Healthy Eating: Top habits to fall into this autumn

Sprinkle these nuts and seeds onto your meals to keep you feeling full, satisfied and healthy this chilly season.

November 23, 2011 13:33

nuts. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Across the northern hemisphere, the clocks have now switched back. It's that time of year when it starts to get dark depressingly early – by the time we finish work or school it seems like it is ten o’clock at night, when it is really only five. Fall is officially here, and winter is just around the corner. Besides getting darker earlier and colder by the minute, something else starts to happen: we feel hungrier, and we start to eat more and more. While the reasons for this occurrence varies across the board, studies have consistently shown that like clockwork, people generally increase their meal size and eat more around the beginning of November, resulting in a greater caloric consumption. So what can we do? Besides watching your calories and what specific foods you are eating more closely, there are a few other ways.

Here are some of the top foods to keep you full for longer, while adding that extra nutritional boost your body needs to get through the cooler months ahead:

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Hemp Seeds
While the hemp plant is closely related and resembles the marijuana plant on the outside, inside these two are very very different. Considered one of the top vegetarian sources of protein, the hemp seed contains all 20 amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids our bodies cannot produce. One serving (2 tablespoons) is an excellent source of fiber as well as a dozen vitamins and minerals including Vitamin E, iron, magnesium, thiamine, riboflavin, phosphorus and manganese. If that is not enough, hemp seeds are also one of the highest plant based sources of essential fatty acids - beating out most nuts and even flax seeds as well as offer the perfect 3:1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3. Why is this so important? In short, excessive amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids and a very high Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio, commonly found in most Western diets, may be a contributing factor for many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune disease. So don’t be afraid to sprinkle these seeds onto your salad, yogurt or morning bowl of cereal. Not only will you load yourself up with nutrients to keep you healthy all winter long, but the combination of the “good” fat and protein content will also keep you feeling full until your next meal.

Not only are these nuts a tasty fall treat but they are also incredibly low in calories, offering a mere 69 calories per ounce. While most nuts, such as almonds (see below), macadamias or cashews contain between 160 to 200 calories per ounce, cashews contain considerably less, making them an excellent alternative for those trying to keep their calorie consumption in check. Moreover, while chestnuts contain less protein than other nuts, they certainly make up for this shortcoming in fiber. Offering 3 grams per a 100 gram serving, chestnuts have more fiber than walnuts, pecans and pistachios. As a result, this nut is considered a low glycemic index food, and will therefore keep blood sugar levels under control, thus keeping one feeling full and satisfied for longer. So grab a handful of chestnuts, whether they are raw or “roasted on an open fire”.

Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
Two of fall’s signature foods, there is certainly no shortage of pumpkins or squashes this season – but as you are slicing and dicing these two orange gourds to make a delicious dish, don’t just chuck the seeds. The most nutritional abundant part of these autumn favorites, pumpkin and squash seeds are both nutritious and flavorful. Packed with an assortment of health beneficial nutrients, both seeds are rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium and folate as well Vitamin E and beta-carotene, an immune boosting carotenoid. On top of this, pumpkin and squash seeds are an excellent source of the brain essential and heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acid. The mix of this healthy fat combined with an impressively high protein content, makes these foods one of the top “filling” seeds to snack on this fall and winter, or any time of the year for that matter.

There is no disputing it, when it comes to nutritionally dense foods, almonds are certainly a winner. Packed with essential nutrients, almonds are one of the best nuts - and foods for that matter - around! With 6.03 grams of protein per ounce, almonds are the ideal addition to any meal if you are looking to boost your protein content – and when it comes to reducing hunger pains between meals, you really are. A study conducted at the University of Toronto found that people who consume white bread with almonds did not experience the same blood sugar spikes as those who just ate the bread alone. While blood sugar spikes make us feel energized for a while, as we all know, what goes up must come down – and as quickly as we felt energized, we will soon feel tired and hungry. On top of this, rapid changes in blood sugar levels have been linked to an increase in abdominal fat as well as to contribute to the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So don’t hesitate to grab a handful of almonds after your breakfast or lunch.

While this one does not fall under any list ranking “top foods to eat to curb your appetite”, sleep deprivation, in any season, is the number one cause of excess snacking and caloric intake. Sleep deprivation causes the body to produce more of the hormone ghrelin, which results in an increased hunger feeling, as well as causes the levels of the hormone leptin to fall, resulting in craving more carb rich foods. So to keep your calorie intake under control this fall, make sure to get enough sleep each night.

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