December, 2015

Bananas: Good or Bad?

Bananas are among the world’s most popular fruit. They are highly portable and easy to consume, making them a perfect on-the-go snack. Bananas are also fairly nutritious, and contain high amounts of fiber and antioxidants. However, many people have doubts about bananas due to their high sugar and carb content. This article takes a detailed look at bananas and their health effects.

Bananas Contain Several Important Nutrients

Over 90% of the calories in bananas come from carbs. As the banana ripens, the starch in it turns into sugar. For this reason, unripe (green) bananas are high in starch and resistant starch, while ripe (yellow) bananas contain mostly sugar. Bananas also contain a decent amount of fiber, and are very low in protein and fat. Many different types of bananas exist, which causes the size and color to vary. A medium-sized (118 grams) banana contains about 105 calories. A medium-sized banana also contains the following nutrients:

  • Potassium: 9% of the RDI.
  • Vitamin B6: 33% of the RDI.
  • Vitamin C: 11% of the RDI.
  • Magnesium: 8% of the RDI.
  • Copper: 10% of the RDI.
  • Manganese: 14% of the RDI.
  • Fiber: 3.1 grams.

Bananas contain other beneficial plant compounds and antioxidants as well, including dopamine and catechin.

Bottom Line: Bananas are a good source of several nutrients, including potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C and fiber. They also contain various antioxidants and plant compounds.

Bananas are High in Fiber and Resistant Starch

Fiber refers to carbs that cannot be digested in the upper digestive system. High fiber intake has been linked to many health benefits. Each banana contains about 3 grams, which makes them a good fiber source. Green or unripe bananas are rich in resistant starch, a type of indigestible carbohydrate that functions like fiber. The greener the banana is, the greater the content of resistant starch. Resistant starch has been linked to several health benefits:

  • Improved colon health.
  • Increased feeling of fullness after meals.
  • Reduced insulin resistance.
  • Lower blood sugar levels after meals.

Pectin is another type of dietary fiber that is found in bananas. Pectin provides structural form to bananas, helping them keep their shape. When bananas become overripe, enzymes start to break down the pectin and the fruit becomes soft and mushy. Pectins may reduce appetite and moderate blood sugar levels after meals. They may also help protect against colon cancer.

Bottom Line: Bananas are high in fiber. Unripe bananas are also rich in resistant starch and pectin, which can provide numerous health benefits.

How do Bananas Affect Weight Loss?

No study has investigated the effects of bananas on weight loss.

However, one study of obese, diabetic people investigated how unripe banana starch (high in resistant starch) affected body weight and insulin sensitivity. They found that taking 24 grams of banana starch each day for 4 weeks caused weight loss of 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg), while also improving insulin sensitivity. Other studies have also linked fruit consumption to weight loss. Fruit is high in fiber, and high fiber intake has been associated with lower body weight. Moreover, resistant starch has received some attention recently as a weight loss friendly ingredient. It may contribute to weight loss by increasing fullness and reducing appetite, thus helping people eat fewer calories. Although no studies have shown that bananas per se cause weight loss, they have several properties that should make them a weight loss friendly food. That being said, bananas are not a good food for low-carb diets. A medium-sized banana contains 27 grams of carbs.

Bottom Line: The fiber content of bananas may promote weight loss by increasing the feeling of fullness and reducing appetite. However, the high carb content of bananas makes them unsuitable for low-carb diets.

Bananas Are High in Potassium

Bananas are a major dietary source of potassium. One medium-sized banana contains around 0.4 grams of potassium, or 9% of the RDI. Potassium is an important mineral that many people aren’t getting enough of. It plays a crucial role in blood pressure control and kidney function. A potassium-rich diet can help lower blood pressure and positively affect heart health. A high potassium intake is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

Bottom Line: Bananas are high in potassium, which may help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Bananas Also Contain a Decent Amount of Magnesium

Bananas are a good source of magnesium, as they contain 8% of the RDI. Magnesium is a very important mineral in the body, and hundreds of different processes need it to function. A high intake of magnesium may protect against various chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Magnesium may also play a beneficial role in bone health.

Bottom Line: Bananas are a decent source of magnesium, a mineral that plays hundreds of roles in the body. Magnesium may protect against heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Bananas May Have Benefits for Digestive Health

Unripe, green bananas are rich in resistant starch and pectin. These compounds act as prebiotic nutrients, which feed the friendly bacteria in the digestive system. These nutrients are fermented by the friendly bacteria in the colon, which generate butyrate. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that contributes to digestive health. It may also reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Bottom Line: Unripe, green bananas are rich in resistant starch and pectin, which may promote digestive health and reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Are Bananas Safe For Diabetics?

