Tag Archive for: healthy eating

Life is busy. And often the easiest foods to find come from the drive-through or a package. The problem is that these are often low in protein, fiber, and micronutrients. At the same time, the easy food options are often high in total calories—while not being very satisfying. These characteristics are the opposite of what to look for in a meal replacement. You want to make your meal replacements a healthy, on-the-go alternative to these unhealthy meals.

To fill this role, meal replacements need to be simple. That’s why the best meal replacements often take the form of a shake or a bar, which have minimal or no preparation. If an option is too complicated and time consuming to prepare, then you might go back to the unhealthy options.

The Nutrients to look for in a Meal Replacement

It’s not easy to have freshly prepared food with a balance of healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates for every meal. The best meal replacements will provide a good balance of these macronutrients in an easy-to-eat form. This will vary depending on your goals and food preferences, but a healthy diet acquires roughly 20-35 percent of its calories from fat, 40-65 percent from carbs, and 15-25 percent from protein.

Applying that same balance to a 250-calorie meal replacement means it should have roughly 6-10 grams of fat, 25-41 grams of carbs, and 9-16 grams of protein. About three grams of those carbohydrates should be from fiber.

Those numbers are just guidelines. What’s most important is a meal replacement should still fit into your overall healthy eating goals. It could be a good opportunity to secure a little bit of extra fiber and protein that the rest of your diet may be lacking. So don’t worry if you see protein and fiber go beyond these general recommendations, but they should support your bigger daily goals.

The fat in a meal replacement should focus on healthier fats. This means it should generally limit saturated fats and contain more unsaturated fats. The fats in meal replacements often come from nuts and seeds—a much healthier choice than fried fats found in fast food. There are small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats in many foods, but the amount should be low enough that it rounds down to zero.

A normal, healthy meal that’s full of plant-based foods is also going to have lots of essential micronutrients. You should still be amassing some of these nutrients from your meal replacement, too. Look for a meal replacement that has a broad range of essential vitamins and minerals.

What are the Benefits of Meal Replacements?

Now you know what to look for in a meal replacement. Let’s assume you have found one that meets the above criteria, you like the flavor of, and have decided to incorporate it into your daily life. The real benefits will come from using it to replace the unhealthiest parts of your diet first.

A healthier meal on-the-go

Meal replacements are all about finding an easier way to have a nutritious diet. They aren’t meant to replace a well-balanced meal full of lean protein, vegetables, and whole grains. Instead, they aim to replace the unhealthy snacks and fast food that fill out your diet.

Why do people eat these unhealthy foods in the first place? Some of the foods do taste good, but people aren’t frequenting the corner fast-food joint due to their fine dining experience. A lot of it is due to convenience and routine.

The beauty of meal replacements is they are very easy to prepare. And that ease will help you turn meal replacements into part of your regular routine. So instead of a pastry with your morning coffee or the daily burger and fries for lunch, you can have a shake or bar instead.

Replacing fast food, chips, or candy with a meal replacement can help you increase your intake of essential nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. At the same time, it can help limit the number of simple sugars, unhealthy fats, and total calories you eat. This is a win-win—giving you more nutrition in fewer calories.

Meal replacements instead of dieting

Yes, the act of eating a meal replacement does make it part of your diet. But compared to many of the traditional weight-loss diets, meal replacements have some distinct advantages.

As mentioned, the best meal replacements are easy to incorporate into your diet. Shakes require minimal preparation and bars don’t require any. The convenience of meal replacements also plays an important role in their ability to help people maintain a healthy weight.

Some of the top reasons people fail at weight-loss diets are due to their complicated nature. Many diets have you counting parts of the food you eat. Calories, fat, carbs, and protein are all important parts of your diet. But for most people it becomes tedious to track them and always be aware where you are at each point throughout the day.

Counting calories

If you have ever eaten out or at a family member’s house while trying to count calories, then you know the nightmare that can become. You are stuck with a few bad options. You can give up on goals for the day and eat what they have prepared. Or you can pick out the couple foods that you can guess accurately and eat some of those—but then go home still hungry.

This isn’t a viable long-term solution for most people. It leads to inconsistent results and eventually giving up on the diet.

It’s not encouraged to just bring a shake to dinner at your friend’s house. But you can plan ahead. Have a shake for lunch that same day, instead of eating both a large lunch and a large meal for dinner.

Even if you still end up eating more than you should on some days, meal replacements are tools for long-term success. Unlike most diets, the replacements are not about losing 10 pounds in the next month. They help you make better eating choices over the months and years of your life.

So after a big night out, rather than the internal debate about whether to continue your calorie counting or give up, you can go back to a simple meal-replacement for lunch. It’s not the most exciting or glamorous food. But the best meal replacements are convenient, and provide a choice you can lean on for years.

That’s great if counting calories works for you, or it’s something you want to do for a short while. These dietary approaches aren’t mutually exclusive. You can use meal replacements while you count calories. Just remember that weight maintenance is a life-long goal, and whatever works for you is going to have to be maintained throughout your life.

Counting carbs

Ketogenic diets are extremely popular right now. And for good reason—most people love an excuse to eat bacon and cheese all day.

Ketogenic diets have some legitimate benefits. Beyond the cheese and bacon, one of the big benefits people talk about is avoiding the calorie counting mentioned above. As already outlined, that task isn’t fun.

But the true followers of keto know that it’s not a diet that keeps you completely away from the counting game. To stay in ketosis, you need to keep your carb intake below about 10 percent of your total energy intake. That means you need to know your calorie intake AND your carb intake.

You could try to keep it simple by skipping the calorie counting, and just limit carbs to 50 g per day. But that won’t work for everyone. And those who do keep their carbs below 50 g per day will face a struggle common to keto diets.

That challenge is acquiring enough nutritious fruits and vegetables in your diet and 25-plus grams of fiber, all while staying below 50 g of carbs per day. It isn’t easy, especially without really tracking your diet carefully. Just like with calorie counting, this isn’t saying that keto diets are bad. Just that it’s more difficult to maintain for most people than turning to a quality meal replacement as a weight-management tool.

What to Look for in a Meal Replacement? What Works Best for You

The most important part of a healthy diet is finding what works for you. The balance of a good meal replacement makes them a great alternative to unhealthy snacks. And their simplicity makes the best meal replacements good alternatives to stricter diets.

Meal replacements aren’t perfect either, but it’s that lack of having to be perfect that makes them so easy to incorporate into your long-term goals. Whether you are trying to have an overall healthier diet or trying to maintain a healthy weight, longevity is essential.

Dieting for life is a marathon, not a sprint. And that’s what a meal replacement is designed for—a life-long addition to your diet.

Eating is one of life’s great joys. But what follows—digestion—is more work than wonder for your stomach. The stomach functions as a chemical and mechanical pouch solely designed to break down food for absorption. In addition to what the stomach does for digestion, it’s also your main food storage tank.

The stomach is also the first stop after you’ve swallowed food. Unlike other sophisticated organs, like the brain or liver, the stomach is a physical brute. In addition to a muscular lining to pulverize food into smaller pieces, highly acidic gastric juices are created to further dissolve your dinner. What the stomach does is tackle the tough work of preparing nutrients to be absorbed in the intestines.

Your stomach anatomy is unique, which helps it perform three vital food functions:

  • Temporary storage
  • Mixing and breakdown
  • Preparation for nutrient absorption in the intestines

Read on to learn more about how the stomach functions. You’ll also discover the way vitamin B12 and other nutrients are extracted from food, fun stomach facts, and how to care for your digestive system.

Your Stomach Anatomy Helps Accomplish What the Stomach Does in Digestion   

The entire digestive system is one continuous tube connecting your mouth (where food enters) to your anus (where waste is expelled). And your stomach anatomy is best described as an enlarged, pouch-like section of this digestive tube. The muscular, J-shaped organ is found in the upper part of your abdomen on the left side of your torso. At approximately 12 inches long and six inches wide—size may vary depending on the person, sex, build, and how much they’ve eaten—it connects your esophagus to your small intestine.

All digestion starts in your mouth, where food is chewed and combined with saliva. As each bite is sufficiently broken down, a digestive tube opens at the esophagus to allow food to travel to the tip of your stomach. Once there, an esophageal sphincter opens to pass chewed food into the stomach—one of the many key organs for extracting nutrients from your diet. If the sphincter doesn’t work properly, acidic gastric juices can leach into your esophagus which feels unpleasant—to say the least.

Your stomach anatomy is broken into four primary sections:

  • Cardia: Where contents of the esophagus enter the stomach.
  • Fundus: An expanded area connecting the esophagus to the stomach.
  • Body: The main, central region of the stomach.
  • Pylorus: Where digested food is dispelled into the small intestine.

