Written by Lacy Boggs Renner
Sometimes, even foods that seem healthy can harbor hidden problems that can affect our health and our planet. Here are seven foods you should never eat—and easy swaps to help eliminate them from your kitchen.
1. Conventional Apples
Right at the top of the “dirty dozen” list, conventional apples are sprayed with the most pesticides of almost any fruit because their growing method means they don’t develop natural pest resistance. Farm workers exposed to these pesticides have documented higher incidents of cancer, and more and more studies are linking pesticides in the body to Parkinson’s disease.
Make the switch: Buy organic apples! If you can’t afford organic, be sure to wash and peel apples before eating (although that won’t rid the fruit of all pesticides).
2. Conventionally Grown Potatoes
Think about it: A potato is a root vegetable, and plants absorb nutrients—and other junk—from the soil through their roots. That means that potatoes take up and store more of the chemical fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides that conventional farmers spray on their crops. Plus, after they are harvested, conventional potatoes are treated with another chemical to prevent them from sprouting on the shelf. Because the potato stores these toxins in its flesh, just scrubbing (or even peeling) won’t remove the pesticides and other chemicals.
Make the swap: Buy organic potatoes—even frozen ones.
3. Corn-Fed Beef
The biggest problems with corn-fed beef start with the corn, because cows evolved to eat grasses, not grains. Eating corn actually makes the cattle sick, requiring that farmers dose them with high levels of antibiotics. But feeding corn to cows isn’t just bad for the cows; it’s bad for the environment, too, as conventionally grown corn requires tons of fertilizers and pesticides that pollute the environment.
Make the swap: Buy grass-fed beef instead of corn-fed and enjoy higher levels of good nutrients like omega-3s and vitamin E, and lower levels of bad stuff like inflammatory omega-6s and saturated fat. Look for cheaper cuts on the bone to help offset the premium price for grass-fed beef.
4. Canned Tomatoes
Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, which can help guard against agressive cancers like prostate cancer. But the resin used to line tin cans to protect from corrosion by the acid in tomatoes contains bisphenol-A, or BPA, which acts as a synthetic estrogen in the body. It can disrupt the endocrine system and cause a variety of problems, like chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the acidity of tomatoes helps break down the BPA which leaches into the food, making canned tomatoes one of the biggest culprits when it comes to ingesting BPA. Scientists with the National Institutes of Health have concluded that pregnant women, infants and children are at highest risk from exposure to BPA.
Make the swap: The best solution is to look for brands sold in glass jars or Tetra Pak boxes.
5. Microwave Popcorn
Did you hear about the guy who got popcorn lung from eating more than two bags of microwave popcorn a day? It turns out that even if your popcorn habit isn’t quite as extreme, chemicals like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) found in the lining of the bag and diacetyl, which is used in the butter flavoring, could cause major health problems. Microwaving these chemicals causes them to vaporize, and then the miniature particles can make their way into your popcorn and your lungs if you inhale the steam from the bag.
Make the swap: Pop your own kernels the old fashioned way. You’ll be able to add your own natural seasonings, and as a bonus, unpopped popcorn kernels are dirt cheap.
6. Milk With rBGH
rBGH stands for recombinant bovine growth hormone, and it’s given to dairy cows to boost their milk production. But, it’s been shown to increase udder infections and even lead to pus in the milk! It also increases a hormone called insulin-like growth factor, which is thought to be linked to an increased risk for breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and early puberty.
Make the switch: Look for milk that says rBGH-free or rBST-free, or buy organic milk. You can also make the switch to a non-dairy milk.
7. Farmed Salmon
When we think of factory farming, cows or maybe chickens tend to come to mind. But, it turns out farmed salmon live in similarly horrible conditions. In addition to overcrowding, farm salmon are fed a diet of soy, poultry litter (which means chicken poop) and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. They also have been found to be contaminated with all kinds of chemicals—which probably are run off into the pools where they are farmed. Plus, waste from the salmon pens is released directly into the open ocean. The Environmental Defense Fund lists farmed salmon as an eco-worst choice.
