January, 2016

15 Foods That Are Incredibly Filling

What you eat determines how full you feel. This is because foods affect fullness differently. For example, you need fewer calories to feel full from boiled potatoes or oatmeal than from ice cream or a croissant. Foods that are filling can ward off hunger and help you eat less at the next meal. For this reason, these types of foods should help you lose weight in the long run. This article lists 15 incredibly filling foods. But first, let’s look at the reasons why some foods are more filling than others.

What Makes a Food Filling?

Satiety is a term used to explain the feeling of fullness and loss of appetite that happens after eating. A scale called the satiety index measures this effect. It was developed in 1995, in a study that tested 240-calorie servings of 38 different foods. The foods were ranked according to their ability to satisfy hunger. Foods that scored higher than 100 were considered more filling, while foods that scored under 100 were considered less filling. What this means is that eating foods that score higher on the satiety index can help you eat fewer calories overall. Filling foods tend to have the following characteristics:

  • High in protein: Studies show that protein is the most filling macronutrient. It changes the levels of several satiety hormones, including ghrelin and GLP-1.
  • High in fiber: Fiber provides bulk and helps you feel full for longer. Fiber may slow down the emptying of the stomach and increase digestion time.
  • High in volume: Some foods contain a lot of water or air. This may help with satiety as well.
  • Low in energy density: This means that a food is low in calories for its weight. Foods with a low energy density are very filling. They typically contain a lot of water and fiber, but are low in fat.

Whole, unprocessed foods are also generally more filling than processed foods.

Bottom Line: Filling foods tend to have certain characteristics, such as being high in protein or fiber. These types of foods tend to score high on a scale called the satiety index.

1. Boiled Potatoes

Potatoes have been demonized in the past, but are actually very healthy and nutritious.

Cooked, unpeeled potatoes are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and potassium. Potatoes are high in water and carbs, and contain moderate amounts of fiber and protein. They also contain almost no fat. Compared to other high-carb foods, potatoes are very filling. In fact, boiled potatoes scored a 323 on the satiety index, which is the highest number of all 38 foods tested. They scored nearly 7 times higher than croissants, which scored the lowest. One study found that eating boiled potatoes with pork steak led to lower calorie intake during the meal, compared to eating the steak with white rice or pasta. Some evidence indicates that part of the reason why potatoes are so filling is because they contain a protein called proteinase inhibitor 2 (PI2). This protein may suppress appetite.

Bottom Line: Boiled potatoes are very filling, and scored the highest of all the foods on the satiety index. They can fill you up and help you eat fewer calories in total.

2. Eggs

Eggs are incredibly healthy and nutrient-dense. Most of the nutrients are found in the yolks, including the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthine, which may benefit eye health. Eggs are a great source of high-quality protein. A large egg contains around 6 grams of protein, including all 9 essential amino acids. Eggs are also very filling and score high on the satiety index. One study found that eating eggs for breakfast, rather than a bagel, increased fullness and led to less calorie intake over the next 36 hours. Another study found that a protein-rich breakfast of eggs and lean beef increased fullness and helped people make better food choices.

Bottom Line: Eggs are a nutritious, high-protein food with a powerful impact on fullness. They may help you eat less for up to 36 hours after a meal.

3. Oatmeal

Oats, eaten as oatmeal (porridge), are a popular breakfast choice. Oatmeal is fairly low in calories and a great source of fiber, particularly a soluble fiber called beta-glucan. It also scores high on the satiety index, ranking 3rd overall. One recent study found that participants felt more full and less hungry after eating oatmeal, compared to ready-to-eat breakfast cereal. They also ate fewer calories during lunch. Oatmeal’s filling power comes from its high fiber content and its ability to soak up water. Soluble fiber, such as the beta-glucan in oats, can help you feel full. It may also help release satiety hormones and delay the emptying of the stomach.

Bottom Line: Oatmeal is a very filling breakfast choice. It may help you eat fewer calories in the following meal and delay emptying of the stomach.

4. Fish

Fish is loaded with high-quality protein. Fish is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fats that we must get from food. According to one study, omega-3 fatty acids may increase the feeling of fullness in people who are overweight or obese. Additionally, some studies indicate that the protein in fish may have a stronger effect on fullness than other sources of protein. On the satiety index, fish scores higher than all other protein-rich foods, including eggs and beef. Fish actually had the second highest score of all the foods tested. Another study compared fish, chicken and beef protein. The researchers found that fish protein had the strongest effect on satiety.

Bottom Line: Fish is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which may increase the feeling of fullness. The protein in fish may have a stronger effect on fullness than other types of protein.

5. Soups

Liquids have often been considered to be less filling than solid foods, although the evidence is mixed. However, soups are a bit different. Research shows that soups may actually be more filling than solid meals containing the same ingredients. In one study, volunteers consumed a solid meal, a chunky soup or a smooth soup that had been put through a food processor. The feeling of fullness and the rate at which the food left the stomach were then measured. The smooth soup had the greatest impact on fullness and the slowest rate of stomach emptying, followed by the chunky soup.

