It seems like every day there's a new weight-loss product the marketing gurus are trying to convince us to buy. "Get six-pack abs in six weeks." Yeah, right - this most likely isn't going to happen unless you have insanely good genetics. Though these claims may not hold up, and there are no shortcuts, pills or powders, we're always discovering more foods that are beneficial to our health. Take advantage of these superfoods, and you'll reap the benefits of a healthy inside and glowing outside. Too cheesy? Alright, just eat the foods. You'll look and feel amazing.
1. Coconut oil. This product has been exploding in popularity over the past year. Previously shunned by health fanatics because of its high amount of saturated fat, it is now used on skin and as a leave-in conditioner, and it's commonly eaten in several different ways. Sometimes, this means with a spoon; other times, straight from the jar. Gasp! But aside from saturated fats, virgin coconut oil is composed of medium chain triglycerides, which research suggests help boost the body's metabolism.
Bonus: It doesn't have to be refrigerated, but it will melt if it sits in temperatures above 76 degrees Fahrenheit. It makes an excellent alternative for butter in baked goods or as oil for sautéing fresh vegetables.
Tip: When buying coconut oil, be sure to choose extra virgin and organic, if possible. The organic version will verify it's 100 percent non-GMO.
2. Hemp seeds. These are another must-have product to add to your pantry. They can be eaten raw, ground into a meal, made into milk, used in baking and more. You can also find hemp protein powder, which is an excellent source of vegan protein. They contain all of the important amino acids, making it a complete protein, and the essential fatty acids are in abundance.
Use hemp seeds on a salad in place of croutons or sunflower seeds, or try them as a topping for yogurt instead of granola. A mere three tablespoons packs a whopping 16 grams of protein and only seven grams of carbohydrates, five of which are from fiber.
Not all stores carry the seeds or protein powder, so your best bet may be to buy them online.
3. Chia seeds. Meet another "superfood." These are packed full of healthy omega fats, protein, antioxidants and dietary fiber - clocking in at six grams of fiber in just two tablespoons.
Sprinkle them on yogurt, baked potatoes and salads for a nutty crunch. When added to liquid, chia seeds expand tremendously, which makes them great for thickening smoothies and soups. Since they soak up liquid, they're marketed as a helpful weight-loss tool - they slow digestion and expand in your stomach, helping you feel fuller quicker and for longer.
Mixing the seeds with a bit of water creates a chia gel that can be used in place of fats in certain recipes. For every whole egg you want to replace, use one tablespoon of ground chia seeds mixed with three tablespoons of water.
4. Cinnamon. This may seem like an odd suggestion, but research suggests it helps prevent and treat muscle spasms, the common cold, infections and loss of appetite, among other health conditions. Still skeptical? In medieval times, doctors used cinnamon to cure arthritis, coughing and sore throats.
This might be the easiest product to find. Almost every grocery store sells it, making it an easy go-to for an extra boost of nutrients. Toss some in your oatmeal, swirl it into your smoothie or add it to your rice pudding.
[Read: Spice Up Your Life, Using Your Plate.]
5. Flaxseed. These little gems are another great source of healthy fats, antioxidants and fiber. Recent studies have shown flaxseed may help lower the risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease. To reap the most benefits from flaxseed, they should be eaten ground, not whole.
Flaxseeds contain alpha-linolenic acid, which boosts heart health and helps maintain healthy skin, hair and nails. Two tablespoons contain about five grams of healthy fat and four grams of fiber. As with the chia and hemp seeds, you can sprinkle flaxseeds on yogurt and salads, or use it in baked goods.
Now, what are you going to eat first? I suggest making this banana nut bread froyo. It includes coconut oil, flaxseed and cinnamon. Woah - who knew healthy could taste so good?
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Jolynn Toma has a bachelor's degree in marketing and is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer, as well as an ISSA Specialist in Fitness Nutrition. She owns a private personal training studio in Illinois, specializing in strength training, cardio endurance and nutrition. Connect with her on her website, Lift Pray Love, or one of her many social outlets: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.