Make the swap: Look for wild-caught Alaskan salmon. The brand Wild Catch is almost the only brand which sells canned wild salmon.
Source: © 2010 OrganicAuthority, LLC
That ice-cold lemonade may hit the spot on a 90-degree day, but it’s not doing your waistline any favors. A 20-ounce Minute Maid Lemonade contains 250 calories and 68 g of sugar. Fortunately, there are plenty of refreshing summer drinks that you can drink without guilt—and they may actually help you lose weight. Here are six ways to quench your thirst without packing on pounds.
1. Flavored Water : Staying hydrated is important when you’re trying to lose weight. Drinking plenty of water helps your body maintain proper fluid balance, stops water retention (a big cause of bloated bellies), and even increases the feeling of fullness so you eat less overall. But if plain water bores you, spruce it up with fresh herbs, citrus fruits, and other low-cal flavor enhancers (sliced cucumbers work well too) to encourage you to drink up.
Herb-Infused Spa Water
- 6 cups chilled still spring or mineral water
- 12 thin slices cucumber
- 4 thin slices lemon
- 4 sprigs (each 2 in. long) fresh mint, slightly crushed
- 2 sprigs (each 2 in. long) fresh rosemary, slightly crushed
In a 2- to 2 1/2-quart pitcher, combine water, cucumber, lemon, mint, and rosemary. Serve, or cover and chill at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours. Add ice cubes just before serving.
2. Watermelon Smoothie: As long as they’re made without sugary mixers like sherbet, smoothies are a guilt-free way to hydrate—and watermelon is a terrific, low-cal smoothie base. Not only is it a natural hydrator because of its water content, watermelon is also loaded with nutrients, including cancer-fighting lycopene, as well as an amino acid known as arginine. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that arginine can decrease body fat and increase lean muscle mass, so whip up this 56-calorie metabolism booster and sip away!
- 4 cups cubed, seeded watermelon
- 1 – 8 ounce lemon, fat-free yogurt
- 1 pint fresh strawberries, cleaned and hulled
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 5 ice cubes
In a blender or food processor, combine yogurt, watermelon, strawberries, honey and ice cubes.
3. Iced Peppermint Tea: This minty thirst quencher is super refreshing on a hot summer day, but it’s also a super-effective belly flattener. Peppermint helps your stomach process fat, ensuring even high-fat foods like burgers and steaks are digested quickly, which helps prevent bloat.
- 4 peppermint tea bags
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- lemon slice (optional)
1. In a 2 quart heatproof pitcher, pour two cups of boiling water over the tea bags.
2. Steep them for 6 minutes and then remove the tea bags.
3. Stir the honey and lemon juice into the hot tea and then add 2 cups cold water.
4. Chill and serve over ice with or without a lemon slice garnish.
5. Chill out and enjoy!
4. Pineapple Frappe: This blended pineapple drink tastes like a beach vacation in a glass—and it packs in two belly-flattening ingredients. A tablespoon of flaxseed oil adds monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), proven belly flatteners, and pineapple itself contains bromelain, an enzyme that helps break down protein, ease digestion, and banish bloat.
- 1 pineapple, peeled, chopped
- 1/4 cup mint leaves
- 12 ice cubes
- mint sprigs, to serve
Place pineapple, mint and ice in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses. Top with mint sprigs. Serve.
5. Green Tea: Besides reducing your risk of cancer and heart disease, green tea benefits the whole body and contains catechins, antioxidants that studies show can help reduce belly fat. If you sip green tea before a workout, these compounds can also increase your fat burn during aerobic exercise.
- 1 (2 inch) piece lemon zest, cut into thin slivers
- 2 teaspoons boiling water
- 2 teaspoons green tea powder
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon honey
Put lemon zest into a large cup or mug. Cover with 2 teaspoons boiling water and let steep for about 3 minutes. Stir in the green tea powder and hot water. Add the grapefruit juice, lemon juice and honey. Mix well and serve.
