The smell, the taste, the life-giving energy boost—coffee is all around pretty fantastic. So it’s no surprise we’ve been drinking the stuff with increasing enthusiasm since the 1400s. But beyond the obvious draws of this ancient brew, there are a slew of notable health benefits that deserve mentioning (as long as you don’t totally overdo it, of course—try not to exceed four 8-ounce cups a day (1)).
For one, coffee boosts mood, with one study finding that depression risk is about 20 percent lower among women who drink four cups of coffee per day (2). It may also increase long-term memory with as little as two cups per day (3), reduce risk of diabetes (4), protect against liver disease (5) and reduce risk of skin cancer (6).
But perhaps most importantly (at least for checking off items on your daily to-do list), coffee boosts energy and increases stamina—not only does it help you stay more alert and focused at work, but, according to one study, it helps you exercise longer if consumed one hour before a workout (7). Talk about black gold, huh?
5 Coffee Add-Ins You Should Try
While unadulterated coffee is great, some research (and anecdotal evidence from java junkies) suggests that adding in strategic ingredients can further its stamina-boosting effects. Here, we reveal five promising add-ins that will take your coffee to the next level:
Healthy Fats (Coconut or MCT Oil)
While drinking coffee black is acceptable, it can sometimes cause the jitters, or result in an energy crash when caffeine’s stimulatory effects wear off—especially when consumed on an empty stomach. That’s why it’s always ideal to drink coffee with a meal, says Jen McDaniel, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Clayton, Missouri.
But often, there’s no time for breakfast when you’re frantically running out the door for work. In that case, the next most convenient thing is to blend some healthy fats into your morning brew. This buffers the effects of caffeine on your system and provides a true source of energy for your brain and body (in the form of calories) so you avoid the crash.
Some particularly good options: Coconut oil and MCT oil, both of which contain medium-chain triglycerides, a form of fat that is more rapidly absorbed and used as an immediate source of fuel by the body (8). Medium-chain triglycerides have also been shown to reduce lactate levels in muscles when consumed before a workout, complementing coffee’s already strong stamina-boosting properties (9).
How to use them: Simply blend a tablespoon of coconut or MCT oil into a cup of hot coffee using a regular or immersion blender (you can add some unsalted grass-fed butter, too, for a dose of omega-3 fatty acids) and sip that frothy goodness down. It tastes like a rich, foamy latte and will keep you full and focused for several hours.
Almond butter—much like the oils mentioned above—provides a dose of fat and calories to help buffer the jitter-inducing effects of caffeine and sustain energy levels. It also provide a dose of protein and fiber for additional satiating and energizing power, and a generous amount of magnesium, which is essential for countless biochemical reactions in the body. Many people who are low in magnesium tend to feel lethargic, and one study found that magnesium increased exercise stamina compared to a placebo (10).
How to use it: For a frosty, coffee-based smoothie: Combine 8 ounces of chilled coffee, 1 frozen banana, and 2 tablespoons of almond butter in a blender and puree until smooth. For a creamy nut butter-based latte: Combine 8 ounces hot coffee, a splash of milk (regular or plant based), and 1-2 tablespoons of almond butter in a blender and puree until smooth.
If you tend to enjoy your coffee with sugar—or along with a sweet treat—cravings and energy lulls can result, thanks (or no thanks?) to the blood-sugar-spiking effects of refined carbs. Luckily, cinnamon has been shown to help lower blood sugar and keep it stable (11), especially when consumed with carbs or sugars, says McDaniel. So sprinkling it into your coffee may help keep energy levels even, so you can stay active and avoid that mid-afternoon urge to take a nap.
How to use it: By itself, cinnamon doesn’t mix that well into coffee. So consider blending it into your java with a splash of milk or a little coconut oil. It’s also fantastic in either of the almond butter recipes above.
Adaptogens (Ashwagandha and Maca)
Stress and coffee typically shouldn’t mix. After all, drinking coffee when you’re totally overwhelmed typically just turns you into a jittery, anxious mess. But what do you do when you’re stressed out and really need an energy boost? First, try to limit yourself to just one cup of coffee. Second, consider adding some adaptogens to your brew.
Adaptogens are natural substances (often herbs or medicinal mushrooms, many of which have roots in Ayurvedic medicine) that help the body adapt to stress. There are a bunch of different options to choose from, each of which have unique health benefits, but two that may make a worthy addition to your coffee are ashwagandha and maca root powder. In addition to keeping you on an even keel, ashwagandha may increase physical stamina (12), while maca may increase energy and improve exercise performance (13) (and—added bonus—boost libido!).
How to use them: Alone, adaptogen powders tend to be quite bitter, so pairing them with a fat and flavor-boosting ingredient can help. Try adding a serving of ashwagandha or maca powder to a cup of hot coffee along with a splash of full-fat coconut milk and teaspoon of magnesium-rich cocoa powder.
Want the satiating and stamina-boosting power of eggs without having to whip out the cast iron skillet? Then collagen is a key coffee add-in for busy mornings, delivering a hefty dose of protein (about 18 grams per serving, depending on the brand) to help you power through that morning exercise session or work presentation with ease. Bonus: collagen also promotes healthy immune and digestive system health, and improves the health and appearance of hair, nails, and skin—making it an all-around good choice.
How to use it: Collagen powder is one of those rare ingredients that dissolves perfectly in both iced and hot coffee, and has zero flavor. So simply mix it into whatever type of coffee you like—or use it as an addition to any of the suggestions above! Personally, I like to add it to my morning brew with a splash of full-fat coconut milk for added staying power.
Do you fall asleep while scrolling through Instagram? Do you have a standing lunch date with your inbox? Are you reading this on your phone while balancing a tablet on your knee and peeking at your laptop?
You, friend, may be in need of a digital detox.
While “detox” might sound a bit extreme, studies have shown that some problematic Internet usage qualifies as a behavioral addiction (1).
“All of this technology and social media is designed to be addicting. It’s like eating Oreos—you never feel fulfilled, so you keep going back for more,” says Anna Greenwald, founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based corporate wellness company On The Goga. “When we talk about digital detoxing, we talk about learning to control your technology instead of allowing the technology to control you.”
Signs You Need a Digital Detox
Not sure who’s calling the shots these days? Here are some signs that it might be time to unplug:
1. You’re Not Getting Anything Done
When used correctly, technology makes you more productive. No one, after all, is going to argue that courier pigeons are more efficient than email.
But when the workday is punctuated by a constant stream of text messages, news alerts and push notifications, productivity can suffer. Studies have shown that mobile phones significantly inhibit concentration and task completion even when users don’t interact with the device—a simple chime is enough to derail your train of thought (2).
If you’re having trouble crossing items off your to-do list, try taking some simple steps to limit cell phone distractions, advises Greenwald. Disable notifications, and create a folder for any social media apps—putting one more step between yourself and the Snapchat icon will give you time to reconsider opening it.
2. You’re Sleeping Poorly
It’s no secret that smartphones have been associated with poor sleep quality—as studies have shown time and again that more screen time leads to less shut eye (3, 4, 5).
In addition to putting near endless amounts of distracting information at your sleepy fingertips, cell phones emit something known as “blue light,” which closely resembles daylight (6). As a result, your body produces less melatonin, your brain asks for more YouTube, and you’re wide awake at 1 a.m.
Ready to get back in tune with your circadian rhythms? Start by kicking your phone off your nightstand.
“With a digital detox, it can be helpful to break things down into the smallest steps,” says Greenwald. “You don’t have to give up your phone. But what if you just plugged it in across the room? That way, you’re not up browsing Reddit all night.”
3. You’re Not Happy
Feeling blue even as you click “like”?