Bottom Line: Soups are very filling meals, despite being in liquid form. They may also stay in the stomach longer, thus prolonging the feeling of fullness.

6. Meat

High-protein foods, such as lean meats, are very filling.

For example, beef can have a powerful effect on satiety. It scores 176 on the satiety index, which is the second highest of the protein-rich foods, right after fish. One study found that people who ate high-protein meat at lunch ate 12% less at dinner, compared to those who had a high-carb meal for lunch.

Bottom Line: Meat is high in protein and very filling. Beef scored the second highest of the protein-rich foods on the satiety index.

7. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is very thick compared to regular yogurt, and is typically higher in protein. Greek yogurt is a great breakfast option. It is also a popular afternoon snack that may help fill you up until the next meal. In one study, women consumed a 160-calorie yogurt snack that was either low, moderate or high in protein. Those who ate the high-protein Greek yogurt felt full the longest, were less hungry and ate dinner later.

Bottom Line: Greek yogurt is a popular, high-protein breakfast and snack. It may increase the feeling of fullness and help you feel less hungry until the next meal.

8. Vegetables

Vegetables are incredibly nutritious. They’re loaded with all sorts of vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds.

Vegetables are also high-volume, low-calorie foods. They contain fiber and water, which adds bulk to your meals and helps fill you up. Moreover, vegetables take some time to chew and are very satisfying in that way. One study found that eating a large portion of salad before a meal of pasta increased the feeling of fullness and reduced overall calorie intake.

Bottom Line: Vegetables are rich in fiber and water, which may keep you full for longer. Eating a salad before a meal may help you eat fewer calories overall.

9. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is usually low in fat and carbs, yet high in protein. Its high protein content can help you feel full, even while consuming relatively few calories. One study found that the filling effect of cottage cheese was similar to the filling effect of eggs.

Bottom Line: Cottage cheese is high in protein, yet low in fat and calories. Its effect on fullness may be comparable to that of eggs.

10. Legumes

Legumes, such as beans, peas, lentils and peanuts, have an impressive nutritional profile. They are loaded with fiber and plant-based protein, yet have a relatively low energy density. This makes them very filling. One article reviewed 9 randomized trials that studied post-meal fullness from pulses, which are a part of the legume family. They found that participants felt 31% more full from eating pulses, compared to meals of pasta and bread.

Bottom Line: Legumes are a good source of fiber and protein. They may help you feel full compared to other foods.

11. Fruit

Fruit has a low energy density. It contains lots of fiber, which may slow down digestion and help you feel full for longer. Apples and oranges score very high on the satiety index, at around 200. However, it is important to note that it is always better to eat whole fruit instead of fruit juice, which is not particularly filling.

Bottom Line: Fruit is high in fiber and provides bulk that may help you feel full for longer. Whole fruit has a stronger effect on fullness than fruit juice.

12. Quinoa

Quinoa is a popular seed/grain that is a good source of protein. In fact, it provides all the essential amino acids and is therefore seen as a complete protein source. Quinoa is also higher in fiber than most grains. The protein and fiber content of quinoa may increase the feeling of fullness and help you eat fewer calories overall.

Bottom Line: Quinoa is a good source of both protein and fiber, which may help increase the feeling of fullness.

13. Nuts

Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, are energy-dense, nutrient-rich snack options. They are high in healthy fats and protein, and studies show that they are very filling. Another study highlighted the importance of chewing your nuts properly. It found that chewing almonds 40 times led to a greater reduction in hunger and an increased feeling of fullness, compared to chewing 10 or 25 times.

Bottom Line: Nuts are a popular snack choice. They are rich in healthy fats and also contain some protein. They are very filling and may reduce hunger.

14. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil contains a unique combination of fatty acids, which are about 90% saturated. It consists almost entirely of medium-chain triglycerides. These fatty acids enter the liver from the digestive tract, where they may be turned into ketone bodies. According to some studies, ketone bodies can have an appetite-reducing effect. One study reported that people who ate breakfasts supplemented with medium-chain triglycerides ate significantly fewer calories at lunch. Another study looked at the effects of medium- and long-chain triglycerides. It found that those who ate the most medium-chain triglycerides consumed, on average, 256 fewer calories per day.

Bottom Line: Coconut oil is loaded with medium-chain triglycerides, which can significantly reduce appetite and calorie intake.

15. Popcorn

Popcorn is a whole grain food that is very high in fiber. One medium-sized bag (112 grams) may contain around 16 grams of fiber.

Studies have found that popcorn is more filling than other popular snacks, like potato chips or chocolate. Several factors may contribute to its filling effects, including the high fiber content and low energy density. However, note that the popcorn you prepare yourself in a pot or air-popper machine are the healthiest options. Adding a lot of fat to the popcorn can increase the calorie content significantly.

Bottom Line: Popcorn is a popular snack that is high in fiber, high in volume and low in energy density. Calorie for calorie, it is very filling.