6. Dark Chocolate Shake: Really? Yes, really. Chocolate—especially the dark kind—helps you slim you down because it decreases appetite and lessens food cravings overall. However, at nearly 400 calories, this shake is more of a meal than a snack. Try it for a quick breakfast to keep your appetite tamed for hours.
- 4 cups milk, soy milk, rice milk or nut milk
- 2 cups ice
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/3 cup dark cocoa
- 1 teaspoon nama shoyu or soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Dark chocolate bar with or without nuts
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender, preferably a Vita-Mix.
2. Shave off chocolate as a garnish, and sprinkle on top of shake.
© 2010 OrganicAuthority, LLC
Antioxidants have gotten a lot of good press over the past decade or so. The more we learn about them the more we realize just how essential they are to good health. Among the things we know they do: fight disease, boost the immune system, nourish healthy skin, fight the effects of aging, preserve or restore heart health, increase stamina, kick start your energy, and combat cancer. Scientists are still discovering all of the things antioxidants can do.
Why do we age? And, more importantly, why do we have to look old as we age? One theory of aging that is gaining a lot of traction today is the free-radical theory of aging (FRTA). Free radicals are rogue, unstable molecules that cruise around the body. Because the free radicals are unstable and off-balance, they seek to attach themselves to more stable molecules, including the cells of your skin, your heart, your lungs, and other important body areas. But once the free radical gloms onto the healthy molecule, it creates damage. So now you no longer have a free radical, but you do have a damaged cell. Everybody has free radicals, even babies. The miraculous human body contains many built-in systems aimed at keeping these rogue molecules in check and destroying them. But sometimes the free radicals overwhelm the body’s natural defenses. This can happen when you get sick, you are overly stressed (including being tired), or you do not nourish your body properly. Many foods are just loaded with free radicals, so you could be doing some of this damage with your own fork. One other thing that can cause the free radicals to go haywire—age. As we get older, our bodies’ natural defense systems get weaker. The FRTA theory states that over time, damage from free radicals builds up and we start to look and feel old. Antioxidants are substances that take out free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules and the very name antioxidant tells us that these substances are “anti” free radicals. Antioxidants wipe out free radicals and, in so doing, may reduce the signs of aging, preserve health, boost the immune system, raise our energy level, and make us feel good.
So now you need to know: just where can I find these antioxidant free-radical-busters? Three of the best known antioxidants are vitamins A, C and E, but did you know that there are more than 4,000 compounds that have antioxidant properties in the foods that we eat? That’s right, many foods contain antioxidants. And, no, these foods are not cheeseburgers and Twinkies. There are lots of benefits to eating a healthful diet, and top on the list has to be that you get plenty of natural antioxidants. Here are the big seven antioxidant-rich foods.
All kinds of berries are good sources of antioxidants; Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and cranberries. The best way to eat these are fresh or frozen (frozen is nearly as good as fresh). Strawberry jam or strawberry flavoring doesn’t count—these have sugar and sometimes chemicals in them. Stick to natural food and eat it as close to its natural state as you can to get the maximum antioxidant punch.
Broccoli is powerhouse of a vegetable. Besides its high amount of vitamin C, it also supplies calcium, minerals and other vitamins. It can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, roasted (try roasting it in the oven), or even juiced.
Small red beans are rich in several nutrients including iron, magnesium potassium, copper, thiamin and phosphorus. Other beans with high antioxidant content are pinto, black and kidney beans.
Almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts are high in antioxidants. They’re also cholesterol-free and low in sodium. They can be high in calories, so you cannot overdo them. However, adding some nuts to salads or taking a handful of almonds as a mid-afternoon snack is a great idea that gives you an antioxidant kick.
Berries are the antioxidant king of the fruit world, but most fruits contain lots of antioxidants. Apples (eat the peel), cherries, pears, peaches, plums, red grapes, pineapple, kiwi, orange, and grapefruit are all excellent sources of antioxidants. Broccoli is the standout in the vegetable world, but nearly all veggies contain some antioxidants, with carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoe, spinach, and potatoes particularly high in antioxidant content. Remember; eat the veggies as close to natural as you can. French fries are not a good source of antioxidants!