The majority of what the stomach does for food digestion takes place in the organ’s body section, where chewed foods mix with acidic gastric juice and digestive enzymes. This content is churned through a series of muscle contractions called peristalsis. They are vigorous enough to ground solid foods down into a smooth food pulp for easy extraction of nutrients in the intestines.

The inner mucous lining of the stomach contains a series of folds that run its length—from the esophageal to the pyloric sphincters. These folds aid stomach functions by creating pathways for moving the food around and helping in digestion. While the majority of nutrient absorption takes place in your small intestine, the stomach does pull out some water, medication, amino acids, and water-soluble vitamins during its digestive stage.

Your stomach wall is made up of several layers of mucous membrane, connective tissue with blood vessels, nerves, and muscle fibers. Inner stomach lining also has glands that release the three to four liters of gastric juice needed every day to facilitate the absorption of nutrients. Its hydrochloric acid also breaks down food while digestive enzymes split up proteins.

Gastric juice is so virulent to organic matter it’s able to kill bacteria in your digestive system. To protect your stomach from the gastric juices, bicarbonate is produced in the pancreas and the stomach to neutralize the hydrochloric acid. In addition, mucus lines the walls of the stomach to reduce the effects of gastric juices. Once food has been transformed into pulp, the pyloric sphincter opens and pushes the material into your small intestine for further digestion and nutrient absorption. The stomach’s digestive job is done.

The Stomach Functions as a Key Cog in Vitamin B12 Absorption

Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient to keep your body’s nerve and blood cells healthy, while helping support DNA synthesis and red-blood-cell formation. Good sources of B12 are readily available in meats (beef, pork, and fish), eggs, milk, and fortified cereals. B12 is so vital to your body that three to five years’ worth of the essential vitamin is stored in your liver to continue healthy red-blood-cell production and other key functions.

While B12 is primarily absorbed in the small intestine, it can’t be used without first passing through the stomach. During the initial digestion process, B12 is pulled out of food and combined with a cell-recognition protein, called an intrinsic factor, from the parietal cells of the stomach.

Vitamin B12 supports the health of your entire body. This essential vitamin helps keep the body’s nerves and blood cells healthy and helps maintain the mechanisms for making new DNA. And without the digestive assistance from the stomach, the body wouldn’t be able to take on this vital nutrient.

Tips on How to Care for Your Stomach

You’ve learned how the stomach functions. Now let’s explore how you can support optimal stomach health. Caring for your stomach can have overlapping benefits for the rest of your body. And simple lifestyle changes go a long way to promote good stomach health and support your general well-being.

  1. Stay Hydrated

Water is vital for good health, and it is essential at all levels of digestion. Water helps soften food as you chew it, assists with its travel down the esophagus, and creates bulkier yet softer stool for waste removal. Water also aids in the breakdown of foods so your body can absorb the nutrients. Drinking eight glasses of water a day helps your stomach process food and supports proper hydration.

  1. Follow a Regular Eating Schedule

When you eat is almost as important as what you eat. Your body’s circadian clock is an internal biologic timer that coordinates daily behaviors: sleep/wake, hormone release, and heart function. It responds to environmental changes, like light and food, and helps coordinate your circadian rhythms with your surroundings.

When your clock is out of sync, it can negatively affect your health. Your body expects certain fuels (fats, sugars) at specific times of day. Eating at set times allows for proper digestion. Sporadic eating overworks your stomach as it digests food, sometimes causing bloating and indigestion. Studies show eating every 3–5 hours gives your stomach enough time to adequately process your food and fuel your body.

  1. Eat More Fiber

Fiber is a unique type of carbohydrate that’s essential to maintain a healthy weight and support overall health. While most carbohydrates are converted into sugar, fiber passes through your body undigested. It helps to regulate your hunger levels and assists with waste removal, supporting digestive health and overall well-being.

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers are found in oats, peas, beans, carrots, and citrus fruits. Insoluble fibers—wheat bran, nuts, and certain vegetables like cauliflower and potatoes—don’t dissolve in water to help materials move through your digestive tract.

Your stomach muscles and gastric acids break down food. And a diet rich in fiber helps bind the food pulp that’s passed from the stomach into the intestines. Once it reaches your colon, fiber feeds friendly gut bacteria and helps maintain your microbiome.

  1. Chew Your Food

Food is mostly digested in your stomach and intestines, but the process starts the second you take a bite. Chewing breaks down food into smaller pieces. This helps food to travel down your esophagus (to avoid choking) and assists your stomach with digestion. Chewing mixes saliva—which is packed with digestive enzymes—into your food to allow your body to absorb the greatest amount of nutrients.

Properly chewed food is easier for your stomach to mix with enzymes and digestive juices to continue breaking down nutrients for fuel. The better you chew your food, the easier it is for your stomach functions to carry on optimally.

Did you know these fun stomach facts?

  • Excuse me! Burping releases air molecules swallowed while eating. That’s why you burp when you drink carbonated beverages.
  • Belly size doesn’t correlate to stomach size. Regardless of your midsection’s girth, the average stomach is the same size, about 12 inches long and six inches wide.
  • On the front line. The acid in your stomach sterilizes and neutralizes bacteria and other toxins you might consume.
  • Home of hormones. Your stomach produces a variety of substances. This includes digestive enzymes, acids, and hormones that help stimulate hunger.
  • Stronger than steel. Stomach acid, or hydrochloric (HCl) acid, is powerful enough to dissolve most metals. Originally produced from green vitriol and rock salt, HCl is also known as muriatic acid, acidium salis, and spirit of salts.
  • Time for supper. A growling stomach is called borborygmic. It happens all the time, but it’s easier to hear when your stomach is empty.
  • Zero gravity diners. Muscles in your esophagus constrict and relax in a wave-like manner called peristalsis. This motion pushes food down your esophagus, which is why astronauts digest their food the same in space as on Earth.

Feed Your Body Right to Keep Up Healthy Stomach Function

It’s common for the stomach to be considered the home of your entire digestive process. But your stomach is just one of the many important organs that help your body absorb nutrients.

The best way to take care of your stomach’s health is to eat a balanced diet of whole foods, lean meats, plant-based fats, and to drink plenty of water. And while exercise doesn’t directly impact stomach functions, an active lifestyle can help burn excessive calories and help with heart health.

As the fuel tank for your body, your stomach temporarily stores the food that it later turns into the energy you need to power your life. So, the next time you feel something in the pit of your stomach, use these tips to give your belly the extra boost of support it needs.

Baked goods are a quintessential part of many celebrations. Whether you’re crafting a pecan or mince pie, babka, noodles, or the family’s secret recipe for soft rolls, most list flour as a main ingredient. This year, give your traditional recipes a tasty transformation by swapping for one of the top alternative flours.

When mixing up your favorite batter, flour serves as a binding agent to help hold your mixture together and add texture and flavor. Regular flour is made from ground whole-wheat kernels. Whole grains are nutritious, but as they’re processed down into heavily refined white flour, many of the beneficial ingredients are stripped away and its glycemic impact raises.

This is where alternative flours come in. These flour substitutes have gained popularity over the last several years, and for good reason. You can enjoy the same textures and cohesion as regular flour, but with a lower glycemic impact, more flavor, and a multitude of nutritional benefits.

What is an Alternative Flour?

Alternative flours are commonly made from nuts, seeds, beans, and other grains. Like regular flour, the whole ingredients are processed and milled into a semi-fine powder. Many, like chickpea and almond flour, offer similar binding properties. This makes the flour substitutes an easy 1:1 replacements in your go-to recipes—though some master bakers recommend a pinch more baking powder to offset almond flour’s slightly heavier weight.

Because they often contain more vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients than regular flour, alternative flours fit perfectly into popular dietary guidelines—ketogenic, paleo, low-carb, gluten-free, or wheat-free diets. Even if you aren’t focused on a specific eating plan, the added variety and additional fiber work wonders for your gut health.

Comparing White, Whole Wheat, and Almond Flours

To understand the health benefits of alternative flours, let’s first look at the average nutritional values of the two most common grain flours: white and whole wheat.

Unbleached White Flour, 1 cup (227 g)

  • 455 calories
  • 4 g carbs
    • 4 g dietary fiber
  • 9 g protein
  • 2 g fat
    • 2 g saturated fat
    • 6 g poly and monounsaturated fat
  • Glycemic load: 85

Although white flour is a good source of thiamin, folate, and selenium, the glycemic load of 85 is high. A healthy number to aim for is 55 or less. Additionally, white flour is stripped of its nutrients during the production process, and then added back later.

