They’re called the lazy days of summer — and, boy, do our weight loss goals agree.
In fact, while you may think of summer as a time for calorie-burning outdoor fun, research suggests otherwise. When temperatures soar, experts say levels of physical activity tend to plummet. Pair that with the beers at backyard barbecues and the mid-afternoon ice cream cones, and body weight inevitably creeps up.
But summer doesn’t have to be a desert barren of weight loss foods. There are a number of easy tweaks you can make to your diet that can improve your health and keep the summer pounds at bay — while you enjoy some of your warm weather favorites. Yes, even beer. Use these tricks, and you and your family can enjoy every lazy, hazy, dog day of the season — and still lose weight
BUY THE SPICY SALSA
Filling up on spicy food when you’re already sweating may sound counterintuitive, but scientists present a solid case for how culinary heat can help us beat the heat — and the bulge. They call it "gustatory facial sweating.” It’s a phenomenon that suggests spicy foods trigger special nerve receptors in our mouths and thermosensors in our stomachs that cause us to sweat — the body’s way of releasing heat via evaporative cooling. You’ll get the same heat-up-cool-down effect from a hot cup of tea, but spicy summer foods have the added benefit of being rich in capsaicin, a fat-burning compound found in chili peppers.
RETHINK YOUR COFFEE ORDER
It may be too hot for a steamy latte, but resist the urge to cool down with a flab-uccino—er, frozen, blended coffee beverage. In many instances, the cool equivalent of a hot espresso drink is far more caloric. Consider this typical Starbucks order: A tall, nonfat Vanilla Latte will cost you 150 calories; but a tall, nonfat, no-whip Vanilla Frappuccino clocks in at 200 calories (it also serves up an additional 19 grams of sugar). That’s enough of a daily increase in calories to gain more than 1.25 pounds in three short months! Stay on track with your weight-loss goals this summer by sticking to iced coffee drinks instead. A tall, nonfat Iced Vanilla Latte at Starbucks is only 120 calories. And an Iced Coffee with nonfat milk and a shot of vanilla is a virtuous 80 calories.
GROW AN HERB GARDEN
A DIY herb box is one of the most delicious ways to bring tons of fresh flavor to summer fare for minimal calories. And research suggests herbing-up with the aromatics can indeed help slim you down. One study in the journal Flavour found participants ate significantly less of a strongly-scented dish than an equicaloric, mildly scented version. Researchers suggest this sensory illusion triggers the release of satiety hormones, so you don’t over-indulge in something rich. And other research by the University of Utah suggests the simple act of tending to a herb box may keep the weight off. Female gardeners are, on average, 11 pounds lighter than their non-gardening peers while green-thumbed men are 16 pounds leaner, according to the study. Be sure to include parsley in your summer garden (or window box!). As a natural diuretic that helps flush excess water from the body, the herb is particularly beach-body friendly.
Tomato juice, as it’s loaded with lycopene and carotenoids, may be the best summer beverage for a hot beach bod and youthful glowing skin, new research suggests. Women who drank a small glass of tomato juice every day for eight weeks lost nearly an inch off their waistlines, independent of any other changes to diet or exercise, a recent trial published in the journal Nutrition found. Rehydrating after a day in the sun with a vegetable drink rich in carotenoids could also slash oxidation products–the main culprits of visible sun damage–50 percent more effectively than sodas, according to a separate two-week study.
SNACK ON SELF-TANNER
A faux sun-tan that can also help you lose weight? It’s true. People who ate more portions of brightly-colored produce had a healthier and more sun-kissed complexion than those who didn’t consume as much, a study in the Journal Evolution and Human Behaviour found. The faux glow is the result of disease-fighting compounds called carotenoids that give some fruit and veg their brilliant red-orange hue. Some of the best summer sources of the sunless stuff like carrots, bell peppers, and cantaloupe also happen to be particularly low-calorie, so you can snack to your heart’s (and belly’s!) content while you get your glow on.
DROWN OUT THE POUNDS
Water is like fat-burning fuel: It’s what your metabolism requires to function optimally, especially in the summer heat when we tend to lose water faster than normal. In fact, numerous studies have linked proper hydration — between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh — to improved weight loss. In fact, one study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found drinking water (17 ounces) could increase fat-burning by 30 percent. Dehydration, on the other hand, slows calorie-burning. Make a summertime fetish of toting around a water bottle. Throw in a sliced lemon for good measure. Limonene, a compound found in the peel, is a great natural detoxifier, as it helps the liver to flush excess toxins from the system.
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