This Is the Year of Zucchini!

Zucchini isn’t exactly America’s favorite veggie, but there are plenty of things to love about it. This slender, tender variety of squash provides many healthy nutrients. It also packs lots of flavor and freshness — if you know how to use it in dishes the right way.

A Source of Amazing Vitamins and Nutrients

The list of vitamins and minerals in a cup of zucchini reads like the label on a multivitamin bottle:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Thiamine
  • Copper

Just one cup of zucchini can give you around 10–15% of your daily needs for these vitamins. That’s pretty impressive for a relatively inexpensive veggie!

Heaven for Your Gut

Zucchini has plenty of water, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, which is excellent for gut health. Adding it to meals can make them easier for your body to digest. For some people, zucchini and other green veggies can alleviate the pain and inflammation of ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and other chronic digestive problems.

The Green (and Yellow) Antioxidant Powerhouse

Another reason to love zucchini’s nutrients is that many of them provide important antioxidants. For example, green and yellow zucchini are rich in carotenoids — the same family of antioxidants found in carrots. These compounds support and protect the body:

  • Eyes: Like carrots, zucchini are a great veggie for protecting your eyesight. This isn’t a myth. Beta-carotene and vitamin C can significantly reduce the risk of age-related vision loss and cataracts.
  • Bones: Vitamin K, magnesium and antioxidants in zucchini all work together to help you have stronger bones.
  • Prostate: While more research is needed, some studies suggest that zucchini seeds may help limit prostate enlargement.
  • Thyroid: Some scientists think that extracts from zucchini peels may support balanced thyroid hormones. If true, it could help your metabolism, energy levels and mood.
  • Cells: Some studies point to zucchini for helping prevent the growth of cancer or even destroying cancerous cells. A lot more research is needed to confirm this, but it’s a pretty impressive potential benefit for just adding colorful vegetables to your diet!

A Perfect Carb Replacer

Now for one of the biggest reasons why this is the year of the zucchini: low-carb lifestyles! Zucchini has a firm texture and smooth taste that work great as a substitute for traditional carb-heavy staples. Instead of pasta, you can spiralize zucchini in seconds for flavorful Italian dishes.

Easy Veggies From Your Garden

Growing zucchini is a breeze. Just plant some seeds in a sunny spot, give them at least two inches of water each week, and enjoy the fruits… er, veggies of your labor in about 45 days. A good harvest will give you plenty of zucchini to share with friends, too.

Awesome Ways To Use Zucchini

If you’ve never eaten zucchini raw in salads, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. Here are other irresistible meal ideas:

  • Tomato and zucchini salad with olive oil vinaigrette
  • Zucchini, carrot and cabbage slaw
  • Grilled halibut with lemon zucchini noodles
  • Grilled zucchini slices with olive oil and basil (side dish)
  • Sauteed shrimp and zucchini stir fry
  • Spicy zucchini with turmeric-ginger chicken
  • No-noodle zucchini lasagna
  • Zucchini au gratin with garlic, parmesan and pecorino

A word of advice: Don’t overcook! Just toss the zucchini in at the last minute, like you would with herbs or green onions.

The Benefits of Cauliflower as a Carb Alternative

When people think of carbs, they typically think of white bread, potatoes, rice, and all those other delicious starches that you know aren’t the best for you. In most cases, cutting out unhealthy carbs is a good idea, but how do you find substitutes for all those beloved side dishes and meal complements? You swap them for cauliflower alternatives.

Why Cauliflower?

Cauliflower presents similar characteristics to many beloved white starches, including texture and versatility. However, there are plenty of reasons to love this distinguished vegetable, including the fact it is loaded with vitamins, high in fiber, and a great source of antioxidants. Additionally, cauliflower is a source of those all-important omega-3 fatty acids, those integral blood pressure helpers. For the hair conscious, cauliflower also contains levels of biotin, a primary component in many hair health and growth booster products.  Finally, cauliflower contains potassium, good for the heart, and several other nutrients to earn its place as a nutrient powerhouse.

Beyond the nutritious value of cauliflower, it is also Keto and Paleo diet-friendly, unlike other carbs. Cauliflower is an excellent way to maintain your dietary commitments while still indulging in favorites similar to mashed potatoes or rice. However, you do not have to mimic comfort foods; you can eat cauliflower as it is with delicious results.

