How to speed up your metabolism quickly and safely: Benefits of dairy

Your goal: lose 20 pounds. And you feel as if you're doing everything right.

You're dutifully dieting, substituting cottage cheese for breakfast and pushing away dreams of French toast. You take a baggie of carrot and celery sticks and a carton of plain yogurt to the office each day for lunch. You snack on more celery sticks and diet soda, and limit dinner to a skinless broiled chicken breast and a gigantic bowl of steamed broccoli without dressing. You've tossed all your carbohydrates out of the house, because you've heard they're fattening. You even avoid fruit, which you read has too much sugar.

And when it comes to exercise, you're in it to win it: you skimp on sleep so you can make it to a 5 am spin cycle class seven days a week!

And yet: the scale refuses to budge. Your clothes still don't fit right. And your family and friends have informed you that all your dieting efforts are resulting in nothing but a cranky attitude, as far as they're concerned!

Before you throw out your scale and head for the nearest pizza parlor, consider some advice from an expert.

How to Boost Your Metabolism to Burn Fat More Efficiently

Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D., frequently offers seminars and counseling on diet, health and wellness topics.  She is the author of "Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations".

Katherine notes that there are many reasons why weight loss can be so frustrating, particularly as we age.

"Starting in our 30s, we begin to lose muscle mass," explains this expert. "The more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body burns because muscle mass increases metabolism. That's why a man who weighs the same as a woman will lose weight more easily: "He has relatively more muscle so he burns more calories even at rest!"

The solution: "Building muscle as you age - and to minimize muscle loss as you lose weight - is essential to keeping lean," says Katherine. .

So should you change your exercise or your diet first? Katherine says the answer depends on the individual's lifestyle. "Many women have lives which keep them in a car or sitting in an office too much and this reduces natural activity to the point where even exercise in the gym may not be enough. This is happening to just about everyone in today's culture regardless of how healthy they eat."

And then there's the food, where changes typically are needed. "Women love their breads, pastas and sweets, and as we age, our calorie needs go down, while our nutrient needs go up. We should be spending more time eating fruits, vegetables and less starchy and sugary foods. These are foods which provide essential nutrients for health, but are low in calories," explains Katherine.

Myths Versus Facts About Carbs

Totally avoiding any carbohydrates, however, isn't the path to success either, according to Katherine.

"Plant foods are carbohydrates! The key is eating more of the low calorie/ high nutrient carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes versus the nutrient-poor, high calorie types using lots of sugar, fats and refined flours."

However, an increasing number of experts disagree and say that grains are not necessary for health: Find out what Dr. David Perlmutter has to say on the topic by clicking here.

Katherine recommends seeking a balance. Make sure that you have "adequate protein '" a healthy balance '" to maintain lean muscle and lose more fat during weight loss ( 20% protein to 25% protein, for instance)."

As for women who cut out dairy, thinking that it is fattening, Katherine is firm on her views. "BIG MISTAKE!!! Fat free yogurt and milk are some of the most low calorie and nutrient dense foods you can eat. A major source of protein, calcium, potassium and many other essential nutrients. There is evidence that eating more of these dairy products leads to leanness. We don't know why. Could be their high protein content, but also they are so satiating. This is why I tell my clients they are unlimited!"

But not everyone agrees that going for fat-free dairy is the solution.  In fact, full-fat dairy such as butter and cheese are featured in the best-selling "The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet." 

 In the perfect food pyramid, Nina feels that the area allotted to foods to enjoy freely belongs to meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, lard, butter, unheated olive oil and other oils such as coconut. Nuts earn space as well. And as for the traditional "five a day" fruits and vegetables? Nina recommends limiting them to the non-starchy veggies such as mushrooms and the low-sugar fruits such as berries.

As shown above, Nina believes that saturated fats are actually good for us: How can they help our health and what impact do they have on weight loss? Their benefits range from bone health due to calcium absorption to protection of the liver. In addition to boosting your immune system, saturated fats help you absorb omega-3 fatty acids.

Moreover, says Nina, "the type of saturated fatty acids in butter and tropical oils have been shown to have important antimicrobial properties. Saturated fats are also important for the functioning of the heart muscle." And although she says that they raise your cholesterol, it is not the type linked to heart attacks.

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