Opinions are mixed about whether bananas are safe for people with diabetes, since they are high in starch and sugar.

However, they still rank low to medium on the glycemic index, which measures how foods affect the rise in blood sugar after a meal. Bananas have a glycemic index value of 42–62, depending on their ripeness. Consuming moderate amounts of bananas should be safe for people with diabetes, but they may want to avoid eating large amounts of bananas that are fully ripe. Furthermore, it should be noted that diabetics should always make sure to monitor their blood sugar levels carefully after eating foods rich in carbs and sugar.

Bottom Line: Eating a moderate amount of bananas should not raise blood sugar levels significantly. However, diabetics should be careful with fully ripe bananas.

Do Bananas Have Any Negative Health Effects?

Bananas do not seem to have any serious adverse effects. However, people who are allergic to latex may also be allergic to bananas. Studies have shown that around 30–50% of people who are allergic to latex are also sensitive to some plant foods.

Bottom Line: Bananas don’t seem to have any known negative health effects, but they may cause allergic reactions in some individuals with latex allergy.

Like Most Fruit, Bananas Are Very Healthy

Bananas are very nutritious. They contain fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and several other beneficial plant compounds. These nutrients may have a number of health benefits, such as for digestive and heart health. Although bananas are unsuitable on a low-carb diet and may cause problems for some diabetics, overall they are an incredibly healthy food.

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The Beginner’s Guide to The 5:2 Diet

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves regular fasting. The 5:2 diet, also known as The Fast Diet, is currently the most popular intermittent fasting diet. It was popularized by British doctor and journalist Michael Mosley. It’s called the 5:2 diet because five days of the week are normal eating days, while the other two restrict calories to 500–600 per day. This diet is actually more of an eating pattern than a diet. There are no requirements about which foods to eat, but rather when you should eat them. Many people find this way of eating to be easier to stick to than a traditional calorie-restricted diet (1).  This article explains everything you need to know about the 5:2 diet.

How to Do the 5:2 Diet

The 5:2 diet is actually very simple to explain. For five days a week, you eat normally and don’t have to think about restricting calories. Then, on the other two days, you reduce your calorie intake to a quarter of your daily needs. This is about 500 calories per day for women, and 600 for men. You can choose whichever two days of the week you prefer, as long as there is at least 1 non-fasting day in between. A common way of planning the week is to fast on Mondays and Thursdays, with 2 or 3 small meals, then eating normally for the rest of the week. It’s important to emphasize that eating “normally” does not mean you can eat literally anything. If you binge on junk food, then you probably won’t lose any weight, and may even gain weight. You should eat the same amount of food as if you hadn’t been fasting at all.

Bottom Line: The 5:2 diet involves eating normally for five days a week, then restricting your calorie intake to 500–600 calories on the other two days.

Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

There are very few studies that test the 5:2 diet specifically. However, there are plenty of studies on intermittent fasting as a whole, which show impressive health benefits. One important benefit is that intermittent fasting seems to be easier to follow than continuous calorie restriction, at least for some people. Many studies have shown that different types of intermittent fasting may significantly reduce insulin levels. One study showed that the 5:2 diet caused weight loss similar to regular calorie restriction. Additionally, the diet was very effective at reducing insulin levels and improving insulin sensitivity. Several studies have looked into the health effects of modified alternate day fasting, which is very similar to the 5:2 diet (ultimately, it’s a 4:3 diet). The 4:3 diet may help reduce insulin resistance, asthma, seasonal allergies, heart arrhythmias, menopausal hot flashes and more. One randomized controlled trial in both normal weight and overweight individuals showed major improvements in the group doing 4:3 fasting, compared to the control group that ate normally. After 12 weeks, the fasting group had:

  • Reduced body weight by more than 5 kg.
  • Reduced fat mass by 3.5 kg, with no change in muscle mass.
  • Reduced blood levels of triglycerides by 20%.
  • Increased LDL particle size (which is a good thing).
  • Reduced levels of CRP, an important marker of inflammation in the body.
  • Decreased levels of leptin by up to 40%.

Bottom Line: The 5:2 diet may have several impressive health benefits. These include weight loss, reduced insulin resistance and decreased inflammation. Blood lipids may also be improved.