It is hard to go wrong with a few cups of plain green every day. This super-drink contains lots of vitamin C and many other powerful disease-fighting substances. This is an antioxidant cocktail and the best part … zero calories and a boost in hydration.
Just about any whole grain (whole wheat, whole rye, brown rice) contains a lot of antioxidant goodness. Oat based products are thought to have higher amounts of antioxidants than other grains.
Copyright © Beliefnet, Inc. and/or its licensors. All rights reserved.
Our Lady of Weight Loss, the patron saint of permanent fat removal (she who guides me) is serious about weight loss, but not heavy!
She asked me to share the following 9 tips with you that she feels will surely up your energy, keep you focused, and help you to create a balanced and harmonious life.
9 Tips : Balanced & Harmonious Weight Loss
1. Balance & Harmony: Permanent weight loss is about living a balanced, harmonious life. It’s about looking at all areas of your life — physical health, mental health, relationships, finances, career, fun, creativity, spirituality, physical environment, time — and creating them so that they support you to have the best life ever.
Focusing only on weight loss will not serve you well. You may lose it; but without creating balance and harmony in all areas of your life, you will in all likelihood find it again.
We’re talking permanent weight loss here!
2. Commitment: Make a commitment to you, all of you, every aspect of you. Losing weight won’t fix what’s wrong with your finances. Gathering buckets of money won’t help you to lose weight. Commit to giving yourself the best life that you can. Do this for you and your body!
3. The Scale: Do not get hung up on the number on the scale. Do you know what the scale really measures — scientifically that is? Every object in the universe with mass attracts every other object with mass. (Some more massive than others!) Therefore, there is a pull — a force — an attraction between you and the Earth. Your bathroom scale measures gravitational pull!
Nowhere in scientific date — that I could find — does it state that the scale measures hideous fat. Nor does it say that you are bad!
4. Visioning: Envision your compelling future. What would you ultimately like your life to be like? See every detail. From where you would live, what you would do, what you are wearing! See, feel, hear and smell life! (Perhaps the honeysuckle in the air; or the slicing of a lemon.)
5. Safe Haven: Keeping your home clear of the Devil’s Food, red light items, things that send you off on a binge is essential! Making your home a safe haven affords you an opportunity to establish healthy, solid habits. It is essential that you create an environment that supports your permanent fat removal efforts; a place where you are as free as possible from excessive food thoughts.
6. De-Clutter. I’ve been both organized and disorganized, I can tell you the first way is the better way. Not only do you not waste time endlessly searching for stuff, but there’s a mysterious calm one finds in organization.
7. Be Imperfect. There is no need to be perfect. It would be unbelievably boring if we were perfect. So dry, unpleasant, Stepford Wife-like that we would seek imperfection. Revel in your imperfection.
8. Be Your Passion. Jump head first into the thing you love to do the most. Life will improve in ways you never imagined. You will be focused on what you love, feel less-stressed, be more productive, procrastinate less. The energy will shift dramatically. Can you feel it now?
9. Wake Up. You are 25 times more open to suggestion as you wake. Pay attention to what thoughts first surface, and if these first thoughts are not helpful, simply turn them around. Repeat your positive thought(s) a few times. Hold on to those good feelings for a moment or two. And then, ‘see’ the thought and imagine carrying this thought with you throughout the day.
Spread the SUNSHINE … NOT the icing!
Life & Weight Loss Success Coach
wise * fun * utterly useful
Copyright © Beliefnet, Inc. and/or its licensors.
Strawberries: Who can resist a bowl of juicy red berries? Pop ’em freely, because they’re the perfect summer snack: filling, light on calories and laden with nutrients from omega 3 fats to cancer-fighting polyphenols. Just half a cup of strawberries provides over 70 percent of your daily Vitamin C, plus fiber and an array of antioxidants.