Take Home Message

Filling foods possess certain qualities. They tend to be high in fiber or protein, and have a low energy density. Additionally, these foods tend to be whole, single-ingredient foods – not processed junk foods. Focusing on whole foods that fill you up with fewer calories may help you lose weight in the long run. What other foods fill you up? Feel free to tell us in the comments!

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6 Simple Ways to Reduce Water Retention

Water retention occurs when excess fluids build up inside the body. It is also known as fluid retention or edema. Water retention occurs in the circulatory system or within tissues and cavities. It can cause swelling in the hands, feet, ankles and legs. There are several reasons why it happens, many of which are not serious.

Some women experience water retention during pregnancy or before their monthly period. People who are physically inactive, such as when bedridden or sitting through long flights, may also be affected. However, water retention can also be a symptom of a severe medical condition like kidney disease or heart failure. If you’re having sudden or severe water retention then seek medical attention immediately. But in cases where the swelling is mild and there is no underlying health condition, you may be able to reduce water retention with a few simple tricks. Here are 6 ways to reduce water retention.

1. Eat Less Salt

Salt is made of sodium and chloride. Sodium binds to water in the body and helps maintain the balance of fluids both inside and outside of cells. If you often eat meals that are high in salt, such as many processed foods, your body may retain water. These foods are actually the biggest dietary source of sodium. The most common advice for reducing water retention is to decrease sodium intake. However, the evidence behind this is mixed.

Several studies have found that increased sodium intake leads to increased retention of fluid inside the body. On the other hand, one study of healthy men found that increased sodium intake did not cause body fluid retention, so this may depend on the individual.

Bottom Line: Sodium can bind to water in the body, and decreasing your salt intake may help reduce water retention.

2. Increase Your Magnesium Intake

Magnesium is a very important mineral. In fact, it is involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions that keep the body functioning. Moreover, increasing your magnesium intake may help reduce water retention. One study found that 200 mg of magnesium per day reduced water retention in women with premenstrual symptoms (PMS). Other studies of women with PMS have reported similar results. Good sources of magnesium include nuts, whole grains, dark chocolate and leafy, green vegetables. It is also available as a supplement.

Bottom Line: Magnesium has been shown to be effective at reducing water retention, at least for women with premenstrual symptoms.

3. Increase Vitamin B6 Intake

Vitamin B6 is a group of several related vitamins. They are important for the formation of red blood cells, and they also serve many other functions in the body. Vitamin B6 has been shown to reduce water retention in women with premenstrual syndrome. Foods rich in vitamin B6 include bananas, potatoes, walnuts and meat.

Bottom Line: Vitamin B6 may help reduce water retention, especially in women with premenstrual syndrome.

4. Eat More Potassium-Rich Foods

Potassium is a mineral that serves several important functions. For example, it helps send the electrical signals that keep the body running. It may also benefit heart health. Potassium appears to help reduce water retention in two ways, by decreasing sodium levels and increasing urine production. Bananas, avocados and tomatoes are examples of foods that are high in potassium.

Bottom Line: Potassium may reduce water retention by increasing the production of urine and decreasing the amount of sodium in the body.

5. Try Taking Dandelion

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is an herb that has been used as a natural diuretic in folk medicine for a long time. Natural diuretics may help reduce water retention by making you pee more often. In one study, 17 volunteers took three doses of dandelion leaf extract over a 24-hour period. They monitored their fluid intake and output during the following days, and reported a significant increase in the amount of urine produced. Although this was a small study with no control group, the results indicate that dandelion extract may be an effective diuretic.

Bottom Line: Dandelion may help reduce water retention, especially when consumed as a leaf extract.

6. Avoid Refined Carbs

Eating refined carbs leads to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. High insulin levels cause the body to retain more sodium by increasing re-absorption of sodium in the kidneys. This leads to more fluid volume inside the body. Examples of refined carbs include processed sugars and grains, such as table sugar and white flour.

Bottom Line: Eating refined carbs can increase insulin levels in the body. Insulin increases the re-absorption of sodium in the kidneys, leading to increased fluid volume.

Other Ways To Reduce Water Retention

Reducing water retention is something that hasn’t been studied much. However, there are a few other potentially effective ways to reduce water retention. Keep in mind that some of these are only supported by anecdotal evidence, not studies.

  • Move around: Simply walking and moving around a bit can be effective at reducing fluid build-up in some areas, such as the lower limbs. Elevating your feet can also help.
  • Drink more water: Some believe that increasing water intake can paradoxically reduce water retention.
  • Horsetail: One study found that the horsetail herb has diuretic effects.
  • Parsley: This herb has a reputation as a diuretic in folk medicine.
  • Hibiscus: Roselle, a species of hibiscus, has been used in folk medicine as a diuretic. A recent study also supports this.
  • Garlic: Well known for its effect on the common cold, garlic has historically been used as a diuretic.
  • Fennel: This plant may also have diuretic effects.
  • Corn silk: This herb is traditionally used for the treatment of water retention in some parts of the world.
  • Nettle: This is another folk remedy used to reduce water retention.
  • Cranberry juice: It has been claimed that cranberry juice can have diuretic effects.