The 5:2 Diet for Weight Loss

If you need to lose weight, the 5:2 diet can be very effective when done right. This is mainly because the 5:2 eating pattern helps you consume fewer calories. Therefore, it is very important not to compensate for the fasting days by eating much more on the non-fasting days. Intermittent fasting does not cause more weight loss than regular calorie restriction if total calories are matched. That being said, fasting protocols similar to the 5:2 diet have shown a lot of promise in studies on weight loss:

  • A recent review found that modified alternate day fasting caused weight loss of 3–8% over the course of 3–24 weeks.
  • In the same study, participants lost 4–7% of their waist circumference, meaning that they lost a lot of harmful belly fat.
  • Intermittent fasting causes a much smaller reduction in muscle mass than weight loss with conventional calorie restriction.

Intermittent fasting is even more effective when combined with exercise, such as endurance or strength training.

Bottom Line: The 5:2 diet should be very effective for weight loss, if done correctly. It may help reduce belly fat, as well as help maintain muscle mass during weight loss.

How to Eat on Fasting Days

There is no rule as to what or when you must eat on the fasting days.

Some people function best by beginning the day with a small breakfast, while others find it best to start eating as late as possible. Generally, there are two meal patterns that people use:

  • Three small meals: Usually breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Two slightly bigger meals: Only lunch and dinner.

Since calorie intake is limited — 500 for women and 600 for men — it makes sense to use your calorie budget wisely. Try to focus on nutritious, high-fiber, high-protein foods that will make you feel full without consuming too many calories. Soups are a great option on fast days. Studies have shown that they may make you feel more full than the same ingredients in original form, or foods with the same calorie content. Here are a few examples of foods that may be suitable for fast days:

  • A generous portion of vegetables.
  • Natural yogurt with berries.
  • Boiled or baked eggs.
  • Grilled fish or lean meat.
  • Cauliflower rice.
  • Soups (for example miso, tomato, cauliflower or vegetable).
  • Low-calorie cup soups.

  • Black coffee.

  • Tea.

  • Still or sparkling water.

There is no specific, correct way to eat on fasting days. You have to experiment and figure out what works best for you.

Delicious Low-Calorie Meals

There are plenty of websites with delicious meal plans and recipes for the 5:2 diet.

Bottom Line: There are many meal plans and recipes available on the internet for 500–600 calorie fast days. Sticking to nutritious, high-fiber and high-protein foods is a good idea.

What to Do If You Feel Unwell or Uncontrollably Hungry

During the first few fast days, you can expect to have episodes of overwhelming hunger. It is also normal to feel a little weaker or slower than usual.

However, you’ll be surprised about how quickly the hunger fades, especially if you try to keep busy with work or other errands. Additionally, most people find that the fast days become easier after the first few fasts. If you are not used to fasting, it may be a good idea to keep a small snack handy during your first few fasts, just in case you feel faint or ill. But if you repeatedly find yourself feeling ill or faint during fast days, then have something to eat and talk with your doctor about whether you should continue. Intermittent fasting is not for everyone, and some people are unable to tolerate it.

Bottom Line: It is normal to be hungry or feel a little weaker during the first few fasts. If you repeatedly feel faint or ill, then you should probably stop the diet.

Who Should Avoid the 5:2 Diet, or Intermittent Fasting Overall?

Although intermittent fasting is very safe for healthy, well-nourished people, it does not suit everyone. Some people should avoid dietary restrictions and fasting completely. These include:

  • Individuals with a history of eating disorders.
  • Individuals sensitive to drops in blood sugar levels.
  • Pregnant women, nursing mothers, teenagers, children and individuals with type 1 diabetes.
  • People who are malnourished, underweight or have known nutrient deficiencies.
  • Women who are trying to conceive or have issues with fertility.

Furthermore, intermittent fasting may not be as beneficial for some women as it is for men. Some women have reported that their menstrual period stopped while they were following this type of eating pattern. However, things went back to normal when they returned to a regular diet. Women should therefore be careful when starting any form of intermittent fasting, and stop doing it immediately if any adverse effects occur.

Take Home Message

The 5:2 diet is an easy, effective way to lose weight and improve metabolic health. Many people find it much easier to stick to than conventional calorie restriction. If you’re looking to lose weight or improve your health, the 5:2 diet is definitely something to consider.

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Do Multivitamins Actually Work? The Surprising Truth

Multivitamins are the most commonly used supplements in the world. Their popularity has increased rapidly in the past few decades. Some people believe that multivitamins can improve health, make up for poor eating habits or even reduce the risk of chronic diseases. But what does the science say about multivitamins? Do they actually work? This article takes an evidence-based look.

What Are Multivitamins?

Multivitamins are supplements that contain many different vitamins and minerals, sometimes along with other ingredients. There is no real standard about what constitutes a multivitamin, and their nutrient composition varies by brand and product. They go by several different names, including multivitamins, multiminerals, multis, multiples or simply vitamins.    They are available in many forms, such as tablets, capsules, chewable gummies, powders and liquids. Most multivitamins should be taken once or twice a day. Make sure to read the label and follow the recommended dosage instructions.