You’re far from alone. Scientists have known for years that social media can have a negative impact on users’ mental health (7). But a recent, more rigorous study by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health spelled it out plain and simple: the more time you spend on Facebook, the worse you feel (8).
A number of factors seem to be at work. Comparing your camping trip to your high school rival’s Bali honeymoon probably isn’t helpful. But the main danger, concluded researchers, was when users substituted empty online interactions for real-life relationships.
The next time you’re scrolling through, pause to check in with yourself. “In that moment, ask yourself, ‘Is this making me happy?’” suggests Greenwald. “If it is, keep doing it. But if not, step away. Even if you decide to stay on your phone, close out Facebook and text a loved one.”
4. Your Vision is Blurry
Too much screen time isn’t just detrimental to your mental health—it can have physical consequences, too.
Blurred vision and red, dry or itchy eyes are signs that it’s time to step away from your computer. According to The Vision Council, 59 percent of American adults report experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain (9).
In addition to reducing time spent on digital devices, The Vision Council suggests upgrading to eye wear specially designed to filter blue light, reducing overheard light to eliminate screen glare and increasing text size.
5. You’re Always Stressed About Work
Although it’s hard to believe, there was a time when once you left your office for the day, you were done working. But thanks to email, it can be easy to feel like you’re always on the clock.
If your 9-to-5 is stressing you out 24/7, it may be time to digitally detox and introduce some more mindful practices into your life.
“When you’re on your e-mail, you’re not thinking, ‘What am I doing with my hands? How am I feeling right now?’” says Greenwald. “The digital takes you so far out, and a lot of times it doesn’t take you to a positive place—it takes you to an angry e-mail from a client.”
If you’re expected to be reachable at all hours, Greenwald recommends having a frank discussion with your boss about your needs and goals. Although if you work in New York City, you may not have to—a recently proposed bill would make it illegal for businesses to require employees to answer emails or respond to calls after working hours (10).
Whatever you do, try not to stress about being stressed. Although the internet is a modern invention, the need to feel connected and prepared is natural.
“Our caveman ancestors who said, ‘Eh, we probably have enough firewood’ didn’t make it through the winter—their neurotic cousins are the ones who survived,” says Greenwald. “So stress is natural. Checking your email is natural. You just have to find a balance.”
This post was provided by our friends at Atkins.
It’s common knowledge that consuming foods that contain large amounts of sugar may cause your blood sugar to spike. But did you know other types of carbohydrates may have the same effect on blood sugar?
We call this the “hidden sugar effect.” Hidden sugars are the carbohydrates that convert to sugars in your bloodstream and become excess sugars that are stored as fats.
On average, Americans eat 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Since the human metabolism can only process about 1-2 teaspoons of sugar at a time, anything greater than that is “dumped” into fat storages, leading to excessive fat and weight gain.
Constant increases in blood sugar levels may eventually lead to pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. The majority of Americans are unaware of the hidden sugars in foods often deemed “healthy.” This is the hidden sugar effect.
For example, a medium-sized bagel may have the same impact on your blood sugar as eating 8 teaspoons of sugar (1). An Atkins chocolate peanut butter bar has the same impact as 1.5 teaspoons of sugar.
Since 50 to 60 percent of Americans’ calories come from carbohydrates (2), it is no surprise the coming generation has a shorter life expectancy than their parents (3).
By watching the quantity and quality of carbs you eat, you can prevent blood sugar spikes in your body and ultimately maintain a healthy weight.
You can find out more about the hidden sugar effect at Atkins.com.
This post was provided by our friends at Soylent.
Between early mornings and late nights, grabbing a satisfying, complete meal isn’t always easy to do. Too often, hectic schedules mean scarfing down junk food or eating fast food that leaves you wishing you ate something else, making you victim to a food void. (Food voids are when you eat something you’ll regret because you just need fuel for your busy day.)
Instead of eating half a granola bar you found in your purse for breakfast, or a wilted $10 salad for lunch, you can sip a ready-to-drink meal in a bottle—and the only thing you have to do is twist off the cap.
Look for brands that deliver 20 grams of plant-based protein, a mix of vitamins and minerals, omega-3s, and slow-burning carbs that give you energy and keep you feeling full until your next meal. And when you finally have time to enjoy a meal you want, you’ll appreciate it all the more knowing you made better choices throughout your day.
Rather than whey or casein, some ready-to-drink meals use soy as a protein source, meaning they are vegan and the protein is plant based.
Did you know soy is one of the best protein sources? It’s one of the best because of its bioavailability, meaning it’s easily absorbed by the digestive system, according to the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), a system which gauges how well certain proteins are digested. Soy protein isolate scores a highest possible score of 1.0—it’s the only plant-based protein to achieve this score!
Soy has a smooth, consistent texture, which gives you a better flavor than pea, rice or hemp protein-based drinks. In addition, ready-to-drink meals that use plant-based protein use fewer resources and less water than protein shakes with animal-based proteins.
Carbs You Can Rely On
Carbohydrates fuel your body throughout your day—and lasting energy is all about the right amount and mix of carbs. While simple carbs digest quickly and provide quick boosts of energy, complex carbs digest more slowly and provide more sustained energy.
Look for a ready-to-drink meal with an engineered mix of both types of carbs to give you sustained energy without an energy “spike” and “crash.” After all, you’ve got stuff to do.
Fat is a slow-burning, long-term energy source that helps keep you feeling satiated for longer—meaning less snacking between meals! Look for ready-to-drink meals that use sustainably-sourced sunflower oil, provide omega-3s and omega-6s, plus low saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat per serving.
Vitamins and Minerals
The FDA has identified a mix of vitamins and minerals as essential for an average person’s diet. While everybody’s dietary needs vary, vitamins and minerals assist the body in key functions and biological processes. The ready-to-drink meals you choose should provide vitamins and minerals like calcium, potassium, vitamin C and more in every bottle.
Drinking a meal replacements doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice flavor. Find meal replacements with flavors you want like rich chocolatey cacao, fruity berry taste or oaty, light flavors that won’t overwhelm your palette.
Some meal replacements offer caffeine with the added bonus of l-theanine. L-theanine is an amino acid typically found in green tea and shown to have calming effects when paired with caffeine—so you can enjoy the kick of coffee and cut down on the jitters.
There are already a million things on your plate, why spend time worrying about your next meal? Next time you’re at the edge of a food void, just grab a ready-to-drink meal replacement and get on with your day.
Maybe you’ve heard of probiotics, those strains of good bacteria that live in your gut and may help your health? Well, prebiotics may also be a key to everything from maintaining a healthy weight to toughening up your immune system. Here’s what the science says.
What Are Prebiotics and How Do They Work?
Dietitians and health experts use the term “microflora” to summarize the vast, complex, and important world of bacteria living in your digestive system. “Flora” is an interesting way to put it, because in many ways the mix of good and bad bacteria in your gut is like a garden. If good bacteria, also known as “probiotics,” are the most beneficial plants in your garden, then “prebiotics” are plant food. Prebiotics help probiotics flourish by way of fiber, inulin (a form of soluble fiber), and resistant starches.
And like a garden, the more well-fed your microflora is, the more likely you are to reap the benefits associated with probiotics: a healthier immune system, a less worrisome digestive system, and less of a chance you have to go on Nutrisystem.
The good news is that you can find prebiotics in a host of common foods that also happen to be super healthful for you anyway.
The 8 Best Prebiotic Foods and Their Benefits
Leeks, Onions, and Garlic
These foods, all considered “alliums,” are good sources of the soluble fiber inulin. Consuming inulin as part of a high-fiber diet may help prevent colon cancer, lower the risk of cardiac disease, and may encourage a healthy weight, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Nutrients (1). Fair warning: Eat these foods to increase your inulin levels after your next big work meeting or date.
