fiber (fiber is super-filling and keeps you satisfied between meals), provide tons of nutrition for very few calories—so you can load up on things like veggie-based soups, leafy greens, watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and more without the possibility of going overboard on calories.

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While one cup of your average white spaghetti costs you more than 350 calories and 70 grams of carbs (and provides less than four grams of fiber), three cups of zucchini noodles contains just 54 calories and 11 grams of carbs (and provides the same amount of fiber as the wheat noodles). The more you swap refined, processed foods for produce, the more you can eat to satisfaction while keeping your calories in check. And with all of the healthy food creations out there these days (hello, cauliflower gnocchi), it’s easier than ever to do so.

Two other things you’ll want to eat more of to shed fat: omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics.

“Fats are digested slowly, so they can keep you feeling full longer than carbohydrates—and slowly-digested nutrients and fullness are key factors in losing weight,” she says. (Not to mention, dietary omega-3s also ward off inflammation and support heart and brain health.) And probiotics? In addition to fighting inflammation and supporting regularity, some research shows the probiotics in your gut may also play a role in weight control (though more research needs to be done to fully understand the link).

Here’s how to make it happen: Start every meal with plenty of vegetables, and then incorporate healthy fats and lean proteins to fill you up and keep you feeling satisfied longer, Armul says. And whether it’s through a morning bowl of yogurt, a grilled salmon steak for dinner, or a daily supplement, get those probiotics and omega-3s in, too!

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8 Major Mistakes People Make When Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is all over the nutrition world, and as more and more of its potential benefits (like weight loss, improved digestion, decreased cravings, and minimized inflammation) get called out by experts, more and more people decide to skip breakfast and give it a try.

What’s tricky about intermittent fasting is that there are so many ways to do it—but generally, you limit the window of time during which you eat and increase the window during which you don’t. The most popular and user-friendly version is the 16:8 method, in which you eat during an eight-hour window and fast for the other 16 each day. Other common fasting protocols include Eat-Stop-Eat, which requires you to fast for a full 24 hours once or twice a week, or the 5:2 method, in which you limit food intake to just about 500 calories on two non-consecutive days a week.

Which form of intermittent fasting you choose depends on what you’re comfortable with and what best fits your lifestyle, says Brigitte Zeitlin, M.P.H., R.D., founder of BZ Nutrition. But since it’s a restrictive style of eating, it’s not optimal or safe for everyone—especially those with a history of disordered eating or certain health conditions.

If you decide to give intermittent fasting a try, save yourself some misery and maximize your potential benefit by looking out for these common mistakes.

Mistake #1: Throwing In The Towel Too Soon

Intermittent fasting isn’t easy because, duh, you’re either going all day on fewer calories than usual or going longer than usual without any food at all. No matter what flavor of fasting you choose, the eating style requires a lot of discipline—especially when you feel hungry (or straight-up hangry), says Zeitlin. But take solace in the fact that any feelings of exhaustion and irritability you notice initially should dissipate after the first week or so. If they don’t, it’s possible the method of fasting you’ve chosen doesn’t quite suit your lifestyle and you may need to reconsider your approach.

Mistake #2: Binge-Eating At Meal Time

“When our body is feeling hungry and you sit down to eat, it’s our nature to overeat because we’re so hungry,” says Zeitlin. But overloading on calories isn’t going to help you reap the benefits of fasting—especially if one of the benefits you’re after is weight loss.

If you want to lose weight, one of your simplest guiding principles is ‘fewer calories in than calories out,’ so regardless of when you eat, if you’re taking in the same number of calories as usual (or even more), you won’t drop pounds. And that’s a mistake a lot of new intermittent fasters make. “What intermittent fasting is supposed to do is decrease the amount of food you’re eating in a day,” explains Zeitlin.

Instead of piling food onto your plate when it’s finally time to eat, portion out your meals so you know exactly what you’re taking in and avoid that whole ‘eyes bigger than your stomach’ situation. If you need a little help understanding how many calories to strive for—and what macronutrients those calories should consist of—Zeitlin suggests keeping a food journal or using an app like MyFitnessPal or Fitbit to get a clear picture of how your current food intake matches up to your goals and what nutrients you may need more or less of.

And when you do sit down for your meals, take your time eating so your hunger cues have ample time to kick in and let you know if you truly need more.

Mistake #3: Not Eating Enough

“Some people don’t want to undo what they’ve just done while fasting for hours or they have the mentality that if they eat too much the next fasting period will be harder,” says Zeitlin. But consistently eating far below your calorie needs is a mistake, and kicks your body into ‘starvation mode,’ slowing your metabolism and making it that much harder to shed fat. Even if you’re restricting when you eat your food, “your body still needs an ample amount of food so your organs can function, and you can think straight and be the fantastic human that you are,” she says.