Bottom Line: Multivitamins are supplements that contain many different vitamins and minerals. They are available in various forms.

What do Multivitamins Contain?

There are 13 vitamins and at least 16 minerals that are essential to health. Many of them participate in enzymatic reactions in the body, or function as hormones, signalling molecules or structural elements. The body needs these nutrients for reproduction, maintenance, growth and regulation of bodily processes. Multivitamins may contain many of these vitamins and minerals, but in varying forms and amounts. They can also contain other ingredients like herbs, amino acids and fatty acids. Because dietary supplements are not regulated, multivitamins may contain higher or lower levels of some nutrients than the label states. In some cases, they may not even contain all of the nutrients that are listed. There have been many cases of fraud in the supplement industry, so it is important to purchase from a reputable manufacturer. Also, the nutrients in multivitamins may be derived from real foods or created synthetically in laboratories.

Bottom Line: Multivitamins may contain herbs, amino acids, and fatty acids in addition to vitamins and minerals. Label fraud is common, and the amount of nutrients can vary.

Multivitamins and Heart Disease

Heart disease is the most common cause of death worldwide. Many people believe that taking multivitamins can help prevent heart disease, but the evidence is not clear. Results from observational studies on multivitamins and heart disease are mixed. Some studies have found a reduced risk of heart attacks and death, while others have found no effects. For more than a decade, the Physicians’ Health Study II investigated the effects of daily multivitamin use in over 14,000 middle-aged, male doctors. It found no reduction in heart attacks or strokes, and no reduction in mortality. A recent study found that among women, but not men, taking a multivitamin for at least three years was linked to a 35% lower risk of dying from heart disease.

Bottom Line: Several observational studies have found multivitamin users to have a lower risk of heart disease. However, several others have found no connection. Overall, the evidence is mixed.

Multivitamins and Cancer

The evidence behind multivitamins and cancer risk is also mixed. Some studies have found no effect on cancer risk, while others have linked multivitamin use to increased cancer risk. One review looked at results from 5 randomized, controlled trials (the gold standard of research) with a total of 47,289 participants. They found a 31% lower risk of cancer in men, but no effect in women. Two observational studies, one on women and the other on men, linked long-term multivitamin use with a reduced risk of colon cancer. The Physicians’ Health Study II also found that long-term, daily multivitamin use reduced the risk of cancer in men with no cancer history. However, it had no effect on the risk of death during the study period.

Bottom Line: Some studies have linked multivitamin use to reduced risk of cancer. However, other studies find no benefit, and some have even found an increased risk.

Do Multivitamins Have Any Other Health Benefits?

Multivitamins have been studied for several other purposes, including brain function and eye health.

Brain Function

Several studies have found that multivitamin supplements can improve memory in older adults. Supplementation may also improve mood. This makes sense, because many studies have found links between poor mood and nutrient deficiencies. Additionally, a few more studies have found that multivitamin supplements can improve mood or reduce depressive symptoms. However, other studies have found no changes in mood.

Bottom Line: Some studies link multivitamin supplementation to improved memory and mood. However, other studies have found no changes in mood.

Eye Health

Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness, worldwide. One study found that taking antioxidant vitamins and minerals may slow down its progression. However, there is no evidence that they prevent the disease from developing in the first place. There is also some evidence that multivitamins can reduce the risk of cataracts, another very common eye disease.

Bottom Line: Antioxidant vitamins and minerals may help slow down the progression of diseases that cause blindness.

Multivitamins May Be Harmful In Some Cases

More isn’t always better in nutrition. Although high doses of some vitamins and minerals are fine, others can be seriously harmful. Vitamins are categorized into two groups, based on their solubility:

  • Water-soluble: Excess amounts of these vitamins are expelled by the body.
  • Fat-soluble: The body has no easy way to get rid of these, and excess amounts may build up over long periods of time.

Examples of fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K. Vitamins E and K are relatively nontoxic. However, vitamin A and vitamin D can exceed the body’s storage capacity, with toxic effects. Pregnant women need to be especially careful with their vitamin A intake, as excess amounts have been linked to birth defects. Vitamin D toxicity is extremely rare, and is unlikely to happen from multivitamin use. However, vitamin A toxicity does occur from time to time. If you eat a lot of nutrient-dense foods and then add a multivitamin on top of that, you can easily exceed the recommended daily intake of many nutrients. Smokers should avoid multivitamins with large amounts of beta-carotene or vitamin A. It may increase the risk of developing lung cancer. Minerals may also be harmful in high-dose supplementation. For example, high doses of iron can be downright dangerous for people who don’t need it. Additionally, faulty production often causes multivitamins to contain much larger amounts of nutrients than they are supposed to.