Bottom Line: Some other foods and methods may help reduce water retention, but their effects have not been widely studied.

Take Home Message

Some simple dietary changes may help reduce water retention. For starters, you can try eating less salt, for example by cutting back on processed foods. You can also consume foods that are rich in magnesium, potassium and vitamin B6. Taking some dandelion or avoiding refined carbs may also do the trick. However, if water retention persists or causes a lot of problems in your life, then you may want to see a doctor.

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13 Foods to Eat When You’re Pregnant

Maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy is very important. During this time, your body needs additional nutrients, vitamins and minerals. In fact, you need 350–500 extra calories each day during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. A diet that lacks key nutrients may negatively affect the baby’s development. Poor eating habits and excess weight gain may also increase the risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy or birth complications. Put simply, choosing healthy, nutritious foods will help ensure the health of you and your baby. It will also make it a lot easier to lose the pregnancy weight after you’ve given birth. Here are 13 highly nutritious foods to eat when you’re pregnant.

1. Dairy Products

During pregnancy, you need to consume extra protein and calcium to meet the needs of the growing fetus. Dairy products contain two types of high quality protein: casein and whey. Dairy is the best dietary source of calcium, and provides high amounts of phosphorus, various B-vitamins, magnesium and zinc. Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is particularly beneficial for pregnant women. It contains more calcium than any other dairy product. Some varieties also contain probiotic bacteria, which support digestive health. People who are lactose intolerant may also be able to tolerate yogurt, especially probiotic yogurt. Taking probiotics during pregnancy may reduce the risk of complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, vaginal infections and allergies.

Bottom Line: Dairy products, especially yogurt, are a great choice for pregnant women. Dairy products help meet increased protein and calcium needs. Probiotics may also help reduce the risk of complications.

2. Legumes

This group of food includes lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, soybeans and peanutsLegumes are excellent plant-based sources of fiber, protein, iron, folate (B9) and calcium, all of which the body needs more of during pregnancy. Folate is one of the B-vitamins (B9). It is very important for the health of the mother and fetus, especially during the first trimester. However, most pregnant women are not consuming nearly enough folate. This has been linked with an increased risk of neural tube defects and low birth weight. Insufficient folate intake may also cause the child to be more prone to infections and disease later in life. Legumes contain high amounts of folate. One cup of lentils, chickpeas or black beans may provide from 65–90% of the RDA. Furthermore, legumes are generally very high in fiber. Some varieties are also high in iron, magnesium and potassium.

Bottom Line: Legumes are great sources of folate, fiber and many other nutrients. Folate is a very important nutrient during pregnancy, and may reduce the risk of some birth defects and diseases.

3. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are very rich in beta-carotene, a plant compound that is converted into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for growth, as well as for the differentiation of most cells and tissues. It is very important for healthy fetal development. Pregnant women are generally advised to increase their vitamin A intake by 10–40%. However, they are also advised to avoid very high amounts of animal-based sources of vitamin A, which may cause toxicity when eaten in excess. Therefore, beta-carotene is a very important source of vitamin A for pregnant women. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene. About 100–150 grams (3.5–5.3 oz) of cooked sweet potatoes fulfills the entire RDI. Furthermore, sweet potatoes contain fiber, which may increase fullness, reduce blood sugar spikes and improve digestive health and mobility.

Bottom Line: Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which the body transforms into vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for the growth and differentiation of cells in the growing fetus.

4. Salmon

Salmon is very rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids. Most people, including pregnant women, are not getting nearly enough omega-3 from their diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential during pregnancy, especially the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. These are found in high amounts in seafood, and help build the brain and eyes of the fetus. Yet pregnant women are generally advised to limit their seafood intake to twice a week (<340 g per week), due to the mercury and other contaminants found in fatty fish. This has caused some women to avoid seafood altogether, thus limiting the intake of essential omega-3 fatty acids. However, studies have shown that pregnant women who eat 2–3 meals of fatty fish per week achieve the recommended intake of omega-3 and increase their blood levels of EPA and DHA. Salmon is also one of very few natural sources of vitamin D, which is often lacking in the diet. It is very important for many processes in the body, including bone health and immune function.

Bottom Line: Salmon contains the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are important for brain and eye development in the growing baby. Salmon is also a natural source of vitamin D.

5. Eggs

Eggs are the ultimate health food, because they contain a little bit of almost every nutrient you need. A large egg contains 77 calories, as well as high-quality protein and fat. It also contains many vitamins and minerals. Eggs are a great source of choline. Choline is essential for many processes in the body, including brain development and health. A dietary survey in the US showed that over 90% of people consumed less than the recommended amount of choline. Low choline intake during pregnancy may increase the risk of neural tube defects and possibly lead to decreased brain function. A single whole egg contains roughly 113 mg of choline, which is about 25% of the recommended daily intake for pregnant women (450 mg).

