With bikini season dawning upon us, isn’t it hard not to fall into those tempting fad diets? Maybe you’ve heard about entirely eliminating, or greatly reducing, your fat intake and in turn, you will be granted the body of a god(dess)? It’s important not to get too caught up in these trends, although some are well-intentioned. My main rule is always moderation: there’s room for a little bit of everything in the diet, as long as you balance it well! Indulging a little helps reduce binge-eating, and will keep you from going totally kooky as you embark on your journey towards that healthy and fit body.
However, this dream of achieving your “best body yet” is accompanied with feelings of dread – getting beach ready may be a daunting task, and often, a second wave of intense New Years resolutions are starting up. The commitment of hitting the gym to obtain those killer abs may prove difficult for some, but as nutrition and exercise go hand in hand, it is often a commitment to dietary changes which turns out to be a major challenge. Oftentimes, old habits are hard to kick, which results in the short-lived spurt of health-conscious motivation dwindling faster than you can say flip-flops. While the amount of time required to form a firm habit is debated and often ranges according to researchers, (anywhere from 21 days to over two months), the time needed is realistically longer than most of us manage to keep our healthy resolutions. One common mistake many believe to be true is that low-fat foods are the best way to lose weight; after all, an excess caloric intake on a daily basis will lead an increase in weight – and it is also true that fat bearing foods are frequently high in calories. Despite this truth, consider keeping these high-caloric foods around in moderation for the upcoming months: your body will thank you for the rich nutrients these three super-foods provide.
Avocados – These delicious green darlings are sure to have you clicking your heels in joy; they are not only rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, but also high in carotenoids. In particular, avocados are loaded with lutein (also found in kale, spinach and other leafy greens), which is beneficial to your eyes. The retina accumulates lutein which allows for protection from free radicals produced by blue light. With age, the body reduces the intensity of its protective systems, in this case, antioxidants, which means that when light is absorbed in the eye, the ocular tissues are damaged through reactive oxygen species and free radicals from this light. Foods high in carotenoids allow for the antioxidants to be supplied and available for use in the body, diminishing the negative effects of such free radicals. That does not mean, however, that because avocados are so beneficial, they should be consumed in high amounts on a daily basis; these Mexican fruits contain approximately 140 calories in each half – consume with caution! Half an avocado a day keeps the damage away!
Walnuts – Move over almond, there’s a new nut in town. While almonds and cashews may have been getting all the fame over the past few years, it’s time to give some light of day to the underestimated walnut. A study done at the Medical College of Georgia has proven that walnuts are perhaps the most unique nut of the family; in comparison to others, they are predominant in linoleate (n-6) and linolenate (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids, as opposed to monounsaturated fatty acids of many other nuts. In other words, these n-6 and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are especially useful for the body as they reap even greater benefits than monounsaturated fats. When compared to monounsaturated fats, the polyunsaturated fats containing n-3 and n-6 are more beneficial to include in the daily diet, as these contain some fatty acids which the body can only acquire through the diet; they cannot be produced through natural metabolic reactions.
Cheese – Despite the bad reputation full fat cheeses often receive, they are still an excellent addition to a healthy diet. Full fat cheeses, such as cheddar cheese, are loaded with calcium and protein – however, they have received their reputation for a good reason: cheeses are calorie dense foods, so eat these dairy products in moderation. As the body ages and bone mineral density decreases, it is essential to keep dietary calcium at the adequate levels. Furthermore, certain types of cheeses contain healthy probiotics, an extra boost to keep your body functioning at its prime. Certain alpine cheeses also contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, helping protect against cardiovascular disease. This is due to the fact that the cows coming from these alpine regions, such as Gstaad in Switzerland, feed mainly on fresh grass which contains high amounts of Alpha-linolenic acid, as compared to those grain-fed cows from industrial farms.
There are plenty of other healthy fats to keep around this spring, but the key thing to remember is moderation. When it comes to food, a little bit of everything makes meals more enjoyable. Just be sure to make healthy choices and keep a lookout for saturated and trans fats. One general rule to follow when it comes to choosing fats is that the “bad” saturated fats are often solid at room temperature, whereas the “healthy” unsaturated fats are liquid. Knowing which fats to select makes the build up to bikini season a little less painful – there’s no need to eliminate fats entirely, but rather be conscious of your decisions, and you’ll be feeling ready to hit the beach in no time!