Bottom Line: Taking large doses of certain nutrients can have harmful effects. This is more likely to occur if you take a high-potency multivitamin on top of a nutrient-dense diet.

Who Should Take A Multivitamin?

There is no evidence that multivitamins should be recommended for everyone. In fact, chances are that they can cause harm in some individuals. However, there are certain groups that may benefit from supplementing their diet with vitamins and minerals.

These include:

  • The elderly: Vitamin B12 absorption decreases with age, and elderly people may also need higher amounts of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Vegans and vegetarians: These people are at high risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, since this vitamin is only found in animal foods. They may also be lacking in calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women: Pregnant and breastfeeding women should talk to their doctor about this. Some nutrients are needed, while others (like vitamin A) can cause birth defects in large amounts.

Others may benefit from taking multivitamins as well. This includes people who have had weight loss surgery, are on low-calorie diets, have a poor appetite or don’t get enough nutrients from food alone for some reason.

Bottom Line: Some individuals may need higher amounts of certain vitamins or minerals. This includes pregnant and breastfeeding women, elderly individuals, vegetarians, vegans and others.

Real Food Is Always Best

Multivitamins are not a ticket to optimal health. In fact, the evidence that they improve health for most people is weak and inconsistent. They may even cause harm in some cases. If you have a nutrient deficiency, then it is much smarter to supplement with only that specific nutrient. Multivitamins contain large amounts of everything, most of which you don’t need. Additionally, taking a multivitamin to “fix” a poor diet is a bad idea. Eating a balanced diet of real food is much more likely to ensure good health in the long term. Whenever possible, you should meet your nutrient needs with whole, single-ingredient, nutritious foods — not supplements.

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20 Common Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight

When you lose weight, your body fights back. You may be able to lose quite a lot of weight at first, without much effort. However, weight loss may slow down or stop altogether after a while. This article lists 20 common reasons why you’re not losing weight. It also contains actionable tips on how to break through the plateau and get things moving again.

1. Maybe You Are Losing Without Realizing it

If you think you are experiencing a weight loss plateau, then you may not need to freak out just yet. It is incredibly common for the scale not to budge for a few days (or weeks) at a time. This does NOT mean that you are not losing fat. Body weight tends to fluctuate by a few pounds. It depends on the foods you are eating, and hormones can also have a major effect on how much water your body holds on to (especially in women). Also, it is possible to gain muscle at the same time as you lose fat. This is particularly common if you just recently started exercising. This is a good thing, as what you really want to lose is body fat, not just weight. It is a good idea to use something other than the scale to gauge your progress. For example, measure your waist circumference and get your body fat percentage measured once per month. Also, how well your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror can be very telling. Unless your weight has been stuck at the same point for at least 1-2 weeks, then you probably don’t need to worry about anything.

2. You’re Not Keeping Track of What You’re Eating

Awareness is incredibly important if you are trying to lose weight. Many people actually don’t have a clue how much they’re really eating. Studies show that keeping track of your diet helps with weight loss. People who use food diaries, or take pictures of their meals, consistently lose more weight than people who don’t.

3. You’re Not Eating Enough Protein

Protein is the single most important nutrient for losing weight. Eating protein at 25-30% of calories can boost metabolism by 80-100 calories per day and make you automatically eat several hundred fewer calories per day. It can also drastically reduce cravings and desire for snacking. This is partly mediated by protein’s effects on appetite-regulating hormones, such as ghrelin and others. If you eat breakfast, then this is the most important meal to load up on the protein. Studies show that those who eat a high-protein breakfast are less hungry and have fewer cravings throughout the day. A high protein intake also helps prevent metabolic slowdown, a common side effect of losing weight. It also helps to prevent weight regain.

4. You’re Eating Too Many Calories

A large percentage of people who have trouble losing weight are simply eating too many calories. You may think that this does not apply to you, but keep in mind that studies consistently show that people tend to underestimate their calorie intake by a significant amount. If you are not losing weight, then you should try weighing your foods and tracking your calories for a while.

Here are some helpful resources:

  • Calorie calculator – Use this tool to figure out how many calories to eat.
  • Calorie counters – This is a list of 5 free websites and apps that can help you keep track of your calorie and nutrient intake.