Whole-grain Wheat Flour, 1 cup (227 g)

  • 407 calories
  • 1 g carbs
    • 6 g dietary fiber
  • 16 g protein
  • 2 g fat
    • 4 g saturated fat
    • 2 g poly and monounsaturated fat
  • Glycemic load: 69

Like white flour, whole-grain wheat flour is a good source of thiamin, folate, and selenium. It has fewer total carbs, and a whopping 14.6 grams of dietary fiber to help your body respond to all you’ll throw at it during celebrations.

Cup-for-cup, whole-grain wheat flour is the clear winner over the unbleached white variety. Now, let’s see how almond flour stacks up.

Almond Flour, 1 cup (227 g)

  • 648 calories
  • 24 g protein
  • 24 g carbs
    • 14 g dietary fiber
  • 56 g fat
    • 3 g saturated fat
    • 7 g poly and monounsaturated fat
  • Glycemic Load: less than 1

While higher in calories than white or wheat, almond flour has almost no effect on blood sugar—and it’s full of healthy, monounsaturated fats and prebiotic, insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is an essential carbohydrate that makes you feel fuller, longer to help you maintain a healthy weight. And it supports good digestive health by feeding your gut bacteria.

Almond flour is a good source of a variety of phytonutrients, such as resveratrol and flavonoids, and it’s rich in vitamin E and other antioxidants. It also provides other essential minerals like calcium, iron, and manganese.

When it comes to cooking, almond flour has a light, buttery flavor that blends well with savory or sweet baking. Because its binding properties are similar to regular flour, it substitutes at a 1:1 ratio. With an abundance of healthy benefits and its ease to swap it in recipes, almond flour is one of the best and most popular alternative baking and bread flours.

Flavorful Flour Substitutes

Now you know the nutritional baseline of white, wheat, and almond flours, you can compare other alternative flours. Here are the average nutrition facts for some of the most popular flour substitutes on the market.

Buckwheat Flour, 1 cup (227 g)

  • 560 calories
  • 16 g protein
  • 115 g carbs
    • 36 g dietary fiber
  • Less than 1 g fat
    • 0 g saturated fat
  • Glycemic Load: 71

Contrary to the name, buckwheat flour contains no wheat, and is gluten free. While it has the highest glycemic impact of any flour on this list, buckwheat is rich in fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients like folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc.

Buckwheat flour has a strong, earthy flavor that’s ideal for muffins, tarts, and banana bread. It doesn’t bind well, so either find recipes specifically made for buckwheat flour, or mix it with other alternative flours to avoid crumbly baked goods.

Cassava Flour, 1 cup (227 g)

  • 460 calories
  • Less than 1 g protein
  • 28 g carbs
    • 8 g dietary fiber
  • Less than 1 g fat
    • 0 g saturated fat
  • Glycemic Load: 46

This flour is made from cassava root, and even though it’s generally low in nutrients, cassava flour contains vitamin C, folate, thiamine, and essential minerals like manganese and potassium.

Cassava is a popular alternative flour. Known for its neutral flavor and powdery texture, it’s commonly a 1:1 replacement for white flour. It tends to be a bit more absorbent, so bakers recommend using slightly less than an equal ratio compared to white flour. This will help maintain moisture in grandma’s famous cookie recipe.

Chickpea Flour, 1 cup (227 g)

  • 356 calories
  • 20 g protein
  • 53 g carbs
    • 10 g dietary fiber
  • 6 g fat
    • 6 g saturated fat
  • Glycemic Load: 44

Chickpeas are the main ingredient in hummus, and they also make for a tasty and healthy alternative flour. Relatively low in fat, with almost no saturated fat, chickpea flour has a medium-low glycemic index of 44. It’s also a fantastic source of folate—over 100 percent of your daily recommendation. It also gives you thiamine and minerals like iron, magnesium, and manganese.

Like almond flour, chickpea flour has a natural, light nutty flavor that’s ideal for many baked goods, but with stronger binding properties. You won’t regret swapping in this flour in your next batch of tortillas.

Coconut Flour, 1 cup (227 g)

  • 480 calories
  • 6 g protein
  • 72 g carbs
    • 40 g dietary fiber
  • 16 g fat
    • 13 g saturated fat
  • Glycemic Load: 50s

Coconut flour is low in fat and packed with dietary fiber and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). Derived from coconut oil, these triglycerides help deliver vital nutrients, such as vitamin E and Coenzyme Q10, to support your brain and heart health.

Coconut flour has a mildly sweet taste, which may affect the flavor profile of your cooking. Its binding properties aren’t a match for regular flour, as it absorbs more liquid. Mix with other flours, add an egg for additional moisture, or find recipes specifying coconut flour as an ingredient.

Oat Flour, 1 cup (227 g)

  • 420 calories
  • 15 g protein
  • 68 g carbs
    • 8 g dietary fiber
  • 5 g fat
    • 7 g saturated fat
  • Glycemic Load: 44

Oats make a great dairy-free milk, and they are just as good as a gluten-free flour substitute. Oat flour contains healthy fats, dietary fiber, antioxidants, thiamin, and iron. While not necessarily a nutritional superfood, it has a mild taste, binds well, and is easy to make at home with whole oats and a blender or food processor. If you’re looking to replace white flour on a budget, this could be your new go to.

Quinoa Flour, 1 cup (227 g)

  • 440 calories
  • 16 g protein
  • 72 g carbs
    • 8 g dietary fiber
  • 2 g fat
    • 0 g saturated fat
  • Glycemic Load: 53

While higher in carbs and glycemic impact compared to other alternative flours, quinoa is a nutritious grain full of phytonutrients. It’s also packed with B vitamins, calcium, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants.

Quinoa flour has an earthy, lightly bitter flavor and pairs well with spices. Like coconut flour, it absorbs more moisture when binding. Try it in your batch of gingerbread or tall stack of pancakes.

Elevate Your Baking Experience

When it comes to home cooking, there’s always an alternative flour fit for the job. Popular substitutes like almond and chickpea flour make for simple 1:1 swaps in any recipe, and are great to help you cater to the diets of your family and guests.

Use the information you just learned to choose the flour that’s right for you and your menu. Everyone at the table will enjoy your tasty twist on more satisfying, and nutritious, celebratory favorites.

Earl Grey. Masala chai. Matcha. Ceylon. Oolong. The benefits of tea are almost as limitless as the varieties consumed across the globe. Steeping tea leaves has been a cultural staple for thousands of years. This complex beverage lets you enjoy deep, richly diverse flavors, and also reap the powerful health benefits.

Tea is a steeped drink stemming from the Camellia sinensis plant. It originated in China and Southeast Asia, and has evolved into several varieties through its travels across the globe. Variations are derived from how the leaves are processed, and differ in flavor, nutrients, and health benefits.

Tea is rich in micronutrients that can support a variety of body systems. It’s also a safe and efficient source of caffeine to boost your energy. Knowing how to select the tea that’s right for you, and what to avoid, will help you experience the health benefits of tea for yourself.

One Plant, One Hundred Names—A Guide to Tea

Whether you hardly drink tea or practically swim in the stuff, here’s your friendly, in-depth guide to tea. Take a sip of some of these healthy tea favorites:

  • Green:

Green tea is made from leaves quickly heated and dried after harvesting to prevent oxidation. It’s often considered the “true tea” by many, as it’s thought to have originated in China nearly 5,000 years ago.

Green tea is known for having less caffeine and for being exceptionally high in flavonoids (an important type of phytonutrients) that support many body systems. This includes proper heart function.

  • Black:

Black tea is produced by allowing the leaves to fully oxidize during processing. This exposes the plant’s cell walls to oxygen, turning them dark brown. Black tea is considered a Western European style of processing tea, while Asian cultures prefer green tea.

Black tea contains more caffeine than green tea, but not as much as brewed coffee. Although this healthy tea also contains flavonoids that can support immune health, green tea is widely considered to be healthier.

  • White:

White tea is the least processed variety. Its leaves are harvested before they are fully developed and quickly dried to prevent oxidization. This process results in the most delicate and freshest tea available.

This tea option is exceptionally high in antioxidants and fluoride. It also contains less caffeine than both green and black tea.

  • Oolong:

Oolong is a traditionally Chinese, partially oxidized tea. And while it has a complex processing system, it is often described as a step between green tea and black tea. Some oolong teas have attributes similar to green tea, while others are almost indistinguishable from black tea.

Oolong is also very rich in antioxidants and polyphenols. The complex harvesting and drying process make oolong tea’s caffeine content unique. The levels generally fall somewhere between the caffeine content of green and black teas.

  • Herbal:

Herbal teas are not made from Camellia sinensis, so in the purse sense, are not really tea. They derive their flavors and health benefits from other sources. Popular herbal ingredients include: chamomile, peppermint, ginger, cinnamon, rooibos, and several other plant materials.