Unprocessed grains are full of the non-digestive fibers that good gut bacteria love. But note the world “unprocessed.” Sugary breakfast cereals, white bread, and pasta made from refined flour don’t count. Though more research is needed to determine how whole grains work as a prebiotic, a 2015 study published in Healthcare found that barley, rye, wheat, corn, rice, and oats were all contributed to feelings of fullness, otherwise known as “satiety” (2).
Everyone’s favorite yellow fruit (okay, fine, there aren’t that many) is a good source of fiber, but also fructooligosaccharide—a really long word for a beneficial form of natural sugar. Back in 2009, Spanish researchers determined that people who ate diets high in that really long word had less constipation than those who didn’t (3).
What you see bundled in the grocery store are actually the stalks of a small shrub. They’re high in the prebiotic inulin, but they’re also a rich source of disease-fighting antioxidants, according to a 2010 study by Indian scientists (4).
Sick of eating asparagus steamed? Take a sharp peeler to the stalks and cut thin ribbons into a bowl. Mix with fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a little Parmesan for a fresh-tasting raw salad.
This spiky vegetable has a fibrous heart that’s also high in prebiotic inulin. Beneficial changes in gut bacteria may also improve sleep, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience (5). The research, which was conducted on rats, found that rodents who ate a diet high in prebiotics may lower stress levels associated with poor sleep. More studies are required to prove an effect in humans.
You know these pods of deliciousness as a pop-and-eat appetizer at Japanese restaurants. Well, edamame is actually a soybean and soybeans themselves are a high-fiber food that’s been classified as a prebiotic. Find a bag in the freezer aisle, steam the beans at home, and sprinkle with sea salt. Or try them shelled in your next stir-fry.
When Should You Take Prebiotic Supplements?
“Before diving into the prebiotic supplement game, look at your own diet and foods that provide naturally occurring prebiotics, like inulin, pectin and fiber, for example,” says Chris Mohr, a registered dietitian and co-owner of Mohr Results. “The fiber and other nutrients within these foods offer the ‘plant food’ that your flora needs to thrive,” Mohr says.
Still interested in a supplement? Talk to a dietitian before proceeding.
You might know that gluten is lurking in all kinds of foods, from sauces and condiments, to lunch meats, to alcohol. You may not be surprised it’s in clays like Play-Doh, or routinely tags along with gluten-free grains like oats, but did you know there can be gluten sources in beauty products, supplements and sometimes even your toothpaste?
Gluten is not absorbed through the skin, according to the Mayo Clinic (1). But just a quick peek at one of the online forums for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity shows that many people get relief from their symptoms, such as gastrointestinal issues, skin rashes and brain fog, by eliminating all gluten-containing products, including topical ones (2).
Unfortunately, there is no way other than trial and error to determine a person’s tolerance level for gluten in topical products, says Dr. Amy Burkhart, a board-certified physician and registered dietitian based in Napa, California. “The amount needed to elicit a reaction varies from person to person,” she says. “Most people with celiac disease will react to any exposure over 20 parts per million (less than the size of a crumb), but some will react to even less.”
The range of reactivity for people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity varies greatly, she adds. “It can be equivalent to that of a celiac, or they may be far less sensitive and be able to tolerate occasional exposures.”
5 Unexpected Sources of Gluten
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it’s best to read all labels diligently. Here are a few items to watch out for that might contain hidden sources of gluten:
Where is gluten lurking in sunscreen, you ask? Tocopherols, vitamin E, and sometimes even the fragrances are derived from wheat. Thankfully, you can find sun protection that says “gluten-free” right on the label. But while some natural brands do not put any gluten-containing ingredients in their products and do their best to clean off the machinery in the manufacturing process, cross-contamination can happen, as some facilities are shared with products that contain gluten.
Toothpastes, dental floss, and mouthwash mostly do not contain gluten these days, but that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Problematic ingredients to watch out for include vitamin E (from wheat germ), amino peptide complex, Hordeum vulgare (a fancy term for barley), phytosphingosine extract, Triticum vulgare (wheat) germ oil, or any derivatives of wheat, barley or even oats that might have been cross-contaminated. If you do find you are sensitive to a product, see if it contains any of these ingredients. While you’re at it, you might also want to avoid additives like caramel coloring, which has been linked to increased cancer risk (3), or sodium laurel sulfate, a potential irritant.
If you find your symptoms go away when you’ve switched soaps, does that mean there was gluten in the products you were using? Perhaps indirectly. From commercial laundry detergents to shampoos, many soaps are gluten free. However, gluten-free ingredients, such as Avena sativa (common oats), can easily get wheat particles mixed in with them. (Oats and corn are often processed on the same equipment as wheat.) Other soaps may contain barley, rye, or wheat germ. Just don’t confuse lye with rye. Lye is a metal hydroxide and not related to grains.
Medications and Supplements
Unlike foodstuffs, medications and supplements do not fall under the same scrutiny when it comes to ingredient listings and processing guidelines. While the active compounds in pills, tablets, and liquid caps are often naturally gluten-free, the fillers and binders may contain gluten. Common additives include starches sourced from wheat and gluten-contaminated corn.
Look at the ingredients on a common bottle of Ibuprofen, and you’ll often see corn starch, pregelantinized starch, and pharmaceutical glaze, all which could contain gluten. You might find dextrins or dextrates in other over-the-counter medications, vitamins or supplements, where gluten can also be lurking. Other ingredients to avoid include hydrolyzed vegetable protein and textured plant protein. Fillers and binders that do not contain gluten include lactose, titanium dioxide, gelatin, mannitol, magnesium stearate, and xylitol.
If the label does not explicitly state “certified gluten-free,” it’s best to err on the side of caution and call the manufacturer. Keep in mind that if you switch from a name-brand prescription to a generic drug, the ingredients are not always the same. Assessing the new formulation is important to ensure you avoid getting “glutened.”
We’ve already said that some people are just more sensitive, but makeup can easily be ingested from being on your lips, around your mouth, or on your hands. As mentioned above, vitamin E is often derived from wheat germ, as are ingredients like tocopherol, glusol, and even something called pentacure, which can be found in anti-aging preparations (4). Again, if you’re unsure whether a product you love is gluten-free, you can check the company’s website or contact them to confirm their practices. You should also choose products that are free of added fragrance, because that too can have gluten particles in it.
Luckily, there are more and more compassionate companies that don’t include wheat, gluten or gluten sources in their products. We all want to feel fabulous. Get wise to the red flags, then fill your life with reaction-free items that will help you look and feel your best.
Got an issue with gluten? You’re not alone.
It’s estimated that up to 6 percent of the population suffers from some sort of gluten sensitivity, according to studies published in the journal Clinical Nutrition (1). Gluten is a protein found in some grains, including wheat, barley and rye.
On one end of the spectrum are people with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which eating gluten wreaks havoc on the body. It can cause everything from intestinal damage to anemia and osteoporosis (2).
Celiac disease should not be confused with a wheat allergy, or an extreme reaction to foods containing wheat (3). In some cases, a wheat allergy can lead to a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis, which can cause swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing.
On the other side of the equation are those who experience non-celiac gluten sensitivity. If you’re in this camp, your doctor may have ruled out celiac disease and a wheat allergy, but you still deal with uncomfortable digestive issues after eating gluten.
Think you may need to go gluten-free? Let’s take a closer look at what gluten is and the common signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance.
What Is Gluten Intolerance?
If you’re gluten intolerant, your body reacts to the proteins found in gluten-containing foods in a way that can cause stomach, skin and other issues.
It’s not quite the same reaction as someone who has celiac disease or a wheat allergy, says Neal Malik, a registered dietitian nutritionist and the chair of the Department of Nutrition and Basic Sciences at Bastyr University.