The Cauliflower Imposter

Cauliflower is a wonderful way to dress up conventional American meals with a healthier twist. For example, you can make a cauliflower bun for a burger or picnic dinner, use cauliflower mash instead of mashed potatoes, or why not use a cauliflower crust for the next pizza night.

Cauliflower is a perfect substitute to experience some of the textures and flavors you love from traditional carbs and starches. The best part is, the vegetable comes with fewer calories and many health benefits, including slower digestion and prolonged feelings of fullness.

Because cauliflower is a fibrous vegetable, your digestive system needs to slow the digestion process, allowing the body to maintain the nutrients from the vegetable. With the slower digestive process, you will likely feel fuller longer, leading to fewer consumed calories during the day, ultimately helping you lose weight.

Cauliflower Carb Alternative Recipes

You can find several cauliflower recipes online. However, there are at least two that people consider staples.

Cauliflower Buns


  • 1 lb cauliflower florets

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

  • 1 tsp sesame seeds


First, preheat the oven to 425°F and use parchment paper to line a large baking sheet. Place the cauliflower in a food processor and process until finely grated. Microwave the cauliflower for 3 minutes on high. Allow the cauliflower to cool before transferring it to a clean towel and wring out the excess liquid. Put the cauliflower back in the mixing bowl and combine the egg and cheese. Mix thoroughly. Divide the batter into 8 portions in three-inch circles — bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds when done.

Cauliflower Mash


  • 3 cloves of garlic

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  • ½ tsp salt

  • Garnish: chopped fresh thyme


First, in a large pot, bring salted water to boil. Add the cauliflower and garlic, allowing it to cook for 10 minutes. You want the cauliflower fork tender. Drain the pan and let the cauliflower stand for two to three minutes with the lid. Then, transfer the cauliflower to a food processor and add the other ingredients. Puree until smooth.

Do you have any other favorite cauliflower recipes? Leave a comment below with instructions.

The Healthiest, Most Delicious Summer Cocktails to Try

You all know warm weather is on its way out the door for a few months, right? If you haven’t fully enjoyed it, now’s the time to soak up as much sun as possible while sipping refreshing summer cocktails before cold weather swoops in. Here are a few of my favorite healthy and delicious summer cocktails you need to try this week!

Decadent Peach Bellini

One of my absolute favorite summertime flavors is peach. From peach pies to peach cocktails, you can give me peaches all day and I’ll feel like I’m in heaven. That’s why this Decadent Peach Bellini takes the top spot on my list of healthy summer cocktails to try before winter arrives.

Even better than its mouthwatering flavor is the fact that this drink only requires four ingredients! Here’s how to make it.


  • 750 ml sparkling wine
  • 5 sliced strawberries for garnish
  • 1 L fresh pureed peaches
  • Ice cubes (as many as you want!)


  1. Pour the sparkling wine into the pitcher.

  2. Add the fresh pureed peaches and stir the mixture together.

  3. Add as many ice cubes as you want.

  4. Garnish with sliced strawberries.

Voila! You have a healthified summer cocktail that contains fresh fruits that are chock-full of vitamin C and other nutrients.

Virgin Pina Colada

If you’re really serious about being healthy and avoiding alcohol altogether, you can still enjoy the tangy sweetness of a pina colada without the alcohol. This Virgin Pina Colada only takes a few minutes to make and tastes incredible. You won’t even notice the absence of alcohol!


  • 1 ½ cups coconut cream
  • 1 ½ cups pineapple juice (with no added sugar)
  • 1 tsp rum or vanilla extract (optional)
  • 3-4 pineapple wedges (for garnish)
  • As much cubed ice as you want!


  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend on high for about 60 seconds (or until creamy).

  2. Pour into glasses.

  3. Garnish with pineapple wedges.

Have you ever seen instructions that were that easy? If you want to switch up the flavor a bit, you can also add a couple of ripe bananas or half a cup of frozen or fresh berries. You can even add a ton of tang by switching out the pineapple juice for lime juice and adding a couple of tablespoons of sugar (though this last modification will reduce the healthiness of the drink).

Virgin Strawberry Margarita

Here’s another alcohol-free summer cocktail that will knock your socks off. It’s low in sugar and is even Paleo-friendly!


