Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important factors in preserving health as we age. Obesity is a leading contributor to several diseases, including metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, and many forms of cancer. Preventing obesity requires a multi-faceted approach that includes a nutritious plant-based diet, vigorous exercise, plentiful sleep, and healthy lifestyle choices.
But “diet” may not mean what you think. A sustainable healthy weight is not found through crash diets and self-starvation. These methods only mess with the metabolism and can actually trigger more weight gain in the long run. The key is to nourish our bodies with wholesome foods that naturally promote healthy weight levels, while giving us the nutrients we need.
1. Nuts and Other Quality Protein Sources
Eating adequate protein daily is essential for developing a healthy body composition. It helps maintain lean muscle, especially as people lose weight. Because protein is so dense, it requires more energy to metabolize it, which means greater calorie burn. This density also means that someone who is eating plenty of protein is less likely to suffer from cravings.
But the type of protein chosen is very important. Animal proteins often contain unhealthy fats and carcinogens. Plant-based proteins, such as nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and quinoa, are usually easier to digest and contain fiber and other vital nutrients.
2. Healthy Fats
Despite what you might think, we need to eat fat to burn fat. The right kind of fat. Avoid inflammatory fats like peanut, canola, soy, sunflower, and sesame oil. But include a moderate amount of organic extra virgin olive and coconut oil, and an occasional avocado.
These types of fat affect us on a hormonal level, greatly supporting mood and basically commanding our bodies’ to burn more fat. And because fat grams are so dense, they help us feel more full, which means we are more likely to stay within a healthy calorie range for the day.
Coconut oil specifically has a unique medium-chain fatty acid structure that is metabolized differently than most other fats. Eating coconut oil boosts the metabolism, and helps reduce dangerous abdominal fat.
Healthy fats need to be eaten in place of carbohydrates, not in addition to the amount of food you are currently eating, if you want to maintain or lose weight.
While we are talking about fats, we will cover another crucial type of fat for healthy weight maintenance – omega 3 essential fatty acids. Omega-3s are important for reducing inflammation in the body, a factor in preventing obesity. They also reduce insulin resistance, which means better blood sugar levels and a more effective metabolism.
Vegan sources of omega-3s include chia seeds, wild greens like purslane, krill oil, and flax seeds. Krill oil provides the most of the EPA and DHA omega-3s, which are hardest for the body to synthesize from land-based sources.
4. Apples and Other Whole Fruits
If you are seeking to loose weight or even just maintain your current weight as you age, sugar will be your biggest opponent. Do your best to avoid all processed sugar, syrups, and sweeteners of any kind. Instead opt for whole fruits.
Whole fruits still have sugar, but the fiber they contain helps slow the absorption of that sugar, and fruit contains many other vital nutrients that support health. Apples in particular are helpful for weight loss, with relatively low sugar content and a high amount of pectin, a type of fiber that supports detoxification.
Avoid fruit juice, as it contains as much sugar as soda without the beneficial fiber that makes fruit a healthy choice.
Berries are probably the best treats you can eat for weight loss. They are thermogenic, which means more calories are burned when we eat them than they contain. Berries are also very high in anti-oxidants and protect us from several kinds of disease.
6. Dark Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are a staple for anyone seeking a healthy weight. They are high in anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Many of them are thermogenic, or at least provide so many nutrients that the caloric load is negligible. A huge salad can be very filling while only having a few hundred calories.
7. Whole Vegetables
Vegetables should make up the bulk of your meals. They provide fiber and a vast array of phyto-nutrients. They can help you feel full without overloading you with calories.
Vegetable juice is okay as an occasional treat or if you are cleansing, but in general whole or blended vegetables with their fiber intact is the way to go.
8. Ginger and Turmeric
These powerful rhizomes are full of metabolism-boosting curcumin. They keep the digestive fires burning high and ensure we absorb the nutrients from our food. Try some ginger turmeric tea with a little freshly ground black pepper before meals to help everything digest better.
All peppers boost the metabolism and support the body to burn more fat.
10. Whole Grain
If you are going to eat grains, go for whole, gluten-free grains like quinoa, amaranth, and millet. Processed wheat, corn, and rice are huge culprits in the current global obesity epidemic. Processed grains provide empty calories that act like sugar in the body, spiking blood glucose levels and contributing to insulin resistance.
Whole grains provide beneficial fiber, protein, and can provide lasting energy to help you eat fewer calories throughout the day.
It is possible to maintain a healthy weight as you age. Don’t get caught up in fad diets, instead focus on nourishing your body with vegetables, whole fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Always eat breakfast to get your metabolism fired up for the day. And enjoy the benefits of feeling good in your body for years to come.