Related: I Tried 5:2 Intermittent Fasting For A Month—Here’s How It Went

If you’re feeling particularly weak, irritable, or unable to focus, it’s likely you’re not eating enough calories. Here, too, a food-tracking app can be helpful. If you want a little more hands-on advice about how many calories you need to thrive, consider consulting with a nutritionist or dietitian.

Mistake #4: Eating The Wrong Foods

When you don’t have many opportunities to eat, what you put in your mouth when you do becomes even more crucial. “It’s not just about calories, but about the quality of your nutrition and focusing on eating nutrient-dense foods,” says Kimberly Snyder, C.N., author of The Beauty Detox Solution. “500 calories of avocado will digest quite differently and have a very different effect on your overall body and metabolism than 500 calories of fried potato chips.”

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Focus on eating a healthy balance of all the macronutrients (healthy fats, lean protein, and carbs) and fiber (which will help with satiety, gas, and bloating) your body needs to function well. Zeitlin suggests loading half your plate with veggies, a quarter with lean protein (think fish, chicken, and turkey), and a quarter with healthy starches like brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potato. If you’re going to end up eating slightly fewer calories than usual, you need those calories to be as nutritious and body-serving as possible. Just because you’re eating fewer calories doesn’t mean those calories can come from sub-par sources.

Mistake #6: Forgetting To Drink

Intermittent fasting newbies often think they can’t take in anything during their fasting hours, but that’s not the case. Liquids like water, tea, and coffee are all totally okay—as long as you don’t add anything (like milk or sugar) to them, says Zeitlin. More often than not, what you think are hunger pangs are actually a sign that you’re thirsty, and staying hydrated can help you feel satiated during those fasting hours.

Mistake #7: Taking It Too Far

The 5:2 method and Eat-Stop-Eat approach to intermittent fasting are designed so that you’re only restricting calories or fasting twice a week, so turning the 5:2 method into the 4:3 or 3:3 method—or completely shunning food on three or more days a week—can be dangerous. “You’re not supposed to starve yourself,” says Zeitlin. “Our bodies require fuel to think straight, work well, converse normally, and move around—and that fuel comes from calories,” she says. Restricting your food intake too much takes a toll on your everyday life—and that’s not what fasting is all about.

Mistake #8: Forcing It

“Intermittent fasting is not necessarily the best solution for weight loss, metabolic health, and longevity for everyone,” says Snyder. So if you’re trying it and feeling miserable, it’s okay to re-evaluate whether it’s the right plan for you. Sure, some argue that our bodies can handle starving somewhat regularly, like our ancestors did thousands of years ago when they didn’t always have access to regular meals—but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you to do now.

Not all bodies are built for intermittent fasting, says Snyder. Some traditional schools of health and medicine—like Ayurveda, a mind-body medicine practice born out of India thousands of years ago—identify different types of people who have different experiences with fasting. “For example, Ayurveda’s Kapha type, who tends to carry extra fat, have a slow metabolism, and is rarely hungry in the mornings, finds it easiest,” explains Snyder. Meanwhile, Vata types, who have varying appetites, can handle fasting sometimes, but may be thrown out of balance if they try to make it a regular thing. And Pitta types, who have strong appetites and digestive fire, find adhering to intermittent fasting very difficult—and it could perpetuate major imbalance for them.

If intermittent fasting feels like a constant struggle and mental drain, ask yourself this simple question: Is it worth the reduced quality of life?

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Who’s Good: A Q&A With Orgain Founder Dr. Andrew Abraham

Whether you’re looking to bolster your wellness routine, learn more about healthy eating, or find an inspiring Fitstagram account, look no further than Who’s Good, a regular interview series from the editors of What’s Good that catches up with the best, brightest, and boldest the wellness world has to offer.

In 2008, Dr. Andrew Abraham founded Orgainthe go-to brand for clean organic shakes, nutritional powders, and more. We caught up with Abraham to learn about his inspiring journey from teenage cancer patient to medical doctor to entrepreneur, as well as the genesis of Orgain.

Thanks for joining us for Who’s Good, Dr, Abraham! To start off, can you tell us a little about your background as a doctor and wellness enthusiast?

I come from a family of physicians. Nearly everyone in my family is in the medical field, so it was instilled in me from a young age that I would also practice medicine. As a child, I enjoyed going along with my dad to see his patients, and as I grew up I continued to be intrigued by medicine, so after college, I went to medical school to become a physician.

Because of a serious battle with cancer as a teen, I started medical school with an unique interest and focus on holistic wellness and nutrition—focusing on preventative measures over simply treating an illness.

How exactly did your battle with cancer reshape your perspective of health and nutrition?

When I was 17, I found a small lump in my abdomen. I went from playing sports and feeling great to being diagnosed with aggressive sarcoma. We were praying that it was localized, but the cancer spread to my lymph nodes. I had radiation, chemotherapy, and even surgery. 