Cherries: Sweet, juicy cherries contain just 87 calories per cup — and if you enjoy them three times weekly in place of heavier desserts, you could shed up to five pounds this summer alone, say researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. Bonus: Cherries are loaded with anthocyanins — antioxidants that University of Nebraska researchers say can help kill cancer cells and lower your liver’s production of artery-clogging cholesterol by as much as 10 percent.
Plums: “Whether eaten whole, dried or pureed into sauces, plums are low in calories and a good source of both dietary fibers and Vitamin C,” says Keller. Dried plums (also known as prunes) are the perfect grab-and-go healthy snack, and they make a rich, sweet dessert when stewed into compote. Plus, they can help suppress appetite thanks to their low glycemic load.
Squash: From pattypan to zucchini, summer squash delivers major vitamins and nutrients (including magnesium, potassium and copper), to the tune of a mere 80 calories per half cup. With its bright colors and earthy flavor, squash makes the perfect side dish to any meal. On BBQ days, toss zucchini on the grill.
Bell Peppers: “Sweet red peppers are such a good source of beta carotene, and top the charts of vegetables for that important antioxidant,” says Keller. “Green bell peppers also contain generous amounts of Vitamin C.” Peppers, like zucchini, grill up beautifully…for a rich, colorful side dish that fills you up on just a few calories.
Mangoes: Dense with antioxidants — plus protein and omega 3 fats — mangoes are a delicious, low-calorie way to bulk up meals with exotic flavor, ensuring “healthy” fare doesn’t fall into a rut. Toss on top of oatmeal or yogurt, in salads and even in stir-fries.
Parsley: This often-overlooked herb is packed with slimming potential. According to USDA researchers, each cup contains 984 micrograms of vitamin K — a nutrient that prevents fluid retention and flushes out bloat, helping women shed three pounds of excess water weight if they serve it up daily. Use parsley to add a seasonal flare to salads, and add it to dressings, mayonnaise, omelettes, rice and potato dishes, soups, burgers and other main course meals to balance and brighten their natural flavors.
Beets: “One of the real gems found in beets is the B vitamin folate,” a key nutrient for women, says Keller. “Beets help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer.” Naturally sweet and agreeably buttery, beets can turn a salad into something special without adding lots of calories
Figs: “If Mother Nature had a vote for her ultimate superfruit, figs would be it,” says Dr. Paul Gross, author of Superfruits. And why not? They pack fiber, potassium, folate and vitamins for heart health into one incredibly sweet, low-cal fruit. Having been around for 6,000 years, figs might have even kept Cleopatra trim. For a snack that sticks with you, try the black mission figs — the seeds release even more nutrients and omega fats then the flesh itself.
Blackberries: The superstars of the slimming fruits, blackberries contain just 62 calories per cup, they’re packed with six grams of appetite-taming fiber, plus they’re low in sugar, fat-free and packed with berry flavor! Even better, they’re a great source of manganese — a tough-to-find mineral that helps muscle cells soak up and burn fats — all-told, helping women shed up to 14 pounds per year, if they enjoy one cup daily, say University of Maryland researchers. Bonus: Tufts University research shows that blackberries contain 220 percent more cancer-fighting antioxidants than even broccoli.
Garlic: Sneak one clove into a meal, and your hunger pangs could disappear within 10 minutes of enjoying the first few bites, according to studies at Chicago’s Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. “The enticing odor of garlic activates the hypothalamus — your brain’s satiety center — helping you feel genuinely full long before your tummy is uncomfortably full,” says lead researcher Alan Hirsch, M.D. Bonus: A University of South Carolina study shows that eating just one clove of garlic daily can slash your risk of stomach cancer by 30 percent. Credit goes to garlic’s allicin and quercetin — powerful antioxidants that shuts down the growth of suspicious cells in the digestive tract.
Peaches: Why pass up dessert when the “stone fruits” of summer (think peaches and nectarines) can make for a guilt-free sweet treat? Tossed on the grill, peaches and nectarines get even more flavorful as the heat caramelizes their natural sugars. Top with low-fat ice cream, and you won’t feel one bit deprived.
