7 Signs You’re Not Eating Enough Calories

Reducing calories is a key part of almost any weight-loss plan. But it’s possible to go too far with cutting calories, and that won’t help you! Here are some warning signs that you’re not eating enough calories.

You’re Exhausted
Calories = energy. When you fall short, you’re more likely to feel wiped out. If you’re feeling tired much earlier than normal, or if you’re having trouble getting out of bed even after eight solid hours of sleep, take a look at what you’re putting on your plate during the day. If it’s extra tough to drag yourself through your day-to-day activities, that’s another indicator you’re not meeting your basic needs. (Find out some other reasons you might be tired.)

Your Workouts Are Suffering
Having fuel in the tank is essential for powering through your workouts. If you notice that you’re losing steam quickly or if you’re struggling to lift weights that would normally be no sweat, look at what you’re putting in your mouth before and after you hit the gym. Consuming some carbs pre-workout and replenishing afterwards with a combo of protein and carbs will support recovery. That will allow your body to repair itself and build muscle to help you see the results you long for. (Learn how to recover from a tough workout.)

You Can’t Focus
When you’re low on calories (and energy), your mind may feel foggy. If that 80-calorie, fat-free yogurt barely gets you through the morning meeting, add some nuts for staying power. Or swap in a breakfast that provides a balance of protein, complex carbs, and fat. An egg on whole-grain toast or even a piece of fruit with some almond butter will give you a leg up. It’s called “brain food” for a reason.

You’re Always Hangry
If you’re consistently hungry and irritable, it may be a sign that you’re just not eating enough. Take a look to see if perhaps you could try slightly more substantial meals and snacks. Aim for a balance of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats within your calorie needs to provide stable energy.

Your Period Is Off—or MIA
Restricting calories too much can lead to changes in hormone levels, which can cause your menstrual cycle to go out of whack or take a hiatus. Adequate nutrition is important for normal hormone function, so a missed period when you’re not pregnant or a sudden change if you’re super-regular is a loud and clear signal that something is not right. Check in with your doctor. (Read some answers to other period questions.)

The Scale Isn’t Budging
A sudden drop in calories can trick your body into thinking you’re lost in the wilderness instead of just trying to fit into a bridesmaid’s dress. So it goes into “starvation mode,” clinging to every calorie it can. This makes it harder to lose weight over time because it slows down your metabolism. If you’re not losing weight on, say, 1,400 calories per day, try 1,600 calories for a couple weeks and reevaluate. (Find out 6 reasons you aren’t losing weight.)

You Just Can’t Stick to the Plan
If your low-calorie diet plan feels impossible to stick to, it may not be just a matter of willpower. It might be that it’s not the right plan for you. Even a small increase in calories may feel more sustainable. Ideally, the diet that helps you reach your goal should look pretty similar to the one that will help you maintain that success over time. When you enjoy what you eat and feel energized and satisfied, you’re more likely to stick with an overall healthy diet that supports your long-term health goals.

MS: Dietary interventions may ‘calm down the immune system’

A study in mice has shown that a change in diet may slow diseases that involve the activation of the immune system, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). Could the findings lead to improved treatments in humans?
In the United States, nearly 1 million people over the age of 18 are living with a diagnosis of MS, according to estimates.

MS is the most common of the inflammatory disorders with an autoimmune component, which refers to the immune system attacking and damaging healthy tissue.

In MS, the immune system attacks the myelin sheaths that protect the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, disrupting nerves’ messages to and from the brain.

The result can involve muscle weakness, numbness, trouble with balance and coordination, and cognitive decline, all of which get worse over time.

Doctors most frequently diagnose MS in young adults, although the diagnosis can be made at any age.

At present, no medical treatment can prevent or slow MS without greatly increasing the risk of infection or cancer. But what if dietary changes could delay the disease’s onset and progression in high risk individuals?

10 Healthy Pizza Recipes

Forget the delivery dude. These easy pizza recipes ditch the grease and amp up the flavor with good-for-you ingredients, making them perfect for your next get-together.