Still, many herbal teas also contain important antioxidants that can help support your health in a variety of ways.

Healthy Tea’s Foundation: Polyphenols, Flavonoids, and Antioxidants

Traditional teas—especially green tea—owe a number of health benefits to polyphenols. These micronutrients are found in certain plant-based foods. They’re filled with antioxidants that help defend against cell-damaging free radicals and can support digestive, immune, and cardiovascular health.

The polyphenols found in tea, particularly one called Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), have been the focus of much scientific research. This research suggests ECGC is responsible for most of the recorded health benefits of tea, including:

From this evidence, the best way to make the benefits of tea a part of your healthy lifestyle is to choose brews high in polyphenols, especially ECGC. Although it can be difficult to know the exact levels of ECGC in the tea you buy, studies show green tea generally contains the most and black tea the least. To get the most polyphenols and flavonoids, buy teas that are high-quality and fresh.

Tea and Caffeine: Energy Unlocking Power

When the midday slump hits, a lot of people turn to caffeine (coffee, green tea, black tea, or man-made energy drinks) for a quick source of energy. Diet and sleep are certainly the cornerstones of solid energy levels, but life throws a lot at you. And you probably find yourself occasionally outmatched and reaching for more support.

Caffeine gives you a boost two ways:

  1. Increasing your metabolism
  2. Exhilarating your central nervous system

But you don’t want to overdo it. Caffeine is potent, and too much can make you overly anxious and even shaky. A healthy adult shouldn’t consume more than three to four hundred milligrams per day. Some people—including pregnant women, adolescents, and children—are more sensitive to caffeine and will need to limit their intake even more. And remember, high doses of caffeine can lead to a hard crash. So, you may want to spread out your caffeine consumption to smaller amounts throughout the day.

With recent research around tea polyphenols, green tea is becoming widely known as a healthy, safe, and efficient source of caffeine. It may not pack the same punch as black tea or coffee, but it’s high in antioxidant and polyphenol, making green tea a fantastic way to boost a healthy lifestyle with efficient energy.

Health Benefits of Tea at a Glance

  Caffeine content per cup/250ml Estimated ECGC content Antioxidant activity Common Varieties
Green 30–70 mg High High Matcha, Dragonwell, Sencha
Black 47–90 mg Low Moderate Earl Grey, Ceylon, Assam
White 6–55 mg Moderate High Bai Mudan, Darjeeling White
Brewed Coffee 90–160 mg None Moderate N/A

Steeped in Sugar

The health benefits of tea are as diverse as it is flavorful. But many companies and manufacturers take advantage of this knowledge to sell cheap and unhealthy products.

A lot of pre-brewed teas and iced teas are filled with sugar. Tea lattes and trendy bubble teas are also loaded with sugar and calories. All of these options may seem healthy because they contain tea, but you’re better off to avoid them.

Instead, do what humans have been doing for generations. Put on the kettle, brew yourself some fresh tea, and curl up on the couch to enjoy its delicate flavor and healthy tea benefits.

Dieting fills your thoughts with food—what you can eat, and, especially, what you can’t. It can also be exhausting and detrimental to your health and weight-management goals. Intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating helps shift your mind from asking “what can I eat” to “when is it best for me to eat.”

The transition is more than dislocating one issue and entrenching another. Focusing your feeding to specific times and incorporating measured intervals of fasting has shown benefits for weight and overall health. This has turned intermittent fasting (sometimes abbreviated IF) into a topic that keeps growing in popularity—from the health-conscious to the general public.

It’s time to go beyond the buzz to explore what this unique approach to eating is, has to offer, and how to start intermittent fasting.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Proponents of the IF way of life say it’s a silver bullet for a whole host of health goals, while detractors dismiss the approach as just the latest fad—or worse, a “starvation diet.”

The concept of intermittent fasting itself is quite simple: consume food within a limited number of hours—also known as your “feeding window”—and abstain from eating and drinking most beverages during the other hours of the day.

IF has several eating schedules—you’ll dive into those later. You can even call it “time-restricted eating”—shifting focus to the eating part of the equation. No matter the name or schedule, the underlying philosophy of feast/fast cycles provides benefits, as well as a contrast to average diet types.

Is Intermittent Fasting Just Another Diet?

Not only is intermittent fasting not a fad diet, it’s not even really a diet. It doesn’t contain a prescribed list of foods to avoid or eat. Instead, the concept of periodic fasting is closer to a shift in lifestyle. And it’s been around for a long time. Human history is stuffed with examples of cycles of feasting and fast. The reason it seems strange or fad-like is that IF sidesteps common weight-loss maxims.

If you’ve ever struggled even slightly with your weight, you’ve likely heard some version of the idiom, “eat less and move more.” It’s understandable to think this logic makes perfect sense—burn more calories than you consume and you’ll lose weight. It’s the simple math of calorie balance that makes weight-management seem easy. But for most the simplicity and ease turns out to be mostly theoretical.

The human body is complex, and recent research shows that calorie consumption is only one factor at play when it comes to weight loss or gain. What else is there then? Every function in the human body is controlled by hormones. And a key hormone that influences weight gain is insulin.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

The pancreas’ most powerful hormone—insulin—increases in your body whenever you eat. Insulin stimulates the absorption of glucose into muscle, fat, and liver cells. The cells either use this glucose for energy or it is converted to fat for long-term storage. This fact isn’t necessarily bad—having energy storage for lean times is necessary for human survival.

The inverse is also true of insulin: when you aren’t eating, blood glucose levels remain lower and levels of the hormone drop. This sparks your body to burn more stored fat as fuel when your body demands energy. And for those looking to lose weight, burning fat is a goal and a very good thing.

Obese people typically have higher insulin levels than folks within normal weight ranges. This is usually because their bodies are less sensitive to insulin, so it takes more insulin to get the same effect in the body.

Exercise has long been the go-to method for increasing insulin sensitivity, and in turn reducing levels of the hormone in the body. Research has also shown that intermittent fasting is another tool you can use to reduce insulin resistance.

Most traditional diets only take aim at improving what you eat or restricting calories, but without also addressing when you eat and how often you eat has its own benefits. Intermittent fasting helps lower your persistent insulin levels. This encourages your body to turn its stored fat into energy after burning through the sugars the body usually uses as fuel.

Along with rebuilding your body’s healthy response to insulin, intermittent fasting also helps you limit calories. That’s the basis of all weight-loss techniques. And intermittent fasting is another solution to help you burn more calories than you take in.

Experience the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

If skipping a meal sounds hard, there’s plenty to help you push through. Here are some of the wide-ranging health benefits that can help propel you through the occasional cravings:

  1. Weight Loss: This the primary goal of many intermittent fasters. Evidence and testimonials back this benefit, but it’s not a quick fix. Long term, reduced calorie intake and lower insulin levels can help you manage your weight. But achieving the amount of weight you want to lose may not happen immediately. Your patience can pay off, though.
  2. Fat Burning: You’ve likely heard that if you don’t eat multiple times a day, your body will hold onto everything you eat because it thinks it’s starving. In other words, if you eat more, you’ll weigh less. Huh? Fasting has been around for thousands of years. Ancient human ancestors’ sporadic access to food, means the human body had to adapt to times of feast and famine. So when you’re fasted to the point of glycogen (stored sugars) depletion, your body burns fat. This change of fuel is important for weight loss, altering body composition, and supports overall wellness—from cardiovascular health to more optimal sleep.
  3. Support for Metabolic Health: Intermittent fasting aims to help normalize your body’s relationship to insulin. Sensitivity to the important hormone is important because it helps maintain blood sugar levels. Studies have suggested intermittent fasting can help support a more normal insulin sensitivity. That means evidence points to periods of fasting helping maintain balanced insulin levels and support healthy blood-sugar outcomes.
  4. Triggering Autophagy: When people choose to fast for non-weight reasons, it’s usually tied to autophagy. This cellular process is your body’s way to cleanup and manage cell damage. A variety of stressors—environmental, nutritional, and fasting—prompt your cells to basically take out the trash. This recycling program for damaged proteins helps supports optimal cellular health.
  5. Better Cognitive Function: Your brain burns a lot of calories. But that doesn’t mean fasting will dampen your cognitive fire. Actually, quite the opposite. Intermittent fasting has ties to many brain benefits—from clearer thinking and memory help to protection and support for neural growth.
  6. Improvements in Your Relationship with Food and Your Body: Diets make you almost obsess about food. Fasting periodically allows you to step back and consider food from a slight remove. If you only eat a limited amount of times, what you eat needs to be worth it. This can help you focus on healthy, delicious foods. Intermittent fasting also doesn’t judge food choices—so you can also escape the guilt of a slip-up. Fasting can connect you to your body. It helps you learn to listen to your hormonal signals about food—when you’re hungry and when you’re full.

