Weight is a complex issue. There are so many factors that contribute to our ability to lose weight, our tendency to gain weight, and our capacity for maintaining a healthy weight. There is so much to be read on this subject, but I just wanted to highlight a few little factors you may not be aware of or may have overlooked. Each one of them can be a game-changer, and all together there is no doubt the results can be life-changing.
I am so excited about the recent research promoting the use of bitters for all manner of health issues, especially weight loss. Bitters have always been used and promoted by herbalists for their ability to improve digestive function, and yet we now know that they are also important for so much more.
What are bitters I hear you say? You know them by how they taste- that’s right, bitter! Some foods and plants are more bitter than others, and there is no question that we have all but eliminated this important taste from our typical diet…to our detriment!
The receptors on our tongue that taste ‘bitter’ are plentiful, probably because this was a good way of us evolving an understanding of what may be poisonous or harmful to us – many poisons are bitter-tasting. What is totally amazing though is that there are bitter receptors not just on our tongue but right throughout our body – our bodies are geared to respond to bitter. And what form do these responses take?
- Ramp up digestive function, improving digestion and absorption of foods, relieving bloating and discomfort, increasing digestive juices like stomach acid, bile, and digestive enzyme output.
- Increase the detoxification processes in the liver.
- Reduce food reactivities and sensitivities.
- Influence our blood sugar balance and insulin sensitivity.
- ‘Reduce caloric ingestion’, ie. make you want to eat less!
- Assist with weight loss. Crucially, research has shown that a low sensitivity to bitter taste is linked to obesity.
- Help us feel fuller, therefore reducing appetite and food consumption
- Improve vitality and wellbeing through enhancing all these key processes
Pharmaceutical companies are working on trademarking bitter pills for weight loss. It doesn’t need to be so complicated. Nature has abundant bitters on hand, some of which grow in your garden (even if you don’t want them to!). Read on for some easy ways to increase bitters in your diet.
2. The right foods for YOU
While there are a zillion different diets out there shouting their benefits from the rooftops, most people will know that as we are all individuals, we have different foods and ways of eating which suits us best. Finding out which foods may be causing reactivity in your body can be of real benefit when tailoring a nutritional programme that aligns best with your body and metabolism. If you are regularly eating a food that is difficult for your body to process, or one that triggers any kind of reaction, this can have a negative impact on your overall well-being, including your ability to maintain a balanced and healthy weight.
3. Fibre’s Threefold Fabulousness
Some people think dietary fibre is just for keeping your bowels moving, and while it does do this, it has all sorts of other benefits for the body, including supporting weight loss. Not only does fibre keep you feeling fuller for longer, thereby curbing cravings and lowering appetite, but it also helps to promote good gut bacteria, also beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. The third way fibre helps with weight loss is by increasing levels of acetate in the gut which then directs our hypothalamus in the brain to regulate our appetite and hunger hormones. Brilliant stuff ay?
So to recap, here are a few tips to help with keeping a healthy weight balance:
- Sort out any foods which don’t agree with you- what makes you bloated, lethargic, grumpy? What is triggering those heachaches? What flares up your eczema? If these foods aren’t working for you, chances are they aren’t helping your weight either. If in doubt seek support to help you figure this one out.
- Increase bitters in your diet. This may be by eating salads with bitter greens before a meal- some lettuces, chicory, endive, spray-free dandelion leaves (for goodness sake make sure you have the right plant first), and puha are all good options. You can also go to a herbal dispensary or see a medical herbalist for your own bitter tonic, which you can have a shot of or sip with water before a meal. Some bitter herbs include Gentian, Globe Artichoke, Dandelion and Milk Thistle. Swedish Bitters are a formula containing many plants, and are just one kind of bitter tonic, which can be sipped neat or in water. If you are at a bar or out for dinner, ask for a ‘bitters and soda’, the bar will stock Angostura bitters (as in “Lemon, Lime and Bitters”, but without all the sugar) and can make this for you. (The alcoholic version is of course Campari! Not everyone’s favorite and probably not the best for weight loss, but still rather delicious and quite bitter)
- Increase all kinds of fibre in your diet: soluble fibre, insoluble fibre, and resistant starches. Do this by replacing all breads and crackers with whole-grainy versions, adding beans and lentils to all meals, having brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice or pasta, adding ground linseeds to your breakfast, having oats or mueslis instead of processed cereals, and increasing all vegetables and vegetarian meals. Its pretty hard to be low-fibre when you’re vegetarian, but some people still manage it! Increasing vegetables is always a good thing for weight loss anyway, aim for 6 cups of fruit and veg a day.
Enjoy these simple ways to optimise health, weight and well-being in 2017!