I was in and out of the hospital and my body was really getting tested. I got down to less than 100 pounds, and at that point, my doctor explained that while the cancer was dangerous, malnutrition might be the thing that would kill me. He handed me a conventional nutritional drink, and told me to drink as much as I could. My mom—God bless her—bought 14 cases of the stuff.

I drank these shakes every single day under the assumption that they were good for me. They tasted horrid, so naturally, I thought, whatever is inside of this…if it tastes this bad it has to be good for me.

In an effort to pass the time while on bed rest, I started to read all about nutrition. One book turned into five, and then 20, and then 100. I think I read about 150 books about nutrition in total. 

As I read and learned about nutrition, I came across a page in a book that listed ingredients one should never put in their body. So I checked what I’d been drinking—and was horrified to see that it contained all of those bad ingredients: high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified soy protein, artificial flavors, and preservatives.

It read more like a synthetic lab experiment than a food, which was horrifying. Because of this, I started to blend my own nutritional drinks at home, replacing those ingredients with organic whey, pea protein, and fresh fruits and veggies. Pretty soon, I was better tolerating treatments, gaining weight, and my energy improved. Essentially, I taught myself all about nutrition and wellness, and I learned along the way that treating yourself as a whole (rather than just treating the issue) is really powerful.

Related: Shop all of Orgain’s healthy products

That’s incredible! So there was absolutely nothing like what you’d made out there already?

There was nothing like it! I asked around, “Does anyone make an organic ready-to-drink shake?” The answer was no. So I decided to make one, and it caught on. 

Down the road, I was supposed to take over my dad’s family practice, but I was sure I wanted to focus on Orgain. I felt strongly that I could help many more people through Orgain than as a doctor.

Your story is so inspiring. What should people take from it, and what should they know about the intersection of nutrition and wellness?

Most people don’t know how good their body is actually designed to feel. When our bodies are properly taken care, we can really feel it. We have more energy, we can heal, we can avoid disease, and we feel better overall.

Even small changes in the right direction can improve our health. Invest in yourself and your body today, because it will pay dividends in the future. We live in a time when everything is moving more quickly and the body gets bombarded by pollution and stress. We have to do our best to counteract that. Nutrition is one major way.

Yes! Even small victories count! Now, who would benefit the most from your range of products?

A vast majority of our consumers are people who lead an active, busy lifestyle. Orgain products are for someone who wants convenience post-workout or a quick and easy breakfast or snack on the go.

It’s for anyone who wants to replace an entire meal, as well, since our shakes are a complete organic meal in a bottle. They contain protein, fat, and complex carbs. In fact, we receive lots of heartfelt letters from people who couldn’t tolerate conventional shakes and use Orgain products as a sole source of nutrition.

What sort of ingredients will customers find in your products?

We’ve got strict standards and are relentless about clean nutrition and great taste. Nearly all of our products are certified organic. We never use artificial ingredients or flavors or preservatives, and avoid sourcing proteins that have pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones. We encourage consumers to look at the label, too!

Can you tell us about your partnership with WhyHunger, and why it’s important to you?

We believe so deeply in the importance of quality nutrition, and see good nutrition as something everyone should have access to. So, we’ve partnered with NY-based nonprofit WhyHunger on a campaign called Shake Hunger, to help change the way food banks work, and increase access to healthy food. (You can support this initiative by here.)

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Vitamin D Is Hard To Find In Foods—Here Are 6 Solid Options

You’ve probably heard vitamin D affectionately called the “sunshine vitamin,” and that’s because our bodies produce the nutrient—which is crucial for bone and hair health, immune function, and insulin function, and may boost your athletic performance, mood, ability to lose weight, and more—when our skin is exposed to the sun’s UVB rays.

But while there’s plenty of sunshine to go around in the summer, relying on the sun as your primary source of vitamin D isn’t realistic all year round. UVB rays aren’t strong enough to trigger vitamin D production in the winter, plus sunscreen interferes with vitamin D production (SPF 15 blocks up to 93 percent of UVB rays), our ability to convert sunlight into vitamin D decreases with age, and most of us spend our days indoors.

The result: Research suggests about 40 percent of the U.S. population is deficient in the nutrient, and deficiency can increase your likelihood of developing osteoporosis, contribute to hair loss, affect sleep quality, and increase feelings of sadness and depression.

While the government recommends adults get 600 IUs of D per day, other organizations and experts (myself included) recommend aiming higher—anywhere from 800 to 5,000 IUs a day, depending on who you ask.

Adding vitamin D to your diet takes some extra effort because it’s not found in too many foods. You do have a few options, though. Here are the D-licious foods I recommend eating more of.

1. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, like tuna, salmon, swordfish and trout, is the best food source of vitamin D out there. Three ounces of salmon packs 447 IUs, while three ounces of swordfish packs 566 and the same amount of tuna offers 154. (FYI: Studies suggest that wild salmon contains even more vitamin D than farm-raised fish.) In addition to vitamin D, fatty fish also provides a dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your brain and heart health.

In the summer, grill up some fish on the BBQ for a light, tasty, D-packed meal. (My tangy grilled salmon is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, or try my baked Mediterranean salmon over a bed of roasted veggies.)

2. Sardines

Not only are these salty fish kind on your wallet, but they can help you boost your vitamin D intake. Just two sardines contain about 40 IUs! They’re also an excellent source of selenium, vitamin B12, calcium, and omega-3s. And since canned sardines have a long shelf life, they are easy to stock up on, so you can pack in more vitamin D in a pinch.

Chop some up with onions, fresh herbs, and a squeeze of horseradish sauce, and spread it atop toast or over a fresh salad to make for an easy lunch or light dinner.

3. Eggs

Eggs play a starring role in the Paleo, Whole30, and ketogenic diets—and for good reason! Not only do they provide vitamin A (which is good for your immune system), choline (which supports brain health), carotenoids (which support eye health), omega-3s, and protein, but they also contain about 41 IUs of vitamin D a pop. That’s a lot of nutrition for about 70 calories!

Whipped up as deviled eggs, folded into an omelet, or baked as a frittata, eggs are a versatile and valuable staple in any diet. Just make sure you eat the yolk—that’s where all of the vitamin D is.

4. Mushrooms

Like our skin, mushrooms can use sunlight to produce vitamin D, making them the only source of the nutrient you’ll find in the produce aisle. Recently, many mushroom growers have begun to treat their ‘shrooms with ultraviolet light to boost their vitamin D content. While three and a half ounces of fresh shiitake mushrooms provides about 100 IUs, the same amount of sun-dried shiitake mushrooms provides a whopping 1,600 IUs.

In addition to their meaty flavor and impressive vitamin D content, mushrooms are also good source of fiber and nutrients that support the immune system, like copper, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins (including folate). Plus, they pack about 2.2 grams of protein per cup.

Related: 7 ‘Shrooms You Should Be Eating For Major Health Benefits

I like tossing mushrooms into salads, adding them to omelets, putting them on burgers, or sautéing them up with balsamic vinegar.

5. Beef Or Calf Liver

Whether you love them or feel squeamish just thinking about them, there’s no denying that organ meats are nutrient powerhouses. Liver, in particular, is packed with protein, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and riboflavin—and offers 42 IUs of vitamin D in every three-ounce serving.

If smearing chopped liver on celery or crackers doesn’t appeal to you, try sautéing it and serving it with caramelized onions.

6. Fortified Foods

To help us meet our vitamin D needs, many foods and drinks—such as milks (both dairy and non-dairy), orange juices, cereals, and breads—are fortified with the vitamin. One cup of fortified milk, for example, offers about 400 IUs of vitamin D. Meanwhile, many almond milks, breakfast cereals, and orange juices pack somewhere around 150 IUs. Although these fortified foods shouldn’t replace natural sources of vitamin D, they can significantly boost your intake.

When Supplements Can Help

According to the National Institutes of Health, older adults, people who spend little time outside or live far from the equator, people with darker skin, and people with digestive issues are at the greatest risk for vitamin D insufficiency. Luckily, finding out whether you’re low in D is as simple your doctor doing bloodwork.

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From there, your doctor can recommend a supplement (typically vitamin D3) at a dose based on your needs.

Save this infographic to make sure you load up on vitamin D foods next time you’re at the grocery store:

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.

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10 Tasty Ways To Get Your Collagen Fix (Other Than Mixing It Into A Smoothie)

Collagen protein, which is an important building block for our hair, skin, nails, joints, tendons, and muscles—and which we produce less of as we age—is one of the hottest supplements out there right now. The trendy protein is not only known for its contribution to strong, youthful hair and skin, but also for healthy joints and even gut function.

Though you’ve probably seen collagen starring mostly in smoothies on Instagram, this simple, single-ingredient supplement is incredibly versatile, and there are so many ways you can incorporate it into your diet—especially if you buy an unflavored variety.

Ready to have some fun in the kitchen? Here are some nutrition experts’ favorite ways to get their collagen fix.

photo: @onceuponapumpkin

1. Add To Baked Goods

You can easily increase the protein in your favorite baked goods, granola bars, and desserts by adding collagen, says Chicago-based dietitian Maggie Michalczyk, R.D.N. Her dark chocolate and blackberry collagen shortbread bar recipe packs in the collagen by using two scoops of the protein in the fruit mixture that’s spread across the shortbread.