Pluots: These tasty fruits (which are sometimes sold under the name dinosaur eggs due to their odd coloring) are actually part plum and part apricot. And if a sweet tooth is killing your efforts to stick to a healthy diet, enjoying two of them daily could be your ticket to slim. Pluots have an intense, sweet flavor and delicate, fruity scent — and when their distinctive taste and smell reach your brain’s olfactory nerve, they can shut down sugar cravings in as little as five minutes.
Watermelon: If you’re looking for a slimming snack, watermelon can’t be beat. You’d have to eat six cups of the stuff to get the calories in just half a cup of Haagen-Daz vanilla ice cream! And watermelon’s no slouch in the beauty-boosting department, either. According to Tufts University researchers, it’s loaded with lycopene — a plant compound that acts like an internal sunblock, upping your protection against damaging UV rays by as much as 46 percent, helping to prevent collagen damage and skin sagging.
Cantaloupe: According to USDA researchers, this melon is one of the most filling fruits you can find — eating just half a cup squashes hunger pangs for two hours at a stretch. An added perk: Cantaloupe is packed with vitamin A — a nutrient that a study in Environmental Nutrition says can help block the buildup of artery-clogging plaque, cutting your risk of heart disease as much as 33 percent.
Blueberries: Blueberries improve circulation and fight free-radical damage to cells and tissues, says Keller. They’re also super low-cal. Enjoy them on top of oatmeal, in whole-grain muffins, as a garnish for BBQ meats and even pureed into hamburger patties for added moistness and flavor!
Green Beans: Add half a cup of green beans to your evening meal and you’ll feel full almost twice as quickly — and stay full for three hours straight, say Stanford University researchers. Credit green beans’ appetite-controlling blend of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and fiber. And here’s the kicker: According to Stanford studies, green beans are also high in anti-inflammatory enzymes — compounds that can help flush excess water weight out of cellulite-prone areas.
Buffalo Burgers: No need to give up red meat when you’re grilling. Bison (or buffalo) burger is naturally lean, far lower in fat and calories than beef, chicken or pork. Plus, it’s a great source of iron and omega 3 fats. Try the patties open-faced with half a bun, and hold the cheese and mayo while piling on the mustard, relish and salsa.
Cherry Tomatoes: When it comes to fat-burning potential, cherry tomatoes are off the charts. According to Yale University researchers, just adding a cup of these sweet gems to your daily diet could help you shed up to three pounds every month — without making any mega diet changes. Credit goes to the cherry tomatoes’ antioxidants — including naringenin, rutin and kaempferol — which soak liver cells and fire up their ability to burn stored fat for fuel.
Kohlrabi: Never tried it? It looks like a funky cross between a cabbage and a turnip but it actually tastes vaguely like a peeled broccoli stem (only milder and sweeter). Kohlrabi is great raw — in salads and coleslaws — plus it’s delicious grilled, roasted and stir-fried. And according to Stanford University researchers, kohlrabi is rich in choline, potassium and phosphorus — nutrients that energize your central nervous system, helping you exercise harder without running out of steam.
Sweet Corn: Few things say summer like freshly picked corn on the cob. And if you love carbs — and have a tough time fighting off the urge to nosh them nonstop — then this is the veggie for you. Each cob contains three grams of appetite-taming protein, plus 138 milligrams of phenylalanine — an amino acid that quickly soaks into brain cells, where it dampens carb cravings for up to three hours. Corn is also one of nature’s top sources of lutein and zeaxanthin — antioxidants that stall the growth of vision-robbing cataracts, say Yale researchers.
Tomatillos: They look like baby green tomatoes, but they’ve actually got a tangy, citrusy flavor that goes great with a multitude of Mexican dishes, including guacamole, salsa verde, enchiladas, soups…you name it. Tomatillos contain just 11 calories each, plus they’re a great source of appetite-suppressing minerals. Feeling frazzled? Tomatillos are also rich in withanolides — plant compounds that help calm the adrenal glands, say researchers at the Swedish Herbal Institute in York, Maine.