  • ½ cup filtered water
  • 1 lb. fresh strawberries (sliced and washed)
  • 2 cups crushed ice cubes
  • 32 oz. seltzer (regular or lime-flavored)
  • Juice from two limes
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (optional)


  1. Combine strawberry slices and water in a medium pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover.

  2. Allow the mixture to simmer for 15 minutes.

  3. Drain all excess liquid and allow the strawberries to cool for 10-15 minutes.

  4. Put the strawberries in a blender and blend until smooth.

  5. Place in the fridge for approximately one hour.

  6. Put crushed ice cubes in glasses, then spoon approximately 1/3 cup of strawberry puree in each glass.

  7. Pour 8 oz. of seltzer in each glass, followed by approximately 1 Tbsp. of lime juice.

  8. Add maple syrup (optional).

  9. Stir together and serve fresh!

This drink is tangy, sweet, and refreshing without the alcohol content. Of course, if you’re not trying to cut back on your alcohol consumption, go ahead and add it to your drink. I won’t tell!

These healthy and delicious cocktails will help you hang onto the last threads of summer before they fade away for a few months. Give them a try this week to figure out which are your favorite!

The Protein Heavy Diet: How To Save Yourself From Fat and Weight Gain

When it comes to macronutrients, protein is paramount to muscle mass and controlling cravings and calorie intake. While there are plenty of reasons to focus on getting the recommended amounts of protein in your diet, some evidence suggests a protein-heavy diet is even more beneficial, especially when it comes to weight loss or increasing strength and athleticism. However, before making any changes to your diet, it is necessary to learn more about this particular macronutrient and your specific dietary needs.

Why Protein Is so Important

While there are many reasons protein is essential to the individual diet, the primary reason is its fundamental importance to human biology. The human body does not contain a single cell absent of protein; it is in every cell. The chain of amino acids is evident in every part of the human body, and it plays a vital role in cellular repair. Additionally, protein is crucial throughout childhood development and plays significant roles during pregnancy and other bodily processes. 

Beyond the standard necessity of the macronutrient, protein also helps to build and restore tissue, specifically muscle tissues. Therefore, if you are athletic or attempting to create a leaner physique, a protein-heavy diet is key. 

How To Incorporate More Protein in Your Diet

When people lack protein in their diet, they tend to overindulge in carbohydrates, specifically processed carbs. Unfortunately, carbohydrates can lead to increased weight with minimal muscle mass. Studies have consistently shown that high-protein diets reduce cravings, minimize calorie intake, and boost metabolism, meaning consuming a high-protein diet results in rapid weight loss and muscle gains.

While it is unnecessary to cut out all carbohydrates, and it is ill-advised to do so, limiting your carb intake to complex and healthy carbs in combination with protein-rich foods is an excellent way to improve your diet. When looking for healthy proteins, look for leaner meats, like poultry and fish. There is nothing wrong with red meat, but limit your intake to only a few meals per week.

Additionally, while deli meat is convenient, you might want to avoid it because it tends to be high in sodium content. Lean and fresh protein is healthier and, in most instances, tastes better, too.

Protein and Weight Loss

The primary reason protein improves weight loss is hormonal. When you replace carbs and fats with protein, satiety hormones increase, and hunger hormones decrease. This means you feel less hungry in between meals, which results in fewer consumed calories per day, resulting in weight loss.

Protein and Muscle Gain

Protein is made of a chain of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle tissue. These building blocks not only help build muscle but also contribute to the maintenance and repair of the tissue. However, protein does not work alone. Your body also requires carbs and other nutrients to function properly and develop. 

Protein Is a Superior Macronutrient, but It Does Not Work Alone

Protein is not a solution for sedentary weight loss or health. The macronutrient can help with weight loss and muscle gain, but as with any nutrient, it works in tandem with other nutrients and physical activities. 

The key to health is not a secret. Diet and exercise are the keys to creating a healthy and balanced body. Consuming more protein can help, but before you make any dietary changes, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist, someone familiar with your medical history.

Do you have any pointers for some starting a protein-rich diet? Leave a comment.

How To Curb Salad Gas: The Ultimate Guide On How To Eliminate Gas And Improve Digestion

For many people, salad seems to cause bloating, pain, and flatulence. The adverse symptoms of eating a healthy meal or snack are often enough to turn people away, especially if those symptoms lead to embarrassment.

Talking to many fitness and nutritional experts, their consensus is that salad or lettuce alone should not lead to gas; instead, they suggest it is the other raw vegetables and proteins you choose. However, despite the way you dress your salad, all experts agree that you can use tactics to eliminate gas and improve digestion.

