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When it comes to whittling your waistline, it isn’t simply about cutting calories: success comes from fueling your fat-burning with these important nutrients:
Eat fat to burn fat
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Hindsight shows that our collective waistlines expanded right along with the flood of fat-free foods into our supermarkets, starting about 25 years ago. Our bodies need fat to function properly: the trick is providing the right kind. The trans-fats found in baked goods and fast-foods are partially responsible for your muffin top, while omega 3 essential fatty acids (EFA) from deepwater fatty fish like salmon and sardines along with nuts and seeds boost your fat-burning abilities. Likewise, your muscles prefer the medium-chained triglycerides found in coconut oil as a fuel source, meaning these fats don’t get stored. Use coconut oil in your baking and cooking: with a high smoke point, coconut oil an excellent choice for frying.
*If you don’t eat fish 2-3 times per week, take a daily fish oil supplement to ensure adequate intake of omega 3 EFA.*
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The role of iron is to help your red blood cells shuttle oxygen around your body: without enough of this mineral, your cells don’t get the oxygen they need to function at optimal levels. Iron deficiency anemia is a very common mineral deficiency that can lead to feeling chronically exhausted, particularly for women in their menstrual years. And who wants to get off the coach to exercise if they’re exhausted? Since movement is essential to fat-burning, be sure you’re getting enough iron.
Food sources of iron include: beef, clams, lentils, mussels, spinach, turkey.
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*Did you know?
Vitamin C promotes the absorption of iron, and calcium blocks iron absorption. Have your iron with a source of vitamin C, like peppers or oranges. Enjoy calcium foods at another time. Choose a multi without iron, and take iron supplements instead.*
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Fill up on fibre
Not only does fibre help you feel full longer so you don’t overeat, it also helps to keep your blood sugar more balanced – which is a factor in reducing those willpower-busting cravings. Fibre also helps to keep things moving along your digestive tract, improving elimination. As an added bonus of the waste removal process encouraged by adequate fibre, extra estrogen is more readily transported out of the body, which helps to reduce abdominal fat-storage in both sexes.
Gradually increase your intake of fibre-rich fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains like spelt, quinoa, millet and rice. Aim for 14g fibre for each 1000 calories consumed. Drink plenty of water to avoid feeling bloated.
*Did you know?
Consumption of wheat (even whole wheat) has been linked with insulin resistance and abdominal weight gain? Switch out wheat for other whole grains like amaranth and barley.*
The dynamic duo
We know about calcium as an important mineral for regulating blood pressure and building strong bones and teeth, but it gets less air-play as a fat burner. That’s a shame, because research shows that getting enough calcium can help you let go of excess weight by oxidizing fat. Of course, eating calcium won’t do anything if the mineral isn’t absorbed, and you need adequate vitamin D for that to occur. Unfortunately, from the months of October to May in Canada, the angle of the sun combine with the cold winter that has us bundled in layers whenever we’re outside to severely restrict our exposure to D-producing sunlight on our skin. Eating vitamin D-fortified foods will help boost your intake, but it’s recommended that you also use a vitamin D supplement, especially in winter.
*Food sources of abundant calcium include greens like parsley and broccoli, as well as sesame seeds. Remember to eat calcium away from iron.*
Muscle over, fat
The key to successful and long-term optimal weight is to preserve and build muscle while burning excess fat, and dietary protein is essential for muscle maintenance. Unfortunately, many women are deficient in this major food group. Taking longer to digest, protein foods also provide a slow release of energy into the bloodstream, helping you feel full longer so you don’t over-eat. Slower digestion also prevents energy crashes that might lead to cravings. Meat, fish, poultry and eggs are excellent sources of protein, as are nuts, seeds, lentils, and legumes.
Adults should aim to get 25-35% of their daily calories from protein foods.
We often think of what foods to avoid so we can get fit. With these foods in your menu, your ideal weight can become a reality.
By Lisa Petty
First published in Canadian Health and Lifestyle