Tracking is also important if you’re trying to reach a certain nutrient goal, like getting 30% of your calories from protein. This can be impossible to achieve if you’re not tracking things properly. It is generally not necessary to count calories and weigh everything for the rest of your life. I personally just do it every few months for a few days at a time to get a “feel” for how much I should be eating.

5. You’re Not Eating Whole Foods

Food quality is just as important as quantity. Eating healthy foods can improve your health and help regulate your appetite. These foods tend to be much more filling than their processed counterparts. Keep in mind that many processed foods labeled as “health foods” aren’t really healthy. Stick to whole, single-ingredient foods as much as possible.

6. You’re Not Lifting Weights

One of the most important things you can do when losing weight is to do some form of resistance training, like lifting weights. This can help you hold on to your precious muscle mass, which is often burned along with body fat if you are not exercising. Lifting weights can also help prevent metabolic slowdown, and make sure that what is beneath the fat looks good. You don’t want to lose a bunch of weight just to look “skinny-fat” underneath.

7. You’re Binge Eating (Even on Healthy Food)

Binge eating is a common side effect of dieting. It involves rapidly eating large amounts of food, often much more than your body needs. This is a pretty big problem for many dieters. Some of them binge on junk food, while others binge on relatively healthy foods, including nuts, nut butters, dark chocolate, cheese, etc. Even if something is healthy, the calories still count. Depending on the volume, just a single binge can often ruin an entire week’s worth of dieting.

8. You’re Not Doing Cardio

For some strange reason, cardio (as in running, jogging, swimming, etc) has gotten a bad rap in recent years. However, it is one of the most effective ways to improve your health. It is also very effective at burning belly fat, the harmful “visceral” fat that builds up around the organs and causes disease.

9. You’re Still Drinking Sugar

Sugary beverages are the most fattening items in the food supply. Our brains don’t compensate for the calories in them by making us eat less of other foods. This isn’t only true of sugary drinks like Coke and Pepsi; it also applies to “healthier” beverages like Vitaminwater – which are also loaded with sugar. Even fruit juices are problematic, and should not be consumed in large amounts. A single glass can contain a similar amount of sugar as several pieces of whole fruit!

10. You’re Not Sleeping Well

Good sleep is one of the most important things to consider for your physical and mental health, as well as your weight. Studies show that poor sleep is one of the single biggest risk factors for obesity. Adults and children with poor sleep have a 55% and 89% greater risk of becoming obese, respectively.

11. You’re Not Cutting Back on Carbohydrates

If you have a lot of weight to lose, and/or if you have metabolic problems like type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, then you may want to consider a low-carb diet. In short-term studies, this type of diet has been shown to cause up to 2-3 times as much weight loss as the standard “low-fat” diet that is often recommended. Low-carb diets can also lead to improvements in many metabolic markers, such as triglycerides, HDL cholesterol and blood sugar, to name a few.

12. You’re Eating Too Often

It is a myth that everyone should be eating many, small meals each day in order to boost metabolism and lose weight. The studies actually show that meal frequency has little or no effect on fat burning or weight loss. It is also ridiculously inconvenient to be preparing and eating food all day. It makes healthy nutrition much more complicated. There is even an incredibly effective weight loss method called intermittent fasting, which involves deliberately going without food for extended periods of time (15-24 hours or more). You can read about that here.

13. You’re Not Drinking Water

Drinking water can have benefits for weight loss. In one 12-week weight loss study, people who drank half a liter (17 oz) of water 30 minutes before meals lost 44% more weight. Drinking water has also been shown to boost the amount of calories burned by 24-30% over a period of 1.5 hours.

14. You’re Drinking Too Much Alcohol

If you like alcohol but want to lose weight, then it may be best to stick to spirits (like vodka) mixed with a non-caloric beverage. Beer, wine and sugary alcoholic beverages are very high in calories. Also keep in mind that the alcohol itself has about 7 calories per gram, which is high. That being said, the studies on alcohol and weight show mixed results. Moderate drinking seems to be fine, while heavy drinking is linked to weight gain.

15. You’re Not Eating Mindfully

A technique called mindful eating may be one of the world’s most powerful weight loss tools. It involves slowing down, eating without distraction, savoring and enjoying each bite, while listening for the natural signals that tell your brain when it has had enough. Numerous studies have shown that mindful eating can cause significant weight loss and reduce the frequency of binge eating. Here are some tips to eat more mindfully:

  • Eat with zero distractions, just you and your food – sitting down at a table.
  • Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly. Try to be aware of the colors, smells, flavors and textures.
  • When you feel the satiety signals kick in, drink some water and stop eating.

16. You Have a Medical Condition That is Making Things Harder

There are some medical conditions that can drive weight gain and make it much harder to lose weight. These include hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and sleep apnea. Certain medications can also make weight loss harder, or even cause weight gain. If you think any of this applies to you, then speak to your doctor about your options.