Maple-Walnut Pizza with Chicken Sausage

When you need to satisfy that sausage craving, opt for the chicken variety over pork to cut calories and fat. And make sure your cheese doesn’t have less than 33 percent fat to avoid a rubbery texture and get that oh-so-gooey one.

Makes: 6 servings
Prep: 15 mins
Total Time: 35 mins

Chickpea Pizza with Sausage and Peppers

For a Mediterranean twist, opt for chickpea flour. Unlike the wheat kind, it’s gluten-free and packed with protein. Plus it makes a crispy crust, so it’s way easier to prep than regular pizza dough.

Makes: 4 servings
Prep: 30 mins
Total Time: 45 mins

Strawberry-Bacon Pizza

Because who are we to deny you bacon? Pair it with fresh strawberries for a sweet-and-savory combo you’ll fall for fast.

Makes: 4 servings
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 30 mins

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10 Healthy Grilled Cheese Recipes That Will Make Your Mouth Water

These gooey, melty, healthy grilled cheese sandwiches need no introduction, so we’ll just say, make ’em. All of them. They’re good for you!

More Cheese, Please

craving comfort food? We give you full permission to dive right in to these 10 delicious, gooey, cheesy sandwiches. With fresh fruits and veggies tucked inside, these healthy grilled cheese recipes prove that kid-friendly favorites can be totally appropriate for adults, too. And don’t skimp on the triple creme—the latest science says full-fat cheese is totally fine.

Sweet Potato and Kale Grilled Cheese

The name alone tells you this stacked sandwich is healthy. And the taste proves it’s delicious too. The healthy grilled cheese sandwich only gets better when you add caramelized onions and fresh herbs to the pile. It’ll be your new go-to hand-held dinner.
(Related:10 Healthy Sandwich Recipes Under 300 Calories)

Balsamic Blueberry Grilled Cheese

This gooey sandwich is almost too pretty to eat—almost. Frozen blueberries are reduced along with sugar and vinegar to create a jam-like spread. This healthy grilled cheese might warrant a bib to prevent stains, but it is *totally* worth it. (BTW, frozen fruits are one of the Packaged foods that are Surprisingly healty.)Get your greens via a generous handful of baby spinach or arugula for a bite that’s bursting with flavor.

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The Best Foods to Eat for a Healthy Gut

If you haven’t given a second thought (or even a first thought) to your gut bacteria (a.k.a. microbiota), the time is now. Your gut plays an important role in immunity, and the bacteria it houses are the stars of the show. The foods you eat can change the makeup of your gut bacteria very quickly after you eat them—for better or for worse. Colorful fruits and vegetables and other plant-based foods help the ‘good’ bacteria flourish. A recent study from the University of Connecticut found that male mice who ate the human equivalent of 1 ounce of walnuts per day were able to create more diverse gut bacteria. The researchers say they believe there’s a connection to these changes in gut bacteria and a reduced risk of colon cancer also noticed in these male mice. ” Lead study author, Daniel Rosenberg told UConn Today that “this study shows that walnuts may also act as a probiotic to make the colon healthy, which in turn offers protection against colon tumors.”

The vitamin E and omega-3 to omega-6 fats found in walnuts may have played a role in these results, but these little nuts aren’t the only food that keeps your gut healthy. Choosing foods that fall into one of two categories—prebiotics or probiotics—is the secret to maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria. Here are some delicious ways to get a good dose of both.

Prebiotic Foods

Prebiotics are non-digestible parts of your food that gut bacteria actually uses as a kind of fertilizer or fuel. Learn more about prebiotics and how they are different than probiotics.

Onions: Caramelize some in-season spring onions and put on some grilled chicken or a lean steak. You can also pickle them to add to tacos or a salad.
Asparagus: Whether you enjoy asparagus grilled, steamed, or in a chilled soup, this versatile veggie will help get that good bacteria growing.
Whole wheat foods: Fiber is the preferred fuel for beneficial gut bacteria, so choose whole wheat bread as a base for avocado toast.