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

Since collagen is tasteless and won’t affect texture, you can add it to pretty much any baked treat recipe. (Generally, two to four scoops of collagen will mix right into the batter of whatever baked good you’re making. No one will ever know!) Another personal favorite of Michalczyk’s: collagen-boosted cupcakes. “Add collagen peptides into the cupcake batter and just bake according to package or recipe instructions.”

2. Stir Into Soups

Stirring collagen into soup bumps up its protein without affecting flavor. It works especially well in soups and stews with creamier, thicker textures, Michalczyk says.

photo: @onceuponapumpkin

3. Make Energy Bites

Energy bites are an easy, no-bake way to satisfy your sweet tooth or grab some quick fuel when you’re on the go—and collagen was practically made to be added to them. Simply add a scoop or two of collagen to your usual mix of nut butter, chia seeds, goji berries, or whatever else you put in your energy balls, mix well, and roll into bite-sized pieces. New to the energy bite game? Try Michaczyk’s recipe for pumpkin energy bites.

4. Shake Up Some Mocktails

You can add any ol’ collagen to your favorite mocktail recipe, but flavored collagen—like Vital Proteins Strawberry Lemon Collagen Beauty Water—works especially well in these tasty, guilt-free beverages. A collagen mocktail is a great option when you want to treat yourself (and get your protein in) in a healthy way but don’t feel like slugging back a thick smoothie.

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Try mixing the strawberry-lemon-flavored collagen into sparkling water and adding a few strawberry slices and a drizzle of honey for some refreshingly sweet and nutritious sips.

5. Mix Into Yogurt

Nut butter isn’t the only way you can add protein to your yogurt bowl (though it’s always a heavenly addition). “If you love a delicious parfait in the morning or as an afternoon snack, add half a scoop to one scoop of collagen to your yogurt and mix it before building your bowl,” says Jenni Bourque, R.H.N., co-founder of The Naughty Nutritionists food blog. It won’t affect the creaminess of your yogurt one bit!

photos: @vitalproteins

6. Flip Some Protein Pancakes

The internet is chock-full of protein pancake recipes, so why not swap some collagen into your favorite? Or, if you’re a fan of those Paleo pancakes made with just eggs and bananas, throw a scoop of collagen into the mix. Heck, you can even add a scoop or two to regular pancake batter to bump up the protein and make them feel a little less like a pile of empty carbs.

7. Stir Into Eggs

Scrambled eggs are already a great, nutritious breakfast. Hey, they’re already rich in protein and contain the hard-to-find nutrient choline, which is important for brain function. But, for ultimate staying power, try adding collagen to your go-to morning meal. Just add a scoop of collagen to your freshly-cracked eggs, whisk until dissolved, and scramble as usual.

8. Blend Into Dips And Condiments

To give dips and condiments—like hummus, guac, bean dip, yogurt dressing, pesto, and queso—a boost of protein and nutrition, add some collagen, recommends Mirna Sharafeddine, R.H.N., the other co-founder of The Naughty Nutritionists. Add half a scoop to a full scoop of collagen to the recipe and stir until well mixed.

photo: @sportsresearch

9. Add To Coffee

There are so many reasons why we love a good cup of coffee—from the comforting flavor, to the focus-boosting caffeine, to the brain health-bolstering antioxidants—and it also happens to be the perfect vessel for a daily dose of collagen. Sharafeddine recommends adding a scoop of collagen to your morning coffee, tea, or latte to make that mug more satiating and nutritious. To avoid clumps, stir the collagen into your beverage while gradually pouring out that scoop.

10. Make Avocado Toast

Just when you thought avocado toast couldn’t get any better…enter collagen! Mix a scoop of The Vitamin Shoppe brand Collagen Peptides powder with a mashed avocado, then spread it across two pieces of toasted whole-wheat bread. From there, top with cucumber slices, a fried egg (or hard-boiled egg crumble), and a sprinkle of paprika.

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How Often Do You Need To Eat To Keep Your Metabolism Running?

The weight-loss world likes to describe our metabolism as an engine we have to rev throughout the day in order to burn through as much gas (a.k.a. calories) as possible. We’ve long been told that we can keep our metabolism fired up by eating right when we roll out of bed, and then frequently throughout the rest of the day. But if you’ve been forcing down breakfast before the sun comes up or lugging five square meals around with you for the sake of burning more calories and shedding fat, know this: The two theories behind this common advice are a little flawed.

The Thermic Effect Of Food

The first concept used to justify the idea that frequent meals ignite your metabolism is the ‘thermic effect of food,’ or TEF. TEF describes the spike in heat production (a.k.a. calories burned) that occurs in the body for up to eight hours after every time you eat—because it takes calories to digest food! On a given day, TEF accounts for about 10 percent of the calories you burn, explains Rob Danoff, D.O., director of the family residency program at Jefferson Health Northeast in Philadelphia. Hypothetically, if you could boost that TEF by eating more often, you could have a pretty significant impact on the total number of calories you burn, and thus, your metabolism.

