Ideal Body Weight: Part Four
Maintaining an Ideal Body Weight: Part 4
I’ll finish this series off with a collection of those foods determined, by both Western science and Chinese medicine, to be the most valuable additions to a diet designed to burn excessive body fat.
Foods That Promote Weight Loss
It is essential that our produce be organic as much as possible, given the over-use of pesticides these days. Most pesticides are forms of xenoestrogens (or, like Roundup, essentially antibiotics), and these chemicals are well proven to increase body fat.
- Apples are low in sugars, high in pectin (a soluble fiber), and help to detoxify the body due to containing a high amount of calcium d-glucarate. They also harmonize the digestive system, and encourage regularity (1 medium apple contains 3.5 grams of fiber).
- Cantaloupe is low in calories yet satisfies a sweet craving. They are rich in nutrients, especially beta carotene, which supports thyroid function.
- Grapefruit is rich in vitamin C and fiber, and helps to alkalize and detoxify the body. High in calcium d-glucarate, grapefruit cleanses and regenerates the liver and offers some diuretic action. Also helps the digestive system to break down fats, works to detoxify the intestines and aids in treating constipation.
- Kiwis contain more than 100% of the US RDA for vitamin C in one kiwi, and are also low in sugars and high in fiber.
- Lemons alkalize and detoxify the body, and are high in vitamin C (which supports adrenal glands and DHEA production). They clean the body of mucus and fat deposits, purify the blood, clean the digestive system and enhance circulation. Add to salad dressings and teas.
- Papayas are high in papain, an proteolytic enzyme which aids in the digestion of proteins and fats, and also serves an anti-inflammatory function.
- Pineapples are high in bromelain, another proteolytic enzyme which also aids in the digestion of proteins and fats, and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. Pineapple is the basis of a fat-burning mono-diet, called The Pineapple Diet, which, given the tropical source of this fruit, should only be done in the summer.
- Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C and a host of other antioxidants. They’re also low in calories, high in water and fiber (3 grams per cup) and will satisfy sweet cravings.
- Watermelon is the most potent diuretic of all fruits. Rich in antioxidants, low in calories and sugars, it also has a host of other health benefits. The seeds are also a valuable dietary aid, if you chew them before swallowing, and they come from an organic watermelon
Beans, Grains, Nuts, & Seeds
As mentioned earlier in this series, I advocate the use of the Blood Type Diet, therefore when choosing which of these foods to eat (and the same goes for the other food categories discussed), fine-tune your choices based on your blood type. Also be aware that pesticides concentrate in seeds, so again, choose organic whenever possible.
- Beans are a good source of protein and soluble fiber, with adzuki and mung beans particularly of value, as they are used in Asian medicine to aid in weight loss. Munbean sprouts are especially rich in enzymes and so are a good complement to most cooked meals.
- Barley, like all whole grains, is a complex carbohydrate, and is high in minerals and soluble fiber. It can aid in reducing blood sugar and insulin levels, and seems to slow stomach emptying, which helps to control appetite.
- Brown rice (of any type) is a complex carbohydrate, high in B vitamins, minerals, and soluble fiber. The high fiber content found in brown rice helps to keep you feeling full for longer, thus reducing overeating, and supports healthy blood sugar levels as well as keeping one regular.
- Lentils are a good source of soluble fiber, protein, B vitamins and minerals. Studies have found that lentils can lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood glucose, and may protect against breast cancer in women.
- Oats & Oat Bran are high in soluble fiber, and rich in vitamin B1 (thiamin) which is important to brain function. Oats are high in antioxidants called avenanthramides (not found in other cereal grains), which reduce inflammation and relax arteries, improving heart health. The fiber found in oats can keep blood sugar from rising after a meal, and encourage feelings of satiation.
- Almonds are rich in good fats, protein, soluble fiber, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. They also have anti-cancer properties. Like all seeds and nuts, it is ideal that they be roasted or soaked for 24 hours, in order to neutralize the enzyme-inhibitors they contain.
- Pumpkin seeds contain good fats, lots of fiber, antioxidants, and are very high in zinc, which supports thyroid function (and prostate health). They have also been shown to reduce risk of breast and prostate cancer.