Folks with those conditions experience a scary-sounding “systemic immune response” when they eat gluten, he says. “The body overreacts to something it has been exposed to and begins attacking itself,” he says. “In the case of celiac disease, the body’s immune system begins attacking healthy cells in the small intestine, causing damage to those cells. With a wheat allergy, there may be no damage to the small intestine, but instead a more generalized, whole-body response.”
People with gluten intolerance don’t have quite as extreme a reaction, he says.
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
While most of the population feels fine after feasting on bagels, pizza and other gluten-rich foods, people who are gluten intolerant may experience a range of not-so-fun symptoms, including:
- Abdominal pain
“To quote the Roman philosopher Lucretius, ‘what food is to one may be bitter poison to another,’” says Malik.
Then there’s what researchers call “systemic manifestations” like headaches, joint and muscle pain, leg or arm numbness, and chronic fatigue (1). There’s even a gluten-induced condition called “foggy mind.”
People with gluten intolerance may also experience skin symptoms like acne, rashes and hives. Mouth ulcers may also be a problem, says Malik. “There is also a condition known as dermatitis herpetiformis that can occur,” he says. “Symptoms include the formation of watery blisters and pimples on the skin.”
If you’re gluten intolerant, you may experience discomfort anywhere from several hours to several days after consuming a food containing the offending protein. “This makes it all the more challenging for individuals and health professionals to discover the underlying cause of their symptoms,” says Malik.
How Is Gluten Intolerance Diagnosed?
If you want to find out whether gluten is causing your stomach pain or foggy mind, you need to cut it out of your diet.
Most physicians will recommend what’s called an “elimination diet,” says Kristin Koskinen, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner at Eat Well, Live Well in Washington State. This involves banishing all foods containing wheat, barley and rye, as well as any oats that aren’t clearly certified as gluten-free, from your plate.
This may sound easy. All you have to do is stop eating bread, pasta, pizza and cereal, right? Yes, but you also have to be careful about not-so-obvious offenders. Foods like soy sauce, gravies and processed lunch meats may contain gluten. There are also salad dressings, meat alternatives and soups that contain surprise gluten.
You also have to watch out for non-food offenders. Some medications and supplements use gluten as a “glue” or binding agent, says Malik. “Many times, individuals will believe they have eliminated the trigger food from their diets, but not realize that they were consuming the offending food unintentionally,” he says. “Gluten is a perfect example of this since it is found in small amounts in so many foods.”
That’s why it’s important to have a physician, gastroenterologist or other health care professional oversee your elimination diet. Their job is to make sure you cut out enough, without cutting out too much. “If not planned properly, an elimination can lead to nutrient deficiencies,” says Malik.
Your doctor may also recommend testing for celiac disease or wheat allergies. Depending on the results, you may also need to undergo an intestinal biopsy. This is considered to be the most reliable and valid method for diagnosing celiac disease, says Malik.
If your physician does suspect you have an allergy or intolerance, then a gluten-free diet may relieve many of your symptoms, says Malik. There are also lifestyle changes you can make to help your gut. “Stress, anxiety, negative thoughts, depression, and physical inactivity may also lead to abnormalities in the gut,” he says.
While the symptoms of gluten intolerance are all over the place, fortunately, there’s an easy fix. “When we get rid of the gluten, the symptoms resolve,” says Koskinen.
Let’s say sheet masks are a part of your skincare routine, but you want something that not only makes you look and feel great, but that also draws from the ultimate beauty icon: Mother Nature.
There are plenty of natural sheet masks on the market, but how can you know which ones are the best? (And which ones are the best for your wallet, too?)
When shopping for any kind of sheet mask, LuckyVitamin’s Senior Beauty Manager Nicole Rowinski says to avoid parabens and seek out a product that meets all of your solution-based needs. For instance, there are a variety of masks “designed for hydration, brightening, toning, tightening, anti-aging, moisturizing, and blemish-fighting,” she says.
Rowinski notes that many sheet masks (which should be used for roughly 20 minutes or longer during your regular skincare regimen) feature sought-after and helpful ingredients like vitamin c, aloe and coconut oil.
We consulted with Rowinski about which natural sheet masks have great results and fit every budget.
5 Best Sheet Masks Under $5
- Andalou Naturals Instant Lift & Firm Hydro Sheet Mask: Free of sulfates, gluten, and parabens (yay!), this single-use face mask hydrates, lifts, and firms skin, all while helping eliminate those pesky fine lines and dark spots. Not only will you look good, but you’ll also feel good for supporting a company that supports worldwide social responsibility.
- Acure Incredibly Clear Facial Sheet Mask: Hey, it’s right there in the name: incredibly clear. This one-time-use, 100 percent vegan mask gives users clearer skin thanks to ingredients like cucumber, white willow, licorice root, and charcoal-infused fiber.
- BioRepublic Skincare Soothing Fiber Face Sheet Mask Cucumber Breeze: You’ll be feeling cool as a cucumber when you apply this 100 percent cruelty-free, dermatologist tested, biodegradable mask. That’s because, in addition to soothing cucumber extract, you’ll also have the benefits of plant collagen and vitamin E.
- Miss Spa Facial Sheet Mask Brighten: Who needs a day at the spa when you can bring the spa to you? Free of parabens, artificial dyes, and fragrances, this natural, single-use mask works for all skin types and promises results in just 20 minutes.
- Pacifica Stress Rehab Coconut & Caffeine Natural Fiber Facial Sheet Mask: In addition to all of its other downsides, stress does some pretty unsavory things to our complexions. But when ingredients like green tea, coconut, and caffeine join forces, stress-induced redness and puffiness won’t be a worry anymore.
5 Best Sheet Masks Under $10
- Biomiracle 20 Minute Miracle Facial Sheet Mask (5 Count): This set of easy-to-apply masks helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles with a little help from some of nature’s most miraculous beauty consultants: flower extract, ginseng root extract, and, of course, water.
- Earth Therapeutics Soothing Aloe Vera Facial Sheet Mask (3 Count): Aloe vera really does it all, doesn’t it? It helps with sunburns, treats acne, and—in the case of these sheet masks (which are made of 100 percent percent biodegradable plant pulp)–cools, moisturizes, and hydrates skin. Give it up for aloe.
- floralpy Floral Therapy Facial Sheet Sweet Dreams Mask Yarrow Lavender: Lavender is known for its natural soothing and calming properties when it comes to all kinds of stress, including the kind that shows up in our skin. The essential essential oil is infused in this vegan, 100 percent coconut sheet mask, making it, well, the essential beauty sleep product.
- Symphony Beauty It’s All About Vitamin C Facial Sheet Mask (5 Sheets): Vitamin C isn’t just vital to your diet and overall well-being, it’s also a must for your skincare and beauty regimen. Vitamin C works its magic in these cruelty-free face masks, which hydrates dry skin, reduces wrinkles, and revives radiance.
- Karuna Clarifying Face Sheet Mask: This pore-cleansing mask has all of the good stuff (hello, 100 percent all-natural fiber cloth and oil-free hydration) and none of the bad stuff (so long, parabens and dyes). This single sheet does all the work of an awesome facial, at just a fraction of the cost.
5 Best Sheet Masks Over $10
- Earth Therapeutics Vitamin E Facial Sheet Mask (3 Count): Vitamin E is an antioxidant that naturally replenishes and moisturizes skin, so it makes sense to make it the main ingredient for a skincare product. In addition to vitamin E (which also helps with skin’s elasticity), these replenishing masks are free of parabens, oils, and artificial colors.
- Jean Pierre Micellar Facial Sheet Mask (5 Count): Nevermind the oh-so-cute packaging (though we admit, we do love it), because it’s what’s on the inside that counts. These cruelty-free sheet masks are made with vitamin A and vitamin E and help heal every skin type.