Choose Your Own Fasting Adventure with Flexible Eating Schedules

Dieting can feel very inflexible. Eat this, don’t eat that. But food flexibility isn’t the only customizable aspect of intermittent fasting. There are many popular feeding-and-fasting schedules for you to pick from. Each offers slightly different challenges and benefits, so you can find what works best for your goals and your body.

You can look at fasting as a separation of hours feeding and fasting. Some common ratios are: 16:8, 18:6, and 20:4: The first number is your hours of fasting per day. The second is your eating window. Starting with a 16-hour fast is usually best for beginners.

Instead of focusing on hours you’re feeding or fasting, you can think about it in terms of meals. Two meals a day goes well with a 16:8 timeframe. That means skipping one meal—breakfast or dinner. With one meal a day, you’re further concentrating your eating to allow for longer fasts. You can choose the meal that works best for you. Also know you can add a snack or dessert if need be—just keep your feeding window short.

Alternate Day Fasting (ADF) is as simple as it sounds—cycling between days of feeding and fasting. That doesn’t make your feeding day a cheat-day eating extravaganza. But you should eat at least two meals a day when you can. Modified ADF involves doing a meal or snacks totaling 500 calories on your fast day.

You can even approach intermittent fasting on a weekly basis with non-consecutive fast days. Popular options involve choosing to eat five days and fast two, or going for four feeding and three fasting days. It allows some normalcy on feeding days and can help accommodate social pressures. Fasts on 5-2 or 4-3 optimally last 36 hours. That means eating dinner and waiting until lunch on your next feed day (two days later) to eat again.

Extended fasts are used sparingly. They go for 24-72 hours—a long time, which explains their more occasional nature. Fasting for such long periods is not for beginners and shouldn’t be attempted until you are fat-adapted and able to better read your body during fasts. They also should be done with proper precautions in place.

How to Start Intermittent Fasting—8 Quick Tips

  1. Decide your eating window: Be realistic about what’s important and where you can make the sacrifice to fast. Also, be honest about where it’s non-negotiable. Is it best to eat in the morning? Would you rather only eat with your family or friends? Social considerations are important. Intermittent fasting is flexible, so you can tailor it to your life instead of letting a string of exceptions hamper your progress.
  2. Educate yourself: You’ve come this far—so you’re off to a great start. Read more about your chosen fasting option to understand more about the science behind it. Plenty of information is available from those more experienced in intermittent fasting. Use their wisdom to learn where mistakes can be made. Also check out this helpful blog about IF challenges.
  3. Fast clean: That means no cream or sugar in your coffee. The point of the fast is to avoid spiking your insulin.Sticking to unsweetened tea, coffee, and lots of plain water are your best bets. Even flavored, zero-calorie options could ramp up your appetite. And that rookie mistake can make you feel hungrier than you were before.
  4. Open your window wisely: Plan how you’ll open your window, because your hunger could complicate or cloud your ability to choose wisely. Don’t go full bore after a longer fast. Start small. Listen to your body. Leading with foods that are high protein and high fat are great options—but find what works for you. If you aren’t mindful about how you open your window, consequences could await. You can be headed for gastric distress and a trip to the bathroom.
  5. Proper refeeding is as important as fasting: The amount of eating and quality of food are key to help your body make it through your next fast. You need to have an eight-hour window after a longer fast. During that time eat nutritious foods full of the typical dietary targets—plant-based fats, lean protein, along with lots of vegetables and fruits.
  6. Turn to tech: Use apps to track your fast. Set alarms to remind you of the schedule you’re on. A smart scale is also a good way to keep track of your progress. Record notes about your experiences so you can pay attention to what works to open your window or beverages that inadvertently break your fast.
  7. Be patient: It takes time to become used to your new eating approach. Your body is adjusting—go easy on yourself. Journaling, taking pics, and celebrating non-scale victories can help you push through until you start fully seeing and feeling the benefits of intermittent fasting.
  8. Talk to your healthcare professional: Doctors are now more familiar with this approach to eating and can be helpful. They can also help you determine if fasting is right for you. A history of eating disorders, pregnancy or nursing, and being on certain medications may mean you should opt out of fasting or approach it carefully.

You need all 13 of the essential vitamins and 14 essential minerals to maintain health. But let’s be honest—some essential micronutrients perform a larger variety of jobs than others.

No offense to nutrients like molybdenum—with its focus on supporting detoxification processes—but the list below highlights the 10 multitasking micronutrients you need to acquire from your diet.

Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin is a fat-soluble force for good all over your body. The spotlight shines brightly on vitamin D’s role in supporting bone health—by helping maintain balanced levels of calcium in your blood.

But vitamin D also helps:

  • Support healthy immune function
  • Maintain a balanced mood
  • Support cardiovascular health by helping maintain healthy blood pressure already in the normal range

Exposing your skin to the sun will help your body make vitamin D. You can also add a supplement, fatty fish, and fortified dairy or grains to your diet.

Deepen your connection to vitamin D.


It’s called a macromineral for a reason. Your body’s vociferous appetite for magnesium stems from the mineral’s participation in 300-plus enzyme systems. This nutritional jack-of-all-trades plays a role in:

  • Supporting energy production
  • Helping maintain healthy calcium levels
  • Supporting normal, healthy insulin function and blood glucose levels already in the normal range
  • Bone-health maintenance

Maximize your magnesium knowledge.

Vitamin C

You know vitamin C. It’s possibly the most well-known nutrient in the world. Much study has revealed wide-ranging impacts on maintaining your health.

  • Acts as an antioxidant, helping protect you from free radicals by shedding electrons to neutralize damaging compounds
  • Helps support collagen production, which is important for skin-health maintenance
  • Plays an important part in maintaining healthy immune function through support for white-blood-cell production and protection
  • Supports cardiovascular health

See more information about Vitamin C.


The connection to supporting bone health is so strong you may miss calcium’s incredible versatility. This amazing mineral:

  • Supports cardiovascular health and normal, healthy blood clotting
  • Helps maintain healthy cellular communication through its role in cell signaling all around your body
  • Supports muscle movements—both contraction and relaxation require calcium
  • Aids in the maintenance of healthy nerve function

Solidify your understanding of calcium.

Vitamin A

Being a fat-soluble-free-radical fighter is just the start of vitamin A’s supernutrient origin story. Sure, it acts as a powerful antioxidant. But did you know its support for healthy cellular differentiation expands vitamin A’s role throughout your body?

Your eyes, skin, reproductive system, as well as organs and tissues throughout your body are supported by this essential nutrient. It also helps maintain healthy cell growth and communication, supports healthy immune function, and is a component in a key protein for your vision.

Earn top marks for your vitamin A knowledge.


Don’t let the trace-mineral tag fool you. Copper is key to help building a healthy body. Here’s what it does for you:

  • Supports the construction of connective tissue throughout your body
  • Helps maintain healthy red-blood-cell production
  • Supports your brain and nervous system
  • Aids in cardiovascular-health maintenance by supporting healthy blood vessels
  • Supports energy production and cellular respiration
  • Helps maintain immune function and bone health

And it even acts as an antioxidant—although indirectly.

Connect with the science of copper.


You can call it vitamin B7 or biotin. Either way, it will help all over your body—from supporting energy production to maintaining healthy cell signaling.

Biotin is also frequently talked about in the context of supporting healthy hair. But it does so much more. It also helps maintain healthy bones and normal gene expression, while supporting the production of glucose from sources other than carbohydrates.

Boost what you know about biotin.


It’s no small feat being second to calcium on the list of the body’s abundant minerals. That’s how important phosphorous is, though. You need it to support energy production—and you have adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to thank for that.

Phosphorous also:

  • Supports bone and cellular health
  • Helps maintain healthy cell signaling
  • Supports protein synthesis
  • Works with B vitamins to help support heart, kidney, muscle, and nerve health

Familiarize yourself with phosphorous.

Vitamin B6

Over 100 of your body’s enzymes wouldn’t be the same without vitamin B6. Let’s jump right to the list—because it’s a long one.

  • Supports production of glucose from the stored sugar molecule glycogen
  • Helps maintain immune health through support for immune-cell production
  • Supports normal modulation of hormones
  • Plays a role in supporting fat metabolism
  • Helps maintain normal neurotransmitter formation
  • Supports cardiovascular health by playing a role in regulating homocysteine levels in the blood
  • Plays a role in coenzymes that help support healthy protein metabolism

Be more aware of all vitamin B6 does for you.


You might not need as much zinc as other minerals, but it still is involved in 300-plus enzymes and many important bodily system and functions.

