More than two-third of adults and almost one-third of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese. By the year 2030, it’s expected that half of all adults will be considered obese with a BMI greater than 40. We all know that changing our eating habits, decreasing caloric intake and increasing physical activity are the mainstays of any weight loss program. But here are 5 simple additions to your weight loss program that might help as well:
Probiotics are live microorganisms that have health benefits when ingested. They are found in both supplements and fermented foods. Probiotics may improve digestive health, heart health and immune function, to name a few. Several studies also suggest that probiotics can help you lose weight and belly fat.
Supplements containing bacteria of the Lactobacillus subfamily have been shown to reduce fat mass. However, the same doesn’t apply to all Lactobacillus species. Some studies have linked L acidophilus with weight gain.
Probiotics may also fight obesity by:
Release of GLP-1: Probiotics may help release the satiety (appetite-reducing) hormone GLP-1. Increased levels of this hormone may help you burn calories and fat.
Increase of ANGPTL4: Probiotics may increase levels of the protein ANGPTL4. This may lead to decreased fat storage. There is also a lot of evidence that obesity is linked to inflammation in the brain. By improving gut health, probiotics may reduce inflammation and protect against obesity and other diseases.
Many types of probiotics are on the market. Some have been well studied, and some haven’t. One theoretical risk of probiotics is if someone has an immune system weakened by illness or medication, that person could get sick from probiotics. Since they are not regulated it is not clear which probiotics, or even if the probiotic bacteria listed on the label is actually in the product. A better way to get a daily dose of probiotics is through the many foods loaded with these cultures of good bacteria. The top sources include: yogurt, especially plain Greek yogurt (but check the sugar and fat content) kefir (a tangy dairy drink), and fermented vegetables such as pickles or sauerkraut.
Protein is the single most important nutrient for losing weight. Eating a high protein diet has been shown to boost metabolism by 80–100 calories per day while shaving 441 calories per day off your diet. One study also showed that eating 25% of your daily calories as protein reduced obsessive thoughts about food by 60%, while cutting desire for late-night snacking in half. Simply adding protein to your diet is one of the easiest and most effective ways to lose weight. If you struggle to get enough protein in your diet, taking a supplement – such as protein powder may seem like a great alternative but a nonprofit group called the Clean Label Project released a report about toxins in protein powders. Researchers screened 134 products for 130 types of toxins and found that many protein powders contained heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury), bisphenol-A (BPA, which is used to make plastic), pesticides, or other contaminants with links to cancer and other health conditions.
Some toxins were present in significant quantities. For example, one protein powder contained 25 times the allowed limit of BPA. How could protein powder contain so many contaminants? The Clean Label Project points to manufacturing processes or the existence of toxins in soil (absorbed by plants that are made into protein powders). Not all of the protein powders that were tested contained elevated levels of toxins. You can see the results at the Clean Label Project’s website.
Aim for the recommended dietary allowance for protein intake: 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams per day for men. For example:
-An egg for breakfast (6 grams)
-6 ounces of plain Greek yogurt at lunch (18 grams) (not low fat, it often contains minimally less fat than regular yogurt and a whole lot of sugar!)
-A handful of nuts for a snack (4–7 grams)
-A cup of milk (8 grams)
-2 ounces of cooked chicken for dinner (14 grams)
But clear with your healthcare provider first since some medical concerns such as renal issues may require protein restrictions.
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that something as simple as aiming to eat 30 grams of fiber each day can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and improve your body’s response to insulin just as effectively as a more complicated diet. The participants that averaged 19 grams of fiber a day lowered their blood pressure, improved their response to insulin and lost up to 5.9 lbs, which they maintained for 12 months. This one simple step can make all the difference especially since it encourages healthy behaviors rather than discouraging unhealthy ones.
Dr. Oz has been touting the benefit of glucomannan fiber, but a government sponsored study did not show it promoted weight loss in overweight and moderately obese individuals or change body composition, hunger/fullness, lipid or glucose levels. In short, it did not work. Although it did appear to be well tolerated it can cause bloating, flatulence and soft stools, and interfere with some oral medications if taken at the same time. If glucomannan expands before reaching the stomach, it may cause choking or blockage of the throat and esophagus, the tube that moves food from your mouth to your stomach. To prevent this, it should be washed down with 1–2 glasses of water. Instead, why not enjoy the fiber while it works for you by adding whole fruit, nuts, and seeds, or a berry smoothie with wheat bran, chia seed, or flaxseed. Other great options include dried fruit (prunes, raisins), popcorn, and bean dips paired with veggies or whole-grain crackers.
This is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world. It is found naturally in coffee, green tea, dark chocolate, and is added to many processed foods and beverages. Caffeine is a well known metabolism booster, and is often added to commercial weight loss supplements. Short-term studies have shown that caffeine can boost metabolism by 3-11%, and increase fat burning by up to 29%, but caffeine alone won’t help you slim down. It may slightly boost weight-loss efforts or help prevent weight gain, but there’s no solid evidence that caffeine consumption leads to noticeable weight loss.
Although research about the connection between caffeine and weight isn’t definitive, there are a few theories about how caffeine might affect weight, including:
Appetite suppression- Caffeine may reduce feelings of hunger and your desire to eat for a brief time.
Calorie burning- Caffeine appears to increase energy use even when you’re at rest. It stimulates thermogenesis – one way your body generates heat and energy from digesting food. But in some people, high amounts of caffeine can cause anxiety, insomnia, irritability, nausea, diarrhea and other symptoms. Caffeine is also addictive, can reduce the quality of your sleep and impact multiple health issues.
A Mayo Clinic partnered study found that men who drank more than four 8 fl.oz. cups of coffee had a 21% increase in all-cause mortality. So exercise restraint.
Green teas have been touted as a belly blaster because of the main antioxidant, EGCG, epigallocatechin-3-gallate. Catechins are natural antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and provide other benefits. This is believed to increase the activity of norepinephrine, a hormone that helps you burn fat, especially in the belly area. It’s true that green tea can raise your metabolic rate, so you burn more calories, says David Nieman, Dr.PH., director of the human performance laboratory at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. Nieman, who has studied green tea extensively, says this effect is probably due to a combination of its caffeine and catechins—antioxidants that are plentiful in green tea and present in smaller amounts in some fruits, dark chocolate and red wine. It’s possible that catechins in green tea may also inhibit carbohydrate digestion and absorption, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports that showed lower carb absorption after people downed a green tea extract.
Some of the most promising studies are looking at green tea’s effects on the microbiome. Research is increasingly finding that green tea alters the gut’s microbiome, and those changes could be what might make it helpful for dropping pounds. Although the literature is mixed as to the real ability of green tea in helping to shed pounds or work other health miracles, working it into your diet may give you a mild boost. If you don’t add sugar, it has no calories.
Adding these natural foods to a healthy diet, staying active and getting a good nights sleep may improve weight loss results.