- JayJun Refine to Shine Facial Sheet Black Mask (10 Count): Arguably the best bang for your buck, this 10-pack of facial sheets will moisturize skin, fight wrinkles, and brighten your complexion. It’s truly the complete package of care when you combine with JayJun’s Real Water Shining Facial Cleansing Foam and Vita Snow Essence.
- Dr. Jart+ Clearing Solution Ultra Fine Microfiber Face Sheet Mask (5 Count): These hydrating microfiber sheet masks control blemishes and fix uneven skin tones courtesy of key ingredients glutathione, niacinamide, and bisabolol. Even better, they don’t include all-natural no-nos like parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.
- BioRepublic Skincare No More Years Eternal Radiance Face Sheet Mask: The fountain of youth is elusive, but the face mask of youth…well, that’s within your reach. This single-use, cruelty-free sheet—which is made especially for dry and/or sensitive skin—reverses the aging process with the aid of regenerating nutrients and Swiss Apple stem cell extract.
Stevia is a no-calorie, natural sweetener, but how does it stack up to other sugar substitutes? Here’s the backstory on stevia and a few things to take into consideration before making the switch from sugar.
What Is Stevia?
The first thing you need to know about stevia (or “rebiana,” as it is sometimes called) is that it’s not a brand name like Equal, Sweet’N Low or other artificial sweeteners. “It’s a general term for all sweeteners derived from the Stevia Rebaudiana bush, an herbal plant that’s prevalent in Asia and South America,” explains Carol Aguirre, a licensed, registered dietitian/nutritionist at Nutrition Connections in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She adds that sweeteners labeled stevia are extracts called steviol glycosides. “The two primary steviol glycosides are rebaudioside A and stevioside,” says Aguirre.
Stevia is sold in the U.S. under several brand names, including Truvia, PureVia, SweetLeaf, and Stevia in the Raw. Classified as a non-nutritive sweetener, stevia provides consumers with a sweet taste that has fewer calories than sugar. You’ll find it in a range of sodas, sports drinks and dairy products as well as in tabletop packets, liquid drops, dissolvable tablets, and baking blends.
Stevia vs. Sugar
In addition to the fact that stevia comes from the leaves of a plant rather than a lab, the natural sweetener’s biggest draw is that it’s low in calories. One packet of stevia, which is equivalent to 2 teaspoons of sugar, provides 5 calories and 1 gram carbohydrates, while Stevia extract, a liquid form of the sweetener, contains no calories. How does sugar compare? Well, 2 teaspoons has 30 calories and 8 grams carbohydrates. While this may not sound like a lot, “people often use more than 2 teaspoons of sugar,” Aguirre says, “so the calories can add up quickly.” As she notes, many experts believe that sugar consumption is a major cause of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, in the U.S.
Another plus: Stevia is not completely absorbed by the body. Therefore, those looking to lose weight and control blood sugar might choose stevia over sugar, observes Neal Malik, a registered dietitian nutritionist and chair of the Department of Nutrition and Basic Sciences at Bastyr University in California.
When it comes to taste, the raw leaves of the Stevia plant are approximately 40 times sweeter than sugar, and the powdered sweetener derived from them is up to 200 to 300 times more sweet. However, because the chemical compounds found in the Stevia plant interact with both the sweet and bitter receptors on your tongue, some complain about its signature bitter aftertaste. “That bitter taste is why, at least so far, beverages sweetened with stevia extracts mix in other sweeteners as well, such as erythritol, aspartame, or regular sugar,” says Aguirre, who cites a recent study, which analyzed the different components of stevia to find out why certain compounds were perceived as more bitter (1).
The findings will allow for future development of stevia-derived sweeteners to focus on the plant’s sweetest, least bitter compounds. But, she adds, while some researchers spend time identifying the sweetest chemical compounds in stevia, “others are working to breed the sweetest possible version of the stevia plant itself.”
In terms of versatility, stevia has proven as versatile as sugar. “The steviol glycosides found in the stevia plant are relatively stable compounds, which means they can be used in a variety of ways,” says Malik. “Stevia can sweeten drinks, like iced tea and coffee.” In addition, some food manufacturers have begun adding it to their dairy products.
Since stevia’s a concentrated source of sweetness, it can also be substituted for sugar in baked goods—with a few caveats. First and foremost, “it won’t brown the way sugar does,” both Aguirre and Malik point out. What’s more, sugar plays a role in the physical structure of baked goods, and stevia does not provide the same bulk. Thankfully, there’s an easy solve: For each cup of sugar substituted, use of 1/3 cup of a bulking agent, such as egg whites, apple sauce, fruit puree or yogurt, Aguirre suggests. “Sugar helps make cakes lighter, so the finished cake will be denser and potentially doughy,” she explains. “You can counter this by adding a bit more baking powder than is called for in the recipe.”
The American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association have given a cautious OK to the use of artificial sweeteners in place of sugar to combat obesity, diabetes and all risk factors for heart disease. “They are not magic pills,” Aguirre cautions, “but smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners could potentially help reduce added sugars in our diet, as a result lowering the number of calories you eat.” Reducing calories, in turn, may help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, and lower the risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, while also lowering cholesterol.
When it comes to studies that specifically investigate stevia’s role in lowering disease risk, researchers from the United Kingdom and Belgium have found that stevia activates a protein called TRPM5, associated with taste perception. The protein also plays a role in the release of the hormone insulin after eating. These findings could lead to new treatments for Type 2 diabetes (2). However, more evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of stevia for both lowering diabetes risk.
There has also been research into stevia’s anti-cancer abilities. One study published in 2012 connected stevia consumption to breast cancer reduction (3).
Another showed that when stevia was added to natural colon cancer-fighting mixtures, such as blackberry leaf, antioxidant levels increased significantly. But again, more research is needed to confirm these findings (4).
Side Effects of Stevia
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified Stevia and its related compounds as “generally recognized as safe.” Currently, a safe dose is considered 4 milligrams/kilogram body weight per day (5).
As Malik explains, “this means that, at this time, there’s not enough scientific evidence to show that stevia consumption may be harmful to health in the short- or long-term.” However, he points out that animal studies have revealed that large doses of stevia may lead to genetic mutations (6). That said, the verdict’s still out on how large amounts of stevia impact humans, since evidence is lacking .
Although stevia is considered safe for people with diabetes, says Aguirre, “brands that contain dextrose or maltodextrin should be treated with caution. Dextrose is glucose, and maltodextrin is a starch. These ingredients add small amounts of carbs and calories. Sugar alcohols may also slightly tip the carb count.” Bottom line: If you use stevia products now and then, it may not be enough to impact your blood sugar. But if you use them throughout the day, the carbs add up.
Your stomach might also be affected. A 2015 study reported a possible link between non-nutritive sweeteners, including stevia, and a disruption in beneficial intestinal flora (7). The same study also suggested non-nutritive sweeteners may induce glucose intolerance. Additionally, in some people, stevia products made with sugar alcohols may cause digestive issues like bloating and diarrhea.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, stay on the safe side and avoid use, since there is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking stevia.
Lastly, certain medications may interact negatively with stevia. Experts warn those who take lithium to exercise caution because stevia might have an effect like a water pill or “diuretic.” Taking stevia might decrease how well your body gets rid of lithium. In theory, this could result in serious side effects. Talk with your doctor if you are taking lithium. Your dose might need to be changed if you partake in stevia regularly.
In addition, be mindful if you are on diabetes medications. Some research shows that stevia might decrease blood sugar in people with Type 2 diabetes. In theory, stevia might cause an interaction with diabetes meds that results in blood sugar levels going dangerously low. That said, not all research has found that stevia lowers blood sugar.
