8 Superfoods for Summer

Guest Post By Kirsten Morningstar 

Wondering what to snack on this summer? Here are eight of our favorite summer superfoods! All of these fruits and veggies are in season all summer long. That means they’re not only available locally, but they’re at their peak of deliciousness!

And, as always, go organic when you can. Organic foods will help you avoid pesticides and herbicides, and often contain higher levels of nutrients than their nonorganic cousins.

Organic Blueberries

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There’s not much in nature that’s naturally blue, but these tiny berries are! They’re also one of the richest sources of antioxidants. Studies suggest that 1–2 cups of blueberries a day could help reduce cholesterol, and a diet high in blueberries (2–2-1/2 cups of blueberry juice made from fresh blueberries) may improve memory.[1] Oh, and we almost forgot to mention . . . they’re high in proanthocyanidins, a component that may help reduce the appearance of wrinkles. 

Organic Avocados

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Buttery avocado is a dieter’s dream. It tastes rich and creamy (in fact, in some parts of India, it’s known as “butter fruit”), thanks to its high concentration of monounsaturated fats. But, don’t worry—not all fat is bad for you. A study conducted at the Reina Sofia University in Spain revealed that avocado’s high monounsaturated fats, when consumed as part of a reasonable, balanced diet, may help reduce belly fat! And, that’s not all. Monounsaturated fats help lower LDL cholesterol, as well as decrease the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke.[2,3] 

Organic Lemons

Lemon WaterLemons not only bring out the flavor of food, but they’re also great for digestion. Dr. Oz recommends combining lemon juice and ground flaxseeds to aid digestion, thanks to the pectin in the lemon juice and the fiber in the flaxseeds. But, they do much more. They also contain a compound known as limonin that stays in the body up to 24 hours after consumption and can help cancer cells from rapidly growing,[4] and their high levels of vitamin C—one lemon contains 1/3 of your recommended daily allowance (RDA)—can help protect the body against osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and help you absorb iron. So, go ahead, squeeze it on everything!

Organic Raspberries

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In need of fiber? In just one cup, these little jewels contain 30% of your daily dose of fiber and 60% of your RDA of manganese, a mineral critical for building strong bones and cartilage. They’re also a great post-workout snack, due to their high levels of ellagic acid, a compound that reduces inflammation.[5] However, don’t get too excited about their ketones, the chemical that gives them their unique scent, just yet. While it’s been touted as a “miracle fat burner,” the scientific jury is still out on whether the supplement works for people as well as it did for mice.  Popsicles

Watermelon

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Watermelon and summer were made for each other. Clocking in at 92% water, this classic summer snack is one of the most refreshing ways to hydrate on a hot day. And, while we don’t suggest you skimp on the sunblock, its beta-carotene and flavonoids have been shown to reduce the risk of sunburns and skin damage caused by UV-B rays.[6]

Also, did you know that its red hue isn’t just for looks? It comes from lycopene, a powerful antioxidant most often associated with the tomato, known for fighting inflammation in the body and promoting cardiovascular health.[7] And a final fun fact about this fruit packed with vitamins A and C: The black seeds are a good source of protein, zinc, and iron. They’re not very tasty raw, but try them toasted like pumpkin seeds.

Organic Strawberries

StrawberriesAs a kid, our favorite treat was strawberries . . . blanketed in powered sugar. But, while that snack is undoubtedly sweet, we’ve come to love these berries without their fattening topping, which is great because a single cup of them provides 100% of your vitamin C for the day and a mere 47 calories![8] Additionally, these little fruits contain the antioxidant anthocyanin and other phytonutrients that can reduce inflammation, and their ellagitannins may be responsible for helping to decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes when they’re eaten 3 times a week or more.[9] For the fruits with the most flavor, choose smaller berries over larger ones. Another easy way to check sweetness is to cut them in half—easier done at the farmers’ market than the supermarket. The redder the center, the sweeter the taste.

Organic Tomatoes

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This staple of Italian cooking actually originated in Mexico. It’s also one of the easiest fruits to grow in your backyard or on your patio. This shiny, bright red globe is a nutrient-packed powerhouse that has been attributed with the ability to prevent prostate cancer, breast cancer, and promote heart health. They can help you absorb calcium, thanks to all that lycopene, as well as vitamins A, C, and E.[10] To get even more benefits from tomatoes, cook them in heart-healthy olive oil as the lycopene is fat-soluble. 

Organic Cucumbers

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Pickled or raw, these crunchy veggies are great for you! Cucumbers contain three types of the polyphenol lignan, a compound that may reduce the risk of heart disease and guard against a variety of cancers.[11] Enjoying a pickle with your sandwich isn’t only tasty, it could also improve your immune system’s ability to ward off disease.[12]

 

Resources:

  1. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice

  2. http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/158/1/41

  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17384344

  4. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice

  5. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice

  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7948931

  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21291369

  8. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/

  9. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice

  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1020374

  11. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice

  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16987435

 

5 Ways to Boost Your Willpower and Beat Temptation

Guest Post By Kara Wahlgren 

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m the first person to curse my weak willpower when I find myself polishing off a bag of tortilla chips or skipping a Piloxing class. But I may have to find a new excuse, because apparently I—and maybe you too—have gotten the whole idea of willpower completely wrong.

