We asked our readers for their nutrition and weight loss questions to find out how we can better serve you. Check out some responses we got, and answers from nutrition experts Mira Calton, CN, and Jayson Calton, PhD, the bestselling authors of The Micronutrient Miracle: The 28-Day Plan to Lose Weight, Increase Your Energy, and Reverse Disease ($13.52, Amazon).
How to Lose a Quick 15
Q: My niece’s wedding is in a few weeks. I want to lose 15 pounds. Can I speed slimming?
A: To turn heads at the celebration, we suggest sipping 1 cup of kefir daily. This tangy fermented drink is a top source of Bifidobacterium lactis, a strain of probiotic bacteria that has been shown to spur the release of compounds that break down fat and block the creation of new fat cells. All told, these effects helped subjects in one study lose three times more weight over 45 days than a control group.
You can find kefir at the grocery store alongside yogurt or make it at home. To do: In a glass jar, mix 1 tsp. of active kefir grains with 1 cup of whole milk. Cover with a paper towel, secure with a rubber band and let sit at room temperature until thick, about 24 hours. Strain out the kefir grains and sip the drink by itself, add it to a smoothie or use it to make a creamy salad dressing.
How can I target stubborn belly fat?
Q: The spare tire of fat around my midsection has always been a problem for me—whenever I diet, I seem to lose from everywhere but my belly. It’s frustrating. Are there certain foods that can help?
A: Yes! Our secret weapon for fighting belly fat is foods rich in anthocyanins, like berries, black beans, beets, purple grapes, and cherries. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that subjects who consumed these compounds regularly lost 30 percent more belly fat over 90 days than the control group.
The reason: Anthocyanins spur muscle cells to preferentially burn visceral fat (the dangerous abdominal fat that surrounds the organs) for fuel. Other studies have also shown that anthocyanins switch off the chemical messengers that allow belly-fat cells to absorb new fat, plus reduce the output of fat-promoting inflammatory compounds by 70 percent.
To get the perks, aim to enjoy 1 to 2 servings per day. And for even more potent benefits, pick raw berries. Enzymes in these gems break down toxins and stimulate the movement of the lymphatic system to further shrink fat stores and banish bloat.
Is coconut sugar a healthier choice?
Q: My friend has been raving about coconut sugar—she loves the taste and claims it’s lowered her cravings for sweets. There’s so much information out there on healthy sweeteners… should I follow her lead?
A: Go for it! Made from the sap of coconut trees, coconut sugar is natural and minimally processed. It has a glycemic score of 35 — much lower than honey (55) and regular sugar (61) — so it won’t cause a large blood-sugar spike and will therefore limit post-consumption cravings.
Also, coconut sugar contains minerals like iron, calcium and potassium, which increase energy levels, while regular sugar and artificial sweeteners deliver no nutrients. That said, you should use it sparingly: Coconut sugar contains the same number of calories as regular sugar. But as a sugar alternative, it is one of our favorites. We suggest replacing the sugar in your baking recipes (especially chocolate) with an equal amount of coconut sugar, or stirring it into hot or iced coffee or tea.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.