Silent Signs Your Body Craves a Diet Tweak
Signs You’re Getting Too Much …
COFFEE: Stopping at Starbucks is often easier than getting a solid night of sleep, but jitters, a racing heart, and sleeplessness are all undeniable signs of too much caffeine. Plus, compounds in java such as caffeine and catechols can irritate the stomach, leaving you with heartburn and bellyaches.
CHEESE: Your favorite comfort food ingredient is loaded with saturated fat—the “bad” fat linked to forgetfulness. One study found that women over 65 who ate the most saturated fat had the worst memories over four years. Saturated fat also takes a long time to digest, causing excess stomach acid to splash back into your esophagus; keep track of your heartburn symptoms and cheese consumption to see if they’re connected. For the creaminess you crave, replace some cheese with pureed white beans in recipes.
SUGAR: No need to wait for a dentist to break the news—just look to your energy levels and mood. Dietary sugar spikes blood sugar, leaving you wiped out after it comes down; frequent spikes can up the risk of depression. High blood pressure is another clue. Check nutrition labels for sneaky sugar in foods like yogurt, salad dressing, and cereal.
SALT: Who knew? Too much salt can leave you foggy-brained. A Canadian study found that sedentary adults with high-sodium diets had a higher risk of cognitive decline. Cut down on salt by choosing fresh foods over packaged ones—for example, put leftover home-cooked turkey on your sandwich instead of deli meat. And about that saltshaker—sprinkling on just half a teaspoon adds nearly 1,200 milligrams, at least half of the recommended daily maximum.
Signs You’re Getting Too Little …
LEAN MEAT: This one is for the vegetarians and vegans out there. Swelling ankles and feet can indicate an extreme deficiency in protein, which helps keep salt and water from seeping into surrounding tissue. And too little vitamin B12, which is found almost solely in animal products, can leave you exhausted and pale from anemia, a condition in which your blood doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen through your body. If you’ve sworn off meat, choose more fortified grains that contain vitamin B12. And bean-based entrées are a great way to pile up protein.
OLIVE OIL: If you’re feeling drained or constantly hungry, you may need more “good” fats, like the monounsaturates found in olive oil, which make you feel full longer.
Can’t focus? Monounsaturated fats also boost production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which helps you learn and remember information. Plus, fats hold in warmth and moisture, which is why constant chills and dry skin could mean your body needs more for insulation.
SALMON: This fish’s omega-3 fatty acids get all the health glory, even three ounces of canned salmon deliver 100 percent of your recommended daily vitamin D, which is otherwise hard to find in food. Your body also makes vitamin D from sunlight but that is going to be in short supply in the coming months. Signs that you’re not getting enough vitamin D? A forehead that seems to sweat even without exercising or feeling overheated; achy bones, muscles, and joints; and a cold you can’t shake, are all signs you may need more of this vital boost to your bone-building and immune systems.
LENTILS: Constipated? You might not be getting enough fiber, which regulates bowel movements and helps food move more quickly through your system. Jeans getting tighter too? Fiber helps you feel full longer, which is key to staying slim. Researchers have also linked a low-fiber diet with diverticulitis, a condition that causes pain and irritation in the large intestine, leading to bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. A half cup of lentils has nearly twice as much fiber as an apple.