Shirataki noodles are a unique food that’s very filling yet low in calories. These noodles also contain a type of fiber that has impressive health benefits. This fiber has been shown to cause weight loss in numerous studies.
What are Shirataki Noodles?
They are often called miracle noodles or konjac noodles. They’re made from glucomannan, a type of fiber that comes from the root of the konjac plant, which grows in Japan, China and Southeast Asia. It contains very few digestible carbs, but most of its carbs come from glucomannan fiber.
“Shirataki” is Japanese for “white waterfall,” which describes the noodles’ translucent appearance.
Shirataki noodles contain a lot of water. In fact, they are about 97% water and 3% glucomannan fiber. They’re also very low in calories and contain no digestible carbs. There is also a variation of shirataki noodles known as tofu shirataki noodles.
Bottom Line: Shirataki noodles are a low-calorie food made from glucomannan, a type of fiber found in the Asian konjac plant.
Shirataki Noodles Are High in Viscous Fiber
Glucomannan is a highly viscous fiber, which is a type of soluble fiber, and one of its main characteristics is the ability to absorb water and form a gel. It can absorb up to 50 times its weight in water, as reflected in shirataki noodles’ extremely high water content.
These noodles move through the digestive system very slowly, which helps you feel full and delays nutrient absorption into the bloodstream. In addition, viscous fiber functions as a prebiotic. It nourishes the bacteria living in your colon, also known as the gut flora or microbiome.
In your colon, bacteria ferment fiber into short-chain fatty acids, which can fight inflammation, boost immune function and provide other health benefits.
Since a typical serving of shirataki noodles contains about 1–3 grams of glucomannan, it’s essentially a calorie-free, carb-free food.
Bottom Line: Glucomannan is a viscous fiber that can hold onto water and slow down digestion. In the colon, it’s fermented into short-chain fatty acids that may provide several health benefits.
Shirataki Noodles Can Help You Lose Weight
Shirataki noodles can be a powerful weight loss tool. Their viscous fiber delays stomach emptying, so you stay full longer and end up eating less. In addition, fermenting fiber into short-chain fatty acids can stimulate the release of a gut hormone known as PYY, which increases feelings of fullness. What’s more, taking glucomannan before a high-carb load appears to reduce levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. It was also shown to reduce fasting ghrelin levels when taken daily for 4 weeks.
Bottom Line: Glucomannan promotes feelings of fullness that may cause a spontaneous reduction in calorie intake and lead to weight loss.
Shirataki Noodles Can Reduce Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels
Blood Glucose Meter and StripsGlucomannan has been shown to help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and insulin resistance. Because viscous fiber delays stomach emptying, blood sugar and insulin levels rise more gradually as nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream.
Bottom Line: Shirataki noodles can delay stomach emptying, which may help prevent blood sugar spikes after meals.
Shirataki Noodles May Lower Cholesterol
Several studies also suggest that taking glucomannan may help lower cholesterol levels. Researchers have reported that glucomannan increases the amount of cholesterol excreted in the stool, so less is reabsorbed into the bloodstream.
A review of 14 studies found that glucomannan lowered LDL cholesterol by an average of 16 mg/dL and triglycerides by an average of 11 mg/dl.
Bottom Line: Studies show that glucomannan may help lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Shirataki Noodles May Relieve Constipation
Many people have chronic constipation or infrequent bowel movements that are difficult to pass. Glucomannan has been shown to be an effective treatment for constipation in both children and adults.
Bottom Line: Glucomannan may effectively treat constipation in children and adults, due to its laxative effects and benefits for gut health.
Potential Side Effects of Shirataki Noodles
For some, glucomannan may cause mild digestive issues such as loose stools, bloating and flatulence. Glucomannan has been found to be safe at all dosages tested in studies; nevertheless, as is the case with all fiber, it’s best to introduce glucomannan into your diet gradually.
In addition, glucomannan may reduce the absorption of certain medications taken by mouth, including some diabetes medications. To prevent this, make sure to take medication at least one hour before or four hours after eating shirataki noodles.
Bottom Line: Shirataki noodles are safe to consume, but may cause digestive issues for some. They may also reduce the absorption of certain medications.
How to Cook with Shirataki Noodles
Shirataki noodles can seem a bit daunting to prepare at first. They’re packaged in fishy-smelling liquid, which is actually plain water that has absorbed the odor of the konjac root. Therefore, it’s important to rinse them very well for a few minutes under fresh, running water. This should remove most of the odor.
You should also heat the noodles in a skillet for several minutes with no added fat. This step removes any excess water and allows the noodles to take on a more noodle-like texture. If too much water remains, they will be mushy.
Easy shirataki noodle recipe containing only a few ingredients:
Shirataki Macaroni and Cheese
Note: For this recipe, it’s best to use shorter types of shirataki noodles like ziti or rice.
1 package (200 grams/7 oz) of shirataki noodles or shirataki rice.
Olive oil or butter for greasing the ramekin.
3 ounces (85 grams) of grated cheddar cheese.
1 Tablespoon butter.
A half teaspoon sea salt.
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
Rinse the noodles under running water for at least 2 minutes.
Transfer the noodles to a skillet and cook over medium-high heat for 5–10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the noodles are cooking, grease a 2-cup ramekin with olive oil or butter.
Transfer the cooked noodles to the ramekin, add remaining ingredients and stir well. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven and serve.
Shirataki noodles can be used in place of pasta or rice in any dish.
However, they tend to work best in Asian recipes. The noodles have no flavor but will absorb the flavors of sauces and seasonings very well.
Shirataki noodles are a great substitute for traditional noodles. In addition to being extremely low in calories, they help you feel full and may be beneficial for weight loss. Not only that, but they also have benefits for blood sugar levels, cholesterol and digestive health.
Oats are a highly nutritious grain with many health benefits.
However, there is a lot of confusion about whether oats and oatmeal contain gluten. Oats are naturally gluten-free, but often get contaminated with gluten from other grains.
This article explores whether you should include oats in a gluten-free diet.
What’s The Problem With Gluten?
Gluten-free diets are very popular. Surveys have found that as many as 15 to 30% of people in the US try to avoid gluten for one reason or another.
However, many of those who avoid gluten don’t even really know what it is.
Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. These proteins give bread and pasta their stretchy, chewy texture.
Unfortunately, these proteins can cause serious health problems for certain people. This may be because its unique amino acid structure can actually make it harder for the digestive enzymes in the gut to break it down.
If you have celiac disease, your body launches an autoimmune response to gluten, damaging the lining of the intestine. In wheat allergy, the immune system overreacts to the presence of wheat proteins. For those sensitive to gluten, even a tiny amount can make them sick. A gluten-free diet is the only way for these people to avoid serious health issues.
Bottom Line: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Most people can tolerate it, but it can cause serious health issues for some individuals.
Are Oats Gluten-Free?
The truth is that pure oats are gluten-free and safe for most people with gluten intolerance.
However, oats are often contaminated with gluten because they may be processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye and barley.
Studies show that most people with celiac disease or wheat allergy can eat 50–100 grams of pure oats per day without adverse effects. Additionally, a few studies found that celiac disease patients in countries that recommended including oats in a gluten-free diet had better intestinal healing than patients in countries that did not. Since pure oats are gluten-free, they’re usually safe for people with a wheat allergy as long as they’re not contaminated with wheat.
Bottom Line: Most people who are gluten intolerant can safely eat pure oats. This includes people with celiac disease.
Oats are Often Contaminated With Gluten
Although oats themselves don’t contain gluten, they’re often grown alongside other crops. The same equipment is typically used to harvest crops in neighboring fields, which leads to cross-contamination if one of those crops contains gluten. Products made with oats are also usually processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing products, and are prepared and packaged with the same equipment.
Therefore, studies analyzing regular oat products found levels of gluten far exceeding the standard for gluten-free foods.
This high risk of contamination means it’s not safe to include conventionally grown and processed oats in a strict gluten-free diet. For this reason, a number of companies have begun to grow and process oats with designated gluten-free fields and equipment. These oats can then be marketed as gluten-free, and must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten.