Most of us believe that willpower is some innate, magical quality that only a lucky few are born with enough of to reach the goals they set for themselves. But according to scientists and psychologists who specialize in this sort of thing, what we call “willpower” is actually just a one-two punch of self-control and smart decision–making strategies.

On one hand, that’s bad news for anyone—ahem, me—who likes to use lack of willpower as an excuse for falling off the weight loss wagon. On the other hand, it’s good news because it means you can hone your willpower like any other skill. And, just like doing push-ups, it gets easier the more you do it. Here are five easy ways to tap into your willpower (or whatever you want to call it).

1. Change how you define willpower

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You have it or you don’t, right? Wrong. Instead of thinking of willpower as a genetic gift, think of it as a game plan. “Instead of saying, ‘I have no willpower,’ ask yourself how to handle the situation,” says registered dietitian Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., and author ofDiabetes Weight Loss—Week by Week. Think you just can’t give up your soda habit? Can’t stick to a gym routine? Can’t make yourself eat veggies? Think again. “When my patients say, ‘I can’t,’ they usually mean, ‘I choose not to,’ or, ‘I haven’t yet figured out how to,'” Weisenberger says. “There is a solution to most problems. You have to look for it and then practice that strategy.” Another fun fact? Through his research, willpower expert Roy Baumeister discovered that those who believe willpower is finite tend to run out of it. Those who believe that willpower is not a limited resource continue to be able to tap into it when they need it. Believe in your willpower, find a few strategies that work for you to set yourself up for success, and voilá, you’ll have the willpower you need.

2. Set yourself up for success

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You’ve probably heard the adage that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. The same can be said for willpower—a little prep work can help you make healthy choices. “One of the best things you can do is create an environment that will help you be successful,” says Mitzi Dulan, R.D., coauthor ofThe All-Pro Diet. “Avoid buying chips and cookies. If you buy chocolate, buy bite-size.” Look at it this way—if you can resist buying chips at the grocery store, you only have to resist temptation once. If you buy the chips, you’ll have to resist temptation every single time you walk past your kitchen.

3. Respect your R&R

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In House of Cards, Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood quips, “I never make big decisions so long after sunset and so far before dawn.” Sure, Underwood is a manipulative villain, but it’s not a bad strategy—lack of sleep can impair your ability to make smart decisions. “Both stress and sleep deprivation affect hormones that may impact our appetite and food choices,” Weisenberger says. “Adequate sleep and appropriate stress management aren’t optional—they are as critical as eating your fruits and vegetables and being physically active.” No matter how busy you are, make sure you get a good night’s sleep and carve out a few minutes each day to de-stress. It can make a world of difference to your willpower.

4. Keep your sugar in check

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It’s harder to stick to your diet when you’re hungry—not exactly breaking news, right? But it’s not just pure hunger that’s getting in your way, or else you’d be just as satisfied with a handful of carrots as a handful of cookies. The real problem is that glucose levels seem to play a big role in self-control, so the hungrier you get, the harder it becomes to choose healthy foods over calorie-laden comfort foods. Last year, Baumeister wrote in the APA Monitor on Psychology that low glucose levels can reduce self-control—so eat before you’re famished if you want to improve your odds of resisting junk-food faves.

Oddly enough, Baumeister found that it also works the other way around—exercising self-control can actually lower your glucose levels. It’s possible that the more decisions you have to make, the more your glucose levels dip, and the harder it is to make a healthy choice the next time. In other words, resisting that donut on your commute to work might make it harder to walk past the candy dish in the office, or turn down greasy takeout at lunch. So rather than relying on sheer self-control, see if you can find ways to avoid tempting situations—for example, find a route to work that doesn’t pass your favorite bakery. That way, you’ll have plenty of willpower left for the temptations you can’t avoid.

5. Focus on tomorrow’s goal, not today’s mistakes

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When you’re on a weight loss regimen, it’s easy to obsess over the occasional slip-up—a high-calorie snack here, a skipped workout there—and lose sight of your long-term goal. But the ability to rally after a setback may be more important than the ability to make virtuous decisions all the time. Angela Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, coined the term “grit” for people who stay focused on a long-term goal, come hell or high water. “The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon,” Duckworth said in a 2007 study. “Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.”

So the next time you’re tempted to curse your lack of willpower, remember that self-control is a skill—and like any skill, you’ll screw up a few times while you’re learning it. What’s important is that you keep going. “Determine your weak areas or obstacles and make a plan to overcome them. Put your plan into practice, evaluate it and adjust it if necessary. And expect to stray from the plan and know that you can keep moving forward”.