Therefore, it is not clear if this potential interaction is cause for concern. Until more is known, monitor your blood sugar closely if you take stevia and tell your doctor if you believe the dose of your diabetes medication needs to be changed. Similarly, if you’re on medication to lower blood pressure, using a natural sweetener might cause your blood pressure to go too low. Again, report any concerns to your health care provider.
How to Use Stevia
There’s a huge variety of stevia on the market, and, in many cases, it comes in the form of fillers and additives. As a consumer, you must always read the ingredient list. Chances are, you’ll see more than just stevia on that list, especially if it’s an inexpensive brand. Most stevia products contain one or more additives to bulk up the product and create a more free-flowing powder. Some examples of fillers include:
Maltodextrin: A filler created from rice, potatoes, or corn that provides a sweet taste and creates an free-flowing product.
Dextrose: A filler made from corn sugar, fruits or honey. It is closer to sugar than other fillers on the market, and because it’s very low in carbohydrates and calories, Dextrose is allowed to be labeled as calorie-free.
Inulin: One of the safest additives is this vegetable, prebiotic fiber.
Erythritol: A sugar alcohol made from corn that’s generally tolerated well.
Xylitol: A sugar alcohol made from birch trees, this additive is one of the safest out there.
Glycerin: The safest of all additives, it is a liquid often found in alcohol-free liquid stevia products. It is derived from fruits and vegetables and does not raise the glycemic index.
If you want to purchase the purest stevia product possible, scour the label for the words “100 percent pure stevia extract” (not stevia powder, which indicates it is a blend and not pure extract). Liquid stevia products may also be in a base of alcohol (much like vanilla extract). However, many alcohol-free varieties are available, so read the ingredients panel closely.
The onset of Fall means it’s time for pumpkin spice and everything nice! Unfortunately, most pumpkin-spice-flavored goods are loaded with sugar—a challenge for anyone following a low-carb diet. Never fear! This caramel pumpkin smoothie is full of seasonal flavor, packed with nutrition and is just the thing to get you going in the morning. Alternatively, you can eat this as a dessert because it tastes like pumpkin pie in a glass!
This recipe is ridiculously easy and only contains 5 grams of net carbs. You’re free to use any vanilla protein powder you prefer, but the Isopure Perfect Zero is a great choice for anyone looking to stay as low-carb as possible.
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 Tablespoons Walden Farms Caramel Syrup
1 scoop Isopure vanilla protein powder
4 ice cubes
Blend until creamy & enjoy!
If you’re reading this, you might be battling the sniffles, or gearing up for cold and flu season, and looking for ways to boost your immune system. But first, it’s important to understand what the immune system actually is and how it works.
Basically, your immune system is the body’s defense against infection and other invaders. The immune system—a network of cells, tissues, and organs—attacks harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi. In some cases, the immune system can also attack the body’s own cells if they have become dangerous due to an illness, like cancer.
When your immune system is running normally, you’re healthy and feel great. It’s when the system becomes compromised—you’re stressed, overtired, or your body came into contact with a pathogen it’s not familiar with—that you get sick and find yourself here, looking for ways to boost your immune system quickly.
Read on to learn about the best vitamins, foods, and lifestyle choices that can help boost your immune system.
6 Immune System Boosters
Sure, it may sound boring, but eating a balanced diet is key to keeping your immune system healthy. The next time you hit the grocery store, be sure to load up on these foods, which are good sources of immune-boosting nutrients. And in some cases, it might be worth considering a vitamin supplement.
Yes, you often associate oranges with high levels of vitamin C, but strawberries actually offer more of the disease-fighting vitamin—85 milligrams per cup versus 70 milligrams in an orange. But why is vitamin C the go-to vitamin when you feel the sniffles coming on? In the simplest terms: It helps with the production of white blood cells, which fight disease, says Natalie Rizzo, a registered dietitian in New York City.
That said, taking as much vitamin C (either in your diet or as a supplement) as possible won’t make you invincible.
“Because it’s a water-soluble vitamin, any extra—more than 400 milligrams a day—is flushed out,” says Rizzo.
We get that these guys aren’t for everyone, but to really give your immune system a kick in the pants, try oysters. They pack 74 miligrams of zinc per serving; that’s more than any other food (other good sources include red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, and fortified breads and cereals). While vitamin C is more of a preventive nutrient, says Rizzo, research has shown that zinc can help you kick that cold more quickly (1).
“It’s really interesting that people take mega doses of vitamin C when they get sick, but zinc has really been shown to shorten the duration of a cold,” says Rizzo.
Zinc helps strengthen your immune system much like vitamin C, but it helps boost the production of T-cells, which are a type of white blood cell.
While the research is still fairly new, it’s becoming more evident that the probiotics found in fermented foods, such as kefir, have significant ties to a healthy immune system. And that’s because much of the immune system seems to be located in the gut (2).
“Kefir is a fermentable yogurt, with almost the same amount of protein and calcium,” says Rizzo. “But during fermentation, it creates probiotics that are good for the gut. And the better you treat your gut, the healthier you’re going to be.”
Sunflower Seeds (and Sunflower Butter!)
One of the best sources of the fat-soluble vitamin E is sunflower seeds (talk about tiny but mighty). Not only does vitamin E help the body boost the immune system to fight infection, it also serves as an antioxidant.
Antioxidants, found in many fruits and vegetables, help protect the cells from damage by free radicals, which are formed when the body converts food to energy. Free radicals also come from cigarette smoke, air pollution, and the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
There’s a reason you keep Grandma’s chicken soup recipe on hand for when you come down with a cold or the flu, but it’s not for the reason you think. Chicken soup isn’t the cure-all people make it out to be, but it is rehydrating. When you’re under the weather, you need fluids and in some cases, electrolytes to replace the ones lost through vomiting or diarrhea.
“Being hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for your health,” says Rizzo.
Hands down, turmeric is one of the best anti-inflammatory herbs. Its main ingredient, curcumin, has been shown to fight the effects of chronic inflammation, says Rizzo. Why is that important for your immune system? When the body is sick or injured, it’s inflamed, and that’s what kick-starts the immune system’s response.
While you can add turmeric spice to foods—1/2 to 1 teaspoon may have certain digestive and cognitive benefits—most researchers study the effects of turmeric extract (found in supplements), which is about 95 percent of the curcumin compound (3).
Other Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Making healthy lifestyle choices—outside of your diet—is another way to keep your immune system on the up and up.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. But when you burn the midnight oil too often, your body doesn’t have those precious hours of sleep to help repair and rebuild. And that’s when you can become sick, says Rizzo. Research has shown that sleep plays a role in strengthening the immune system (4).
Aim for at least seven to nine hours of shuteye per night.
Engaging in regular exercise—daily walks or runs, weight-lifting, yoga, swimming—is good for your all-around health. It helps keep your weight in check and your heart healthy. That said, researchers aren’t sure if or how exercise increases immunity to certain illnesses. There are theories, but none of them have been proven (5).
Like staying active, being smoke-free promotes your overall health, says Rizzo. Studies have also found that cigarette smoke has negative effects on the immune system and are associated with chronic illnesses like Crohn’s disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (6).
Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Too much booze has been shown to depress the immune system, making you more prone to illness and disease. What’s more, Rizzo points out, is that recent research found that people who drank more than the recommended amount—one drink per day for women and two per day for men—had shorter lifespans (7).
It’s a term you may have heard or seen before when shopping for beauty products, but truthfully, you never knew exactly what it meant. Small-batch beauty is quickly catching on. So what is this beauty trend all about?
What Is Small-Batch Beauty?
The scaled-down beauty movement was started by local artisans who wanted to use ingredients from nature and crafted them by hand to make superior skin and body care products, says Kerri Leslie, CEO of NONIKO, a small-batch beauty brand based in Encinitas, California.