Even gluten-free labels may not be 100% reliable. One study found that only 95% of products labeled gluten-free actually had safe levels. However, 100% of the oat products passed the test. This means that certified gluten-free labels on oats and oatmeal can be trusted in most cases.
Bottom Line: Oats are often contaminated with gluten during growing or processing, but many companies are now producing uncontaminated oats.
Oats Contain a Protein Called Avenin, Which May Cause Problems for Some People
Even with contamination ruled out, a small number of people with celiac disease (and possibly other conditions) will still not be able to tolerate pure oats. Pure oats contain a protein called avenin, which may cause problems because it has a similar amino acid structure as gluten.
The majority of people who are sensitive to gluten do not react to avenin. They can eat pure, uncontaminated oats with no problems. However, a small percentage of people with celiac disease may react to avenin. For these few people, even certified gluten-free oats may cause some reaction.
Bottom Line: Oats contain a protein called avenin. A small percentage of people with celiac disease react to avenin and can’t tolerate pure oats.
Oats Have Many Health Benefits
Gluten-free diets are often limited when it comes to food choices, especially with grains and starchy foods. Including oats and products like oatmeal or healthy granola bars can add much-needed variety.
Several studies have also shown that following a gluten-free diet frequently results in an inadequate intake of fiber, B vitamins, folate and minerals such as iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese and zinc. Oats happen to be a good source of all of these vitamins and minerals. They’re also a fantastic source of fiber.
Should You Include Oats in a Gluten-Free Diet?
There are many benefits to including oats in a gluten-free diet. Oats are used in many gluten-free products, and oat flour is popular in gluten-free baking. Oatmeal is also a breakfast favorite for many people.
However, it’s important to buy only oats and oat products that are labeled or certified as gluten-free. This ensures the oats are pure and uncontaminated. These days, it’s easy to buy pure oats in many grocery stores and online.
The decision to include oats should be made on an individual basis. Since it’s not possible to know who may react to avenin, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or registered dietitian/nutritionist before adding oats to a gluten-free diet.
Some of them even help fight chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
“Juicing,” beloved to be the extract of nutrients in fruits and vegetables, has been an increasingly popular method to food intake. Many people do this in order to “detox” or add more nutrients to their diet. Supporters claim that juicing can improve nutrient absorption, while others say it strips away important nutrients like fiber.
What is Juicing?
Juicing extracts the juice from fresh fruits and vegetables. This usually strips away all the solid matter from whole fruits and vegetables, including seeds and pulp.
The resulting liquid contains most of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants naturally present in the whole fruit or vegetable.
Juicing methods vary, from squeezing fruit by hand to the more commonly used motor-driven juicers.
Purpose of Juicing
Juicing is generally used for two different purposes:
Cleansing or detox: Solid food is eliminated and only juice is consumed as a way to cleanse your body of toxins. Juice cleanses range from 3 days to several weeks in length.
To supplement a normal diet: Fresh juice can be used as a handy supplement to your daily diet, increasing nutrient intake from fruits and vegetables that you wouldn’t otherwise consume.
Bottom Line: Juicing involves extracting and drinking the juice from fresh fruit and vegetables. Some people do this to “detox,” while others do it to supplement their current diet.
Juice is an Easy Way to Get Lots of Nutrients
Fresh Produce With Juicer
Many people don’t get enough nutrients from their diet alone.
This is largely due to processing methods and the long time it takes to get produce from the field to the supermarket. Polluted environments and high stress levels can also increase our requirements for certain nutrients.
Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant compounds that may protect against disease. If you find it difficult to get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables into your diet each day, juicing can be a convenient way to increase your intake.
One study found that supplementing mixed fruit and vegetable juice over 14 weeks improved participants’ nutrient levels for beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and folate.
Bottom Line: If you struggle to eat enough fruits and vegetables each day, juicing is a convenient way to get a wide range of important nutrients.
Whole Produce Protects Against Disease, But Studies on Juice are Disappointing
Fresh Vegetable Juices
There’s plenty of evidence linking whole fruits and vegetables to reduced risk of disease, but studies for fruit and vegetable juices are harder to find.
One review reported that the health benefits of fruits and vegetables may be due to antioxidants, rather than fiber. If this is true, then juice may provide comparable health benefits to whole produce.
However, there is only weak evidence that pure fruit and vegetable juices can help fight cancer. There is a lack of human data; and other findings are inconsistent.
Nonetheless, other areas of health show more promise. For example, juices may reduce the risk of heart disease. Apple and pomegranate juices have been linked to reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Additionally, consuming fruit and vegetable in liquid form or blended concentrations may reduce homocysteine levels and markers of oxidative stress, both of which are linked to improved heart health.
Bottom Line: Limited evidence is available to link fruit and vegetable juice to a reduced risk of diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
Fruits And Veggies Are Best Consumed Whole
Juicing advocates often claim that drinking juice is better than eating whole fruits and vegetables. They justify this by saying that removing the fiber makes nutrients easier to absorb.
However, there isn’t any scientific research to support this. You may actually need the fiber content of the fruit or vegetable to experience the plant’s full health benefits.
For example, important antioxidants that are naturally bound to plant fibers are lost in the juicing process. These may play an important role in the health benefits of whole fruits and vegetables. In fact, up to 90% of fiber is removed during the juicing process, depending on the juicer. Some soluble fiber will remain, but the majority of insoluble fiber is removed.
Potential Health Benefits of Fiber
Higher fiber intakes have been associated with lower risks of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Studies have shown that increasing soluble fiber, in particular, may improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
In addition, people tend to feel more full when they eat whole fruits, compared to when they drink the juice equivalent.
Should You Add Fiber to Your Juices?
The level of fiber in your juice will depend on what type of juicer you use, but some sources suggest adding leftover pulp to other foods or drinks to increase fiber intake.
Although this is better than throwing the fiber away, evidence suggests that re-adding fiber to juice doesn’t give you the same health benefits as simply eating whole fruits and vegetables. Additionally, a study found that adding naturally occurring levels of fiber to juice did not enhance feelings of fullness.
Bottom Line: Eating whole fruit and vegetables is better for your health. Juicing makes you miss out on beneficial fiber and antioxidants.
Juicing For Weight Loss May be a Bad Idea
Many people use juicing as a way to lose weight.
Most juice “diets” involve consuming around 600–1,000 calories per day from juices only, resulting in a severe calorie deficit and fast weight loss.
However, this is very difficult to sustain for more than a few days. While juice diets may help you lose weight in the short-term, such a severe calorie restriction can slow your metabolism in the long-term. This is also likely to lead to nutrient deficiencies in the long-term, since juices lack many important nutrients.
Bottom Line: Most juicing diets involve severe calorie restriction, which is generally unsustainable in the long-term and can lead to a reduction in the amount of calories you burn.
Juices Should Not Replace Meals
Using juices as a meal replacement can be bad for your body.
This is because juice on its own is not nutritionally balanced, since it does not contain sufficient protein or fat.
Consuming enough protein throughout the day is necessary for muscle maintenance and long-term health. Additionally, healthy fats are important for sustained energy, hormone balance, cell membranes and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
However, replacing one meal a day with juice is unlikely to cause harm, as long as the rest of your diet is more balanced.
You can make your juice more balanced by adding protein and good fats. Some good sources are whey protein, almond milk, avocados, Greek yogurt and peanut butter.
Bottom Line: Juices are nutritionally unbalanced because they do not contain adequate protein or fat. Adding protein and fat sources to your juices can help with this.
Juice Cleanses Are Not Necessary, and May be Harmful
Consuming 100% fruit juice has been associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, liver damage and obesity.
In addition, there is no evidence that your body needs to be detoxified by eliminating solid food. Your body is designed to remove toxins on its own, using the liver and kidneys.
Furthermore, if you’re juicing with non-organic vegetables, you can end up consuming other toxins that come along with them, such as pesticides.
