Wondering how to shed a few pounds and make your life healthier this spring? Then nutritionist Christine Avanti has one piece of advice for you: "Get out of the centre aisle of the supermarket, and start buying real food!"
The chef, author and Food Network health consultant has had enough of people eating processed foods while trying to maintain a healthy diet, and her new book, "Skinny Chicks Eat Real Food," aims to make sure people understand that "real food" means things that don't come out of a box or contain refined sugars posing as natural ones.
She's backed up by plenty of heavyweights in the food world, including Michael Pollan, whose "eat food, not too much, mostly plants" rules have informed a whole new generation of eaters. But Avanti's emphasis lies in the hormonal aspect of weight loss and nutrition -- namely, preventing the blood sugar spikes that can lead to the burning of muscle instead of fat.
"When we’re hypoglycemic, blood sugar levels are low," Avanti explained to The Huffington Post Canada. "When they’re low, the body breaks down muscle tissue and liver tissue, which then slows down metabolic rate, and it unteaches your body to break down fat and it teaches your body to break down muscle."
She also notes the emotional changes that can take place thanks to hypoglycemia, including mood swings, anxiety, depression, lack of concentration and "every kind of craving you can think of -- it's not a good place to be."
Avanti's tricks to keep blood sugar stabilized include adding a spoonful of cinnamon to almost anything, as it actually helps break down sugar 20 times faster, and splashing some coconut oil into teas and coffees. The lauric acid contained in the coconut helps with immunity, and has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal qualities as well.
The 30 foods below are what Avanti terms "hunger busters" -- foods under 50 calories per serving size that can be added to meals without worrying about packing on calories, or eaten as a snack with a dash of vinegar to stabilize blood sugar:
Eggplants contain water-insoluble fibre, which adds bulk to the diet and helps our bowels 'exercise.'
Onions contain a nutrient called allicin, which can help lower blood pressure and prevent cancer.
These tiny sprouts are mild diuretics to help cleanse the kidney and also regulate bowel movement.
Tomatoes are well-known for their carotenoids, and can help increase insulin sensitivity and prevent stress-related weight gain in the abdomen.
Artichokes contain inulin, which is a type of carbohydrate that has been shown to decrease the hunger hormone ghrelin. "It stops you from feeling hungry, helps stabilize blood sugar, and then they also have a certain compound that actually help detox the liver," says Avanti.
A good source of fibre, spinach also has a ton of vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting and coagulation.
With lots of fibre, cabbage aids the performance of the digestive system, therefore helping clean the stomach and intestines of toxins.
Broccoli, according to Avanti's book, is a source of water-insoluble fibre that aids the growth of gut bacteria, organisms that eat sugars and fibre and prevent the proliferation of bad bacteria that can make us sick.
Asparagus is a serious disease killer -- it's been linked to fewer incidences of heart disease, colon cancer, liver disease, and spina bifida.
Lettuce is, frankly, a good filler food -- it has fibre in it to help digestion, and the darker the leaves, the better it is for you.
Parlsey may be thought of as a garnish, but this herb helps cleanse the kidney, aids in digestion of protein and fats and boost immunity.
The amylase in radishes has been found to aid in the digestion of carbohydrates, so can be a good addition to any pasta meal.
The fermentation process that creates sauerkraut has the great side effect of creating lactic acid, which helps stimulate the pancreas, reduce blood pressure, promote healthy sleep and help alleviate constipation.
Zucchini is full of fibre, helping move things through the intestines, and it also fills more filling than it is in terms of calories, helping keep you from snacking.
Green beans have plenty of vitamin C, along with antioxidants like carotenoids and flavonoids that fight off free radicals in the body.
The heating up of tomatoes to make tomato paste can actually make its antioxidants more available to the body -- and as a bonus, tomato paste has been found to help prevent sunburns.
Mushrooms contain some surprising nutrients, like selenium (which has been found to combat bladder cancer), vitamin D, and vitamins B1 and B2, which help the body burn energy.
Cucumbers contain fibre, vitamin A and vitamin C, but it's really the texture and surprising hardiness of these veggies that make them a great snack.
Brussels sprouts are hugely nutritious, beneficially impacting cholesterol, stress and cancer prevention. For weight loss, it's the amount of fibre in the sprouts that helps with digestion, preventing constipation and keeping blood sugar in check.
The calcium, potassium, vitamin C and folic acid in bok choy made this cousin of cabbage a serious nutritional powerhouse.
Usually consisting of shredded cabbage and carrots, Avanti recommends this as a "hunger buster," ideal with a hint of vinegar to snack on between meals.
Like Brussels sprouts, kale works with the fibre compounds and bile acid in the stomach to help get rid of that acid, and therefore lower cholesterol -- particularly when it's steamed.
Part of the onion and garlic family, leeks can be used in almost any dish, and are known for their 'low energy density' -- very few calories packed into something that can fill you up.
Alpha-carotene has been correlated with the slowing of aging, and pumpkin has plenty to spare -- meanwhile, the fibre in the gourd, whether raw or from a can, helps with weight loss.
Pickle relish can add to a meal easily, and its fermented qualities can act as probiotics for your digestive tract. Just be sure to stay away from the 'sweet' option, which usually uses high fructose corn syrup.
Full of calcium and low in calories, cauliflower is an easy to any side dish or main -- or as a snack with a dash of low-sodium soy sauce.
Lots of vitamin C means celery helps with immunity as well as fighting free radicals. Its low calorie count has long been suspected to result in "negative" calories -- which apparently is true, though it would require many stalks to make a real difference in weight.
Though turnips really only have vitamin C and a bit of fibre to recommend them, they also don't have many calories associated with them, making them a quick and easy snack if you have them on hand.
Thanks to okra's "gelatinous" coating, it absorbs water and moves through the digestive system easily, taking with it toxins, cholesterol and bile.