While this idea sounds legit in theory, most studies have found no link between meal frequency and increased TEF. In fact, after examining four separate studies (in which people split the same total caloric intake among anything from one to seven meals), the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that increasing the number of meals consumed per day did not improve resting metabolic rate or 24-hour energy expenditure.

Ultimately, how many calories you burn digesting your food depends on how many total calories you eat, and what macronutrients  (carbs, fat, protein) that food comes from, explains Spencer Nadolsky, M.D., diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine and author of The Fat Loss Prescription. “As long your total calories and macronutrients are equal, your body will burn the same number of calories in the digestion process,” he says. So, regardless of whether you eat three 500-calorie meals (say one-third protein, one-third carbs, and one-third fat), or six 250-calorie meals with the same macro breakdown, you’ll burn the same number of calories processing your grub in the end.

If you really want to boost your TEF, what you can do is increase how much of your total caloric intake comes from protein compared to carbs or fat, since research shows that protein has the highest TEF of the three macros.

‘Starvation Mode’

The other rational for eating frequent meals to keep your metabolism going is the idea that going too long without eating switches your body into ‘starvation mode,’ in which it stores calories it would otherwise burn.

While ‘starvation mode’ is, in fact, a real thing, it isn’t exactly an ever-present monster hiding in the pantry waiting to strike any time you go more than four hours without eating, says Wesley Delbridge, R.D., a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. “People think they’re going to go into starvation mode and halt their metabolism if they skip one meal, but that’s really not the case,” he says. “It takes longer than one day for the body to get to that point.”

Your body has plenty of fuel sources it can turn to—like the carbohydrates circulating as blood sugar or stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen, ketone bodies made from fats, and even protein from muscle tissue—when it doesn’t have any calories from food immediately available. Your body can last far longer than a few hours on these stored fuel sources before it has to start hoarding calories instead of burning them, he says.

In Defense Of Frequent Feedings

But wait, the plot thickens: Even though eating every few hours like clockwork doesn’t directly spike your metabolism, it might have indirect benefits that can still help you lean out.

First of all, one surefire way to boost your metabolism is to increase your muscle mass, since muscle requires a lot of calories every day to maintain. According to a review recently published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, optimal muscle gain requires loading up on protein a minimum of four times per day. So if eating more frequently throughout the day helps you get the protein you need to build muscle, it can ultimately help you rev your metabolism.

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But that’s not the only way eating regularly can help you change your body. For example, research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that people who ate frequent mini-meals were more likely to choose healthy foods and end up eating fewer calories overall than those who ate fewer, larger meals.

Why? “One of the biggest potential benefits of eating frequently is that it can help keep blood sugar levels stable,” explains Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D. “When your blood sugar dips, your brain sends you signals to eat more—so in theory, eating more frequently keeps those dips from happening, which then keeps you from eating more.”

In fact, when researchers at the Agricultural University of Athens had people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes eat either three or six meals—but the same number of total daily calories—per day, the more frequent eaters experienced improvements in glycated hemoglobin and glucose levels (signs of blood sugar control), had fewer blood sugar and insulin spikes, and reported feeling less hungry throughout the day.

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

So even if eating smaller, more frequent meals doesn’t automatically power up your metabolism, it can be a major player in your fat-loss strategy.

7 Foods That Are Good For Your Thyroid

This article was originally published in Amazing Wellness magazine.

Is your thyroid gland making you fat, sad, and tired? It’s possible. An estimated 10 million to 25 million people suffer from under-active thyroid—a condition called hypothyroidism. And some studies show even mild thyroid impairment can result in cognitive impairment.

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck; its job is to make hormones that regulate energy, metabolism, mood, heart rate, and other important functions. When it’s out of whack, symptoms can include weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, sluggish thinking, and even depression. 

If you suspect your thyroid’s not functioning properly, check in with your health care provider and support your thyroid—and overall health—with these seven foods.

1. Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc, which is critical to thyroid health and is required for the synthesis of thyroid hormones. Deficiencies of this mineral can lead to hypothyroidism. (Additionally, thyroid hormones are essential for zinc absorption, so hypothyroidism can lead to zinc deficiency.) Other good sources of zinc include oysters, crab, lobster, legumes, nuts, and sunflower seeds.

Try this: Purée raw pumpkin seeds with avocado chunks, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime for a creamy twist on guacamole.

Or, combine pumpkin seeds, canned black beans, shredded carrots, and instant oats in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped, and form into burgers; fry until crispy on the outside and cooked through.

Or, toss pumpkin seeds with melted butter or coconut oil, honey, cinnamon, and cardamom, and toast in the oven at 300°F until browned.