Probiotic Foods

Probiotics contain the good bacteria to help create a healthy and balanced gut and digestive system. (Did you know that Your Gut Bacteria Can Help You Drop Pounds?)

Yogurt: Whether you prefer your yogurt plain Greek-style or loaded with fresh fruit in a parfait, choose varieties that contain ‘live active cultures’ on the label for the most benefits.
Kimchi: This staple of Korean cuisine does more than add a kick to fried rice or lettuce wraps. The tangy acidic flavor is evidence of bacteria hard at work.
Kefir: Those shot-sized bottles of kefir in the dairy aisle have big benefits for gut health. They contain live bacteria cultures and beneficial yeast that makes your gut happy.

3 Nutrition Lessons to Steal from Olympians While Training

Imagine that your day job consisted of running, swimming, or gymnastics; followed by strength training and prepping for competition. It sounds exhausting, but it’s a typical day for the Olympic athletes in Rio. There’s also another element to the Olympic athlete’s training: a ceaseless hunger. Most Olympic athletes need to consume a tremendous number of calories (some eat up to 8,000 per day) to fuel for their daily workouts and maintain strength. But eating whatever, whenever isn’t the solution. Food is more about fuel and nutrition than anything else. So what exactly do Olympians eat, and what can you steal from their diet plans?

Calories Matter

It’s impossible to pinpoint the exact diet of an Olympian. They all have different needs based on size, sport, and training. But Olympic athletes need to be mindful about making healthy food choices. Just because they can eat thousands of calories of McDonald’s doesn’t mean that they should. Jason Machowsky, R.D., C.S.S.D., a sports dietitian who works with many athletes at the Hospital for Special Surgery, says one of the most important aspects of fueling the Olympic athlete is to “create a plan that allows you to get in the right fuel each day based on the day’s demands, which involves eating foods for good health and immunity plus performance nutrition.” Elite competitors are putting enormous strain on their bodies and immune systems, which means eating enough vitamins and minerals is even more important. A sick athlete is a benched athlete!

Make it work for you:

Choose healthy foods to get the most gains from your workout and overall health. The healthier you are, the better you will feel, and the more your body will respond to your hard work.
Fueling properly for a workout will only make you feel better during the workout. Olympians may eat a mound of pasta before an intense gym session, but mere mortals can grab a piece of fruit or a handful of crackers.
All About Those Carbs
Carbohydrates are a huge part of fueling the Olympic athlete, making up 55 to 65 percent of the diet. For those athletes who don’t want to count their calories or carbohydrates? Dietitians who work with the U.S. team have created a simple plate system. On easy training days, athletes should build an “easy plate”: 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 grains, and 1/4 protein. On moderate days, the grains increase to 1/3 of the plate; on hard days, the grains should be half the plate. This system allows athletes to get adequate carbs to fuel their workouts while still eating a balanced diet.

Make it work for you:

On most days, we can follow the “easy plate,” which is what the USDA has been recommending for years.
Recovery Matters
Kristi Spence, R.D., C.S.S.D., a dietitian who competed in the Olympic Trials for the marathon in 2008, says that when training, she always paid close attention to her recovery meal. “I think recovery nutrition is crucial, and I would make sure that I consumed something with carbohydrate and protein as soon as I could after intense training. I would often make chocolate milk smoothies—chocolate milk with frozen strawberries or frozen bananas—to enjoy after training. The flavor was terrific and I knew that the milk was delivering exactly what I needed.”

Make it work for you:

Recovery is the key to feeling good enough to work out again the next day. After an intense workout, your muscles need a mixture of carbs and protein. Chocolate milk is one of the best way to refuel.
For any competitive athletes, don’t try anything new on race day. Your stomach won’t be happy with you.

Diet Tips for Breast Cancer

The Big Picture

What you eat affects your weight, and obesity raises your odds for breast cancer. If you’ve already had the disease, extra pounds can also make it more likely to return. If you choose a healthy diet — one rich in vegetables, whole grains, chicken, and fish — you may boost your chances of living longer after breast cancer. Researchers aren’t sure exactly why that’s true, but the long-term benefits aren’t in doubt.

