Here is a little science lesson for you about your "belly fat" hormone, also known as cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that your body releases to deal with stress, and unfortunately high levels of cortisol have been linked to increased levels of abdominal fat. Want to reduce cortisol and burn more belly flab? Here are 3 things that you can do starting today:
1. Work less--New research shows that if you work more than 48 hours per week, the likelihood of consuming excess alcohol goes up dramatically. Alcohol consumption increases cortisol, and together they both increase belly fat. If you're looking to shrink your belly, trimming back your working hours while choosing calorie-burning exercise for stress relief (in lieu of alcohol) will do wonders for your waistline.
2. Don't consume caffeine after 6 P.M.-- Although caffeinated beverages can enhance fat-burning when consumed around exercise, caffeine can be a double whammy on cortisol levels, especially if consumed at night when it's very likely to negatively affect the quality of your sleep. Getting quality, uninterrupted sleep each night is critical to reducing cortisol, so you'll want to avoid caffeine in the evening hours.
3. Take time to "unplug"-- A recent Canadian study showed that those who were constantly "plugged in" to technology all throughout the day (TV, smart phones, computers) were significantly more stressed than those who took time to "unplug" during designated time blocks each day. More stress=more belly fat, so if you want a trim belly, start planning some device-free time each day.
When it comes to the leafy greens you put in your salads, some are a rank above the rest. So which should you pick to justify croutons, bacon, and other yummy toppings in your salad? Using ranking from the CDC's 2014 list of "powerhouse foods," as well as the nutritional breakdowns of the veggies, here are the best, most nutritional greens for your salads, ranked from worst to best.
No. 10 Iceberg Lettuce
It's no surprise that iceberg lettuce is among the least nutritious greens you could put in a salad. In fact, Chick-fil-A has even banned the veggie from its stores, allegedly because of its low nutritional content. Iceberg lettuce has about only 7% of your daily vitamin A per cup, as well as only 3% of daily vitamin C, among the lowest on the list
Calories per cup: 10
No. 9 Arugula
Arugula's distinct taste doesn't quite correlate with high nutritional content. It's a solid source of vitamins A and K, but is lacking in other nutrients that other greens boast.
Calories per cup: 6
No. 8 Kale
Trendy for a reason, kale kills it in vitamin content, especially A, C, and K. Vitamin K is especially important in helping blood clots. But kale has one tiny downside, it's a tad higher in calories than other greens--though it's still very low!--which means that technically it has a lower nutrient density, the amount of nutrients packed into each bite.
Calories per cup: 33
No. 7 Radicchio
Radicchio is a member of the chicory family. It packs in the vitamin K as well, containing more than 100% of your daily value.
Calories per cup: 9
No. 6 Endive
Endive, also a a kind of chicory, has its fill of vitamin K as well, and a cup has 20% of your daily vitamin A intake.
Calories per cup: 8
No. 5 Romaine
Romaine ranked among the top 10 "powerhouse foods," by the CDC, which are classified based on their associations with reduced risk for chronic diseases. It's an especially great source of vitamin A--one cup has 81% of your daily intake--as well as some B vitamins.
Calories per cup: 8
No. 4 Leaf Lettuce
The most nutritious of the lettuce family, leaf lettuce is low in calories and high in potassium and vitamins A and K.
Calories per cup: 5
No. 3 Spinach
Spinach, the staple of any good fruity salad, is on of the top-ranking greens for its all-around nutrition content. It's packed with vitamins and nutrients, particularly potassium and iron, which are important for regulating your blood cells and blood pressure.
Calories per cup: 7
No. 2 Chard
With its defining red stems, chard is among the top powerhouse foods because of its low-calorie, high-nutrient content. It had the most vitamin K of any leafy green on this list, at nearly 300% of your daily value per cup. Chard contains a fair amount of magnesium, which is important for things like muscle and nerve function, blood-glucose control, and blood-pressure regulation.
Calories per cup: 7
No. 1 Watercress
Watercress, with its little round leaves, was considered the top powerhouse food in the CDC study. It's high in vitamins A, C, and K and incredibly low in calories. It's linked to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes and it's not too hard to grow.
Calories per cup: 4