Bottom Line: Whole eggs are incredibly nutritious and a great way to increase overall nutrient intake. They also contain choline, an essential nutrient for brain health and development.

6. Broccoli and Dark, Leafy Greens

Broccoli and dark, green vegetables, such as kale and spinach, contain many of the nutrients that pregnant women need.

These include fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium. Furthermore, broccoli and leafy greens are rich in antioxidants. They also contain plant compounds that benefit the immune system and digestion. Due to their high fiber content, these vegetables may also help prevent constipation. This is a very common problem among pregnant women. Consuming green, leafy vegetables has also been linked with a reduced risk of low birth weight.

Bottom Line: Broccoli and leafy greens contain most of the nutrients that pregnant women need. They are also rich in fiber, which may help prevent or treat constipation.

7. Lean Meat

Beef and chicken are excellent sources of high-quality protein. Furthermore, beef and pork are also rich in iron, choline and other B-vitamins — all of which are needed in higher amounts during pregnancy. Iron is an essential mineral that is used by red blood cells as a part of hemoglobin. It is important for delivering oxygen to all cells in the body. Pregnant women need more iron, since their blood volume is increasing. This is particularly important during the third trimester. Low levels of iron during early and mid-pregnancy may cause iron deficiency anemia, which doubles the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight. It may be hard to cover iron needs with diet alone, especially since many pregnant women develop an aversion to meat. However, for those who can, eating red meat regularly may help increase the amount of iron acquired from the diet. Eating foods that are rich in vitamin C, such as oranges or bell peppers, may also help increase absorption of iron from meals.

Bottom Line: Lean meat is a good source of high-quality protein. Beef and pork are also rich in iron, choline and B-vitamins, all of which are important nutrients during pregnancy.

8. Fish Liver Oil

Fish liver oil is made from the oily liver of fish, most often cod. The oil is very rich in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are essential for fetal brain and eye development. Fish liver oil is also very high in vitamin D, which many people do not get enough of. It may be highly beneficial for those who don’t regularly eat seafood or supplement with omega-3 or vitamin D. Low vitamin D intake intake has been linked with an increased risk of preeclampsia. This potentially dangerous complication is characterized by high blood pressure, swelling of the hands and feet, and protein in the urine. Consuming cod liver oil during early pregnancy has been linked with higher birth weight and a lower risk of disease later in the baby’s life. A single serving (one tablespoon) of fish liver oil provides more than the recommended daily intake of omega-3, vitamin D and vitamin A. However, it is not recommended to consume more than one serving (one tablespoon) per day, because too much preformed vitamin A can be dangerous for the fetus. High levels of omega-3 may also have blood-thinning effects.

Bottom Line: A single serving of fish liver oil provides more than the required amount of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and vitamin A. Fish liver oil may be particularly important women who don’t eat seafood.

9. Berries

Berries are packed with water, healthy carbs, vitamin C, fiber and plant compounds. They generally contain high amounts of vitamin C, which helps the body absorb iron. Vitamin C is also important for skin health and immune function. Berries have a relatively low glycemic index value, so they should not cause major spikes in blood sugar. Berries are also a great snack because they contain both water and fiber. They provide a lot of flavor and nutrition, but with relatively few calories.

Bottom Line: Berries contain water, carbs, vitamin C, fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and plant compounds. They may help pregnant women increase their nutrient and water intake.

10. Whole Grains

Eating whole grains may help meet the increased calorie requirements that come with pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters. As opposed to refined grains, whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins and plant compounds. Oats and quinoa also contain a fair amount of protein, which is important during pregnancy. Additionally, whole grains are generally rich in B-vitamins, fiber and magnesium. All of these are frequently lacking in the diets of pregnant women.

Bottom Line: Whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins and plant compounds. They are also rich in B-vitamins, fiber and magnesium, all of which pregnant women need.

11. Avocados

Avocados are an unusual fruit because they contain a lot of monounsaturated fatty acids. They are also high in fiber, B-vitamins (especially folate), vitamin K, potassium, copper, vitamin E and vitamin C. Because of their high content of healthy fats, folate and potassium, avocados are a great choice for pregnant women. The healthy fats help build the skin, brain and tissues of the fetus, and folate may help prevent neural tube defects. Potassium may help relieve leg cramps, a side effect of pregnancy for some women. Avocados actually contain more potassium than bananas.

Bottom Line: Avocados contain high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids, fiber, folate and potassium. They may help improve fetal health and relieve the leg cramps that are common in pregnant women.

12. Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is generally high in calories, fiber and various vitamins and minerals.