Is Soy Safe?

Soy-based foods — such as tofu, soy milk, and edamame — have chemicals called phytoestrogens, which are similar to estrogen. That once raised fears that they spelled trouble for women with breast cancer that uses estrogen as fuel to grow. But the latest studies show soy doesn’t raise cancer risk — it may even lower the odds the disease will return. Be wary of soy supplements, though. Scientists haven’t studied their effects as much.

Should You Skip Sugar?

The idea that sweets “feed cancer” has been around for a long time. The truth is more complicated. A spoonful to take the edge off your coffee will not directly make cancer cells grow faster. But it’s still wise to keep an eye on how much you add to your diet. A lot of sugar on a regular basis can lead to obesity and other conditions that make cancer more likely.

Eat More Produce

If you eat more plant-based foods, you may lower your chances of getting breast cancer. Researchers say this strategy especially may help protect against the most aggressive types of tumors. Fruits and vegetables are also an important part of a diet that will help you control your weight, which is key for keeping breast cancer from coming back.

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Asthma and Your Diet: Foods That Help and Hurt

May Help: Fruits and Veggies
There’s no specific asthma diet that can get rid of your breathing troubles. But certain foods may have benefits. Fruits and veggies are a good place to start. They’re full of chemicals called antioxidants like beta carotene and vitamins E and C. These help stop particles called “free radicals” that damage cells and could inflame and irritate your lungs.

May Help: Vitamin D
You get most of it from sunshine, but it’s also in some foods. The top choice is fatty fish like salmon and swordfish, followed by milk, eggs, and orange juice, which are often “fortified” with vitamin D. The nutrient strengthens the response of the immune system — your body’s defense against germs — and could lessen swelling in your airways. Having low vitamin D levels can lead to more asthma attacks.

May Help: Nuts and Seeds
They’ve got lots of good things in them, but one in particular that might be good for asthma is vitamin E. Almonds, hazelnuts, and raw seeds are good sources, as well as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale. Vitamin E has tocopherol, a chemical that could help cut how much you cough and wheeze from your asthma.

May Hurt: Dried Fruit
There are some foods you may want to avoid if you have asthma, and dried fruits are among them. Though fresh fruit, especially oranges and apples, can help control your asthma, the sulfites that help preserve dried fruit could make the condition worse for some people. Alcohol (especially red wine), shrimp, pickled vegetables, maraschino cherries, and bottled lemon juice also often have sulfites.

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Home-Cooked Meals Linked to Lower PFAS in the Body

People who eat more home-cooked meals had lower levels of hormone-disrupting PFAS chemicals in their blood compared to others, according to a new study.

People who reported eating popcorn, mostly the kind that’s pre-packaged for cooking the microwave, had significantly higher PFAS blood levels.

The study — which drew its data from the government’s long-running National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey — compared blood levels of certain kinds of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances to the foods people said they remembered eating on dietary questionnaires between 2003 and 2014.

The most important finding of the new study is that it showed people who tended to eat more fresh food and food prepared at home had slightly lower levels of five “long-chain” PFAS chemicals in their blood, compared to those who ate more of their meals at fast-food and other types of restaurants. The study was observational, which means it can’t show cause and effect.

PFAS blood levels tested in the study have been dropping over past 2 decades, as chemical manufacturers have voluntarily phased out the production of some kinds — the “long-chain” ones. In 2016, the FDA revoked regulations that allow long-chain PFAS chemicals in food packaging.

But shorter-chain PFAS chemicals have replaced them in many products, and researchers say not enough is known about whether these compounds are any better for the environmental or our health. The CDC calls the chemicals a “public health concern” and says more research is needed to better understand the health effects of PFAS exposure.

Experts who were not involved in the study say it is useful because it shows that food choices can impact the chemical loads we carry in our bodies.