For individuals with kidney problems, a heavy consumption of juices rich in oxalate has been linked to kidney failure. More extreme juice cleanses are associated with negative side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, dizziness and fatigue.
If you take prescription medication, you should be aware of potential drug-nutrient interactions. For example, large amounts of vitamin K found in green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach can interfere with blood thinners.
Bottom Line: There is no evidence that juice cleanses are necessary for detoxifying the body. Juicing may harm people who have kidney problems or take certain medications.
Fruit Juice Contains High Amounts of Sugar
What you put in your juice can also make a big difference, and fruits contain much more sugar and calories than vegetables. Consuming too much fructose, the naturally occurring sugar in fruit, has been linked to high blood sugar, weight gain and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
About 3.9 oz (114 ml) of 100% apple juice contains zero grams of fiber, but packs 13 grams of sugar and 60 calories. Similarly, 100% grape juice has 20 grams of sugar in a serving of 3.9 oz (114 ml).
To keep the sugar content of your juices low, you can juice the vegetables and then add a small piece of fruit if you want more sweetness.
Bottom Line: Juices based mainly on fruit are much higher in sugar and calories compared to vegetable-based juices.
Take Home Message
Fresh juices contain important vitamins and antioxidants that can benefit your health. However, fruits and vegetables are still the healthiest and most nutritious when consumed whole.
Regardless of the increasing debate over its necessity, breakfast still holds a mass of advocates. However, eating breakfast wrong could be more harmful than not eating breakfast at all. On the contrary, eating the right foods can give you energy and prevent you from eating too much during the rest of the day.
Here are the 12 best foods you can eat in the morning.
Eggs are undeniably healthy and delicious.
Studies have shown that eating eggs at breakfast increases fullness, reduces calorie intake at the next meal and helps maintain steady blood sugar and insulin levels.
Additionally, egg yolks contain lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants help prevent eye disorders like cataracts and macular degeneration. Eggs are also one of the best sources of choline, a nutrient that’s very important for brain and liver health.
What’s more, three large eggs provide about 20 grams of high-quality protein. Eggs are also very versatile. For example, hard-boiled eggs make a great portable breakfast that can be prepared ahead of time.
Bottom Line: Eggs are high in protein and several important nutrients. They also promote fullness and help you eat fewer calories.
2. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is creamy, delicious and nourishing. It is made by straining whey and other liquid from the curds, which produces a creamier yogurt that is more concentrated in protein. Protein has been shown to abate hunger and has a higher thermic effect than fat or carbs, meaning the increase in metabolic rate that occurs after eating.
Yogurt and other dairy products can also help with weight control, because they increase levels of hormones that promote fullness, including PYY and GLP-1. Full-fat yogurt also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may increase fat loss and decrease breast cancer risk.
Certain types of Greek yogurt are good sources of probiotics, like Bifidobacterium, helping the gut stay healthy. To make sure your yogurt contains probiotics, look for the phrase “contains live and active cultures” on the label.
Bottom Line: Greek yogurt is high in protein, helps reduce appetite and may aid with weight loss. Certain types also contain beneficial probiotics.
Coffee is a common choice for many to start a day. It’s high in caffeine, which improves mood, alertness and mental performance.
An analysis of 41 studies found the most effective dose to be 38–400 mg per day, to maximize the benefits of caffeine without much side effects. This is roughly 0.3 to 4 cups of coffee per day, depending on how strong it is.
Caffeine has also been shown to increase metabolic rate and fat burning. 100 mg of caffeine per day helped people burn an extra 79–150 calories over a 24-hour period. Coffee is also rich in antioxidants, which reduce inflammation, protect the cells lining your blood vessels and decrease diabetes and liver disease risk. The healthiest way to consume coffee is plain or with small amounts of heavy cream.
Bottom Line: Having a cup of coffee is a great way to start your day. The caffeine in it may improve mood, mental performance and metabolism.
Oatmeal is the best breakfast choice for cereal lovers. It’s made from ground oats, which contain a unique fiber called beta-glucan. This fiber has many impressive health benefits, including reduced cholesterol.
Oats are also rich in antioxidants, which protect their fatty acids from becoming rancid; they may also help protect the heart and decrease blood pressure.
Although oats don’t contain gluten, they’re often processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing grains. Researchers have found that most oats are indeed contaminated with other grains, especially barley. Therefore, people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should choose oats that have been certified as gluten-free.
Bottom Line: Oatmeal is rich in beta-glucan fiber, which lowers cholesterol and increases feelings of fullness. It also contains antioxidants.
5. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are extremely nutritious. They’re also one of the best sources of fiber. One ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds provides an impressive 11 grams of fiber per serving.
What’s more, a portion of the fiber in chia seeds is viscous fiber. Viscous fiber absorbs water, which increases the volume of food moving through your digestive tract and helps you feel full and satisfied.
Chia seeds are also high in antioxidants, which protect your cells from unstable molecules called free radicals, that are produced during metabolism.
However, note that chia seeds provide a low amount of protein- too low for breakfast. It’s suggested to be taken with other food that provides more protein.
Bottom Line: Chia seeds are high in fiber and packed with antioxidants that may reduce inflammation and decrease disease risk.
Berries are delicious and packed with antioxidants. Popular types include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.
They’re lower in sugar than most fruits, yet higher in fiber. Raspberries and blackberries each provides an impressive 8 grams of fiber per cup. What’s more, one cup of berries contains only 50–85 calories, depending on the type.
Berries have been shown to reduce markers of inflammation, prevent blood cholesterol from becoming oxidized and keep the cells lining your blood vessels healthy.
A good way to add berries to your breakfast is to eat them with Greek yogurt or cottage cheese.
Bottom Line: Berries are high in fiber and low in calories. They’re also rich in antioxidants that may decrease the risk of disease.
Nuts are a great addition to breakfast because they are filling and help prevent weight gain. Even though they’re high in calories, studies have shown that the body only absorbs about 129 calories from a 28-gram (1-ounce) serving of almonds; this may be true for some other nuts as well.
All types of nuts are also high in magnesium, potassium and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Nuts are also beneficial for people with diabetes. In one study, replacing a portion of carbs with 2 ounces of nuts led to reduced blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Topping Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or oatmeal with 2 tablespoons of chopped nuts provides crunch and flavor, while increasing your breakfast’s nutritional value.
Bottom Line: Nuts are filling, nutrient-dense foods that may help reduce heart disease risk and improve blood sugar control.
8. Green Tea
Green tea contains caffeine, which improves alertness and mood, along with raising metabolic rate. It provides only 35–70 mg of caffeine per cup, which is about half the amount in coffee.
Green tea may be especially helpful against diabetes. A review of 17 studies found that green tea drinkers had reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels.
It also contains an antioxidant known as EGCG, which may protect the brain, nervous system and heart from damage.
Bottom Line: Green tea has many health benefits. It contains an antioxidant called EGCG, which has benefits for the brain and nervous system.
9. Protein Shake
Another great way to start your day is with a protein shake or smoothie. Several types of protein powder can be used, including whey, egg, soy and pea protein, among which, whey protein is absorbed the most quickly by the body.
In addition, whey protein can help lower blood sugar levels when consumed as part of a carb-containing meal. It can also preserve muscle mass during weight loss and aging.
Regardless of the type of protein powder used, a high-protein shake can be satisfying and filling. Add fruit, greens, nut butter or seeds to provide fiber and antioxidants.
Bottom Line: A protein shake or smoothie is a great high-protein breakfast choice that promotes fullness and helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
All types of fruit contain vitamins, potassium, fiber and are relatively low in calories. One cup of chopped fruit provides about 80–130 calories, depending on the type. Citrus fruits are also very high in vitamin C. In fact, a large orange provides more than 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
Fruit is also very filling, due to its high fiber and water content. Pair fruit with eggs, cheese, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt for a well-balanced breakfast that will sustain you for hours.
Bottom Line: Fruit is a good source of vitamins, potassium and fiber. It also contains antioxidants that can help reduce disease risk.
They’re rich in viscous fiber, which helps you feel full for several hours after eating. Flaxseeds may also improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels, as well as protect against breast cancer.