Immune support may spring to your mind first. Zinc does help maintain healthy immunity. One of the biggest roles it plays in your health starts at the genetic level. Zinc helps support healthy DNA construction and repair. And then it also is a structural component of proteins related to gene expression.

Supporting the health of your kidneys, eyes, muscles, bones, and skin also falls under the job description for zinc. So does antioxidant activity, support for the production of a component of blood, and aiding the absorption of folate into cells.

What more is there to know about zinc? Find out here.





























Hydration is typically approached one glass of water at a time. You aren’t wrong to try that when tracking your liquid intake. Drinking plenty of plain water really is the best way to attain healthy hydration. But you can also easily add several hydrating foods to your daily menu to help out.

It’s important to do everything you can to stay properly hydrated because it’s essential for good overall health. Healthy hydration helps your body remain in the state of homeostasis it craves. And the combination of liquids and water-rich foods will help your body experience the benefits of proper, healthy hydration. Those include supporting:

  • healthy, normal cognition and focus
  • circulation (since water makes up a big portion of your blood)
  • healthy-looking skin that appears plump
  • your immune system’s germ fighters
  • healthy bones and properly lubricated joints
  • the functions of your vital organs to literally keep you alive

Maximize Your Hydration Mix with Water-Rich Foods

Your body—from head to toe—needs water. The sources you tap for that healthy hydration is up to you. Studies have found a wide range for total water intake that comes from food. Variations by culture, age, and other factors account for anywhere between 20 and 40 percent of water coming from food.

Your target percent is up to you, but having flexibility is good. Maybe water isn’t your go-to beverage and you think it’s kind of boring. Your other liquids count, too. Broth, skim milk, and coconut water are great hydrating options. Even coffee and tea help—despite the myths about caffeine-containing beverages adversely impacting hydration.

Or would you rather maximize your diet by loading up your plate with hydrating foods throughout the day? You’re in luck. There are obvious options you’ll find on any list of water-rich foods—watermelon, cucumber, citrus fruit, a variety of berries, celery, lettuce, squash, tomatoes, and grapes.

There are also some foods that could be real surprises to you. Scroll through the list of eight common grocery store items you might not reach for first while filling your cart with hydrating foods.


From the ocean to your table, this popular seafood item is packed with water. Its moisture content falls somewhere between 70 and 79 percent, depending on processing. Protein sources—from chicken breasts to beef tenderloin—shouldn’t be overlooked as an avenue for adding hydration to the diet, as well. Shrimp are a delicious place to start.


These colorful root vegetables, on first glance, don’t appear to be a juicy option for hydration. But the truth is that carrots contain about 88 percent water. That might be one of the reasons they’re so popular with people who make their own juice.


You’d think it would be the water content (over 80 percent) that has yogurt on a list of hydrating foods. That’s certainly part of the appeal. But potassium and the other electrolyte minerals in this fermented dairy product provide an enhanced hydration boost.

Cottage Cheese

By weight, cottage cheese is about 80 percent water. Couple that with protein and lots of nutrients and the creamy curds become a hydrating—and filling—addition to any meal.

Cruciferous Vegetables (Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cabbage)

Maybe you could have guessed cabbage is full of water—it does look like lettuce on steroids after all. Broccoli and cauliflower, though? They don’t seem like hydrating, water-rich foods. Cauliflower has a water percentage in the low nineties, and broccoli clocks in around 88 percent. Keeping these vegetables as close to raw as possible will help them remain moisture-packed options.

Boiled Eggs

At 75 percent water, chicken eggs aren’t as flooded with moisture as some foods on this list. But you might think boiling an egg would ruin it’s hydrating potential, right? The fact is, that 75 percent water content remains and combines with high protein levels and a bounty of essential nutrients to make boiled eggs another hydrating addition to a salad.


Hidden beneath that bright yellow peel is a healthy, hydrating snack. Bananas are about three quarters water (75 percent), with a lot of fiber and potassium. That makes bananas an appealing addition to your list of hydrating foods.

Boiled or Baked Potatoes

Potatoes grow underground, soaking up all the water and nutrients the soil has to offer. When they’re harvested—and even after cooking—these popular tubers still sport a water content percentage in the high seventies.

Fill Up on Hydrating Foods to Help Buoy Your Health

Humans don’t have the option to go waterless. You don’t live very long without water. Even if you don’t take in enough each day, you’ll experience a parched and arid existence.

But satisfying your thirst isn’t exactly the same as keeping yourself properly hydrated. That’s because the mix of hydrating foods and beverages requires thinking outside the glass when it comes to water intake.

Luckily, you have a raft of healthy and delicious, water-rich foods from which to choose. They’re also easy to incorporate into your weekly meal planning. Just remember that cooking some of these hydrating foods will impact their final moisture content. So, plan on preparing them in a way that maximizes their hydrating benefits.

Your old, reliable meals are the easy answer to a dinner dilemma. But when you find yourself mired in menu malaise, do yourself a favor—mix up the food you buy and eat. Chowing down on a varied diet supplies the wide range of nutrients you need to live well.

Dietary variety delivers other health benefits, too. Diversifying the food you eat helps support total-body health—see more on the specifics below. It also tastes good! And eating a varied diet leaves you feeling better than the fast food and packaged snacks that can often replace a nutritious meal.

Take up the challenge and add new foods to your routine. Here’s how you can give your go-to meals a break and inject variety into your diet.

Dietary Variety Starts at the Grocery Store

By definition, a varied diet means eating foods from across all food groups. This ensures you acquire a broad-spectrum of the macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals your body needs to help you feel your best. However, not everyone is great at buying and cooking the variety of foods a healthy diet requires.

A recent study paints a clearer picture of how little variety people have in their diet. In 2017, researchers compared the grocery shopping habits of four generations of adults.

Scientists wanted to learn about shopping and eating behaviors across a range of ages. This was the focus because you can tell a lot about a person’s health by the way they shop for food. And in the case of the millennial generation, it’s what they’re not buying that’s more revealing.

The study showed millennials spend less money on groceries than any of their predecessors. They prefer to dine out more and cook at home less. And the smallest portion of their money goes to buying healthy foods like whole grains, vegetables, and lean meats.

Instead, millennials are devoting the biggest chunk of their budgets to ready-to-eat food items that fall short of meeting the standard for good nutrition.

How does that impact the variety of your diet? When it comes to convenient snacks and prepackaged foods, the contents are similar. Starches, sugars, trans fats, and little fiber. Not the wide range of nutrients you can find in a diverse diet of whole foods.

The vibrant array of vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables can be largely absent in a diet of ready-to-eat foods. But you can boost the quality of your nutrition by including more food groups on your shopping list.

Millennial or not, pull your diet out of the rut that relies on prepackaged foods. Take a lesson from older generations and set aside more money for healthier, whole foods. It will make your shopping list more interesting and increase dietary variety.

Body Benefits of a Varied Diet

Plentiful evidence supports the concept that eating a variety of foods is best for your health. That’s because diversifying your diet broadens the sources of the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients that fuel your body, which is important.

Your body utilizes dozens of nutrients your diet has to provide. That’s one reason eating the same thing every day proves tiresome. A healthy body has a high demand for macro- and micronutrients. And you can’t amass them all from one place.

Supplying your body with a bounty of nutrients is important for total-body health. All of your body’s systems, organs, and cells need these essential macro- and micronutrients. But there are specific body benefits.

Dietary variety predicts a healthier heart and weight range. Those are great reasons to opt for diversity in your dining. With a goal to eat more from each food group, you’re more likely to skip the crackers and chips and choose wholesome and more sustaining foods. This leads to picking high-fiber, low-calorie, nutrient-packed foods that support a healthy heart and weight.

Another reason for a more varied diet is the strength diversity brings to your gut. So much in the body is influenced by the digestive tract. Almost all nutrient absorption takes place in the small intestine and your immunity takes root in the gut, too.

Bacteria and microbes work alongside the cells in your small intestine to digest food and extract nutrients. But your microbiome needs nourishment just like the rest of your body. Prebiotic (those with fiber) and probiotic foods (those containing good bacteria) help you maintain a beneficial microbial balance. This makes what you feed your microbiome important.

In your quest for variety, try to find ways to add foods that facilitate good digestion and microbial diversity to your diet. Legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are good sources of the prebiotics that support gut health. Fermented dairy products (yogurt and kefir) as well as sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and other healthy, plant-based options help provide the probiotics your guts need to maintain health.

So, the case for a wide-ranging diet is pretty simple: Including items from across the food groups fills your meals with substance and variety, while supplying the spectrum of nutrition you need to be healthy.

Tips to Increase the Variety in Your Diet

If you want to infuse you diet with more diversity, here are a few ideas to help get you started:

  1. Buy In-Season

A great way to increasingly vary your food is to buy fruits and vegetables during their peak season. Not all fruits and vegetables are available year-round. But when you shop for food in its growing season, you enjoy exceptional taste and freshness. Get to know when to expect your favorites to be the ripest.