17. You’re Addicted to Junk Food

According to a 2014 study, about 19.9% of people satisfy the criteria for food addiction. People who have this problem use junk food in a similar way as drug addicts use drugs. If you are addicted to junk food, then simply eating less or changing your diet can seem downright impossible. Get some help.

18. You’ve Been Starving Yourself For Too Long

It may not be a good idea to “diet” for too long. If you’ve been losing weight for many months and you’ve hit a plateau, then perhaps you just need to take a break. Up your calorie intake by a few hundred calories per day, sleep more and lift some weights with the goal of getting stronger and gaining a bit of muscle. Aim to maintain your body fat levels for 1-2 months before you start trying to lose again.

19. Your Expectations Are Unrealistic

Weight loss is generally a much slower process than most people want. Although it is often possible to lose weight fast in the beginning, very few people can continue to lose weight at a rate of more than 1-2 pounds per week. Another major problem is that many people have unrealistic expectations of what is achievable with a healthy diet and exercise. The truth is, not everyone can look like a fitness model or bodybuilder. The photos you see in magazines and other places are often enhanced using Photoshop – literally no one actually looks like this. If you have already lost some weight and you feel good about yourself, but the scale doesn’t seem to want to budge any further, then perhaps you should start working on accepting your body the way it is. At some point, your weight is going to reach a healthy set point where your body feels comfortable. Trying to go beyond that may not be worth the effort, and may even be impossible for you.

20. You’re Too Focused on “Dieting”

“Diets” almost never work in the long term. If anything, studies actually show that people who “diet” gain more weight over time. Instead of approaching this from a dieting mindset, make it your primary goal to become a happier, healthier and fitter person. Focus on nourishing your body instead of depriving it, and let weight loss follow as a natural side effect.

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GMO Foods: Good or Bad?

Genetically modified foods (GMOs) are highly controversial. Yet, despite the debate, GMOs are found in all sorts of food products – often without labels. Therefore, it’s important to understand the science behind these foods. This article explains what genetically modified foods are, and how they can affect your health.

What is Genetically Modified (GMO) Food?

GMO stands for “genetically modified organism.” The term is generally used for food that has had its genes changed using biotechnology. Using genetic modification, scientists are able to produce new varieties of plants with certain qualities, such as being more resistant to viruses or pesticides. To understand how this works, knowing some basic principles of genetics is required.

Basics of Genetics

Genetics is a scientific field that studies genes and heredity. Genes contain instructions about how to make living organisms. These instructions are basically codes consisting of DNA, which is found inside cells. Genes tell cells what to do, ultimately determining how organisms look and function. All living things inherit genes from their ancestors, which is why we look similar to our parents. However, genes are not entirely stable. They are prone to changes called mutations. This is part of the reason why each individual has unique physical features. The genes are slightly different between individuals of the same species.

Bottom Line: Genes contain information on how living organisms should look and function. Genes vary slightly among individuals of the same species.

Evolution

Evolution is a term that describes changes in organisms over many generations. These changes happen because genetic makeup varies between individuals, even for organisms within the same species. Evolution is usually a very slow process, and is determined by adaptations to specific environmental conditions.

Here is a simple example:

  • A species of plants is found on an island. The island has a wet climate and these plants have adapted to growing in wet conditions.
  • Gradually, over thousands of years, the climate changes from wet to dry.
  • Because of individual variability, some of the plants are, by chance, more tolerant to dry conditions than the others.
  • These plants survive, whereas the less drought-tolerant plants are more likely to die before they can produce seeds.
  • The end result is a plant population that has adapted to living in dry conditions.

This is called natural selection, and is where the phrase “survival of the fittest” comes from. The genes that are best suited for survival in the environment get passed on to future generations.

Bottom Line: Genetic variability drives natural selection. Some individuals are more likely to survive and reproduce, which over time may change the species.

Selective Breeding

Humans have used these natural principles to create various breeds of domesticated plants and animals. This is known as selective breeding. Selective breeding is a faster process than evolution. It is based on choosing individuals that have desirable features and breeding them together. For example, cows have been selectively bred to produce more milk, and apple trees have been selected to produce bigger fruit. With genetic modification, this process has been made faster and more precise.

Bottom Line: Selective breeding involves choosing individuals with desirable features and breeding them together.