Two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds contain 3 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. Try adding flaxseeds to Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or a smoothie to increase the fiber and antioxidant content of your breakfast.
Just make sure to choose ground flaxseeds or grind them yourself, because whole flaxseeds can’t be absorbed by your gut and will simply pass through your system.
Bottom Line: Flaxseeds are high in viscous fiber, which helps you feel full. They may also improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels.
12. Cottage Cheese
It’s high in protein, which increases metabolism, produces feelings of fullness and decreases the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. Cottage cheese has been shown to be as filling and satisfying as eggs.
Full-fat cottage cheese also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may promote weight loss. 1 cup of cottage cheese provides an impressive 25 grams of protein. Add berries and ground flaxseeds or chopped nuts to make it even more nutritious.
Bottom Line: Cottage cheese is high in protein, which promotes feelings of fullness and increases your metabolic rate.
Take Home Message
While eating breakfast is a personal choice, starting a day off right by fueling the body with healthy and nutrient-dense foods is definitely a good idea.
Garlic has been used for centuries as both a food ingredient and a medicine. Eating garlic provides a wide variety of health benefits, which include reducing risk of heart disease, improving mental health and enhancing immune function.
Garlic Can Boost Immune Function
Whole garlic contains a compound called alliin that helps the immune system fight germs. When garlic is crushed or chewed, this compound turns into allicin (with a c). Allicin contains sulfur- the source of garlic’s distinctive smell and taste. It’s also unstable; it quickly converts to other sulphur-containing compounds giving garlic its medicinal properties.
These compounds facilitate some types of white blood cells ward off diseases in the body when they encounter viruses, such as those that cause the common cold or flu.
Bottom Line: Garlic can be crushed, chewed or sliced to produce allicin, which is thought to give garlic its immune-boosting properties.
Can Garlic Help Prevent Colds and The Flu?
Garlic has shown promise as a treatment for preventing colds and the flu. Studies have shown that garlic reduces the risk of becoming sick in the first place and shortens the span of sickness. It can also reduce the severity of symptoms.
Garlic Cloves With Garlic Press
A study converted the power of garlic into statistics: over a period of 3 months, people who took garlic supplements experienced a lower risk of getting a cold by 63% and a shorter period of sickness by 70%. Another study found that subjects taking 2.56 grams of aged garlic extract per day recovered from sickness faster by 61%, compared to a placebo group.
However, it’s still unknown if you need to take garlic constantly, or if it also works as a short-term treatment when you start getting sick.
Bottom Line: Regularly eating garlic may help prevent the common cold or the flu. If you do get sick, eating garlic can reduce the severity of your symptoms and help you recover faster.
How to Maximize the Benefits of Garlic
The way garlic is processed or prepared can change its health benefits.
The enzyme alliinase, which converts alliin into the beneficial allicin, only works under certain conditions. In addition, it can be deactivated by heat. As little as 60 seconds in the microwave or 45 minutes in the oven can deactivate alliinase.
However, it was noted that crushing garlic and allowing it to stand for 10 minutes before cooking can help prevent the loss of its medicinal properties. The researchers also stated that the loss of health benefits due to cooking could be compensated for by increasing the amount of garlic used.
Here are a few ways to maximize the health benefits of garlic:
- Crush or slice garlic before you eat it. This increases the allicin content.
- Before you cook with your crushed garlic, let it stand for 10 minutes.
- Use a lot of garlic — more than one clove per meal, if you can.
Bottom Line: Ensure whole garlic is crushed, chewed or sliced before it’s eaten. Let crushed garlic stand for 10 minutes before you cook it.
Another easy way to increase your garlic intake is by taking a supplement. It is suggested, however, that it be taken with caution, as there are no regulated standards for garlic supplement. The allicin content and quality can vary, and so can the health benefits.
Powdered garlic is made from fresh garlic that has been sliced and dried. It does not contain allicin, but is said to have allicin potential. Powdered garlic is processed at a low temperature, and then put inside capsules, which helps the enzyme alliinase survive the harsh environment of the stomach so that it can convert alliin to the beneficial allicin in the intestine.
Nevertheless it is unclear how much allicin can be derived from powdered garlic supplements. This varies greatly depending on the brand and preparation.
Aged Garlic Extract
When raw garlic is sliced and stored in 15–20% ethanol for over 1.5 years, it becomes aged garlic extract. This type of supplement does not contain allicin, but it does retain the medical properties of garlic. Many of the studies showing benefits against colds and the flu used aged garlic extract.
Garlic oil is also an effective supplement, and is made by infusing raw garlic into cooking oils. You can add it directly to your meals, or take it in capsules.
However, it’s worth noting that animal studies have shown that garlic oil can be toxic to rats at higher doses and in certain conditions. Homemade garlic oil has also been linked with several cases of botulism, so if you’re going to make your own, make sure to use proper preservation methods.
Bottom Line: Common types of garlic supplements include powdered garlic, aged garlic extract and garlic oil. Aged garlic extract may be the best type.
How Much Garlic Should You Eat Per Day?
The minimum effective dose for raw garlic is one segment eaten two to three times per day. You can also take an aged garlic supplement. In that case, a normal dose is 600 to 1,200 mg per day. High intake of garlic supplements can be toxic, so don’t exceed the dosage recommendations.
Bottom Line: You can get a benefit from garlic by eating 2-3 garlic cloves per day. Supplement doses range from 600 to 1,200 mg per day.
Other Tips to Boost Immune Function
Here are 5 more ways to boost immune function and help you avoid colds and flu:
Take a probiotic: it keeps the gut healthy, enhances the immunity and reduces risk of infection.
Keep a healthy and balanced diet: keeping a balance of important nutrients will make sure your immune system stays in good shape.
Don’t smoke: cigarette can weaken your immune system and increase chance of infection.
Avoid excess alcohol: Excess alcohol is thought to damage your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections.
Take a zinc supplement: Take zinc lozenges or syrup within 24 hours of the start of a cold, as this may reduce the duration of the cold.
Bottom Line: A healthy diet and lifestyle are essential for keeping your immune system in good shape.
Take Home Message
Studies show that garlic can help fight colds and the flu. It can reduce your chances of catching an illness, and help you recover faster. To maximize these benefits, it is best to consume raw garlic or aged garlic extract. At the end of the day, garlic is both tasty and super healthy. Then there are many other great reasons to include it in your diet.
It’s a common notion that high-cholesterol foods can cause heart disease, or do they really?
Most of the cholesterol in the blood comes from the liver; the more the intake of cholesterol, the less the liver produces. For this reason, cholesterol in the diet has only minor effects on cholesterol in the blood. Studies also show that eating dietary cholesterol has no link to heart attacks or strokes.
Many foods high in cholesterol are also among the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet.
Cheese is a tasty, filling, nutrient-dense food. One ounce of cheese provides 27 mg of cholesterol, which is relatively high.
However, cheese is also loaded with other nutrients- for example- 7 grams of quality protein per ounce and provides 20% of the RDI for calcium. Research suggests that it may improve heart health. High-protein, low-carb dairy foods like cheese may also help decrease body fat, increase muscle mass and reduce tooth decay.
Bottom Line: Cheese is a tasty, filling food that may improve heart health, promote the loss of body fat and help prevent cavities.
Eggs are definitely among the most nutritious foods. They are also extremely high in cholesterol, with two large eggs providing a total of 422 mg. On the other hand, they provide 13 grams of protein, 46% of the RDI for selenium, as well as good amounts of riboflavin, vitamin B12 and choline. Having this in mind, some people throw out the cholesterol-rich yolk and eat only the egg white.
This, however, is a misguided fear of the cholesterol in the yolk. Egg yolk is the most nutritious part of the egg, providing almost all the nutrients, while the white is mostly protein. In addition, egg yolks contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which provide protection from eye disorders like cataracts and macular degeneration.
Eating whole eggs may actually reduce your risk of heart disease by modifying the LDL cholesterol in your blood. Eggs may also lower blood sugar levels, and make you feel full and satisfied.
