As summer rolls around (finally), we all want to look our best. But there's no need to starve yourself and then spiral into endless guilt after you've finally given into your cravings and shoved a king-sized Mars bar into your gob.
No, instead of latching onto that faddy diet, perhaps we just need to be more selective about the foods that can provide us with better wellbeing and health.
Thankfully, there are many scientific studies that have demonstrated what sort of things we should and shouldn't be putting into our bodies, that will give us better hair, teeth, and skin, as well as preventing diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems and even cancer.
Eat more nuts
For great pores, it’s advised to chow down on some mixed nuts. There are plenty of health benefits to eating a variety different sorts. For example, walnuts give you a an omega-3 boost, which can help to reduce stress, whereas pecans, which are rich in fibre are great for flushing out toxins.
As well as those more aesthetic benefits, a report by scientists from the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health, found that regular nut-eaters were slimmer than those who didn’t eat nuts. Those who ate a handful of nuts on a daily basis were 20% less likely to die “from any cause over a 30-year period”.
Although specific nuts were not identified, "the reduction in mortality was similar both for peanuts (a legume, or ground nut) and for tree nuts — walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, and pine nuts." Not only did the nuts reduce the likelihood of getting cancer, they also reduced the chances of heart disease.
But if you think that those three packets of salted peanuts you ate in the pub count, then you’d be wrong. Nuts (and seeds) are best eaten raw and unsalted. Although if you really struggle with the taste, roast them at home and then add your own salt. Add them to other dishes too such as granola and stir-fries. And, as with all food, everything in moderation, so stick to 1 to 2 ounces (2-4 tablespoons) per day.
Get boozing (in moderation)
There’s been a lot of chat over the years about the health benefits of drinking a bit of plonk. So what’s the deal? Do we need to drink one glass a night? Two bottles a week? Or do we need to start using our Majestic Wine loyalty card more?
According to a Finnish study of 2,468 men over a 29-year period, published in the journals of gerontology, 2007, wine drinkers have a 34% lower mortality rate than beer or spirits drinkers. Not only that, it's thought by drinking in moderation, you reduce the likelihood of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, strokes, colon cancer and brain decline. But to really get all those lovely health benefits you only want to be drinking one to two four-ounce glasses a day.
In addition you can thank red wine for helping prevent wrinkles, as it contains, resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant and polyphenol found in red grape skins, which helps to counteract the effects of polution and second-hand smoke. It contains a more powerful antioxidant than Vitamin C and studies show it creates mild-to-moderate skin tightening for a firmer look.
Add protein for breakfast
You probably know by now that if you want a healthy balanced diet, you absolutely MUST eat breakfast. Sure, the cereal police aren't exactly going to come and reprimand you for not eating your bowl of muesli but it's advised to have a least a little something to start your metabolism going.
But did you know it's best to start the day with a little bit of protein? You will burn more calories digesting protein than carbs, so kickstart your metabolism by eating protein such as eggs or smoked salmon. It also makes you feel fuller so you're less likely to start reaching for the Kit Kats come 11am. In general, if you want to stave off the hunger pangs at any time of the day, eating protein will make you feel fuller. Although you should watch exactly what type of protein you're eating, as the quality is important. So, opt for meat, fish, dairy (whey) and soy.
According to Dr Donald Layman, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois, increased protein intake can benefit patients with osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and sarcopenia, in addition to obesity. When it comes to weight loss, protein is a winner as it will make you feel less hungry and you will be able to control your diet a feel less inclined to snack on carb-rich foods. Studies such as the one published in The Journal of Nutrition in March 2009 show that subjects who replace protein for carbohydrate eat anywhere from 200 to 400 kcal less per day than high-carbohydrate dieters and find it easier to self-regulate their intake.
Chia seeds are basically amazing
While there haven't been anywhere near the amount of studies conducted into the health benefits of chia seeds, as there are for the above food stuffs, chia seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and contain fibre. It's thought they help to improve cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and aide weight loss.
Watermelon is great for stress
There are quite a lot of rumours circling around that thing called the Internet, which states that watermelon is good for us. OK, so this is hardly anything new; fruit = great for your body. But this food has more wellbeing points than a classroom full of yoga teachers, drinking protein shakes while meditating.
In a study carried out by Florida State University Associate Professor Arturo Figueroa, there was evidence to suggest that watermelon could significantly reduce blood pressure in overweight individuals both at rest and while under stress. The report suggested that, as most people suffer from cardiac arrests during the cold (as your body has to work harder to pump the blood), watermelon had "positive impact on aortic blood pressure and other vascular parameters". Basically, watermelon reduced blood pressure.
Watermelon seed oil and watermelon seeds are also great for you. You can ingest the seeds, which boost skin and make it look more youthful, whereas the oil, also known as Ootanga oil or Kalahari oil is extremely beneficial for your skin. It doesn't clog skin pores and is great as a moisturiser.
Make broccoli your new best friend right now
Again, this won't come as a surprise to anyone that vegetables are pretty great for your wellbeing, but did you know that broccoli is basically one of the best vegetables out there?
A study conducted by scientists at the University of Santa Barbara found that women who eat more cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and near relatives of cabbage such as broccoli and cauliflower are better protected against breast cancer.
First author Olga Azarenko, said "These vegetables contain compounds called isothiocyanates which we believe to be responsible for the cancer-preventive and anti-carcinogenic activities in these vegetables. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have the highest amount of the isothiocyanates".
There's been a lot of chat about whether or not to reduce sugar and whether it really is the actual devil. The World Health Organisation recently said that no more than 10% of our calories should come from sugar, but suggested less than 5% would be preferable.
So where are we getting all this sugar from? Sugary drinks are a major source of sugar and should be consumed in moderation. However, there are less obvious sources of sugar, such as processed foods, including tomato sauce, coleslaw and bread. Ensure you know how much sugar is in your food by heading to actionsugar.org who can give you more advice.
Tomatoes to help fight against anti-ageing and sun damage
You say tomato, we say anti-ageing weapon. According to researchers at the Universities of Newcastle and Manchester in a 2008 study, the humble tomato could be the new weapon in the fight against sun damage. The study, presented at the British Society for Investigative Dermatology, suggested that eating tomato paste could help protect against sunburn and sun-induced skin ageing.
Researchers compared the skin of 20 people, half of whom were given five tablespoons (55g) of standard tomato paste with 10g of olive oil every day, with the other half receiving just olive oil, over a period of 12 weeks.
The skin was then exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light – which is found naturally in sunlight – at the beginning and end of the trial. The team found significant improvements in the skin’s ability to protect itself against UV in the group who had been eating tomato paste.
Instead of asking what can coconut oil do, how about asking what CAN'T it do? While gym-bunnies are obsessed with coconut water, which is great for hydration post-work out, the oil is great for keeping a lid on sugary cravings.
It's also great for helping you fight nasty bugs. When coconut oil is enzymatically digested, it forms a monoglyceride called monolaurin. Both lauric acid and monolaurin can kill harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Yoghurt is great for your bones and prevents diabetes
Not only does yoghurt give you loads of calcium, which is great for bones, teeth and posture, a study has also shown that that higher consumption of yoghurt, compared with no consumption, can reduce the risk of new-onset type 2 diabetes. Scientists conducting a study at the of Cambridge, University of Cambridge found that in fact higher consumption of low-fat fermented dairy products, which include all yogurt varieties and some low-fat cheeses, also reduced the relative risk of diabetes by 24% overall.