Power of the Blueberry

The Power of the Blueberry

The health benefits of blueberries have been demonstrated in various nutrition studies. The dark pigment of blueberries is indicative of their dense concentration of polyphenols, which are a type of phytochemical that have antioxidant, health-promoting, disease-fighting, anti-aging, and even weight management properties.

Anthocyanins are the colorful antioxidant polyphenols that give blueberries their rich color, and research has shown they possess a wide range of health benefits. Specifically, cyanidin 3-glucoside (C3G), which is a member of the anthocyanin family, has been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity and improve carbohydrate tolerance, both of which have major implications for optimizing fat loss and weight management.

What’s more, anthocyanins have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the function of fat cells, which plays an intricate role in improving metabolic health and reducing body fat. Researchers from Texas Women’s University recently demonstrated that the polyphenols in blueberries may help reduce body fat by inhibiting the body’s ability to create new fat cells.

Even more, researchers from New Zealand found that consumption of blueberries may also accelerate muscle recovery when combined with exercise. Specifically, folks who consumed a blueberry smoothie before and after exercise experienced reduced muscle soreness, faster recovery, and greater improvements in strength, which translates to more frequent exercise, improved performance, and better body composition.

Building and maintaining muscle is crucial for metabolic rate and carbohydrate tolerance; generally speaking, the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate and the more carbs you can eat while still dropping fat. This is also why it’s so important to focus on fat loss—not weight loss.

While most people know that eating more fruits and vegetables is important for health and weight management, new research suggests that some options—including blueberries—may be superior to others when it comes to fighting flab.

In a recent study published in PLOS Medicine, a research team from Harvard examined the association of the consumption of specific fruits on weight gain among over 130,000 Americans over the course of 24 years. They found that total fruit consumption was inversely associated with weight gain, and each additional daily serving of fruit was associated with half-pound loss. What was especially interesting is that berries were associated with 2-fold greater weight loss.

There’s still more exciting news to share. Researchers have also found that the polyphenols in blueberries can improve gut health. A number of studies have shown that consumption of blueberries increases the amount of healthy gut bacteria, which promote overall health, support immune system function, promote a healthy inflammatory response, and much more.

Clearly, while tiny, this darkly colored fruit packs a powerful health punch!

Fruit fat loss

Is Fruit Good or Bad for Fat Loss?

Despite the myriad benefits associated with a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, many health professionals often recommend that folks limit fruit intake when they’re trying to lose weight, and militant health “gurus” may go so far as to suggest the complete elimination of fruit from the diet when trying to optimize fat loss.

As a result, many clients come to me asking, “Is fruit bad for fat loss?” Or, “I’m having trouble losing fat; is it because I eat fruit?”

While fresh fruit does contain some naturally-occurring sugar, steadily-rising rates of overweight and obesity have far more to do with overconsumption of refined carbohydrates and added sugars than they do with eating too much fruit.

Fresh fruits are rich in important micronutrients (e.g., vitamins and minerals), and they are also packed with important phytochemicals, which act as potent antioxidants that help combat free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. What’s more, fruits are also a very good source of dietary fiber, which can promote a healthy digestive tract and regularity, improve carbohydrate management (e.g., slowed gastric emptying), promote satiety, reduce calorie intake, and enhance weight loss.

In one study, researchers from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota examined the dietary habits of over 1,800 overweight men and women for two years, and they found that increased fruit intake was significantly associated with decreased body weight.

In another study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, Dutch researchers analyzed the nutrition habits of 288 men between the ages of 50 and 65 for five years, and they found that decreased fruit intake was significantly related to increased body weight and waist circumference.

In a study published in the journal Appetite, researchers from Brazil compared the effects of adding either fruit (apples or pears) or oats to the diets of overweight women on calorie consumption and body weight. Over the course of 10 weeks, the researchers found that women who added three daily servings of fruit to their usual diets lost over 5 times more weight than women who added oats, despite the same number of calories and fiber in the fruit and oats.

In a recent study published in Nutrition Journal, researchers from Denmark played devil’s advocate to see if removing fruit from the diets of participants would aid in weight loss. No such luck. Not only did the researchers find that the low-fruit group (i.e., no more than 1 piece per day) didn’t lose more weight than the high-fruit group (i.e., 2 pieces or more per day), they found that the folks in the high-fruit group lost 47% more weight and 43% more inches from their waistlines than the low-fruit group.

With all of that being said, it seems both prudent and pragmatic to incorporate fruit in your nutrition plan when your goal is to optimize fat loss, and with that in mind, here are some of my favorite choices:

  • Avocados are rich in fiber, important micronutrients and healthy fats that can help increase the absorption of phytonutrients from other vegetables and fruits. Avocados are also one of the best dietary sources of glutathione, which is considered the body’s “master antioxidant.”
  • Blueberries, which, as discussed in a previous newsletter, are loaded with phytonutrients that may have cardioprotective, anti-aging, anti-obesity, and performance enhancing effects.
  • Apples are packed with fiber and key fat-fighting polyphenols including flavonols (e.g., quercetin), catechins, anthocyanins, chlorogenic acid, phloridizin, and more. These flavonols have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the body’s absorption of carbohydrates.
  • Bananas are often undeservedly shunned, but the truth is, they’re a very good source of a number of key micronutrients (besides potassium), and they’re also one of the few good dietary sources of resistant starch, which acts as a food source for the healthy gut bacteria leading to the production of short-chain fatty acids that fuel the immune cells of the gut. Resistant starch may also increase metabolic rate, increase fat burning, decrease fat storage, and improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Grapefruit are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is a potent antioxidant and may help promote a healthy stress response by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers from the Scripps Clinic in California found that overweight folks consuming fresh grapefruit three times daily before meals lost 5 TIMES more weight than the placebo group (i.e., no grapefruit) over the course of 12 weeks.
  • Kiwifruit contains serotonin and has been shown to have beneficial effects on sleep. In a recent study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Taiwan found that middle-aged adults who consumed two kiwifruits one hour before bedtime every night for four weeks experienced significantly improved sleep. Kiwifruit is a good source of prebiotic fiber, and studies have shown that kiwifruit can improve GI motility and digestive function.
Sleep Aids...God Or Bad?