Bottom Line: Whole eggs are loaded with nutrients. Almost all of the nutrients are found in the yolks, which also happen to be high in cholesterol.
Liver is the nutrition powerhouse in body system. It’s also rich in cholesterol. For instance, a 100-gram (3.5 ounce) serving of beef liver contains 396 mg of cholesterol.
Meanwhile, the same serving provides 28 grams of protein and is rich in many vitamins and minerals. In fact, it contains more than 600% of the RDI for vitamin A and more than 1,000% of the RDI for vitamin B12. It also provides 38% of the RDI for iron. What’s more, this is the heme form of iron that is most easily absorbed.
In addition, one serving of beef liver contains 426 mg of choline, an important nutrient that helps protect the health of your brain, heart, liver and muscles.
Bottom Line: Liver is packed with vitamin A, vitamin B12, protein and iron. It is also extremely high in choline, which most people don’t get enough of.
Shellfish are delicious and nourishing foods. Some of the most popular types include shrimps, crabs, lobsters, mussels, oysters, clams and scallops. Interestingly, shellfish is low in fat yet high in cholesterol.
One serving of most types of shellfish provides more than 50% of the RDI for selenium, a mineral that reduces inflammation and may decrease the risk of prostate cancer. In addition, shellfish is one of the best sources of iodine, which is crucial for brain and thyroid function. Research has shown that many people are at risk of iodine deficiency, particularly women and children.
Bottom Line: Shellfish is a high-protein food that is rich in several nutrients that reduce disease risk, including selenium and iodine.
5. Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil delivers amazing health benefits in a concentrated form. Just one tablespoon has 77 mg of cholesterol. It also contains 270% of the RDI for vitamin A and 338% of the RDI for vitamin D. Cod liver oil is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of heart disease and have various other benefits. According to some researches, vitamin D and omega-3 fats may work together to protect against cancer (30). Cod liver oil has also been shown to reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and joint pain.
Bottom Line: Cod liver oil is rich in vitamins A, D and omega-3 fatty acids. It may provide protection from heart disease and cancer.
6. Other Organ Meats
Although liver is the most popular organ meat, others are also consumed, such as kidneys, heart and brain.
Like shellfish, most organ meat is high in cholesterol and low in fat. For instance, a 100-gram (3.5 ounce) serving of lamb kidneys contains 337 mg of cholesterol and only 3 grams of fat.
Organ meat is also rich in several vitamins and minerals, including the B vitamins, selenium and iron. In fact, one serving of kidneys provides a whopping 874% of the RDI for vitamin B12 and 181% of the RDI for selenium. In addition, heart meat is very high in CoQ10, which may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and heart failure. CoQ10 may also reduce the muscle pain related to cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.
Bottom Line: Organ meat, such as kidney and heart meat, is rich in many vitamins and minerals. Heart meat is also high in beneficial CoQ10.
Sardines are a true superfood. They’re also higher in cholesterol than what many would realize. A 100-gram (3.5 ounce) serving of sardines contains 142 mg of cholesterol.
One serving of sardines provides 25 grams of protein, 68% of the RDI for vitamin D, 38% of the RDI for calcium and 75% of the RDI for selenium. It also contains 1,480 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. These have several health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and protecting brain health.
Omega-3 fats may also be helpful for people with depression. In one 12-week study, 69% of patients who took the omega-3 fat EPA on a daily basis reported a reduction in symptoms of depression.
Bottom Line: Sardines are rich in several nutrients. They are very high in omega-3s, which improve heart and brain health, while fighting depression.
Take Home Message
Dietary cholesterol has only minimal effects on blood cholesterol. More importantly, it has absolutely no link with the risk of heart disease. The truth is that most of the foods that are high in cholesterol are also super healthy and nutritious. These foods should be embraced, not feared.
Do you always go for the spicy dish on the menu? Do you always cook with chillies? Then why not grow your own? Check out our hot tips on the easy way to grow chillies at home.
1. Getting started
For complete beginners, it’s always a good idea to save the trouble of growing chillies from seed; you can buy chilli plants from local farmers’ markets. Apart from regular markets, chilli festivals and online shops are also good places to find your first plant.
For those who are up for a little more challenge, here are some tips for gathering your own seed for growing.
Take healthy looking chilli pods- ripe chillies are a good source of seeds; and the colour is the most direct indicator. “You will know when your chilli is ripe,” says David MacDonald, a member of Clifton Chilli Club.It does not take an expert to determine whether the chilli pod is ready or not; when the time is right, it turns into a mellow colour- fiery red, spring-bud green, or orange- depending on the variety. In fact, it shouldn’t even be an issue as chillies are eatable at any stage. “Ripe chillies are usually found in red or yellow, green ones are actually immature,” says Lynn Ronan, who has 10 years of chilli-growing experience. Otherwise, for extra assurance, you could always wait for a few more days to observe the plant.
You could also buy chilli seeds from your local farm, garden centre or online
To process chilli seeds for sowing:
(1) Carefully remove the seeds from your selected chilli pods and place them on a kitchen towel, which would dry the seeds as well as redundant bits attached to them.
(2) Put the seeds- along with the paper towel- in an airing place (avoid direct exposure to sunlight) for one week or two.
(3) Test the moisture: one simple way is to bend the seeds- they will not be bent easily if they are properly dried.
(4) Chilli seeds need to be kept in a cool and dark place, ideally an airtight container.
Chilli seed suppliers can easily be found online, such as:
If you took on the challenge of sowing chilli seeds, then germination is the first stage. This involves activating the seeds and prompting them to sprout. The time for sowing your seeds can be flexible- depending on when you would like to harvest the chillies. For instance, if you sow the seeds in February, you would have a lot of chillies by the end of October. Note that some types of chillies take longer than other types to germinate.
Here’s the simplest way to germinate seeds:
(1) Dampen a kitchen towel and fold the seeds in before putting it into an unsealed box.
(2) Place the box in a warm place- such as the cupboard.
(3) Check on the seeds on a regular basis; ensure that the towels remain damp.
(4) Once the seeds have sprouted, carefully transfer them to a pot or seed tray filled with soil and compost.
(5) Place the pot or tray in a light, warm place.
(6) Optional: you can also cover the container with a plastic bag to create a little green house for your chilli.
Just a few tips:
(1) Overwatering can be just as harmful as drought, so keep a close watch on the soil and make sure it is just damp. “You don’t even need to follow a certain frequency, just water it when needed,” says MacDonald.
(2) Avoid using old compost because it my contain bugs and there may not be enough nutrition for the plant.
For this stage, you just need a bigger pot and compost for the seedlings. When they are about 3cm tall carefully move the seedlings from the provisional container to the pot filled with more soil and compost; plant it deeply as it helps the plant grow stronger. You need to be cautious when moving the seedling- hold it gently by the leaf, not the stem. Chilli plants are quite adaptive and can grow well in pots of various sizes; you just need to make sure the temperature where you grow them is consistent. Note that they cannot survive when it gets below 14 degrees.
4. Watering and Feed
Chilli plants are quite hardy and require only the minimum time from your busy day. “Basically, all you do is to keep them from drought and bugs; it’s not the end of the world,” says Macdonald. One way to check the moisture of the soil is to stick a wooden skewer in the soil and see what it suggests- it should be just damp; it shouldn’t be dry or show excessive water. Avoid getting water on the leaves and the bottom of the stem of the plant to avoid them rotting.
Feed when your chilli plants start flowering. This is a confusing part because you could get 100 opinions from 100 people; and to make things more confusing, they could all be right. But it is always more assuring to take advice from the veterans. “Tomato feed is one of my favourite; it turned out great for me,” says MacDonald, reflecting on his 6-year experience of chilli growing. “Seaweed extract used in the recommended quantities can be good for chillies as well,” says Ronan. You only need to feed your plant once every 3 or 4 waterings, and you should water down the feed so it would not be too strong for the plant.