2. Seaweed

Seaweed is a great natural source of iodine. The thyroid requires iodine, a trace mineral, to synthesize sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone, and studies show that even mild iodine deficiencies can lead to thyroid problems. Other than iodized salt, the richest source of natural
iodine is seaweed, with kelp, kombu, and wakame having the highest amounts.

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Try this: Soak wakame seaweed in hot water for 20 minutes, then drain and combine with rice vinegar, sesame oil, grated ginger, honey or agave, and thinly sliced green onions for an easy seaweed salad.

Or, brush sheets of nori with olive oil, sprinkle with a mix of brown sugar, salt, smoked paprika, and cayenne, and pan fry for 15 seconds. Allow to cool, and cut into triangles.

Or, soak hijiki seaweed in hot water for 10 minutes, drain, and toss with a mixture of minced red onion, shredded carrots, cooked quinoa, and green peas. Drizzle with a dressing of white miso, black sesame seeds, sesame oil, and garlic.

3. Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts are an especially rich food source of selenium. The thyroid has the highest selenium content of any organ, and studies suggest that selenium deficiencies may be a primary cause of thyroid disorders. Other sources of selenium include tuna, sardines, beef, turkey, and chicken.

Try this: Combine Brazil nuts, olive oil, garlic, and a handful of arugula and basil in a food processor, and process into a savory pesto.

Or, soak Brazil nuts overnight in water, then drain and purée with fresh water, a couple of dates, and a dash of vanilla for a delicious milk alternative.

Related: I Had My Thyroid Removed—Here’s How I Stay Healthy Now

For a rich, dairy-free soup, cut sweet potatoes and onions into chunks and simmer in stock with a sprig of rosemary until soft. Then, remove and discard rosemary, add Brazil nuts, and purée until creamy and smooth.

4. Apples

Apples, like pears, plums, and citrus fruits, are rich in pectins, a gelatinous fiber that helps clear the body of heavy metals, especially mercury, which has been associated with lower levels of thyroid hormone in people with higher exposure.

Try this: Cut apples crosswise (don’t peel them—the skin is the richest source of pectin!), dredge in brown sugar, then pan-fry in coconut oil until tender. Top with shredded basil and crumbled blue cheese.

Or, spiralize an apple, lightly steam it in apple juice until tender, and serve with yogurt, hemp seeds, and blueberries as a breakfast noodle bowl.

Or, simmer chopped apples, parsnips, shallots, and sprigs of thyme in broth until tender. Remove thyme sprigs and purée until smooth, and then top with additional thyme and a dollop of crème fraîche.

5. Sardines

Sardines, like Brazil nuts, are high in selenium. They’re also rich in omega-3s, which help lower inflammation and enhance immunity, reducing the risk of Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition that’s the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Other good sources of omega-3s include salmon, walnuts, and flax seeds.

Try this: Arrange sardines in a glass casserole dish and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and broil until hot. Shower with parsley before serving.

Or, mash boneless, skinless sardines with olive oil, chopped olives, capers, coarse black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne for an easy, spreadable fish dip.

Or, simmer boneless, skinless sardines in tomato sauce with minced rosemary leaves and crushed red pepper flakes, and serve over cooked pasta with grated Asiago cheese.

6. Yogurt

Yogurt is rich in vitamin D, a key hormone-like substance that’s involved in immune system regulation. Vitamin D deficiencies are associated with increased risk of Hashimoto’s. Other good sources of D include fortified orange juice, dairy-free milks, sardines, and sunshine.

Try this: Make a lassi, a traditional Indian drink by puréeing yogurt, frozen mango chunks, and lime juice. Pour into glasses and garnish with slices of lime.

Or, purée yogurt with blackberries, honey, and grated ginger, stir in vanilla yogurt to make swirls, and spoon into Popsicle molds and freeze.

Or, dump a container of yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined strainer and refrigerate overnight. Then, stir in your favorite herbs and seasonings and use it as a substitute for sour cream.

7. Chickpeas

Chickpeas, like other beans and legumes, are high in fiber, which can help prevent or reduce constipation—a common complaint among people with thyroid disorders. Plus, chickpeas are also high in zinc, which is critical for thyroid function.

Try this: Toss cooked chick-peas with olive oil, coarse salt, and minced rosemary, spread on a baking sheet, and roast at 400 degrees until crispy for a crunchy, nut-like snack.

For a vegan tagine, cook chickpeas with sweet potatoes, onions, tomatoes, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, and broth. Stir in chopped dried figs and slivered almonds, and top with parsley. Or toss chickpeas, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower florets with olive oil, and roast at 400 degrees until tender.

Consider this your thyroid-friendly grocery list:

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5 Keto Dessert Recipes You Need In Your Life

As more and more research supports the benefits of a ketogenic diet for weight loss, cognitive function, and health conditions like type 2 diabetes, more and more people (understandably) jump on the bandwagon.