When Leslie became a mom, she became super aware of the ingredients she was putting onto her body and shifted industries to natural skincare. Leslie quickly became inspired and left corporate America behind to become an entrepreneur and join the small-batch beauty movement to make safe products that are still effective.
“I think that as a whole, our society is becoming more aware of what we put onto our skin and skeptical of using ingredients that we can’t pronounce,” Leslie says. “The reality is that we can find powerful ingredients in nature. We don’t need to use synthetic ingredients—and shouldn’t.”
Small-batch beauty is fresh, handcrafted and organic. If it were food, think of it as something you’d buy in a farmer’s market rather than a big-box store. It’s typically made by people rather than machines, and comes with expiration dates like milk and eggs, so you know you’re using products that are at their peak.
Small-batch beauty products are not stored for months in warehouses, so they do not require artificial preservatives and can deliver better nutrients to the skin, explains Elina Fedotova, formulator and CEO of Elina Organics, a holistic clinical skin care company based in Chicago.
Free of synthetic preservatives like parabens and benzyl alcohol (which are used to extend the shelf life of beauty goods), small-batch beauty products are blended, shelved and bought within days.
Fedotova, who is also a cosmetic chemist and aesthetician, has been making products in small batches for over 20 years. She understands the value in fresh and clean ingredients for your skin.
“People are choosing to eat fresh, organic foods and it is a no-brainer that they will also seek clean and healthy skincare products,” Fedotova says. “Your lotion should serve as a healthy meal for your skin.”
Who Is Small-Batch Beauty Good For?
The short answer: everyone! Small-batch beauty is an especially good option for pregnant or nursing women, as well as people with compromised immune systems, who need to avoid introducing toxins into their body through the skin, Fedotova says. “Several scientific studies have proven that we absorb a number of chemicals into the blood by using conventional skincare products,” she explains.
But there are a couple of drawbacks. Quality does mean you’ll be spending a little more, as small-batch beauty products do tend to be more expensive than mainstream brands. “Just like the food we eat, it is worth paying more for high-quality ingredients that we are putting on our bodies on a daily basis,” says Leslie.
Luckily, as the small-batch beauty world grows, there will be more companies making worthwhile beauty products for the masses, which can make them a little cheaper to buy.
Existing small-batch beauty brands are also employing more people—not machines—committed to making safer products for our skin and the environment. How great is it that jobs are being created to support new businesses and your beauty routine?
Acne is the most common skin problem in the United States, affecting up to 50 million people annually, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (1). And while the majority of those suffering from acne are between the ages of 12-24, the number of adult women with acne is on the rise (2).
Treatments for acne vary widely and can range from topical solutions and prescription medications to laser resurfacing techniques and surgical intervention. But if you want to fight off acne from the inside, some researchers and dietitians believe that an anti-acne diet could help produce clear, pimple-free skin.
“While diet does not appear to be the culprit for everyone, there is plenty of research available that shows a positive correlation between dairy intake and acne as well as consumption of high-glycemic index foods and the presence of acne,” says Meg Hagar, a registered dietitian and holistic health practitioner working in New York.
Let’s take a closer look at the anti-acne diet, so you can decide whether or not this eating plan is the right option for you.
What Is the Anti-Acne Diet?
“A clear skin diet is about removing troublesome foods but it’s also just as much about adding nourishing foods,” says Hagar.
Most anti-acne diets start with an elimination phase, where participants are instructed to stop eating certain foods. These include high-glycemic foods, dairy products, and foods with added sugar and high saturated fat content.
“Consuming dairy and high-glycemic foods initiates a cascade of events inside the body that eventually lead the sebaceous glands to produce excess oil,” says Hagar. “This then causes clogged pores and eventually contributes to acne.”
While studies have linked a low-glycemic diet to improved acne symptoms (3), acne can have a variety of causes and what works for one person may not work for someone else. “Everyone is different, so there is no clear-skin diet that is right for everyone,” says Hagar. “In fact, a large portion of acne sufferers actually have food sensitivities and intolerances which vary from person to person, and acne is the body’s way of alerting us that something isn’t happy internally.”
Anti-Acne Diet: Foods to Avoid
During the elimination phase, Hagar recommends that patients start by avoiding foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. She also recommends that her clients cut out diary, since some studies link dairy consumption—specifically skim and nonfat varieties—to a greater prevalence of acne (4). “Triggers are different for everyone,” says Hagar. “The biggest triggers I see in practice are dairy, high glycemic foods and excess sugar. All of these foods and ingredients eventually lead to excess oil production in the skin and therefore contribute to acne formation.”
So what exactly should you avoid? Here’s a shortlist of foods to stay away from while on an anti-acne diet:
- Potato chips
- White bread
- Sugary sweets (cookies, baked goods, candy)
- Milk chocolate
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt)
- Foods high in saturated and trans fats
Hagar says that it’s important to pay close attention to food labels when participating in the elimination phase of the anti-acne diet. “There are 61 different names for sugar on the ingredient label, so often it’s missed,” she says. “Common other names are rice syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, and barley malt.”
Once potential trigger foods are removed and patients begin to start seeing clearer skin, Hagar recommends the people begin to reintroduce foods back into their diets and monitor how those foods affect the skin. This helps individuals settle on a long-term diet plan that works specifically for their skin.
“This type of diet is not meant to be followed forever. Once a client’s skin is improved, I ask them to start adding in food groups one by one so we can identify exactly what foods are causing breakouts,” she says. “The purpose of this is to avoid unnecessarily restricting foods.”
Foods That Help Acne
In addition to eliminating certain ingredients while on an anti-acne diet, it’s also important to add in healthy, skin-friendly fare, says Hagar. “A good place to start may be following a diet based largely on lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, tons of fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds,” she says.
Here are some key, acne-fighting ingredients to include while on a clear-skin diet:
Omega-3 fatty acids. If you want to help your skin, add foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, says Hagar, who recommends items like fish, nuts, and seeds. “Salmon is a healthy source of complete proteins, which provide all necessary amino acids to support the structure of the skin,” she says. “Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in nuts like almonds and walnuts as well as flaxseed.”
Zinc. A surprising ingredient that can help fight acne is zinc, and Hagar suggests a healthy dosing while on a clear-skin diet. “I always recommend foods that are high in zinc to help fight inflammation, such as pumpkin seeds,” she says. “A handful of these seeds can provide up to a quarter of the estimated zinc needs per day.”
Antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. While it might go without saying, we’ll say it—eating foods packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are your best friends when on an anti-acne diet. Vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C, are used in the process of building new skin cells, says Hagar, and antioxidants help fight off damaging particles that can weaken the skin and contribute to acne.
You’ll find these acne-fighting properties in the following foods:
- Lean proteins (free-range chicken, wild-caught fish)
- Green, leafy vegetables (spinach, Swiss chard)
- Low-glycemic fruits (berries, cherries, grapefruit, peaches)
- Low-glycemic vegetables (carrots, tomatoes)
- Low-glycemic starches (quinoa, beans, amaranth)
- Nuts and seeds (walnuts, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds)
The Anti-Acne Diet: Things to Consider
Although results from a clear-skin diet won’t happen overnight, Hagar says to be patient. She’s had clients experience an improvement in acne in as little as three weeks, but notes that it could take more time to see a difference. “Your skin cells turn over every four to six weeks,” she says. “So whenever you do change your diet, you should try to stick to it for at least one to two months.”
And even if eating an anti-acne diet does improve your skin, Hagar stresses that there are a lot of factors at play that may cause acne to come back. “Sometimes acne is deeper than diet. Stress, sleep, hydration, environment, and genetics all play a role in the formation of acne,” she says. “If diet changes alone don’t work, it’s important to know when working with a professional might be helpful.”