One piece of dried fruit contains the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit, just without all the water and in a much smaller form. Therefore, one serving of dried fruit can provide a large percentage of the recommended intake of many vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron and potassium. Prunes are rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin K and sorbitol. They are natural laxatives, and may be very helpful in relieving constipation. Dates are high in fiber, potassium, iron and plant compounds. Regular date consumption in the third trimester may help facilitate cervical dilation and reduce the need to induce labor. However, dried fruit also contains high amounts of natural sugar. Make sure to avoid the candied varieties, which contain even more sugar. Although dried fruit may help increase calorie and nutrient intake, it is generally not recommended to consume more than one serving at a time.

Bottom Line: Dried fruit may be highly beneficial for pregnant women, since they are small and nutrient-dense. Just make sure to limit your portions and avoid the candied varieties.

13. Water

During pregnancy, blood volume increases by up to 1.5 liters. Therefore, it is important to stay properly hydrated. The fetus usually gets everything it needs, but if you don’t watch your water intake, you may become dehydrated. Symptoms of mild dehydration include headaches, anxiety, tiredness, bad mood and reduced memory. Furthermore, increasing water intake may help relieve constipation and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections, which are common during pregnancy. General guidelines recommend drinking about 2 liters of water per day, but the amount you really need varies by individual. As an estimate, you should be drinking about 1–2 liters each day. Just keep in mind that you also get water from other foods and beverages, such as fruit, vegetables, coffee and tea. As a rule of thumb, you should always drink water when you’re thirsty, and drink until you’ve quenched your thirst.

Bottom Line: Drinking water is important because of the increased blood volume during pregnancy. Adequate hydration may also help prevent constipation and urinary tract infections.

Take Home Message

What you eat during pregnancy affects your energy and well-being. It may also directly affect the health and development of your baby. Since calorie and nutrient needs are increased, it is very important that you choose nutrient-dense, healthy foods. Gaining weight during pregnancy is normal, but it is important to gain it the healthy way. This benefits you, your baby and your health after the pregnancy. This list should be a good start towards a healthy, well-nourished pregnancy.

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Should a Low-Carb Diet be Ultra High in Butter?

Low-carb diets are incredibly healthy. They have been shown to cause much greater weight loss than the standard “low-fat” diet, at least in the short-term. They also lead to improvements in many health markers, such as blood triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, insulin sensitivity and others. Despite low-carb diets being high in fat, they usually don’t cause an increase in LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol – on average.

However, just because there is no effect seen in a large group, there is a lot of room for individual variability. Many physicians who treat their patients with low-carb diets note that some of them develop very high LDL levels. This involves a major increase in both LDL “cholesterol” and LDL particle number (or Apolipoprotein B). This may be a major concern, and should definitely not be ignored. Some have claimed that this may be caused by the high butter content that is typical on a low-carb diet. Interestingly, a common belief these days is that low-carb diets should be very high in butter, and that people should even add it to their coffee. I used to believe that butter (especially grass-fed) was healthy and that eating plenty of it was fine. However, new evidence has made me reconsider my position.

Is Saturated Fat Bad For You?

For many decades, saturated fat has been believed to be a major driver of heart disease. Because of this, most dietary guidelines still recommend that people reduce their saturated fat intake. However, several recent studies have found that there really is no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease. For example, two massive review studies, one from 2011 with 347,747 participants and the other from 2014 with 643,226 participants, found no link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease risk. A recent review of randomized controlled trials also found no link. However, they did find a small reduction in cardiovascular events (but not heart attacks or death) when saturated fats were replaced with polyunsaturated fats. Overall, the evidence seems pretty clear that saturated fat is not bad. Focusing on it is a waste of time, at best. However, there’s nothing particularly “good” about it either. It is just neutral. There is certainly no scientifically valid reason to encourage people to eat a lot of it.

Bottom Line: New studies show that saturated fat does not increase the risk of heart attacks or death. It has mostly neutral effects on health.

High-Fat Dairy Products Seem to be Healthy

Despite having been demonized in the past, high-fat dairy products seem to be very healthy. Some of them, like full-fat milk, yogurt and cheese, are highly nutritious. They are loaded with high quality protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and various other important nutrients. There is actually no clear relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and heart disease. Some studies show an increased risk, others a decreased risk, while others show no effect whatsoever. This may depend on the way the dairy cows were fed. In countries where cows are largely grass-fed, consuming high-fat dairy products is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. The association is often very powerful, with high-fat dairy eaters having a 69% lower risk of heart disease in one study. This may be caused by other beneficial nutrients that tend to be found in higher amounts in dairy products from grass-fed cows. This includes vitamin K2, CLA, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. But even if “high-fat dairy” as a whole is beneficial, it doesn’t mean that this applies to all the individual high-fat dairy products. As it turns out, butter may have different effects on heart disease risk factors than the others.

Bottom Line: There is no evidence that high-fat dairy products cause heart disease. They are even linked to reduced heart disease risk in countries where cows are largely grass-fed.