- Whole grains (wild rice, millet, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, etc.) are complex carbohydrates, which also have a low glycemic index rating, and will provide sustained energy. They are rich in fiber, protein, B vitamins, and minerals. However, when they are refined or turned into flours, they become refined carbohydrates and are easily stored as fat in the body.
Herbs, Seasonings & Spices
Seasonings and spices are often grown in Third World countries, with little regulation of pesticide use. So, as always, choose organic versions of these foods.
- Bay leaf aids digestion, helps break up and eliminate fats, and has a mild diuretic action. One leaf in a cup of boiled water makes a pleasant tea.
- Cayenne and Chili Peppers (including jalapeno and habanero) contain capsaicin which is considered to be thermogenic (induces fat burning). Capsaicin also decreases the appetite. These spices are high in vitamins A and C, both of which support the thyroid.
- Cinnamon stimulates the metabolism and regulates insulin production, and is high in antioxidants. The healthiest cinnamon to use is Ceyon (or “True”) cinnamon, not the cheaper, common “cassia” form of cinnamon.
- Fennel seeds have a pleasant licorice flavor when used as a tea. They aid digestion and have a mild diuretic action. Fennel also prevents the production of mucus and has an expectorant action. These properties make it useful in helping the digestive system to eliminate fats.
- Fenugreek can be used as spice or herb tea. It stabilizes insulin levels, and has expectorant action, helping to remove mucus from the body.
- Ginger is a great digestive aid and enhances circulation. It increases the sympathetic nervous system activity by increasing adrenal output of epinephrine, which makes it gently stimulating and thermogenic.
- Miso & Tamari are fermented foods (made from soybeans), rich in enzymes. Miso is high in lactic acid, which serves as a prebiotic, and normalizes intestinal flora .
Anise, cloves, curmin and spearmint are considered ‘pungent’ foods in Chinese medicine, which means they encourage circulation and speed up the metabolism.
According to Chinese medicine, vegetables should seldom be eaten raw (and definitely not cold). They believe that life is warm, and so should our food be. The body, particularly the spleen and stomach, requires warm foods for easier digestion. Eating only warm vegetables ensures precious bodily energy is not used up in trying to heat the cold foods up to the body’s natural temperature so the digestion process can begin. Also, lightly cooking our vegetables loosens the tough fibers, and allows us to better absorb more of the nutrients.
- Alfalfa sprouts (like with most sprouts, except mung bean, are an exception to the don’t eat raw rule) are rich in enzymes, and chlorophyll, a natural detoxifier. According to Chinese medicine, they have a bitter and drying action, a benefit to reducing body fat.
- Artichoke (Jerusalem or Globe) dramatically stabilizes blood sugar levels, and has some diuretic properties. It also moistens the intestines, detoxifies the liver, cleans cholesterol out of the bloodstream, and improves constipation problems.
- Asparagus is high in protease (a protein digesting enzyme), aids in balancing blood sugar levels, and is a natural diuretic.
- Avocados provide good quality fats, and soothe and strengthen the nervous system. They are high in vitamins A and E (which enhances thyroid efficiency), and are a good source of the B vitamins, especially B6 which helps elevate mood.
- Beets are high in fiber, support kidney function, and are a natural blood and liver cleanser. They also raise nitric oxide levels in the body, enhancing circulation.
- Beet greens alkalize and detoxify the body, and aid digestion. They are high in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, especially vitamins A and C.
- Burdock is a root vegetable used in Asian cooking. It regulates blood sugar levels and purifies the blood and liver. Mildly bitter, it is good for conditions of “excess” in Chinese medicine.
- Carrots are high in fiber and low in calories. When cooked or juiced, they offer a lot of beta-carotene, which supports thyroid function. When uncooked, or not juiced, they offer little nutritional value except for fiber.
- Celery is a mild diuretic and a healthy snack substitute. Very good for hypertension. This one is fine to eat raw.
- Chickweed can be eaten as a steamed green or consumed as a tea. It has a long tradition in western herbology as a fat burner and diuretic.
- Dandelion greens clean toxins out, support the liver, stimulate bile production (which aids in fat digestion), stabilize blood sugar, and are a diuretic.
- Dark leafy greens have a low glycemic rating, and help to detoxify and alkalize the body. In particular, romaine lettuce, kale and Swiss chard are high in selenium, which supports proper thyroid function. (Lettuce can be eaten raw but kale and Swiss chard should always be cooked.)
