Even if your diet is a fruit-and veggie-packed rainbow of healthiness, you could still be missing out on vitamins and nutrients that are essential for getting you closer to your goal weight, says Jessica Cording, R.D., a dietitian in New York City. In order to lose weight in a healthy way, your body needs certain nutrients to help nix cravings, regulate your metabolism, and keep your digestive system in amazing shape. Here, Cording explains which vitamins and nutrients can help boost your weight-loss efforts.
Good news for you carnivores out there: Red meat is loaded with iron, which helps you crush it in the gym day in and day out. “When you don’t get enough iron, you may feel sluggish, tired, and lightheaded,” says Cording. That’s bad news for your calorie-crushing gym routine, she says. It’s especially important to make sure you’re getting the recommended 18 milligrams of this mineral during your period, when you lose some thanks to bleeding. If you’re not a fan of meat, turn to lentils, beans, and dark, leafy greens for your fix.
To turbo-charge iron’s energizing superpowers pair it with some vitamin C. That vitamin helps your body use the hard-to-absorb type of iron found in fruits and veggies, says Cording. Besides that, vitamin C’s an antioxidant, which means it promotes optimal cell function. “It signals to cells that they have jobs to do, like fights free radical particles and keep your immune system functioning well,” says Cording. And when your cells are functioning properly, your muscles can work harder. Get your 75 milligrams per day from oranges, peppers, and even kale.
Good news for all you dairy lovers: New research suggests consuming the recommended amount calcium each day could help you lose weight or maintain your goal weight, says Cording. Researchers think that calcium helps cells fulfill their maximum potential, which means your muscles can work harder at the gym, your body can digest food and allocate the nutrients more efficiently, and your metabolism can perform at it’s best. To meet that suggested daily amount of 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams, yoghurt is your best bet, she says. “Yogurt is one of my favorite calcium sources because the probiotic bacteria keep your digestion running smoothly, which results in less bloating, says Cording. Score! If you’re not a dairy fan, you can also get the nutrient from tofu, salmon, white beans, and kale.
Eat fat to lose fat? It probably sounds like something you’ve heard before, but here’s how eating the right kind of fat works in your favor: “Monounsaturated fat lowers your bad cholesterol and increases your good cholesterol,” says Cording. Beyond that, your body needs extra time to break down this nutrient, which means you’ll feel fuller, longer, says Cording. To get your fill of monounsaturated fat, incorporate olive oil, avocado, nuts, and fatty fish like salmon into your meals to reap the benefitsâ€”just make sure you’re sticking to a reasonable portion size.
This nutritional superstar is necessary for turning food into energy, and it has a surprising effect on how you feel when you’re cutting carbs, too. “Vitamin B6 is involved in producing the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin and others that regulate your mood,” says Cording. And that’s awesome because when you’re cutting back on refined carbohydrates and sugary foods, you miss out on the extra serotonin produced by those unhealthy items. And that results in major cravings for bread and cookies. Thanks, biology. But if you’re getting enough B6, your serotonin levels stay even and you won’t be grumpy, says Cording. So stock up on lentils, nuts, and oats to get the daily 1.3 milligrams.
This mineral, found in all your body’s tissues, can be your metabolism’s BFF. Zinc helps your thyroid produce hormones that regulate your metabolism, says Cording. She recommends getting at least eight milligrams per day (that’s roughly the amount in three ounces of pumpkin seedsâ€”which are a great source, by the way). Another way to get that metabolism-boosting goodness is to suck down some oysters. These fishy finger foods pack a nutritional punch and make you feel super fancy. “They’re low in calories, yet have a lot of protein and zinc,” says Cording. If you’re not into seafood, try lentils or chickpeas instead.
This nutrient impacts your ability to drop pounds in two ways: First, magnesium keeps your digestion right on schedule (i.e., prevents bloating). Plus, it enables you to build muscle, says Cording. And since muscle burns fat even when you’re not actually exercising, the more magnesium you have, the better, she says. Try to aim for 320 to 450 milligrams of magnesium per day, which is roughly the amount in two to three cups of cooked spinach. Not sure if you’re hitting that mark? One weird sign that you’re not getting enough is a sudden chocolate craving, says Cording. “A lot of my female clients experience chocolate cravings around their periods, when magnesium levels can take a dip,” she says. Luckily, dark chocolate happens to be a great source of the nutrient, so go ahead and indulge! If you’re worried that one square could turn into a whole bar, nibble on a banana or dark, leafy greens, which also contain magnesium.- Women’s Health Magazine