Sleep Aids…Good or Bad?

As Dr. Kirk Parsley puts it, “We have an enormous problem that we all share that’s wrecking our health, our finances, our happiness, and our relationships.” This problem is shared by over 100 MILLION Americans. What’s that problem? Sleep deprivation.

Worse yet, many people are not willing to acknowledge that this is their problem. We’re told that “sleep is the cousin of death” and that “sleep is for the weak,” as if being able to operate on 5 – 6 hours of sleep (or less) is somehow heroic.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news, and there’s a solution to the problem. But first, let’s take a look at the myriad negative health outcomes associated with sleep deprivation:

  • Decreased carbohydrate tolerance and insulin sensitivity
  • Increased evening levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Increased hunger, appetite, and activity of food reward centers making it much more likely to overeat and make poor food choices
  • Decreased muscle recovery and protein synthesis
  • Impaired fat loss and accelerated muscle loss
  • Depressed mood, reduced empathy, and increased prevalence of burnout
  • Decreased focus, concentration, alertness, working memory, and cognitive performance, which is not surprising considering that research has repeatedly shown that sleep deprivation is on par with a blood alcohol volume of 0.05

The CDC estimates that some 9 million Americans resort to prescription sleeping pills, but unfortunately, this is not the solution I have in mind. While sleeping pills can induce drowsiness (i.e, knock you out), they can be addictive, and they can quickly lose effectiveness. Worse yet, sleeping pills don’t promote deep sleep, and studies have shown that they interfere with the brain’s ability to consolidate memories during sleep.

[Note: If you take prescription medications, you should always consult with your physician prior to adjusting the dose.]

So, what is the solution? Here are some suggestions that can help improve sleep hygiene and quality:

  • Avoid caffeine (and other stimulants) after 2pm.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Be careful going low carb, which can promote the body’s stress response. Eating some slow-digesting carbs at night can help boost serotonin (increase satiety, improve mood, and promote sleep), positively shift hunger hormones, and boost fat loss.
  • Turn off electronics (e.g., phones, TVs) within 30 – 60 minutes of bedtime.
  • Do a “brain dump” and write down any ideas, important thoughts, etc., into a notepad.
  • Set your bedroom to an appropriate temperature (60 – 67 degrees is suggested) and make it as dark as possible.
  • Incorporate purposeful stress reduction techniques (e.g., reading, deep belly breathing, meditation, stretching, binaural beats).

There are also a number of natural dietary supplements that may be useful to help reduce stress and promote relaxation:

    • Low levels of vitamin D are associated with nearly every potential negative health outcome, including stress intolerance, depressed mood, and poor sleep quality.
    • <li

>Magnesium

    promotes relaxation and plays a key role in regulating sleep. Supplementation with magnesium has been shown to help improve sleep efficiency, increase sleep time, and reduce sleep latency (i.e., time it takes to fall asleep).

  • GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter that calms the brain, and activation of GABA receptors favors sleep. It also functions to decrease signaling of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate.
  • L-Theanine, found in green tea, promotes a calming, relaxing effect. It inhibits glutamate, increases GABA, and has shown to improve sleep quality.
Nuts...Good Or Bad?

Nuts…Good or Bad?

Today I want to tell you about a healthy snack that may not only satisfy your late-night cravings, but also help you control your appetite, boost your metabolism, and torch more body fat. So, what is it, you ask?

Nuts!

You may think I’m “nuts” because nuts are high in fat and calories, but nuts are resistant to digestion. In fact, as much as 20% of the calories from nuts never gets absorbed by the body—not to mention that eating fat does NOT make you fat.5,6

What’s more, researchers from Purdue have found that snacking on nuts suppresses hunger, promotes satiety, leads to reductions calorie intake, and promotes increased energy expenditure. Researchers also believe that the sensory characteristics of nuts—specifically the fact that they’re crunchy—also have satiety value. In other words, the mechanical aspect of chewing nuts sends a signal to your body that you’re full and satisfied.

Even better, regular nut consumption has been shown to boost metabolism by as much as 11% and increase fat burning by up to 50%! What’s more, consumption of nuts typically results in fewer calories consumed later in the day. In fact, studies estimate that upwards of three-quarters of the calories contributed by nuts is compensated by lower subsequent energy intake.

Like olives and avocados, nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), which are known for their heart health benefits. They also contain a specific MUFA called oleic acid, which seems to have a potent impact on appetite regulation, weight management, and blood lipids.

Overall, a collection of observational studies suggests that folks who regularly consume nuts have a healthier body weight than non-consumers. Even more, clinical trials have consistently found that the inclusion of nuts in the diet leads to greater compliance and weight loss compared to when nuts are excluded.

So, enjoy some nuts; almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios (with built-in portion control when you choose those in a shell), and walnuts are great choices. And remember, eat slowly; the simple act of chewing generates important satiety signals and increases calorie burn!