How Does a Meal Cause Gas?

The type of food you consume can play a role in the amount or frequency of gas and bloating you experience. Most people will find their systems are sensitive to overly processed foods and other unhealthy meal options. However, even healthy foods, like salad and other fibrous foods, can cause discomfort and flatulence.

Primarily, the buildup of gas occurs in the intestinal tract. As food moves from your stomach and through the intestine, good bacteria within the system attempt to break down elements to make passing stool easier. These bacteria are also processing food to convert and retain energy and nutritional value from what you have eaten. The more complicated something is to digest, the harder these bacteria have to work. Unfortunately, the harder they work, the more gas they produce in the intestines, and the more gas they produce, the more bloated and uncomfortable you will feel until you can relieve that pressure in unflattering or sometimes embarrassing ways.

Why Do You Get Gas After Eating Vegetables?

People are often dumbfounded that salad and vegetables can lead to gas and bloating; after all, these food items are supposed to be healthy for you. While vegetables are healthy, they are also some of the most fibrous foods you can consume, meaning they can be incredibly challenging for good bacteria to break down. The level of difficulty only becomes more complicated if your gut microbiome is out of balance. 

Dysbiosis is the imbalance of your guts microbiome, specifically where bad bacteria outnumber the good. In such circumstances, the good bacteria are working overtime to process food in the digestive tract, meaning they are producing more gas than necessary. If you are experiencing dysbiosis, consuming probiotics and maintaining a healthy and balanced diet should help curb some of your salad gas issues.

What You Can Do To Prevent Gas and Improve Digestion

Preventing salad gas comes from a combination of tactics: hydration, chewing, posture, and probiotics. People often underestimate the power of a glass of water. Most adults are dehydrated. Your digestive system requires lubrication to expel waste successfully. The average person needs to drink approximately half their body weight in ounces to maintain healthy lubrication levels, especially for the digestion of fibrous vegetables and foods.

Most people also take bites that are too large, failing to chew enough. The larger chunks of food cannot break down all the way in the stomach, resulting in more work for the good bacteria in the intestines and a greater likelihood of gas. Additionally, people in a rush tend to stand or move while eating, which can interrupt proper digestion.

Finally, providing your body with enough good bacteria can lessen the likelihood of gas and bloat. Foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, and lacto-fermented pickles are excellent sources of good bacteria.

If you are still having trouble with excess gas and bloat, you might want to talk with your doctor or a nutritionist to identify food sensitivities. Do you have any suggestions? Leave a comment below, and keep the conversation going.

Why Intuitive Eating Might Not Work for You

Intuitive eating is one of those weight-loss fads people swear by, but is it actually effective? Like so many weight loss methods floating around out there, it may work for you or it may not. I know, that’s so noncommittal. But let me explain.

Intuitive eating isn’t a diet. It’s a method of eating that gives its users a great degree of freedom of what and how much they eat. Some people experience success with intuitive eating and are able to use the technique to lose excess weight. But unfortunately, not everyone responds well to this dietary strategy. In fact, it can cause some people to gain even more weight!

So how can you tell if intuitive eating is a good strategy for you to try, or if it will cause you to fall back even further on your weight-loss journey? While you won’t know for sure unless you try it, here are a few indications that intuitive eating might not work for you (even if it worked for your sister, best friend, or cousin Harry).

Understanding How Intuitive Eating Works

Before we dive into the pros and cons of intuitive eating, let’s review what it is and what it isn’t, shall we? Intuitive eating is a pretty simple idea, and its main principles were developed in 1995 by two dietitians (Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch).

The main idea behind this type of eating is to come to peaceful terms with all different types of foods. You’re not supposed to refer to any foods as bad or off-limits when you adopt this way of eating. Instead, you do the following:

  • Listen to your body and consume what feels right in the moment

  • Eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re full

  • Select foods that make your mind and body feel good while satisfying your health needs

  • Respect your emotions and seek treatment for them instead of engaging in emotional eating

Some people may lose weight with this eating strategy, but many others may not. Here are a few indications you may not want to try intuitive eating.

Indications Intuitive Eating May Not Be Right for You

Here are a few indications that intuitive eating may not work for your situation:

  • You have certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Consult with your doctor to see if there are certain foods you should add or cut out of your diet completely.

  • You don’t know how to recognize your body’s hunger or satiety signals. Eating intuitively sounds great in theory, but what if you don’t trust your body’s intuition? For some people, counting calories is a more reliable way to avoid overeating (or undereating).