Butter May be Different Than Other High-Fat Dairy Products

I used to believe that the same applied to butter as other high-fat dairy products. However, a recent study has made me reconsider my position. This was a controlled trial that compared the effects of butter and cream on blood cholesterol levels. According to this study, dairy fat from butter raised some heart disease risk factors significantly more than dairy fat from cream. Butter fat raised total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and the ApoB:ApoA1 ratio significantly more than fat from cream. It also raised non-HDL cholesterol, which went down slightly in the cream fat group. This graph shows the effects on LDL:

This may seem strange, because the fatty acids in butter and cream are pretty much identical. Butter is just cream that has been churned. However, the fatty acids in cream and other high-fat dairy products are enclosed by a membrane that contains proteins and phospholipids. This membrane is called Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM). The MFGM membrane seems to reduce the cholesterol-raising effects of the fatty acids in cream. When cream is churned into butter, it loses much of this membrane. This is one perfect example of why whole foods are more than just their individual components. In this case, the “food matrix” of butter is different than that of cream. Because butter has less of this protective MGFM membrane, it may raise cholesterol levels significantly more than other high-fat dairy products.

Bottom Line: A new study shows that the health effects of high-fat dairy products as a whole may not apply to butter. The fats in butter are not enclosed by an MFGM membrane, and may raise cholesterol levels.

Butter and Bulletproof Coffee – Have Things Gone Too Far?

There are always some people that need to take things to extremes. Just because saturated fat has been shown to be harmless in normal amounts, it does not mean that you should eat tons of it.

The studies were done on people using reasonable amounts of this stuff. No one knows what happens if you take massive doses that are way outside of any evolutionary context. Humans evolved eating saturated fat, and we did just fine eating butter before. However, now some low-carbers are advocating adding several tablespoons of the stuff to your coffee every day – not to mention adding butter to other foods on top of that. Just because a little bit is okay, it does not mean that large amounts are better – or even safe. More is not always better in nutrition. Given the fact that some low-carbers see skyrocketing LDL levels when they eat a diet that is ultra high in saturated fat, I do not think that such a diet should be recommended without getting tested. Some people do fine eating this way, with no adverse effects. Others see a rapid increase in important heart disease risk factors like LDL and ApoB. This is a major cause for concern. Anyone who says you should ignore this and that the “cholesterol theory” has been debunked is giving dangerous advice.

Bottom Line: Many low-carbers believe that saturated fat should be consumed in very high amounts, even added to coffee in large amounts. This is a bad idea.

A Mediterranean-Style Low-Carb Diet May be The Healthiest Choice

Nutrition is a rapidly developing field, and what seems true today might get debunked tomorrow. It is absolutely crucial to be willing to change your position when there is new evidence that indicates that you may have been wrong before. Otherwise, you’ll just get stuck in group thinking and cognitive dissonance, constantly having to ignore new findings and defend your outdated views. I used to believe that butter was healthy, and that a low-carb diet could include lots of butter without any negative effects. However, based on new evidence, I have had to reconsider my position somewhat. I do not believe that butter is harmful by any means, but I do think that eating large amounts of it should be cautioned against. There is certainly no reason to load up on it, and the ultra-high-butter, ultra-high-saturated-fat trend in the low-carb community may be doing more harm than good. A Mediterranean-style low-carb diet, with more extra virgin olive oil instead of butter, is probably much healthier.

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Breakfast Cereals: Healthy or Unhealthy?

Cold cereals are an easy, convenient food for busy people. Many boast impressive health claims, or try to promote the latest nutrition trend. But are these cereals really as healthy as they claim to be? This article takes a detailed look at breakfast cereals and their health effects.

What Is Breakfast Cereal?

Breakfast cereal is made from processed grain. It is often eaten with milk, yogurt, fruit or nuts. Breakfast cereal is often fortified with vitamins and minerals. This means that nutrients are added to make it more nutritious. Here’s how breakfast cereals are typically made:

  • Processing: The grains are usually processed into fine flour and cooked.
  • Mixing: The flour is then mixed with ingredients like sugar, chocolate and water.
  • Extrusion: Many breakfast cereals are produced via extrusion. This is a high-temperature process that uses a machine to shape the cereal.
  • Drying: Next, the cereal is dried.
  • Shaping: Finally, the cereal is shaped into forms, such as balls, stars, loops or rectangles.

Breakfast cereals may also be puffed, flaked or shredded. The cereal may also be coated in chocolate or frosting before it is dried.

Bottom Line: Breakfast cereal is made from refined grain, often by a process called extrusion. It is highly processed, and many ingredients are added.

Most Cereals Are Loaded With Sugar and Refined Carbs

Added sugar may very well be the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. It is making us fat and unhealthy, and most people are eating way too much of it. However, most people aren’t pouring all that sugar on top of their food – they are getting it from processed foods. Interestingly, breakfast cereals are some of the most commonly consumed processed foods that are high in added sugars. In fact, most of them have sugar listed as the second or third ingredient.

