Low-fat milk has been considered a quality source of protein and calcium, but opinions about whether or not dairy is essential for health are changing among scientists and consumers. Drinking milk may not be for everyone, and it’s important to learn more about all sides of the story before deciding if it is right for you.
Health Benefits of Milk
The type of calcium in milk is easily absorbed by the body. Along with the protein and vitamin D, these nutrients are associated with bone health and a reduced risk for osteoporosis. Milk is also rich in potassium, a key nutrient in reducing blood pressure. Dairy intake has been linked to reduced risks for colon cancer. The protein in milk keeps you feeling full and may be the reason some studies suggest dairy can aid in weight loss.
Problems Caused by Milk
Those with lactose intolerance cannot digest the lactose (sugar) in dairy, and drinking milk results in an upset stomach. While dairy may help lower the risk of colon cancer, high intakes may also increase the risk of prostate and ovarian cancers. Milk can contain vitamin A in the form of retinol and elevated intakes of retinol can weaken bones. Consuming high-fat dairy increases the intake saturated fat and cholesterol related to a greater risk for heart disease.
Milk is nutritious in moderation and if you enjoy drinking it, there may be no reason to cut it out. But growing research reveals that milk may not be essential for health. If you can’t tolerate milk or you choose not to drink it, you can still get all the nutrients that you need. The nutrients that milk supply can also be found in foods such as vegetables, beans, and eggs.
Breakfast is often eaten on-the-go. As a result, it’s often lacking the necessary balance of nutrients to keep you healthy and satisfied. A nutritious morning meal that is quick and convenient can be a challenge, but by planning ahead and incorporating these tips you can eat a balanced breakfast.
Make protein a priority.
Adding more protein to your morning meal will keep you feeling full longer. Make a breakfast sandwich with egg and a lean meat like Canadian bacon or a black bean patty. Breakfast burritos can be pre-made and reheated throughout the week. Fill them with high-protein ingredients like beans, scrambled eggs, or tofu. Add nuts and seeds to cereals and yogurt. Mix nut butters, yogurt, or cottage cheese into smoothies.
Choose fiber-rich grains.
Fiber helps to lower blood cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar. It also helps you feel full, causing health experts to believe it may aid in weight control. Choose whole grain breads, muffins, tortillas, and cereals to boost fiber intake.
Add fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables contain fiber and healthy plant nutrients. Adding more to your breakfast can be as simple as blending frozen mango or fresh spinach into smoothies. You can also get creative by adding finely chopped broccoli or cauliflower to breakfast burritos. Top breakfast sandwiches with arugula and tomato slices.
Sugar adds empty calories to your day, and causes a spike in blood sugar that can zap energy and increase hunger. It’s especially important to watch sugar intake at breakfast because so many common breakfast foods are loaded with it. Smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, and coffee drinks can all contain added sugar. Add fresh fruit to plain yogurt and oatmeal, ask for less syrup in coffee drinks, and read nutrition labels closely to help control your sugar intake.
Teas contain antioxidants called catechins that may help prevent the cell damage that leads to disease. Green tea is minimally processed, which helps it maintain its catechin content and antioxidant activity. Drinking green tea has been linked to lower blood cholesterol and lower blood pressure. It may also help stabilize blood sugar in those with diabetes. Just remember that many of these benefits are for steeped green tea leaves, not pre-made bottled drinks that are often loaded with sugar.
Black teas are made from fermented tea leaves. This causes black tea to have fewer catechins than unprocessed green tea. Despite this, the tea still has antioxidant power and has been linked to repairing lung damage caused by cigarette smoke. It may also protect against stroke.
Chai is a black tea that is made with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper. While chai has the same benefits of all black teas, many of the spices added also contain phytochemicals that act as antioxidants. Choose unsweetened loose leaf and bagged varieties to save the calories and excess sugar that is often added to pre-made mixes and chai lattes.
White tea is an unfermented tea composed of immature tea leaves. Due to the minimal processing, white tea is high in catechins and is known for having one of the highest antioxidant contents among teas. White tea has been linked to a reduced risk for cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. It has also been found to protect against the breakdown of elastin and collagen in the skin that is associated with age-related wrinkles.
Phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, are special plant nutrients that have been found to boost health and protect against disease. While there are many classes and types of phytonutrients, you should pay special attention to a few.
Anthocyanins are flavonoids that give fruits and vegetables a deep red, blue, or purple tone. They have been linked to the prevention of heart disease and cancer, and they may also improve cognitive function. Anthocyanins are found in berries, red grapes, purple eggplant and red cabbage.
Carotenoids are a group of phytochemicals with antioxidant activity that fight free radicals and reduce the cell damage that eventually leads to disease. Carotenoids can be found in carrots, collard greens, tomatoes, pumpkin and cantaloupe.
A catechin is a flavanol linked to a reduced risk for heart disease, stroke and some cancers. This flavanol may also help to lower blood cholesterol. Catechins are most often associated with tea, but they can also be found in coffee and chocolate.
Quercetin is a flavonoid that acts as an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows it may help protect against heart disease and cancer. It’s anti-inflammatory properties may also help reduce the symptoms of allergies. Quercetin is found in apples, berries, citrus fruits, onions, olive oil, and parsley.
Sulfides are a group of sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible of the pungent flavor of some foods. Research has linked these compounds to better control of blood pressure and a decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol. Sulfides are found in allium vegetables such as garlic, onions, leeks and scallions.
Reducing your calorie intake will help you lose weight, but it is only one part of healthier eating. Nutrition must be a priority to give your body the fuel it needs. Eat meals and snacks that are balanced in protein, carbohydrate, and healthy fat. Include a variety of plant-based foods to increase your intake of dietary fiber and phytonutrients that protect health.
While a rigid training program keeps some motivated, the lack of variety can cause others to give up. Make your ultimate goal to move more, and try different workouts to identify your fitness style. Structured exercise isn’t for everyone, and it is not a requirement for improved fitness. If you dislike the gym, move more by hiking, taking dance classes, or practicing watersports.
Rest days should be a part of any fitness program. The body needs time to rest, recover, and refuel itself so you can make gains in both cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. Work hard during your exercise sessions, and allow yourself a break one day a week.
Calm Your Mind
It’s true that exercise can relieve symptoms of mild depression and improve self confidence, but take an extra step to incorporate activities that focus on your mental health. Take a brain break, and meditate on your goals for 5 to 10 minutes a day. Add yoga to your routine to ease stress and improve flexibility.
You probably know that restful sleep gives you the energy to exercise and helps to regulate hormones that influence hunger and cravings, but getting 7 to 9 hours a night is a challenge. Improve your sleeping habits by tracking how much you currently get, and set small goals to go to bed 10 minutes earlier each week. Create a restful environment that promotes sleep. Stop screen time at least an hour before bedtime, and engage in an activity that relaxes you like meditating, journaling, or sipping decaffeinated tea.