After 2 to 5 months for chillies to grow and ripen, your glorious moment of harvest finally comes. When your chilli is just as ready as you are, pick it up: gently pull and twist the pod off the plant; make sure you hold the main stem so as not to break it. Note that picking chillies from the plant generates new growth.
6. Bugs and Diseases
Slugs and snails are the most common ones in the garden; they can cause major damage to your chilli plants. There are several effective ways to deal with these chilli terminators, such as: slug traps and copper tapes; veg friendly pellets can be helpful as well.
Greenflies are another type of pest for chillies. You can grow marigolds as a sacrificial plant that attracts the flies and thus keep your chilli safe from them. Otherwise, “ladybirds are very helpful, they can eat up greenfly in no time,” says MacDonald.
Finally, you could always resort to the old-fashion way: hunt down the bugs yourself. “Just check on the plant for bugs whenever you have a chance to, it’s not that hard,” says MacDonald.
Growing your own chillies is one of the most satisfying things the spice-lover can do. Have a go – and happy cropping!
Carbs are controversial in the light of weight loss plans. Many dietary guidelines suggest that we get about half of the calories from carbohydrates. On the other hand, some claim that carbs cause obesity and type 2 diabetes, and thus should be avoided.
There are good arguments on both sides, and it appears that carbohydrate requirements depend largely on the individual. Some people do better with a lower carb intake, while others do just fine eating plenty of carbs.
What Are Carbs?
Carbs, or carbohydrates, are molecules that have carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. In nutrition, “carbs” refers to one of the three macronutrients. The other two are protein and fat.
Dietary carbohydrates can be split into three main categories:
Sugars: Sweet, short-chain carbohydrates found in foods. Examples are glucose, fructose, galactose and sucrose.
Starches: Long chains of glucose molecules, which eventually get broken down into glucose in the digestive system.
Fiber: Humans can not digest fiber, although the bacteria in the digestive system can make use of some of them.
The main purpose of carbohydrates in the diet is to provide energy. Most carbs get broken down or transformed into glucose, which can be used as energy. Carbs can also be turned into fat (stored energy) for later use.
Among all, fiber does not provide energy directly, but it does feed the friendly bacteria in the digestive system. These bacteria can use the fiber to produce fatty acids that some of the cells can use as energy.
Sugar alcohols are also classified as carbohydrates. They taste sweet, but usually don’t generate many calories.
Bottom Line: Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients. The main types of dietary carbohydrates are sugars, starches and fiber.
“Whole” vs “Refined” Carbs
Not all carbs are created equal. There are many different types of carbohydrate-containing foods, and they vary greatly in their health effects.
Although carbs are often referred to as “simple” vs “complex;” “whole” vs “refined” might make more sense. Whole carbs are unprocessed and contain the fiber found naturally in the food, while refined carbs have been processed and had the natural fiber stripped out. Examples of whole carbs include vegetables, whole fruit, legumes, potatoes and whole grains. These foods are generally healthy.
On the other hand, refined carbs include sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice and others.
Numerous studies show that refined carbohydrate consumption is associated with diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes. They tend to cause major spikes in blood sugar levels, which leads to a subsequent crash that can trigger hunger and cravings for more high-carb foods. This, as known by many, is “blood sugar roller coaster.”
Refined carbohydrate foods are usually lacking in essential nutrients, “empty calories” as how many would describe them. The added sugars are another story altogether, they are linked to all sorts of chronic diseases.
However, it makes no sense to demonize all carbohydrate-containing foods because of the health effects of their processed counterparts. Whole food sources of carbohydrates are loaded with nutrients and fiber and don’t cause the same spikes and dips in blood sugar levels.
Bottom Line: Not all carbs are created equal. Refined carbs are associated with obesity and metabolic diseases, but unprocessed carbohydrate foods are very healthy.
Low-Carb Diets Are Great For Some People
No discussion about carbs is complete without mentioning low-carb diets. These types of diets restrict carbohydrates, while allowing plenty of protein and fat.
Over 23 studies have now shown that low-carb diets are much more effective than the standard “low-fat” diet that has been recommended for the past few decades.
These studies show that low-carb diets cause more weight loss and lead to greater improvement in various health markers, including HDL (the “good”) cholesterol, blood triglycerides, blood sugar, blood pressure and others. For obese people, or those with metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes, low-carb diets can have life-saving benefits. This should not be taken lightly, because these are currently the biggest health problems in the world, responsible for millions of deaths per year.
However, just because low-carb diets are useful for weight loss and people with certain metabolic problems, they aren’t definitely the answer for everyone.
Bottom Line: Over 23 studies have shown that low-carbohydrate diets are very effective for weight loss and lead to improvements in metabolic health.
“Carbs” Are Not The Cause of Obesity
Restricting carbs can often (at least partly) reverse obesity.
However, this does not mean that the carbs were what caused the obesity in the first place. This is actually a myth, and there is a ton of evidence against it. While it is true that added sugars and refined carbs are linked to increased obesity, the same is not true of fiber-rich, whole-food sources of carbohydrates.
Carbs have been around in our diet for thousands of years, in some form or another. The obesity epidemic started around 1980, and the type 2 diabetes epidemic followed soon after. Blaming new health problems on something that we’ve been eating for a very long time simply doesn’t make sense. Keep in mind that many populations have remained in excellent health while eating a high-carb diet, such as the Okinawans, Kitavans and Asian rice eaters.
Bottom Line: Humans have been eating carbs since long before the obesity epidemic, and there are many examples of populations that have remained in excellent health while eating diets high in carbs.
Carbs Are Not “Essential,” But Many Carb-Containing Foods Are Incredibly Healthy
Many low-carbers claim that carbs are not an essential nutrient. This is technically true. The body can function without a single gram of carbohydrate in the diet.
It is a myth that the brain needs 130 grams of carbohydrate per day. When we don’t eat carbs, part of the brain can use ketones for energy. These are made out of fats. Additionally, the body can produce the little glucose the brain needs via a process called gluconeogenesis.
However, just because carbs are not “essential” doesn’t mean they can’t be beneficial. Many carb-containing foods are healthy and nutritious, such as vegetables and fruits. These foods have all sorts of beneficial compounds and provide a variety of health benefits.
Although it is possible to survive even on a zero-carb diet, it is probably not an optimal choice because you’re missing out on plant foods that science has shown to be beneficial.
Bottom Line: Carbohydrates are not an “essential” nutrient. However, many carb-rich plant foods are loaded with beneficial nutrients, so avoiding them is a bad idea.
How to Make The Right Choices
As a general rule, carbohydrates that are in their natural, fiber-rich form are healthy, while those that have been stripped of their fiber are not. If it’s a whole, single ingredient food, then it’s probably a healthy food for most people, no matter what the carbohydrate content is.
With this in mind, it is possible to categorize most carbs as either “good” or “bad” – but keep in mind that these are just general guidelines.
Note that things are rarely ever black and white in nutrition.
Vegetables: all of them. It is best to eat a variety of vegetables every day.
Whole fruits: apples, bananas, strawberries, etc.
Legumes: lentils, kidney beans, peas, etc.
Nuts: almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, etc.
Seeds: chia seeds, pumpkin seeds.
Whole grains: choose grains that are truly whole, as in pure oats, quinoa, brown rice, etc.
Tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.
People who are trying to restrict carbohydrates need to be careful with the whole grains, legumes, tubers and high-sugar fruit.
Sugary drinks: Coca cola, Pepsi, Vitaminwater, etc. Sugary drinks are some of the unhealthiest things you can put into your body.
Fruit juices: unfortunately, fruit juices may have similar metabolic effects as sugar-sweetened beverages.
White bread: these are refined carbohydrates that are low in essential nutrients and bad for metabolic health. This applies to most commercially available breads.
Pastries, cookies and cakes: these tend to be very high in sugar and refined wheat.
Ice cream: most types of ice cream are very high in sugar, although there are exceptions.
Candies and chocolates: If you’re going to eat chocolate, choose quality dark chocolate.
French fries and potato chips: Whole potatoes are healthy, but french fries and potato chips are not.
These foods may be fine in moderation for some people, but many will do best by avoiding them as much as possible.