- Garlic is a thyroid stimulant, cleans fat out of the arteries, increases circulation, and kills candida (yeast overgrowth). It’s also well known for its ability to fight infections and ward off colds.
- Kimchi is a Korean food made from fermented cabbage, garlic and chili peppers. It’s high in enzymes and lactic acid, which aid in digestion and encourages friendly bacteria in the intestines.
- Mung bean sprouts are rich in enzymes, when not overcooked (they should be crisp).
- Nettles can be eaten as steamed greens or used in tea. They are rich in minerals and vitamins, and they detoxify the blood, and strengthen the intestines.
- Onions help to break down fat in food. They’re low in calories, help to clean the blood, reduce fat in the blood, and are a mild diuretic.
- Radishes are a thyroid stimulant.
- Sauerkraut is rich in live enzymes and lactic acid (normalizes intestinal flora).
- Scallions (green onions) have a bitter nature, which is considered helpful for weight loss in Chinese medicine.
- Seaweeds include nori (used in sushi,) kelp, dulse, wakame and hijiki. They are high in iodine, which stimulates thyroid hormone production. Seaweeds are easy to use in salads, stews and soups, especially flaked dulse, which is one of the better tasting seaweeds.
- Shiitake mushrooms are used as a treatment for obesity in Chinese medicine. They improve digestion, and studies show shiitake can lower the levels of fat and cholesterol in the blood.
- Vegetable soup is both low in calories and fills you up so you feel full. Eating a broth before a meal curbs the tendency to overeat. Avoid cream and cheese soups, which have a higher fat and calorie count.
- Watercress is a thyroid stimulant.
- Wheatgrass juice is known as the King of Greens. It is high in chlorophyll (like all bright green vegetables), which detoxifies the liver and alkalizes the body. Wheatgrass grown in trays indoors is not advised as it is prone to mold. Fresh frozen wheatgrass is better, as it usually is from wheatgrass grown outdoors, as is dried wheatgrass juice powder. (Barley grass powder is virtually the same as wheatgrass powder.)
- Yams & Sweet Potatoes are considered complex carbohydrates, which do not cause an insulin spike the way white potatoes do. They are high in beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A, helping the thyroid to produce thyroxine and absorb iodine.
Totally ignoring our desire for sweets can have a rebound effect, so one needs to address sugar-cravings head on. The first approach is to trick the taste buds with zero-calorie sweeteners, but this will not trick the brain which may be seeking sweets for producing the calming neurotransmitter serotonin (which all carbs contribute to).
So, ideally one uses a mix of zero-calorie sweeteners, with some natural sugars, until one can be weaned off of excess sweeteners in the diet. Remember that real sugars feed candida yeast in the body, and yeast overgrowth contributes to obesity.
If you need a sweetening agent stevia is the first choice, since it has zero impact on blood sugar levels, and is the most naturally-derived sugar alternative. Other zero-carb sweeteners that are safe to use are the “sugar-alcohols”, erythritol and xylitol. These have to be introduced into the diet gradually or one might experience gas and/or digestive disturbances.
Unpasturized honey (use sparingly) is rich in enzymes, contributes to a healthy microbiome, and is used in Chinese medicine as part of weight loss programs.
Next best are sucanat (evaporated cane juice) and brown rice syrup. Both of these natural alternatives provide nutrients, rather than steal them from the body (the way white sugar does), and have a lower glycemic index than refined sugar does
As I said in the introduction, the only real diet that works is a change of diet, and herein I have offered ideas that can help in determining the best foods to base your life around, in order to maintain an ideal weight.
But, what is an ideal weight? We must not get caught up in the current social ideals that are more about setting unrealistic goals and making people feel shame about their bodies. These concepts are mostly the result of companies marketing weight loss solutions and working with the media to rope in as many customers as possible.
Many things determine what our ideal body weight is including our genetics, our body type, and our gender (e.g. extremely lean women no longer have periods and are often not fertile). An ideal weight is one we feel best at, not one that is derived from an externalized social ideal that we have no personal relationship to. After all, many thin people have died young (e.g. Jim Fixx) and many overweight people have lived a long, healthy life.