Bartlett Pears: They’re the most popular pear world-wide, and for good reason: Penn State studies suggest eating one each morning can help you effortlessly trim 190 calories out of your daily diet — and 12 pounds off your figure every year. The act of chewing, plus the rich, satisfying flavor of these juicy pears, soothes the hypothalamus — the region of your brain that fuels powerful hunger pangs and cravings, say Stanford University researchers.
Chilies: Jalapenos, habaneros, serranos, fresnos…these mouth-watering fruits (yes, they’re fruits!) can do a lot more than just jazz up your favorite soups and chilies. According to a British research team, their active ingredient — capsaicin — can also boost your fat-burning metabolic rate by 10 percent for up to three hours at a stretch. Another fiery fact: Canadian research shows that chilies suppress appetite, helping you feel full on 200 fewer calories per meal.
Lima Beans: To lose weight at a steady clip, you need to keep your blood sugar levels low, since your body will only dip into your fat stores if its supply of easy-to-burn sugars dries up, says Larrian Gillespie, M.D., author of You’re Not Crazy, It’s Your Hormones. And that’s where lima beans come in handy. According to Australian researchers, they’re packed with fiber and plant proteins — molecules that stall carb absorption in the intestines, plus help your muscles burn blood sugar before it can sabotage your weight loss efforts. Enjoy half a cup daily, and you could speed your weight loss by 50 percent, the study authors say.
Shallots: They’re from the same family as onions, but these milder bulbs won’t bring tears to your eyes when you slice them. Despite their mild nature, shallots are loaded with sulfur — a nutrient that helps your hard-working organs burn carbs for fuel before they can be stowed away as fat, say Stanford University researchers. Sulfur is also a powerful anti-inflammatory that helps kill off H. pylori — the troublesome bacteria that causes stomach ulcers, add researchers at Albany’s State University of New York.
Grapes: Scientists measure how much foods mess with your blood sugar — and your ability to lose weight — by using a scale called the glycemic index. Lower numbers are better, and that’s where grapes really shine. According to studies at Australia’s University of Sydney, these tasty little globes have a glycemic index of 43 — and that means they’re as good at keeping your blood sugar steady and helping you lose weight as bran cereals and chick peas! Got an achy back? Purple and red grapes are loaded with resveratrol — an antioxidant that relaxes blood vessels, improving blood flow to damaged back tissues and speeding their healing, says Mark Stengler, N.D., author of The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies.
Romaine Lettuce: Fat-blasting fact: A large romaine lettuce leaf contains just one calorie — plus it’s fat-free, sodium-free and cholesterol-free! Need more incentive? Romaine is rich in folic acid — a B vitamin that can actually reverse cervical dysplasia (a precancerous condition that can progress to cervical cancer). Folic acid soaks into the cervix and forces abnormal cells to either grow normally or die, say University of Florida researchers. Use romaine to add an impressive crunch to your sandwiches — or turn the leaves into “pockets” to hold chicken, cheese, veggies and other fillings.
Kiwis: These sweet, tart treats are now showing up in even the smallest grocery stores. And nibbling one or two of them daily could help you reach your weight loss goals a whole lot sooner. That’s because kiwis are loaded with chlorophyll — a green pigment that heals and energizes the liver, increasing this organ’s ability to burn fat for fuel, says Susan M. Lark, M.D., author of Dr. Susan Lark’s Hormone Revolution. Another perk: A study published in the journal Thorax suggests that the kiwi’s healing vitamin C and chlorophyll can help cut lung troubles — like shortness of breath and wheezing during exercise — by as much as 32 percent.
Gala Apples: They start cropping up in August, and their mild, sweet flavor, thin skin, small size and resistance to bruising makes them one of the most loved apples nationwide. Munch one before lunch and another before supper, and Brazilian researchers say you could effortlessly shed three pounds of fat in one month. The reason? Apples are nature’s number one source of pectin — a soluble fiber that blocks the absorption of dietary fats. Good news: Apples are also rich in quercetin and ellagic acid — compounds that cut your liver’s production of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol by 34 percent, say researchers at the University of California at Davis.