Thing is, this bandwagon has little room for traditional desserts, since getting your body into the state of ketosis—the Holy Grail of the keto diet—in which it uses fat for energy instead of glucose, requires all but eliminating sugar. And that’s a major heart-breaker if you have a sweet tooth.

Luckily, with a little kitchen creativity—and some help from natural sugar-free sweeteners like stevia and erythritol (a sugar alcohol), and grain-free flours like almond flour—you can totally have dessert without throwing yourself out of ketosis. Plus, even if you’re not on a ketogenic diet, high-fat/low-sugar treats can help you conquer your sweet tooth guilt-free while cutting down your overall intake of the addicting stuff.

Ready for a treat? Here are five of the keto dessert recipes that are breaking the internet right now.

photo: Keto Connect

1. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Honestly, does a dessert combination better than chocolate and peanut butter even exist? Keto Connect’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake is basically a keto-friendly lava cake that oozes with creamy peanut butter when you dig in. The easy-to-make cake uses unsweetened chocolate and a mix of stevia and erythritol to keep sugar low, and takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish!

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You’ll mix the cake ingredients, which also include coconut flour, eggs, butter, and cream, in a microwave-safe bowl and warm the mixture until you get a smooth, thick batter. Then you’ll pour half into a greased pan, add the peanut butter in the very center of the pan, pour in the rest of the batter, and bake at 400 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes.

Calories: 366 Fat: 32g Fiber: 6.5g  Net Carbs: 3.5g  Protein: 10g

photo: Ruled.Me

2. Easy Keto Strawberry Shortcakes

When berries—which are low in sugar and pretty much the only fruit allowed on keto—are in season, you’ve got to whip up this guilt-free dessert! Fans of the OG strawberry shortcake will love Ruled.Me’s keto-friendly recipe. The cakes themselves call for just five ingredients: eggs, cream cheese, baking powder, vanilla, and erythritol, while the filling is a simple mixture of strawberries and whipped cream. The key is to beat the egg whites until they’re nice and fluffy before mixing in the rest of your ingredients. From there, you’ll bake up 10 mini puff cakes and layer in those berries and cream.

Calories: 273 Fat: 26g Fiber: 0.5g Net Carbs: 3.9g Protein: 6.6g

photo: Sugar-Free Mom

3. Keto Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Sugar-free ice cream that’s actually satisfying (and doesn’t taste like chemicals) is hard to come by. Luckily, it’s actually pretty easy to just make your own! Sugar-Free Mom’s butter pecan ice cream recipe is low in carbs and stands up surprisingly well against your childhood favorite. You’ll need an ice cream machine or stand mixer (like a KitchenAid) to really master this recipe, which calls for butter, heavy cream, Swerve confectioner’s sweetener (a blend of erythritol and prebiotic fiber), salt, egg yolks, maple extract, sugar-free maple syrup, MCT oil, and pecans. Making the ice cream is a bit of a process—it takes about 4 hours from start to finish—but that maple-y, nutty goodness is well worth the wait.

Calories: 302 Fat: 32g Carbs: 2g Protein: 2g 

photo: The Big Man’s World

4. Coconut Chocolate Bars

Candy bars are pretty taboo on keto, but you can still get your fix with The Big Man’s World’s killer chocolate coconut crack bar recipe. (In addition to being keto-friendly, it also happens to be Paleo and vegan.) You’ll need just four ingredients: unsweetened shredded coconut, coconut oil, monk fruit-sweetened maple syrup, and stevia-sweetened chocolate chips. First, you’ll mix the shredded coconut, syrup, and coconut oil, press the mixture firmly into a parchment paper-lined pan, and stash the pan in the fridge. Once the mixture has firmed up, you’ll cut it into bars, melt your chocolate chips, and coat each bar in chocolate for a treat that rivals any sugar-laden bar out there.

Calories: 106 Fat: 11g Fiber: 2g Net Carbs: 1g Protein: 2g

photo: The Mom’s Menu

5. Keto Carrot Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

Though it features one of our favorite veggies, carrot cake doesn’t typically fall into the ‘health food’ category—unless it’s this recipe from This Mom’s Menu. (Don’t worry, there’s still cream cheese frosting.) The recipe swaps sugar for erythritol and also calls for butter, eggs, unsweetened almond milk, vanilla extract, almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ground allspice, and (of course!) carrots. First, preheat the oven to 350°F and line the bottom of a cake pan with parchment paper. While the cake cooks (about 20 minutes at 350 degrees), you’ll whip up a too-good-to-be-true frosting made with cream cheese, butter, vanilla, heavy cream, and erythritol. Just don’t forget to let the cake cool before frosting it up!

Calories: 148 Fat: 14g Fiber: 1g Net Carbs: 1g Protein: 4g

Related: Want To Try Keto? Here’s What A Healthy Day Of Eating Fat Looks Like