  • You have a hard time losing weight. If you already struggle to lose weight, you may plateau or even gain weight by eating intuitively. Some people have higher ghrelin levels than others (that’s the hormone that triggers hunger), and they’re more likely to gain weight if they always eat until they’re full. For people like this, tracking calorie and macro intakes is essential for weight-loss success.

  • You’re addicted to sugar. Yes, science shows that it’s possible to become addicted to sugar. And if you follow the intuitive eating mindset, you can eat sugar if you really want it. As you can imagine, this can lead to over-indulgence for people whose relationship with sugar is out of control. It’s generally best to stay away from sugar or severely limit it in your diet rather than allow yourself to eat it “intuitively.”

So there you have it. If any of the above bullet points sound like you, intuitive eating may be something you want to skip (especially if you are trying to lose weight).

The 3 Best and Worst Drinks for Weight Loss

Have you ever had someone tell you “don’t drink your calories”? I know I have. It can get a little annoying because I like to enjoy my beverages without judgment. But I did decide to see what all the commotion is about and check out the nutrition and calorie content in some of my favorite drinks. What I discovered surprised me, so I decided to share my knowledge with you.

If you’re trying to lose weight, some drinks can derail your progress (or at least slow it down significantly). But other drinks can actually help you reach your weight loss goals! The key is being able to differentiate between them. Now that I’ve got your undivided attention, here are the three best and the three worst drinks for weight loss.

DO Drink These!

Ready for the list of top beverages that can help you reach your weight loss goals? Here you go!

1. Water

Before you get disappointed by the first beverage on the list, I promise you that water doesn’t have to be bland. I have a few great tips for making plain old H2O much more appealing. They include:

  • Pour your water into a fun, brightly-colored bottle (yes, this really can make it more fun to drink!)

  • Drink your water with ice to help you feel refreshed and hydrated.

  • Put slices of lemons, cucumbers, strawberries, and any other type of favorite fruit into your water. This lends a subtle flavor to the beverage and looks pretty, too!

  • Squeeze some water-flavoring products into your water bottle each day.

Water has zero calories and it hydrates your body, so it deserves its spot as the #1 best drink for weight loss.

2. Green Tea

Green tea is practically bursting with antioxidants and other nutrients. It’s also been shown in studies to decrease both body fat and body weight. Those are both causes we can stand behind! In addition to antioxidants, green tea also contains caffeine, which helps boost energy and exercise performance.

3. Ginger Tea

Did you know ginger tea can potentially reduce your appetite while helping you expend more calories? According to one study involving 10 overweight men, ginger tea consumption increases satiety and decreases hunger.  

DON’T Drink These!

Now that you know what drinks are great choices for losing a few extra pounds, let’s talk about the three worst drinks for your weight loss journey.

1. Soda

You can’t say you’re particularly surprised about this one, can you? Soda has no redeeming qualities, and it can actually harm your health in the long run. Every time you choose to indulge in soda (whether it’s a regular or sugar-free variety), you’re pumping your body full of artificial flavorings and colorings. Soda is also acidic, which can negatively impact your gut microbiome and make it more difficult for you to lose weight.

2. Energy Drinks

While some caffeine has been shown to aid in weight loss, too much caffeine can stress your body and cause a wide variety of health problems (such as nausea, nervousness, and increased blood pressure). When you’re not feeling good, you’re less likely to exercise and take care of your body. So it’s best to consume caffeine in moderation (400 mg or less is ideal for most people).

3. Specialty Coffees

A simple cup of coffee won’t derail your weight loss goals. In fact, it may help you reach them. But stay away from specialty coffees! A 12-ounce cafe mocha, though delicious, contains nearly 300 calories! Compare that to a simple cup of black coffee, which contains just three calories.

How did you do with the above lists? Do you drink primarily the beverages in the “DON’T drink” category or the “DO drink” category? The great news is that you can change your habits today to optimize your weight loss journey by indulging in drinks that can help you reach your goal.

Superfood-infused Sparkling Water: Hype or Legit

Health and wellness is a multi-billion dollar industry, which to some extent is encouraging. People are looking for ways to improve their physical and mental fitness more and more every year. Unfortunately, as a multi-billion dollar industry, businesses are often under immense pressure to create the new “it” product to meet corporate financial projections. Therefore, as a consumer, it is crucial to analyze the claims made by health products to ensure no one is getting duped.