Bottom Line: Carbs in their natural, fiber-rich form are generally healthy. Processed foods with sugar and refined carbs are extremely unhealthy.
Low-Carb is Great For Some, But Others Function Best With Plenty of Carbs
There is no one-size-fits-all solution in nutrition. The “optimal” carbohydrate intake depends on numerous factors, such as age, gender, metabolic health, physical activity, food culture and personal preference.
If you have a lot of weight to lose, or have health problems like metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes, then you are probably carbohydrate sensitive. In this case, reducing carbohydrate intake can have clear, life-saving benefits.
On the other hand, if you’re just a healthy person trying to stay healthy, then there is probably no reason for you to avoid “carbs” – just stick to whole, single ingredient foods as much as possible. If you are naturally lean and/or highly physically active, then you may even function much better with plenty of carbs in your diet.
The ‘heat’ that you get from the glowing-red food in your plate is never of a singular sensation, not in the culinary culture of China. For a country of enormous size and population, it is inevitable that the dietary style in each region will stand in its own character.
When it comes to phenomenal spicy cooking across this huge nation, one would most likely encounter two styles: Hunan and Sichuan- the provinces that are widely known for fiery cuisines; and they have quite different ideas about ‘mouth-burning’ experience. The dietary feature of a region is majorly affected by its natural conditions and socio-economical development. And for that reason, China’s culinary map is divided in four main styles: sweet south, savoury north, piquant east and spicy west. “These approaches are the fruit of history- the life experience of generations in a certain area,” says Jin-Yu Huang, a specialist in Chinese culinary cultures.
However, the hot persona of Hunan and Sichuan provinces is more inclined to the influence of nature. The reputation of burning-hot cuisines in both regions is majorly attributed to the weather: regular drizzle and stuffiness pretty much sum up the atmospheric feature of both provinces. And in the light of Chinese medical ideology, the body needs a stimulant of heat to drive out excessive liquid retained in the system due to the weather. In addition, such weather impedes the urge to enjoy meals, and chillies help increase appetite while propelling metabolism in the body. Under such circumstances, these regions have built a reputation of ‘home to chilli eaters.’
For most people, ‘spicy’ is denoted as a prickly sensation in the mouth that makes one pant and desperately reach for cold water. But the chilli eaters, especially those from the two regions, would say differently. “The two provinces boast cuisines with exceptional heat of different types,” says Yu Yen, a chef from Sichuan with 12-year experience of home cooking from both regions. Yen starts with a general depict, “Hunan style contains a tangy flavour usually from vinegar whereas Sichuan style strikes the tongue with a prickly numbness.” Then Yen further explains the diverse approaches to cooking with chillies in each province. “Hunan style adopts the technique of immersing ingredients and chillies so as to create flavoured cooking sauce.” A common procedure of such conduct would be mixing crushed Big-red chillies, dried chillies and peppers in vinegar and sesame oil and let the mixture sit for a period of time before using it. By doing so, the flavour of all the spices and the heat of chillies would merge in the oil-vinegar. The condiment is then commonly used to make household cuisines and thus contributes to the reputation of ‘tangy-hot’ sensation.
Sichuan-style cooking delivers a flavour of multiple layers. It commonly uses several spices such as ‘sky-pointing chillies,’ prickly ash, peppers and ginger; “these ingredients produce a stimulating quality in Sichuan cuisines,” says Yen. The well-known numbness that Sichuan cuisines deliver mainly comes from the prickly ash, “but it always depends on the balance of all the spices and hot chillies that go into the cooking,” stresses Yen. Compared to such prominent character, Hunan cooking style stresses on the art of marinating, which usually turns out to be mouth burning. However, Hunan-style cooking is still hard to be precisely defined. “Every household has its own recipe,” says Tien Lung Chen, a restaurant owner in Hunan Province. Chen draws on his family as an example, “my family takes pride in the recipes that have been passed on through generations.” He then reveals one of the ‘Chens secret recipes’: marinating crushed red chilles, garlic, fermented soybeans in tea leaf oil.
The dietary habit of a region is much attributed to the environment and socio-economical status and the origin of plants used in cuisines. The food made exceptionally hot and stinging has a lot to do with the stuffy weather in both provinces; it is the result of a long course of historical evolution. Although standing the same kind of prestige, the cooking styles of Hunan and Sichuan provinces present spiciness in different ways. Each division of cooking involves different skills and concepts to bring out the best of the chillies- in this case- tangy hot and prickly hot.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is beneficial for health, but it can get repetitive. If you’re longing for some variety, try an unusual fruit that’s gradually getting popular- star fruit.
What is Star Fruit?
Star fruit, also known as carambola, is a sweet and sour fruit that is in the shape of a five-point star. Its skin is edible and the flesh has a mild, sour flavor that makes it popular in a number of dishes.
Star fruit is yellow or green in colour. It comes in two main types: a smaller, sour variety and a larger, sweeter one.
Bottom line: Star fruit is a sweet and sour fruit that is in the shape of a five-point star. There are several different varieties.
Star Fruit Nutrition Facts
Star fruit is a decent source of several nutrients, especially fiber and vitamin C. This is the nutrient content of a single medium-sized (91 gram) star fruit:
Fiber: 3 grams.
Protein: 1 gram.
Vitamin C: 52% of the RDI.
Vitamin B5: 4% of the RDI.
Folate: 3% of the RDI.
Copper: 6% of the RDI.
Potassium: 3% of the RDI.
Magnesium: 2% of the RDI.
This may not seem like much, but keep in mind that this serving only has 28 calories and 6 grams of carbs. This means that star fruit is very nutritious, calorie for calorie.
Bottom line: Star fruit is low in calories, but high in fiber and vitamin C. It is very nutritious considering the low calorie content.
Star Fruit is Loaded With Healthy Plant Compounds
Star fruit also contains other substances that make it even healthier. It is an excellent source of healthy plant compounds, including quercetin, gallic acid and epicatechin. These compounds all have powerful antioxidant properties and various health benefits.
The plant compounds in star fruit have been shown to help prevent fat cell formation, reduce fatty liver and lower cholesterol in lab mice. The plant compounds in star fruit are also being studied for their ability to prevent liver cancer in mice. There is also some evidence from animal studies that the sugars in star fruit can reduce inflammation.
All that being said, there are currently no human studies available on star fruit, so take this with a grain of salt.
Bottom line: There are many beneficial plant compounds in star fruit. Animal studies have shown that they can reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and help prevent fatty liver, to name a few.
Safety and Side Effects
Unfortunately, star fruit may also have adverse effects on some people. This is mainly due to it being a very rich source of oxalates.
Because of this, people with kidney problems should avoid star fruit and its juice, or at least consult with a doctor before trying it. For people with kidney problems, eating star fruit regularly may lead to kidney damage. What’s more, star fruit toxicity can lead to neurological problems in kidney patients, including confusion, seizures and even death.
People taking prescription drugs should also proceed with caution. Similarly to a grapefruit, star fruit can alter the way a drug is broken down and used by the body.
Bottom line: People with kidney problems or those taking prescription medication should talk to their doctor before consuming star fruit.
How to Eat Star Fruit
Some people may be reluctant to try star fruit because the preparation may seem complicated.
Here’s a simple way to prepare and eat star fruit:
Make sure it is ripe.
Rinse it quickly with water.
Cut off the ends.
Remove the seeds.
There are many ways you can enjoy this fruit. These include:
Slice it and eat.
Add it to salads or other fresh dishes.
Use it as a garnish.
Cook it into pies or puddings.
Add it to Asian- or Indian-style stews and curries.
Cook it with seafood or shellfish dishes.
Prepare it in a jam, jelly or chutney.
Juice it and drink as a beverage.
Bottom line: Star fruit is easy to prepare and eat. It can be used in many different dishes and desserts.
Take Home Message
Star fruit is a delicious fruit. It is low in calories, but packed with vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants.
However, people with kidney problems or those who take prescription drugs should consult with a doctor before eating this fruit. For most people though, star fruit is a healthy and tasty addition to the diet.
