The best diet to help you shed those post-Valentine’s lovehandles is a healthy mix of unrefined, complex carbohydrates with a sprinkling of lean protein and unsaturated oil — that, and getting off your butt and onto the treadmill. But according to researchers at the University of Tennessee, there’s an important partner in this power-combo: yogurt. Their study showed that those who included yogurt in their diet lost 22% more weight than their non-yogurt munching counterparts. The effects were even more outstanding when it came to that tough-to-shed belly fat, which yogurt eaters shed 81% more of. The researchers suspect yogurt’s high level of calcium is the culprit, though its complete, low-fat protein certainly doesn’t hurt. Opt for plain yogurt or look for flavors that don’t include a lot of added sugar.
The Energy Booster: Oatmeal
A couple million Scotsmen can’t be wrong. The same breakfast that fuels their ability to throw pine trees around like toothpicks has the power to give you a powerful energy boost. Though carbohydrates are currently the bad boys of the table, the right ones are key to keeping you ready for action. Whole grains are one of your body’s most potent sources of fuel. Oatmeal is among the best thanks to its high levels of Vitamin B, which helps your body convert those carbs into energy. Its high fiber content allows energy release steadily over time instead of in a short spurt. Your bowl of Quaker is also a great source of magnesium, the lack of which has been linked to fatigue and energy drain. Avoid sugar-loaded instant packets and try adding healthy sweeteners to less-processed steel cut oats.
The Libido Driver: Red Wine
Oysters, asparagus, chocolate — many of these long-reputed aphrodisiacs do offer some great benefits for your bod, but not in doses large enough to make much of a difference. Research has showed that the most powerful libido booster is the one that happens between your ears: your confidence. Moderate amounts of alcohol can relax you emotionally and physically, but also opens small blood vessels which leaves you feeling flushed and warm. What’s more, a group of doctors in — where else? — Italy studied women from ages 18-50, and found that those who consumed 1-2 glasses of red wine per day were more sexually healthy than non-drinkers or those who preferred other types of alcohol.
The Brain Fueler: Wild Salmon
Where’s the biggest lump of fat in your body? It’s probably between your ears. The human brain consists of around 60% fat, which is part of why a completely fat-free diet would be a bad idea. But not all fats are created equal. The best ones for your brain are Omega-3s. These healthy fatty acids are crucial constituents of the outer membranes of your brain cells, which means your body needs them to keep your grey matter refreshed and healthy. Oily fish like salmon are the richest natural sources of Omega-3s. Choose wild-caught salmon, which is likely to be free of antibiotics, and pair it with a side of low-glycemic carbs such as whole wheat bread or pasta, which will act like diesel in your brain’s engine.
The Youth Saver: Red Beans
We’ve all heard about the anti-aging wonders of antioxidants, which have been shown to protect your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. From preventing heart disease, cancer, and diabetes to reputedly playing a key role in keeping your skin healthy and young-looking, these powerful little molecules are one of your body’s best friends. But you might be surprised to learn what food really packs the biggest antioxidant punch. Move over, blueberries: According to a recent study, small red beans yield the biggest quantities of antioxidants per serving. That means the right burrito can pack a bigger anti-aging punch that a glass of POM. Beans are also a great source of low-fat, cholesterol-free protein. If they tend to give you digestive side effects, try adding the Mexican herb epazote, which naturally dampens your personal methane factory.
The All-Around Winner: H2O
Every single system in your body depends on it, and the vast majority of us don’t get nearly enough. We’re talking about good, old-fashioned H2O. Water makes up about 60% of your body’s weight and even mild levels of dehydration can leave you feeling tired and drained. It’s a great addition to any diet plan, as studies have shown that those who drink water before meals lose weight faster than those who don’t. And the lack of it increases the appearance of wrinkles and dryness in your skin. From flushing toxins out of vital organs to delivering key nutrients to your cells, water is miraculous. Though it may surprise some, you’re often better off hitting the tap than the plastic — tap water is more strictly regulated than bottled. Many fruits and vegetables are also great sources of water as well as other important nutrients. Drink up!