Picking seasonal produce adds a layer of variety to your diet all year because what’s in season is always changing. Instead of always grabbing an apple, choose blackberries and strawberries during the warm berry season. Pick oranges in cooler months. You’ll adopt a revolving calendar of healthy foods to eat as fruits and vegetables rotate through their seasons. 

  1. Try Perimeter Shopping

Maybe a change in the way you shop is all you need to spice up your meals. Give perimeter shopping a try.

This technique can help you shake up what you choose in the grocery store. And the principle is simple. Try to only put foods found along the perimeter of the store in your shopping cart. Here’s why. The perimeter of most grocery stores is lined with healthy foods not found on the shelves at the center of the market. On the outside edges you find fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, dairy, and whole grains.

Processed, conveniently packaged food tends to reside in the aisles lining the center of the store. Since items from the aisles in the middle are quick and easy to grab, you might forget that they’re not the best for you. Branch out from your comfort foods and try making meals with what you can find along the perimeter.

  1. Get Creative

Plan meals that use foods in new ways. Substitute spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles for your regular pasta. Try riced cauliflower in place of white rice. Swapping out food staples like these makes adding variety to your diet simple and satisfying. Not to mention the added vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients you’ll also pick up.

  1. The Brighter the Better

Noticing the colors of the food on your plate puts you on your way to creating a more varied diet. That’s because diverse foods come in a rainbow of colors, and a meal featuring several means you’re off to a good start.

The colors of your food also hint at the nutrients they bring to the table—literally. Orange and yellow foods (like carrots and peppers) are full of vitamin A to help support your vision. Green foods like broccoli and spinach have iron and calcium to maintain the health of your red blood cells. Red and purple fruits and veggies are packed with vitamins C and K to support your immunity and help with healthy mineral storage in your bones.

Imagine what you’d miss out on if you ate monochromatic meals. Instead, flood your body with the nutrition it deserves by splashing more color on your plate. And challenge yourself to eat from every color of the rainbow.

  1. Plan Ahead

A sure-fire way to diversify your cooking is by prepping healthy, assorted foods ahead of time. Busy days squeeze out any room for cooking, so it’s tempting to settle for a bowl of cereal or a trip through the drive through. Those options leave you without the healthy variety your diet desperately needs.

Pack your freezer full of mixed fruits and vegetables for days when you can’t cook. Steam frozen veggies for a quick bite. A fruit smoothie with berries, peaches, and banana is a great alternative to a lackluster fast-food sandwich—with many times the nutrient value.

Keep an assortment of healthy, fun, and flavorful foods at your fingertips so you can enjoy the dietary variety your body deserves.

A meal can make your day. Or the wrong one can sink your plans—and your digestive system—like a stone. That’s because all foods don’t digest the same way. Digestibility can even change from person to person. This depends on factors like digestive juices and enzyme activity, microbiome makeup, and anatomical differences. But there are some hard to digest foods that are largely troublesome.

These problems are broadly categorized as digestive issues. And it might be best to leave it at that. To describe them in detail would probably end your reading experience right here. You’re likely familiar with the variety of feelings that result from eating the worst digestion foods out there. It isn’t pretty or comfortable.

And that’s good enough reason to figure out how to swap out these six potentially day-derailing foods.

Fried Foods Burn Your Day to a Crisp

A diet full of fried foods provides a variety of issues. They are a main culprit in the modern, Western dietary descent into the unhealthy. Eating fried foods has many links to unhealthy weight gain and all the associated issues.

While your waistline might be the first thing that jumps to mind, don’t forget the impact fried foods have on your digestive system. Frying any food adds fat. No surprise, since you’re literally immersing food into liquid lipids.

This abundance of fat can trigger a variety of gastric issues for some. It also has been found to have adverse effects on the healthy diversity of the gut microbiome. And that community of microbes play a big role in digestion. That makes fried foods a double-whammy of digestive difficulties.

Eat This Instead: Baking or roasting foods instead of frying will cut down on added fat without sacrificing some of the crunch and crisp of fried foods.

Sugar Substitutes Aren’t Sweet on Your Digestive System

You or someone you know is cutting back on sugar consumption. This is a good goal. But turning to highly processed sugar substitutes may create digestive issues.

Some alternative sweeteners—especially sugar alcohols—have been tied to gastrointestinal unpleasantness. That’s because these substitutes aren’t fully digestible. And consuming too many of various sugar alcohols—frequently found in chewing gum and other sugar-free foods—can sour your day.

Eat This Instead: Cutting out sugar is tough, but there are natural, plant-based substitutes that aren’t linked to substantial digestive issues.

Fatty Meats Make Hard to Digest Foods

Just because the fat is present before cooking doesn’t make fatty meats easier to digest than fried foods. Once again, you need to trim the excessive, unhealthy fat.

The same concerns about your microbiome exist with fatty meats. But your anatomical digestive processes can be upset by eating too much fat, as well. That’s because fat impacts the speed of stomach emptying. Altering the timing of movement and the flow of food through your digestive tract could wreak havoc.

Whether it slows down emptying or speeds up the process, you will feel it.

Eat This Instead: Protein is a key component of a healthy diet. You absolutely need it. But that well-marbled steak isn’t essential. So, replace fatty meats with leaner—or plant-based—protein sources.

Processed Foods Interrupt Your Digestive Processes

Your body has developed to eat what’s around you. For a long time, that meant whole foods from plant and animal sources. Now food scientists and manufacturers can develop foods that take parts and pieces from many sources to make a new whole.

This processing often strips fiber, which is great for digestive health. It also adds fat, sugar, and salt—all of which aren’t good for digestion in excess. More digestive issues could come from the prevalence of artificial ingredients and preservatives that may be hard for your body to handle.

Eat This Instead: Stick, as much as you can, to whole or minimally processed foods—fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.

Dairy can be Disastrous for Digestion

If you’re lactose intolerant, the dairy aisle has many hard to digest foods. That’s obvious. Many lack the enzymes necessary to process lactose (or milk sugar). There are remedies, but dairy digestion could remain hard no matter what, especially soft cheeses and milk.

Eat This Instead: Fermented dairy products like yogurt. Also lactose-free milk and harder cheeses are easier because lactose isn’t present or is limited. That’s because it has already been taken care of. So, turn to these easier options to get your dairy fix.

Carbonated Drinks Don’t Do You Any Favors

Many carbonated drinks have alternative sweeteners or are loaded with sugar. Both can be bothersome. But the bubbles are the real problem.

Some people deal with carbonation better than others. But filling your stomach with gas can easily lead to bloating for anyone. And when those bubble pop, the air has to escape somewhere.

Drink This Instead: Plain water is always your best bet for hydration. If you need something a bit more interesting, try adding fruit or switching to green tea.

Aren’t Fiber-Rich Grains, Fruits, and Vegetables Hard to Digest Foods?


You’ll see fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains on lists of foods that may menace your digestive system. You can blame fiber.

It’s true that fiber—both soluble and insoluble varieties—aren’t fully digested. Given what you know, that seems bad. And packing yourself with a bunch of fiber-rich foods does generate a gastrointestinal reaction.

But the reason fiber-rich plant-based foods aren’t on the list above is because these foods have so many positives. And there are easy ways around the digestive dysfunction they could cause.

First of all, fiber also aids in digestion, adding bulk and helping the movement of waste products. It also acts as food for your microbiome (prebiotics). And finally, fiber has ties to multiple health benefits and weight management success.

Vegetables and fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients. So, you don’t want to skip them because they were on a list of hard to digest foods. You just have to be smart about how they are prepared and how much you eat.

Gradually increase your consumption of raw vegetables—especially cruciferous types, like cabbage and broccoli. That way your body and microbiome have time to adjust to the incremental increase in fiber and other plant material. Cooking vegetables will also help with their digestibility, and, in some cases, improve the bioavailability of certain nutrients.

When it comes to fruits, moderation still matters. But selection is important, as well. Berries and bananas—and other low-fructose fruits—are easier on your digestive system than choices like pears or apples. Also, don’t overdo it with acidic fruits.

Obviously, avoid grains if you’re allergic to them. And legumes (beans, lentils, and peas) are tough because they’re full of fiber and you may not have the enzymes needed to break them down. Soaking beans before cooking is a step towards mitigate beans’ impact on your guts.

Do a Favor for Your Digestive System

There are so many factors to consider when planning your meals. You can focus on macronutrients, micronutrients, calories, and on and on. Just don’t forget about what happens after the food leaves your fork.