Starting the day with a high-sugar breakfast cereal will spike your blood sugar and insulin levels. A few hours later, your blood sugar may crash, and your body will crave another high-carb meal or snack, thus creating a vicious cycle of overeating. Excess consumption of sugar may also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Bottom Line: Most breakfast cereals are high in sugar and refined grains. High sugar consumption can have harmful effects and may increase the risk of several diseases.

Breakfast Cereals Often Have Misleading Health Claims

Breakfast cereals are heavily marketed as being healthy. These cereals have all sorts of health claims printed on the front of the box. This includes misleading claims like “low-fat” and “whole grain.” But when you look at the ingredients list, the first few are often refined grains and sugar. Examples of misleading claims are “whole grain” Cocoa Puffs and “whole grain” Froot Loops. These products are NOT healthy just because they have small amounts of whole grains in them. These are highly processed foods that are loaded with added sugars. Small amounts of whole grains do not negate the harmful effects of the other ingredients. However, a major problem is that people actually believe these claims. Studies have shown that these health claims are an effective way to mislead people into believing that the products are healthier. Keep in mind that truly healthy foods don’t even need health claims.

Bottom Line: Don’t believe the health claims found on cereal boxes. If a food is actually healthy, then it doesn’t need to make health claims.

Cereal Is Often Marketed Toward Children

A huge problem is that food manufacturers have become experts at marketing toward children.

Companies use bright colors, cartoon characters and action figures to attract children’s attention. Not surprisingly, this causes children to associate breakfast cereals with entertainment and fun. This also affects taste preferences. Studies show that children prefer the taste of foods that have popular cartoon characters on the food packaging. Food marketing is even considered to be a risk factor for childhood obesity and other diet-related diseases. In addition to the enticing marketing towards children, these same products often have misleading health claims as well. The colors and cartoons are there to convince the children. The health claims are there to make the parents feel better about buying this stuff for their kids.

Bottom Line: Cereal manufacturers are experts at marketing, especially toward children. They use bright colors and popular figures to attract children’s attention, and studies show this actually affects taste preferences.

If You Absolutely Must Buy Breakfast Cereal, Here’s How to Select It

If you really must eat cereal for breakfast, then there are some tips to help you select a healthier (or “less unhealthy”) breakfast cereal.

Limit Sugar

Ideally, choose a breakfast cereal that contains less than 5 grams of sugar per serving. Read the food label to find out how much sugar the product contains.

Aim For High Fiber

Breakfast cereals that contain at least 3 grams of fiber per serving are optimal. Eating enough fiber can have numerous benefits for health.

Pay Attention To Portions

Breakfast cereals tend to be crunchy and tasty, and it can be very easy to consume large amounts of calories. Measure how much you are eating and use the serving size information on the packaging for guidance.

Read the Ingredients List

Ignore the health claims on the front of the box, and make sure to check the ingredients list. The first two or three ingredients are the most important, as the product contains the most of these.

However, food manufacturers are sometimes sneaky and may use tricks to hide the amount of sugar that is in their products.

If sugar is listed several times under different names, even if it is not in the first three spots, then the product is probably very high in sugar.

Add Some Protein

Protein is the most filling macronutrient. It increases fullness and reduces appetite.

This may be because protein changes the levels of several hormones, such as the hunger hormone ghrelin and a fullness hormone called peptide YY.

A tablespoon of nuts, seeds or some Greek yogurt are good choices for extra protein.

Bottom Line: If you must buy breakfast cereal, make sure it is low in sugar and high in fiber. Pay attention to portion sizes, and always read the ingredients list. You can also enrich your cereal by adding your own protein.

Eat Breakfast, But Choose Unprocessed Options

If you are hungry in the morning, you should eat breakfast. However, it is best to choose whole, single-ingredient foods. Here are a few great choices:

  • Oatmeal with raisins and nuts.
  • Greek yogurt with nuts and sliced fruit.
  • Scrambled eggs with vegetables.

Whole eggs are an excellent breakfast choice. They are high in protein and healthy fats, as well as loaded with nutrients. They keep you full for a long time, and may also be a good choice for people who want to lose weight. One study of teenage girls found that a high-protein breakfast of eggs and lean beef increased fullness. It also reduced cravings and late-night snacking. Other studies have found that replacing a grain-based breakfast with eggs can help you feel more full for the next 36 hours, and lose up to 65% more weight.

Bottom Line: It is best to choose whole foods for breakfast. Eggs are a great choice, as they are very nutritious and filling. High-protein breakfasts may help reduce cravings and promote weight loss.

Take Home Message

Breakfast cereals are highly processed. They contain loads of added sugar and refined carbs. They are also often marketed with highly misleading labels. If you must eat breakfast cereal, make sure to read the ingredients list and be wary of front label health claims. Choose cereals that are high in fiber and low in sugar. However, there are many healthier breakfast options to choose from. Start with whole, single-ingredient foods. Eggs are a great choice. Preparing a healthy breakfast from whole foods doesn’t have to take a long time, either — you only need 5–10 more minutes in the morning. Just wake up a little earlier, and take the time to start your day with a nutritious meal.

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