Carbohydrate intake has been treated as the villain in several successful diet plans. While no macronutrient is categorically bad, carb intake should be tailored to the individual. And to optimize carb intake, some people “cycle” their carbohydrates- carb cycling.
Carb cycling is a dietary approach in which you alternate carb intake on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. It is commonly used to lose fat, maintain physical performance while dieting, or overcome a weight loss plateau. Some people adjust their carb intake day-to-day, while others may do longer periods of low, moderate and high-carb diets. In short, carb cycling aims to time carbohydrate intake to when it provides maximum benefit and exclude carbs when they’re not needed.
You can program your carb intake based on a variety of factors, including:
Body Composition Goals: Some will reduce carbs during a diet, then add them back during a “muscle building” or performance phase.
Training and Rest Days: One popular approach is a higher carb intake on training days and a lower carb intake on rest days.
Scheduled Refeeds: Another popular approach is to do 1 or several days at a very high-carb intake to act as a “refeed” during a prolonged diet.
Special Events or Competitions: Athletes will often “carb load” prior to an event, and many physique competitors will do the same before a bodybuilding show or photoshoot.
Type of Training: Individuals will tailor carb intake depending on the intensity and duration of a particular training session; the longer or more intense the training is, the more carbs they will consume and vice versa.
Body Fat Levels: Many individuals will cycle their carbohydrates based on their level of body fat. The leaner they become, the more high-carb days or blocks they include.
A typical weekly carb cycling diet may include two high-carb days, two moderate-carb days and three low-carb days.
Protein intake is usually similar between days, whereas fat intake varies based on the carb intake. A high-carb day normally means low-fat, whereas the low-carb days are high-fat. Carb cycling is an advanced diet strategy requiring more manipulation and programming than a typical diet.
Bottom Line: Carb cycling is a dietary approach in which you manipulate carb intake depending on a variety of factors.
Carb cycling is a relatively new dietary approach. The science is primarily based on the biological mechanisms behind carbohydrate manipulation.
Carb cycling tries to match the body’s need for calories or glucose. For example, it provides carbohydrates around the workout or on intense training days. The high-carb days are also in place to refuel muscle glycogen, which may improve performance and reduce muscle breakdown. Strategic high-carb periods may also improve the function of the weight- and appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin.
The low-carb days are reported to switch the body over to a predominantly fat-based energy system, which may improve metabolic flexibility and the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel in the long-term.
Another big component of carb cycling is the manipulation of insulin. The low-carb days and targeting of carbs around the workout may improve insulin sensitivity, a vital marker of health. In theory, this approach will maximize the benefits carbohydrates provide.
The mechanisms behind carb cycling may appear to stand in accordance with the conduct, it should still be interpreted with caution due to the lack of direct research.
Bottom Line: The proposed mechanism of carb cycling is to maximize the benefits of carbohydrates and teach the body to burn fat as fuel. While this makes sense in theory, more direct research is needed.
Can Carb Cycling Help You Lose Weight?
The mechanisms behind carb cycling suggest that it can be beneficial for weight loss. In theory, carb cycling may help maintain physical performance while providing some of the same benefits as a low-carb diet.
As with any diet, the main mechanism behind weight loss is a calorie deficit, as in eating less than your body burns over a prolonged period of time. If a carb cycling diet is implemented alongside a calorie deficit, then you will likely lose weight. However, its more complex nature may cause adherence issues and confusion for beginners.
In contrast, many people may enjoy the flexibility of carb cycling. This could probably improve adherence and long-term success for some people.
Bottom Line: Carb cycling can help you lose weight as long as you maintain a calorie deficit. Eating plenty of protein can be useful as well.
Many people believe that carb cycling can be beneficial for muscle gain and physical performance. The regular high-carb periods and targeted carb intake may help improve performance. Carbs around the workout may also aid with recovery, nutrient delivery and glycogen replenishment.
This may also promote muscle growth. However, some research suggests carbs are not needed to build muscle if protein intake is sufficient. While these mechanisms make sense in theory, direct research comparing carb cycling to other diets is needed to provide an evidence-based answer.
Bottom Line: The mechanisms behind carb cycling suggest it can help you optimize performance. However, further research is required.
As already mentioned, carb cycling has the potential to provide some benefits that other diets cannot. By having periods of low and high-carb, you may get many of the benefits provided by both diets, without some of the negatives.
Benefits of low-carb periods may include better insulin sensitivity, increased fat burning, improved cholesterol and enhanced metabolic health. High-carb refeeds may also have positive effects on hormones during a diet, including thyroid hormones, testosterone and leptin.
These factors may play an important role in long-term dieting success, since hormones play a key role in hunger, metabolism and exercise performance.
Bottom Line: Low-carb periods may provide a number of health benefits, and high-carb refeeds can have positive effects on your hormones.
There are many variations to carb cycling, including daily alterations or longer periods of high and low-carb cycles.
Even more so than a regular diet, carb cycling can take a lot of fine tuning and adjustment along the way. Experiment with the amount of high-carb days per week, as well as the amount of carbs per day. Find the best approach for your lifestyle, exercise routine and goals.
If you prefer a low-carb diet, you can add carb cycling occasionally in the form of a refeed. You can either refeed every couple of weeks or do long periods, such as a 4 week low-carb phase, with a 1 week refeed.
You will also notice the amount of carbs per day can drastically vary – this depends on activity level, muscle mass and carbohydrate tolerance. An athlete who trains 3 hours a day or a 250 lb bodybuilder may need the upper limit (or even more), whereas a normal individual may only need to refeed on 150-200g.
There really is no proven formula or ratio for carb cycling and you should tailor and experiment with it yourself.
Bottom Line: There are several options for carb cycling, ranging from daily changes to monthly refeeds. Experiment to figure out what works best for you and your goals.
Here are three sample meal plans for low, moderate and high-carb days.
Breakfast: 3 boiled eggs, 3 slices Ezekiel (or 7 seed/grain) bread, tomatoes, mushrooms and a side bowl of mixed fruit (60 g carbs).
Lunch: 6 oz sweet potato, 6 oz lean meat or fish, mixed vegetables (45 g carbs).
Pre-Workout: 1 serving oatmeal, almond milk, 1 cup berries, 1 scoop whey protein (50 g carbs).
Breakfast: 3 eggs with 3 slices bacon and mixed vegetables (10 g carbs).
Lunch: 6 oz salmon salad with 1 spoon olive oil (10 g carbs).
Snack: 1 oz mixed nuts with 1 serving turkey slices (10 g carbs).
Dinner: 6 oz steak, half avocado, mixed vegetables (16 g carbs).
Some carbohydrates should be avoided, except on special occasions or for the occasional treat. In contrast, there are plenty of healthy carb sources that are tasty and packed full of beneficial fiber, vitamins and minerals. When planning your high-carb days, do not use it as an excuse for an all-out pop-tart binge. Instead, focus on these healthier carb choices.
Recommended “Good” Carbs:
Whole Grains: Unmodified grains are perfectly healthy and linked with many health benefits. Sources include: brown rice, oats and quinoa.
Vegetables: Every vegetable has a different vitamin and mineral content, eat a variety of colors to get a good balance.
Unprocessed Fruits: As with vegetables, every fruit is unique, especially berries with their high antioxidant content and low glycemic load.
Legumes: A great choice of slow digesting carbohydrates, which are full of fiber and minerals. Just make sure you prepare them properly.
Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.
Bottom Line: High-carb days are not an excuse to binge on junk food. Instead, eat mostly healthy whole-food sources of carbs.
Carb cycling may be a useful tool for those trying to optimize their diet, physical performance and health. The individual mechanisms behind carb cycling are supported by research. However, no direct research has investigated a long-term carb cycling diet.
Rather than chronic low or high-carb diets, a balance between the two may be beneficial from both a physiological and psychological perspective. If using carb cycling for fat loss, ensure that your protein intake is adequate and you maintain a calorie deficit. Always experiment with the protocol and amounts of carbohydrates to find the best fit for you.