Cut the food that you eat into small pieces and chew each bite completely before swallowing, as this can aid in digestibility. Swap out or limit the hard to digest foods you eat for ingredients easier on your gastrointestinal tract. That way eating will be energizing, filling, and satisfying instead of a form of culinary sabotage for your day.

If your diet is perfect, you can stop reading right now. This story is for people who occasionally hang out with foods best described as bad nutritional influences. That’s because even dietary troublemakers have redeeming qualities and you can find surprising sources of nutrients everywhere.

That doesn’t mean your whole diet should—or even can—be filled with foods that lean so heavily into the unhealthy. You need to limit the foods mentioned below. And for good health and weight maintenance, fill up on nutritious whole foods and plenty of plants.

But for the sake of your happiness or sanity, sometimes you need to stray—even momentarily. So, the following list of surprising sources of nutrients isn’t meant to absolve your dietary indiscretions. Instead, use it to help you pick a pleasure with at least a sliver of a nutritional silver lining.

Dark Chocolate Could be Your Choice for Unexpected Nutrition

This is probably the most well-known example of important nutrients in a delicious disguise. But let’s get something straight—this isn’t a blanket statement about all chocolate. Only the dark variety (cocoa—the unsweetened powder, not the drink—content at 50 percent or above) brings the hidden nutrient payload.

White chocolate is basically sugar and fat—without any actual cocoa in it. Milk chocolate is ubiquitous, creamy, delicious, and lacking many cocoa solids, which almost eliminates any nutritional upside whatsoever.

Dark chocolate contains more of the actual source material—the pods of the cacoa plant—which makes it more bitter and nutritious. That’s because this dark delight retains some soluble fiber, beneficial fatty acids, minerals, and small amounts of caffeine.

The phytonutrients in dark chocolate are also a big part of the surprising nutritional profile. Chocolate’s bio-active plant compounds have the ability to provide antioxidant support. And cocoa’s profile of phytonutrients—in this case, flavonols, catechins, and polyphenols—compares favorably to some berries.

That doesn’t mean you should permanently replace your afternoon handful of blueberries with a bar of dark chocolate. Even though it’s a surprising source of nutrients, dark chocolate is an unsurprising source of calories and fat. Any nutrient density is unfortunately balanced with the density of calories. So, eat dark chocolate in moderation—an ounce (28 grams) here and there won’t hurt. And you now have the information to back up your decadent decision.

What Nutrients are Hiding in Dark Chocolate?

  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Flavonols
  • Fiber

The Shocking Nutritional Power of Potatoes

These tubers get a bad reputation. But why do potatoes have to be so delicious when fried and salted? Without the unhealthy preparation, potatoes absolutely qualify as a surprising source of nutrients.

Potatoes are just plants, after all—starchy nightshades grown underground to be exact. That’s the same family as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. And potatoes share vitamin and mineral content with their conventionally healthy cousins.

The white or gold varieties of potato—sweet potatoes are different and often considered healthier anyway—have vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6, and certain polyphenols. Since they’re mostly carbohydrates, potatoes also contain a small amount fiber. What is there mostly takes the form of resistant starch and insoluble fiber.

A majority of potatoes’ helpful nutrients aren’t hiding deep inside. They’re right on the surface, in the skin. So, when you cook potatoes, wash them thoroughly to remove dirt, but don’t peel them. You’re throwing a significant percentage of the nutrition in the garbage or compost.

There are plenty of nutrients to make potatoes worthwhile parts of your plate. And they are a staple food around the world. But overeating these starchy vegetables can be detrimental to weight management. That’s partly because plain potatoes are high glycemic and fairly calorie dense.

So, when potatoes are on the menu, make sure to pay attention to preparation (leave the peel) and cooking method (baked or boiled—not fried or cooked without excess fat). To lower the glycemic impact of potatoes, eat them as part of an entire meal (with protein, added fiber, and fats) to help slow the rate of digestion. And know when you dig in, you’re doing something surprisingly good for your health.

What Nutrients are Hiding in Potatoes?

  • Insoluble fiber
  • Resistant starch
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B9 (folate)
  • Choline
  • Antioxidants from various polyphenols (including catechin and lutein)

Looking for a Surprising Source of Nutrients? Say Cheese!

Cheese can be gooey, melty, creamy, or delightfully funky. It’s also full of saturated fat, calories, and quite a bit of salt. That’s not all that awaits cheese lovers, though.

The delectable dairy treat sports a bevy of beneficial nutrients to help balance some of the negatives. It has protein, a variety of essential minerals (calcium, zinc, and phosphorous), and vitamins A, B2, and B12. Depending on the milk source, cheeses can even contain conjugated linoleic acid, vitamin K2, good bacteria, omega-3s, and other fatty acids.

And you have your choice of different cheeses. If you’ve visited any grocery store lately, you know the variety of cheeses is staggering. Each type of cheese offers a different level of healthfulness, too.

It’s time to slice up the nutritional goodness for a few common varieties of cheese:

  • Cheddar: A popular addition to a variety of dishes—or simply delicious on top of crackers—this cheese, per ounce (28 grams), has: 115 calories, seven grams of protein, 20 percent of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium, and some vitamin K2.
  • Blue Cheese: A rich cheese with veins of mold that has about 100 calories per ounce, six grams of protein, and a third of your RDI of calcium.
  • Feta: Crumbles of this salty cheese can give your salad a big boost of flavor, protein, and calcium without too many calories—80 per ounce, six grams of protein, and 10 percent of your daily calcium.
  • Mozzarella: This lower fat, lower sodium cheese is also lower calorie—about 85 per ounce—but still has plenty of protein (six grams) and calcium (14 percent of your daily recommendation in just an ounce).
  • Parmesan: A hard cheese that’s great as a topping contains about 110 calories per ounce, 10 grams of protein, 34 percent of your RDI of calcium, and about 30 percent of your recommended intake of phosphorous.
  • Swiss: Don’t let the holes fool you, there’s still plenty of protein (eight grams), not a lot of sodium, and very few carb (less than a gram) in this popular cheese—which also has about 111 calories and a quarter of daily calcium intake in an ounce.

All the fat, calories, and sodium necessitates a moderate approach to cheese consumption. And it’s obviously a no-no for those avoiding dairy for any reason. But if cheese melts your willpower, don’t fear too much. It’s still a surprising source of nutrients you need.

What Nutrients are Hiding in Cheese?

  • Protein
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin K
  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorous
  • Fatty acids—like palmitoleate, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and omega 3s
  • Good bacteria

Crack Open the Cold, Hard Facts About Hidden Nutrients in Beer

Moderation is the best mode when considering alcohol as part of your lifestyle. And avoiding it altogether is the only path that works for some. But if you’re going to pour yourself something stronger than water, beer is an unexpectedly good option.

Imbibing moderate amount of any alcohol has been found to have health benefits. Wine usually drinks up a lot of the publicity about healthy alcoholic beverages. But don’t sleep on the surprising nutrients lurking just below the foam of your sudsy lager or ale (especially those that haven’t filtered out all the grain proteins, hop material, and yeast from solution).

The B vitamins, soluble fiber, and very small amounts of various essential minerals help balance out some of the negatives brought on by beer’s high calories and carb count. You couldn’t, and shouldn’t, turn to beer for any significant portion of your nutritional needs, though.

There is one interesting and beneficial organic compound that is hard to find in other sources—xanthohumol. This bioflavonoid (a special kind of polyphenol and phytonutrient) comes from the hops used to bitter and flavor beer.

Research on this emerging compound isn’t robust, yet. But early results are promising. It’s found that your body may like xanthohumol because of its antioxidant properties, which means it helps fight free radicals. The most effective doses of this bioflavonoid are much higher than what you’d get in even the hoppiest beer, though.

So, if you don’t drink alcohol, that’s probably a good decision for your overall health. Those that do choose to tip one back every once in a while—always responsibly, moderately, and legally—can find surprising nutritional content in their favorite pint.

What Nutrients are Hiding in Beer?

  • Soluble fiber
  • B vitamins
  • Silicon
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorous
  • Fluoride
  • Copper
  • Selenium
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Antioxidants from phytonutrients in the ingredients (barley and hops)
  • Xanthohumol

Surprises are Good—Sometimes

Knowing where to find surprising sources of nutrients is a good way to pick and explain away your guilty pleasures. You might even impress your friends with these fun facts. Again, though, these foods shouldn’t make up the bulk of your diet.

You can feel good about finding buried nutritional treasure in seemingly irredeemable foods and beverages. But remember there are more obvious sources of important nutrients that should be the focus of your meal planning.

Vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, lean protein, and whole grains might not offer the rush of the foods above. But they’re the foundation of the healthy diet that allows you to occasionally opt for something a little more fun—with a few hidden nutrient surprises, too.