As a cautious consumer, you likely already watch out for fads, like seasonal diet or detox trends. Many companies pushing these products do not care about the science or the long-term effects of implementing these fads. Despite the sometimes nasty and fraudulent dietary claims, one product has remained a consistent aid in the fight for better nutrition, especially in terms of hydration: sparkling water. 

Understanding the Popularity of Sparkling Water

Sparkling water has been around for decades, and its core marketing tactic is to present itself as a healthy alternative to other carbonated beverages like soda. The tactic appears to be working, and consumers seem more receptive now than ever before. Popular soda brands continue to see a 5% annual decline, while the fizzy low-to-no calorie beverage continues to gain traction.

Currently, sparkling water brands, such as Droplet, are pushing superfood-infused water. The brands are attempting to boost the effectiveness of their already popular vitamin, electrolyte, and mineral-infused drinks. However, as a savvy consumer, is there any reason to spend more money on these revamped beverages.

Superfood-Infused Water

Some sparkling water brands have started selling and marketing beverages made with ginger, passion fruit, reishi mushrooms, and several other so-called “superfoods.” The companies claim the infused water provides mental and physical health benefits but is there any truth to the claim.

As with most claims about superfoods, the research is a little thin and circumstantial. Several studies claim some ingredients can help treat specific conditions and disorders, like anxiety or fatigue. Still, these same studies do not speak to the efficacy of these ingredients as treatments.

It is necessary to point out that no sparkling water brand describes their drinks as “treatments” for anything. The marketing is careful to avoid liability issues. However, even if the drink does not work as a treatment, does it still provide any benefits from its superfood ingredients?

Many nutritional experts believe these infused drinks can provide some benefits. Obviously, if you want the most benefit from a superfood, it is best to consume that food. For example, instead of drinking a passion-fruit-infused beverage, eat the fruit. Attempting to use a drink as your primary source of fruits and vegetables or vitamins and minerals is a mistake.

Should You Drink Superfood-Infused Sparkling Water

The decision of whether you should or shouldn’t drink a superfood-infused beverage is yours. Sparkling water is a better choice of drink than soda, and when infused with vitamins, minerals, and superfoods, it does stand to benefit your diet. However, do not get lost in the marketing hype. A healthy diet depends on balance, and a drink will probably never have the same health benefits as consuming actual food.

Have you tried superfood-infused sparkling water? If so, what did you think? If not, why not? Leave a comment to keep the conversation going.

7 Signs You NEED Iron

Have you been pumping iron? I’m not talking about lifting weights or working on rock-hard abs, though those are great goals, too. Iron is an essential mineral for health, making sure cells receive plenty of oxygen.

So, has your heart has been pumping enough iron lately? These seven warning signs may mean that your body is running low.

1. Feeling Out of Breath

Do simple activities like walking up a flight of stairs leave you gasping for breath? I know what you’re thinking – “Yes, I’m probably out of shape.” Actually, that may not be the reason at all. Running out of breath constantly can actually be a sign you’re not getting enough iron.

Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, and hemoglobin is essential for producing red blood cells. In turn, red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to every muscle in the body.

If you don’t have enough iron, this cycle falls apart. Your lungs have to work much harder, which is why going for a short walk leaves you gasping for breath.

2. Feeling Tired or Sleepy All the Time

It’s normal to feel tired after a long day at the office, but people who are low in iron feel tired all day long. I’ve had this happen to me before; just getting out of my desk chair to refill my coffee cup feels like a monumental achievement. Sure enough, when I start taking an iron supplement, the tiredness goes away.

This all has to do with oxygen. Your body needs oxygen as fuel for everything. So, when levels drop because of anemia (iron deficiency), the effect is like a car running out of gas. The engine just sputters.

3. Waking Up With Zero Energy

The lower your iron levels are, the more you notice a drop in energy. In fact, you may wake up feeling exhausted even before you get out bed. Your arms and legs feel like they weigh a ton. You have to push yourself to do the smallest tasks. And, to top it off, you probably feel irritable or depressed, too. All of these things can be caused by anemia.

4. Getting Frequent Headaches

Women notice this symptom more than men. Low iron levels can cause sore or swollen blood vessels, which triggers recurring headaches in some people. Having a headache every once in a while is normal, but if you’re suddenly getting them a lot, try upping your iron intake to see if it helps.