Genetic Modification

Genetic modification is a technique that allows scientists to alter the genetic material of an organism. This is usually done by transferring a gene from one organism to another, giving it new traits. For example, genetic modification can be used to make plants more resistant to diseases or pesticides. It can also be used to increase a plant’s nutritional value, allow it to grow faster or make it taste better. The possibilities are endless. Here are some examples of genetically modified (GMO) foods:

  • Herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans: Corn and soybeans were modified to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate, found in Roundup. This allows farmers to spray their fields with powerful herbicides to kill off weeds.
  • Virus-resistant papaya: In Hawaii, papaya was genetically modified to be able to withstand the ringspot virus.
  • Golden rice: Swiss scientists developed golden rice, a type of yellow rice that produces beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body can turn into vitamin A.

Other crops that are often genetically modified include rapeseeds (used to make canola oil) and cottonseeds.

Bottom Line: Genetic modification allows scientists to transfer genes between organisms. This technique is more precise than selective breeding, and offers endless possibilities.

GMO Food is Very Common These Days

The amount of GMO food on the market is increasing worldwide.

However, the exact amount of GMOs you may be eating is difficult to estimate. This is because these foods are not always labeled as such. In the US, GMO foods do not need to be labeled. Conversely, the European Union requires all GMOs to be labeled. There are actually far fewer GMO foods available in Europe. These foods are much more readily available in US markets. About 70–90% of GMO crops are used to feed livestock, and more than 95% of all food-producing animals in the US consume GMO feed. If you eat soybeans, especially processed soy products, it is likely that they come from a GMO crop. More than 90% of all soybeans are genetically modified. Keep in mind that soy, corn and canola are incredibly common in processed foods in the US. If you eat processed food, then you are almost definitely eating some genetically modified ingredients.

Bottom Line: GMO foods are generally not labeled in the US. Most processed foods in the US contain soy, corn or canola, so if you are eating processed foods then you are probably eating some amount of GMOs.

The GMO Controversy

GMO food is highly controversial. People’s opinions of GMO foods are often based on ethical, philosophical or religious views. Scientific misconceptions also frequently affect people’s beliefs. However, there are plenty of unanswered questions regarding large-scale genetic modification and GMO agriculture. Some scientists are concerned about the potential environmental impact and sustainability. Meanwhile, others believe that genetic modification may have beneficial environmental effects in the larger scheme of things. Supporters of GMO foods also argue that genetic modification may be necessary to prevent food shortages as the world’s population continues to grow. However, most people who avoid GMOs are doing so because they believe these foods to be unhealthy.

Bottom Line: Genetic modification is a very controversial subject and there are many unanswered questions.

Are GMO Foods Bad For Your Health?

GMO foods cannot be generalized as either healthy or unhealthy.

It depends entirely on individual genetically modified crops, which should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Some people have pointed out that transferring a gene from an allergenic food crop, such as peanuts, could make the GMO food allergenic as well. While this is a possibility, safety testing should prevent such products from going on the market. That being said, the risks associated with GMO foods are considered to be very low. They are no greater than those arising from traditional genetic manipulation through selective breeding. To date, there is no evidence suggesting that GMOs cause harm in humans. Likewise, most animal studies suggest that GMOs are safe. Yet, despite the general lack of evidence against GMO foods, there is considerable public opposition to them and the debate continues. This may be partly due to general distrust of biotech companies. There is also a potential conflict of interest in many scientific studies.

Bottom Line: GMO food itself cannot be generalized as unhealthy or toxic. There is no good evidence saying these foods negatively impact human health.

The Herbicide Glyphosate (Roundup) May Cause Harm

Even though there is no good evidence showing that GMO foods themselves are unsafe, there are some other factors to consider. A few animal studies suggest that herbicide-resistant crops sprayed with glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide) may cause adverse effects A notable study from 2012 showed that GMO corn that had been sprayed with glyphosate promoted the formation of cancerous tumors in rats. The authors suggested that the tumors were a result of the toxic effects of glyphosate and/or the genetic modification itself. The results of the study were controversial and heavily debated. In fact, the original paper was retracted, but published in a different journal later the same year. A few other animal studies and test-tube experiments have found signs of adverse effects when testing GMO corn and soybeans sprayed with glyphosate. These studies suggest that trace amounts of the herbicide may be causing harm, rather than the genetic modification itself.

Bottom Line: While GMO foods themselves cannot be classified as unhealthy, other related factors may cause adverse effects. The herbicide glyphosate (Roundup), which is sprayed on some GMO crops, may be harmful to health.

Take Home Message

The available evidence indicates that GMO food is not harmful to human health. However, the health effects of spraying GMO crops with the herbicide glyphosate is still a matter of debate. Nonetheless, there is no good evidence that genetic modification itself causes foods to become unhealthy or toxic.

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