Boy, if you had told me 10 years ago that I would be writing an article about this topic, I would have told you you’re crazy! Most of my life I was overweight; a large part of it I was clinically obese. I topped the scales at over 100 pounds overweight when I was just 24 years old. I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and I was also pre-diabetic. I filled up with food, like many Americans. I knew nothing about the health benefits and more importantly, the detrimental effects, that the processed, sugar filled, unhealthy fat-filled foods I was living on every day had on my body.
My life changed quite a bit after I began studying nutrition and learning about what our bodies are meant to consume. I started listening to my body as well, and threw all of the diets and “knowledge” I had gained from weight loss books (heck I even tossed what my conventional doctor was telling me to do to lose weight) – out of the window.
I started a new path in life that led to a natural weight loss of over 100 pounds, which I have naturally maintained for over 6 years. I also have “optimal” blood lab work now – no more high blood pressure, cholesterol and high blood sugar – WITHOUT medication. I did this not only for me, but to create a healthy new family legacy and give strong roots for a healthy future to my kids.
My new lifestyle revolved around whole, real foods, and I finally had the energy to enjoy moving my body. I found that walking, jogging and Pilates were what worked for me. I basically stopped reading the nutrition information on the label of foods, but the ingredients. Most of my food had no list of ingredients! Vegetables, fruits, mainly gluten free whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, wild and organic fish, meat and eggs. One ingredient each, straight from the farm to the store, or in the bulk food section.
I found that a chili made with beans and a multitude of vegetables and flavorful, healthy spices left me more satisfied than 2 cheeseburgers used to. Treating your body to nourishing, whole foods is such a gift, and your body will let you know it agrees with this nourishment. How ? With more energy, less sickness, less intestinal distress and a general sense of well-being.
Three of the foods that I incorporated into my daily life that I attribute with my healthier, fitter lifestyle are:
Kale, cabbage, spinach, lettuces, broccoli, arugula… all of that deliciousness! I add greens to everything – my smoothies, a couple of handfuls of kale to soups, stews, even enchiladas! Plus I have a big green raw salad most days. For very little calories you get tons of fiber, vitamins and lots to chew, which helps us feel satisfied.
Power houses of nutrition, fiber and flavor. I began substituting legumes for meat in most of my meals for the week and found that I had far less intestinal distress and increased energy. Beans and other legumes can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and help regulate blood glucose. They are super high in fiber for colon health, can reduce risk of cancer, have tons of antioxidants (red kidney beans have more antioxidants than blueberries) and have high levels of isoflavones (improve bone health, ease symptoms of menopause, help reduce risk of heart disease, and good for prostate health.)
Spices & Herbs
Both healthy, whole or ground spices and fresh herbs can help “punch-up” the flavor AND the nutrition on everything you eat! Herbs and spices are medicinal and add fat free, sodium free flavor to your food. They can help aid digestion and can take the most ordinary recipe over the top. Buy lots of varieties (cilantro, parsley, rosemary, basil, thyme, tarragon, dill, etc.) and try them in your recipes. Herbs can help cut your cravings also!
Talk about antioxidants: USDA researchers found that one tablespoon of fresh oregano has the same amount of antioxidant’s (substances that may protect cells from free radicals and oxidation that can lead to cell damage) as one medium apple. Dill, thyme and rosemary are next. Spices also have high amounts of antioxidants with turmeric, paprika and cinnamon leading the group. Turmeric was recently studied at UCLA for it’s potential as a treatment for Alzheimers disease.
Would you like a delicious recipe packed with all of these healthy, fat burning foods? Check out this Super Foods Chili recipe!
1 Tb olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 poblano pepper, finely chopped
1 golden beet, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 bunch kale, tough stems removed, chopped
3 pinches Kosher/sea salt
3 tsp dried chili powder (I like Ancho)
1 tsp dried ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 lime, juiced
1 cup canned pumpkin
28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
15 oz canned black beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, diced
Preheat a large saute pan or soup pot over medium high heat, when hot add oil, swirl to coat. Add the vegetables and dried seasonings, stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice, scrape all of the bits off of the bottom of the pan. Stir in the pumpkin, tomatoes, beans and water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve topped with the cilantro and avocado. Enjoy!