5. Feeling Dizzy Many Times in the Day

Have you been feeling strangely dizzy or lightheaded? There are many causes of dizziness, including side effects from medicine, but if it happens a lot, anemia is a likely culprit. When you don’t have enough hemoglobin, your brain doesn’t get sufficient oxygen, which can cause you to feel lightheaded.

6. Seeing Pale Skin in the Mirror

This is a surprisingly effective way to check for iron deficiency. Iron and hemoglobin are what give blood a deep red color. Normally, the inside of your eyelids, your gums and your lips should be bright red. When you’re low in iron, these areas may look pale instead of healthy.

7. Losing Your Beautiful Hair and Nails

When hair follicles aren’t getting enough oxygen, the strands become dry and fragile. Hair looks dull instead of vibrant. The same thing happens to fingernails; your prized nails may break easily. Fortunately, increasing your iron intake can help with both of these problems.

Tips for Getting More Iron

Obviously, the easiest way to boost your iron levels if you're low is to take a supplement. You can also add nutritious foods to your diet every week. Oysters, beef, chicken, turkey, tuna and salmon are rich sources. If you prefer vegan options, focus on spinach, lentils, beans and pumpkin seeds. 

Beat the Summer Heat With Thirst-Quenching Refreshment Recipes

Staying hydrated when the temperature climbs requires a multi-layered approach. In addition to drinking plenty of water, try to choose foods that help replenish lost fluids. These are my personal favorite recipes for the hottest days of summer when I truly want to put the "refresh" in refreshment!

Watermelon Caprese

This spin on the classic Caprese salad swaps the tomatoes for watermelon, which contains about a half cup of water in every 1-cup serving.

  • Slice a small watermelon into approximately 3-inch by 3-inch squares, each about a half inch thick. 
  • Slice a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese into half-inch-thick slices.
  • Layer alternate slices of cheese and watermelon on a plate.
  • Top the salad with sea salt and ground pepper to taste, along with 2 T chopped fresh basil.
  • Drizzle the plate with balsamic glaze.

If you don't feel like chopping and assembling a salad, simply eat this melon by the wedge to take advantage of the 92% water content. 

Simple Cucumber Salad

This perfect lunch or side dish takes seconds to prepare and provides an incredible hydration boost thanks to the nearly 97% water content of cucumber.

  • Thinly slice about 1 lb. seedless cucumbers.
  • Toss cucumbers with about 1 1/2 tsp. sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Let sit for five minutes.
  • Add 1/2 of a small onion, sliced thin, and 2 1/2 T red wine vinegar.

Refrigerate this dish for 10 minutes before serving (or devouring on your own!)

Celery Soup

While we rarely allow celery to shine, it's an outstanding choice for enhanced hydration.

  • Chop a head of celery, a large potato and a medium onion.
  • Combine these veggies with 1/2 stick unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add sea salt to taste and cook for about 10 minutes or until onions soften. 
  • Add 3 cups of low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth and 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill.
  • Puree soup with an immersion blender or in a traditional blender.
  • Strain soup and top with olive oil if desired.

You can serve this unique soup either hot or chilled.

Strawberry and Tomato Panzanella Salad

Both strawberries and tomatoes are simply bursting with hydration, especially when you pick up fresh local summer produce. 

  • Tear two thick slices of rustic bread into bite-size pieces while preheating the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Toss the bread with 1 tablespoon of olive oil on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons each of red wine vinegar and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste along with 3 cups chopped strawberries, 2 large chopped tomatoes and 1/4 cup thin slices of red onion.
  • Toss the salad and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the bread and garnish with 1/2 cup chopped basil and crumbled feta if desired. Serve immediately at room temperature.

This salad is a delicious showcase for seasonal flavors. 

Sauteed Garlic Mushrooms

Did you know mushrooms are full of moisture? Try this simple dish as a light lunch or companion to your go-to main dish.

  • Wash and slice 1 lb. of your favorite mushrooms. If you're new to fungi, we like creminis for this recipe, but any white or brown mushroom will do.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
  • Toss the sliced mushrooms with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and add them to the pan.
  • Cook on one side for four to five minutes without stirring.
  • Stir in 1/4 cup white wine or veggie broth along with fresh herbs like thyme and garlic.
  • Cook for another three to four minutes.

With these healthy recipes, your body will have the necessary hydration for all your warm-weather adventures.