This post was provided by our friends at About Time and written by Devenee Schumacher.
Some women wonder about consuming substantial amounts of protein and/or using protein powders and protein supplements. Two of the most common comments I hear are, “Am I going to get bulky?” or “I don’t want to look manly.”
So, to address that, let’s talk about where proteins and protein powders come from, what types are available, and how they can be incorporated into your daily diet.
Protein Food Sources
Protein sources in food can be both animal-based or plant-based. Food-based proteins come from:
- Nuts, seeds and nut butters
- Animal meats
Dairy protein powders are a byproduct of cow’s milk. Typically, cheese farmers separate the curds and whey when making cheese. The whey portion is then separated into two types of whey proteins: whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate.
Whey protein isolate is the purest form of protein. It’s 90 percent or more protein with little or no fat, lactose or cholesterol.
Whey protein concentrate can range from 29 percent protein to 89 percent protein. Wondering what makes up the difference? Fat and lactose. So, when buying supplements, it’s important to know what you’re buying and how to choose what fits your personal macronutrients. (Macronutrient is a fancy word for your daily intake of proteins, carbohydrates and fat.)
Plant-based protein powders are byproducts of vegetables and grains. Whether you are completely vegan, looking to lower your carbon footprint or have issues digesting dairy, plant-based options can up your protein intake. Some of the best choices are pea isolate protein, hemp protein powder and quinoa protein powder.
Why We Need Protein
Our bodies are made of 18 percent to 20 percent protein in our skin, muscles and connective tissue. They need protein to heal, grow and carry out every function we do daily—from walking and bending over to pick something up off the floor to breathing, sweating, blinking your eyelids and, better yet, pumping blood throughout your body. Many people forget what it is that makes the human body work. You need to consume your macronutrients to have your body work at its fullest extent.
Since our bodies can’t store protein, it’s needed often. Eating enough protein is essential to build and maintain healthy muscle mass while in conjunction supporting ligaments, tendons and other bodily tissue. Our bodies require nine essential amino acids, which we need to get from food because our bodies can’t make them. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When we lack in amino acids, skeletal muscle atrophy can take place. This can simply be reversed with adding in exercise and proper nutrition.
Daily Protein Intake
Consuming protein in every meal is not only healthy but ideal to keep our bodies moving. Here are some examples that contain 25 grams of protein:
- 3 cups quinoa
- 6 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 ¾ cups black beans
- 1 ½ cups edamame
- 3 ounces lean beef
- 1 scoop whey isolate protein
Knowing how much protein to eat each day really comes down to each individual. Industry standards state that average intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For example, a 130-pound woman needs 48 grams of protein per day.
This basic standard doesn’t consider women’s activity level or if they are pregnant. Here’s a simple math problem to figure out your needs: Take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2 to figure out your weight in kilograms. Then multiply that number by 0.8 (not very active), 1.3 (active or pregnant), or 1.8 (extremely active), depending on how much exercise you get.
Here are some guidelines to determine your level of activity:
- Sedentary (little or no exercise)
- Lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days per week)
- Moderately active (moderate activity/sports 3-5 days per week)
- Extremely active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days per week)
Hopefully this protein breakdown helps you get on the right foot and understand that protein is your friend. Get started by enjoying a bowl of Greek yogurt mixed with a little nut butter and honey, or make a plant-based smoothie. Here’s all you need:
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1 scoop plant-based protein
- ½ cup mango
- ½ small avocado
- ½ tablespoon honey
- 3 mint leaves
Meet the pegan diet. It’s the love child of two very different eating styles: the paleo diet and veganism. We know, we know—those two ways of eating seem to be the complete opposite of one another.
Vegans shun all animal products, while the paleo diet suggests we eat like our caveman ancestors and consume mostly high-protein meat. How could a new diet be created from those two approaches? Let us explain.
What Is the Pegan Diet?
Nutrition expert Dr. Mark Hyman introduced the pegan diet in 2015. He realized that the vegan and paleo ways of eating had common ground. They both recommend avoiding processed, packaged foods and instead filling your plate with natural, nutrient-rich ingredients.
“The pegan diet is a healthy compromise of the two,” says Carol Aguirre, a registered dietitian/nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Connections in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “It focuses on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy protein and good-for-you fats. The best aspects of each are integrated for a balanced dietary plan.”
The Pegan Diet Plan
“While the vegan diet is often low in protein and key nutrients like vitamin B-12, the paleo diet is often heavy in animal protein and saturated fat,” Aguirre says. “The pegan diet is a healthy compromise of the two.”
And because it’s loaded with fiber-filled veggies and satisfying fats, you’ll feel fuller longer, which should help with weight loss. Sugary, processed foods aren’t part of the diet, so eliminating them will also help followers of the diet slim down.
Here’s how to follow the pegan diet:
- Opt for a small portion (1/2 cup or less per meal) of whole or gluten-free grains, including black rice, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, or amaranth.
- Eat sustainably-raised livestock (like grass-fed meat and pasture-raised eggs), which contain more nutrients and tend to be leaner.
- Fill your plate (approximately 75 percent) with fresh, minimally processed vegetables and fruit. But avoid starchy vegetables, like beets, pumpkin, potatoes (regular and sweet) and parsnips.
- Aim for 25 to 35 percent of your total calories to come from omega-3 rich fat sources. Think fatty fish, flax seeds, nuts, avocado, olives and their oils.
- Allow yourself one cheat day per week, along with two desserts and two alcoholic drinks per week.
- Choose foods that have been treated with pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and GMOs.
- Eat foods that can cause a spike in blood sugar (such as refined carbs or anything with sugar or flour).
- Consume vegetable oils high in omega-6s, like soybean and corn oil.
- Include dairy, soy, legumes and gluten in your diet.
The Pegan Diet Formula
To follow the pegan way of eating, Aguirre suggests remembering “5-4-3-2-1.” Over the course of your three meals and two snacks each day, aim for:
- 5 or more cups of fruits and vegetables
- 4 servings of low-glycemic carbs
- 3 servings of lean protein
- 2 servings of healthy fats
- 1 dairy substitute
Pegan Diet Recipes
Here are two satisfying recipes from Aguirre that fit into the pegan way of eating:
Preparation: 10 minutes (active)
Ready in: 25 minutes
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup (red or white) quinoa
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
Bring water and quinoa to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender; drain. Stir in almonds, juice, oils, salt, and onions.
Prepare quinoa as directed in main recipe; drain. Place quinoa in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir and serve. Serves two.
Salmon with Salsa
Preparation: 10 minutes
Ready in: 25 minutes
- 1 medium plum tomato, roughly chopped
- ½ small onion, roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and quartered
- 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 (4-ounce) salmon fillets
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place tomato, onion, garlic, jalapeno, vinegar, chili powder, cumin, and salt to taste in a food processor; process until finely chopped and uniform. Place salmon in a medium roasting pan; spoon the salsa on top. Roast until the salmon is just cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Serves two.
What to Consider Before Starting a Pegan Diet
Before you go completely pegan, talk to your health care provider to make sure the diet is a good fit for you. Most people will benefit from this way of eating since it focuses on whole, natural foods. However, we have five food groups for a reason—to get a wide variety of vitamins, nutrients and minerals.
“Slashing dairy can deprive the body of calcium and vitamin D (nutrients that keep bones strong and help fight fatigue, brain fog and depression, so you may need to take a calcium supplement or D vitamin,” says Aguirre. Plus, beans are packed with heart-healthy fiber. “Removing legumes and not eating enough meat can limit muscle-building protein and energizing iron in your diet, which can really devastate workouts.”
If you find the pegan diet hard to sustain, choose the elements of it that work best for you. There are many healthy components of the diet that people can benefit from, even if they don’t follow the plan to a T.