“Making food at home minimizes contact with food packaging and exposure to chemicals that affect the developing thyroid gland and are associated with a host of health consequences,” says Leonardo Trasande, MD, a professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine at New York University’s Langone Health. He’s also wrote a book called Sicker, Fatter, Poorer, about how hormone-disrupting chemicals affect your health.

‘Forever Chemicals’

There are thousands of different kinds of synthetic PFAS chemicals. They have been used since the 1950s to make products such as stain-resistant carpets, cosmetics, waterproof fabrics, and nonstick cookware. They have contaminated water supplies because of the heavy use of firefighting foams that contain PFAS.

PFAS chemicals leach into food through wrappers and containers that are coated to make them grease-proof. They may also creep into food during processing.

They’re sometimes called “forever chemicals,” because many don’t break down in the environment. They take years to break down in our bodies.
Previous studies have shown PFAS chemicals can interfere with a body’s natural hormones and may make it harder to get pregnant. They’ve been linked to growth and learning problems in kids. They may cause problems with the immune system such as reducing the body’s response to vaccines. Other studies have linked them to increased cholesterol levels and cancer.

PFAS chemicals may even influence body weight. A 2018 study by researchers at Harvard and Pennington Biomedical Research Institute found that people with higher PFAS levels were more likely to regain lost weight, possibly because of changes to their resting metabolic rate — the number of calories the body burns at rest.

Concerns about PFAS health impacts are mounting. Washington recently became the first state in the U.S. to ban PFAS chemicals in consumer products and firefighting foams. Denmark also recently banned PFAS from food packaging.

Scientists: Watch What You Eat

Researchers say it stands to reason that eating less packaged and processed food could cut a person’s exposure.

“We all know that eating more fresh foods and eating more home-cooked is better for our health for a wide range of reasons. This study provides yet another reason to eat more fresh foods and foods cooked at home,” says study author Laurel Schaider, PhD, a research scientist at Silent Spring Institute in Newton, MA.

The study also found that people who reported eating more fish and shellfish were more likely to have higher PFAS levels. That finding isn’t surprising. Previous studies have found that larger fish take on the chemicals of the smaller fish they eat. So larger predatory fish can wind up with substantial amounts of PFAS in their flesh, which would otherwise be healthy to eat.

Trasande says the solution to that is to eat smaller fish, like sardines, and smaller shellfish, like shrimp and scallops.

Popcorn was another big culprit.

“We found a strong association with microwave popcorn,” Schaider says. Levels of one kind of PFAS chemical, called PFDA, were 63% higher in those who reported eating popcorn at least once daily over the past year. Surveys showed most of the popcorn eaten in the study was microwave popcorn.

Schaider says that while that’s not great news, there are easy substitutes.

“I personally have high blood pressure, so I make popcorn on the stove,” she says.

If you want to stick with your microwave, you can add unpopped kernels to a plain brown paper bag to avoid PFAS chemicals. Schaider says previous testing of these kinds of bags didn’t detect any PFAS chemicals in them.

Trasande says the study is straightforward.

“It shows that the decisions about what we eat and where that food comes from can have measurable changes on our PFAS exposures,” he says.

The FluoroCouncil, an industry group that represents companies that make fluoropolymer products, says the use of PFAS chemicals in food packaging is safe.

According to a statement posted on the group’s website: “The use of PFAS in food packaging is strictly regulated by the FDA, which has determined the specific PFAS currently used are safe for their intended use. In addition, a robust body of scientific data demonstrates these FDA-reviewed PFAS substances do not pose a significant risk to human health or the environment.”

Nutrition to Help Your Liver

Keep Your Liver Happy
Your body’s largest internal organ is an important player. It helps turn food into nutrients. It also filters toxins and breaks them down so your body can get rid of them. You can make your liver’s job easier — and yourself healthier — if you eat the right things. A balanced diet with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein is a good start.
Leafy Greens
Free radicals are molecules that can damage your cells and cause problems, including liver disease. Substances called antioxidants can help get rid of them. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collards are loaded with antioxidants. They’re also packed with fiber, and other things your liver needs.

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