Today, I’m really excited to bring you a Q&A with nutritionist Keri Glassman, founder of Nutritious Life. Keri’s approach revolves around getting us to increase the concentration of antioxidants in our bloodstream by up to 25 percent through making more nutrient-dense food choices. This past December, she outlined the program in her new book, The O2 Diet. What I especially like about Keri’s approach (even more so, given this harried week) is that it focuses not just on weight, but also on the whole picture–from stress to long-term health to looking great. Moreover, it does so in positive ways: It’s not fixated on cutting things out, but instead emphasizes making sure you’re getting the best of what’s out there. Here’s what she had to say…
Okay, so the O2 diet is everywhere. What’s the connection between antioxidants and weight-loss?
It works in a couple of ways. First, foods rich in antioxidants are some of the lowest-calorie and best for you. When you eat the best, most nutrient dense foods, you’re energetic, and you feel strong, focused, and empowered to continue to eat healthfully. Further, there are some antioxidant foods that directly correlate to weight loss. Studies have found, for example, that the catechins in green tea can stimulate the body to burn calories and decrease body fat.
Try lemon water, too—when you’re adequately hydrated, your metabolism functions at its best. Plus, lemon peels contain pectin that has been shown to aid weight loss.
How does the program itself work? What will people be doing–and what can they expect?
The O2 Diet is a 32-day high-antioxidant-based plan. The diet is built on the ORAC scale (oxygen radical absorbance capacity). This scale measures how well a food mops up the free radicals in the blood stream. Free radicals are those “bad guys” that are linked to everything from heart disease to cancer, neuronal degeneration and aging–aka wrinkles.
On my plan you eat about 30,000 ORAC points a day. Researchers believe that 3 to 5,000 ORAC points boosts the antioxidant power of the blood by 10 to 25 percent. Think 30,000 sounds like a lot? Remember it’s all coming from real food. And, the plan is calorie-controlled. Essentially, it’s picking out the most nutrient-packed low-calorie options.
For the first four days you follow the O2 Diet cleanse, consuming 50,000 ORAC points daily. This cleanse focuses on eating real, whole foods within a calorie-controlled framework that maximizes your initial weight loss with a major antioxidant boost. From there, you continue with 30,000 ORAC points at least for the next 28 days. (Hopefully, for life.) Phase II immediately follows the cleanse and incorporates more delicious foods and recipes in an easy to follow 2 week plan or the Do-It-Yourself plan. Phase III begins two weeks later allowing for “conscious indulgences.”
There’s been so much talk back and forth about cleanses. Why do you think it’s important to kick things off this way?
The cleanse sets the framework. It is not a deprivation type of cleanse. It actually contains real foods–five meals. You’ll not only learn to eat consistently through the day, but also what adequate fluid intake is, plus how to get sleep the proper amount of sleep (I even discuss the benefits of sex here), de-stress, exercise right, and pamper yourself. Most people lose two to five pounds, and that early success helps empower you to continue to put these O2 foods and behaviors into play.
Personally, I’m an antioxidant nut; I love that your program offers ten times higher levels than the current government recommendations. What are some of your favorite high-antioxidant fruits and vegetables?
Artichokes—at 60 calories and 7,900 ORAC points each, they’re a calorie bargain and an antioxidant superstar. They also contain phytochemicals that may lower cholesterol levels and act as an anti-inflammatory in the skin.
Pomegranate–I love pomegranates! I add them to everything from oatmeal to salads to yogurt. I even use them in wild rice.
Pistachios—18 pistachios provide 1,000 ORAC points and they come packed with plant sterols that researchers believe lower the risk of heart disease. Add the time it takes to pop them out of their shells for slower snacking, and you’ve got a great and tasty diet tool.
This is always a popular one. Since I’ve got you here: Any that are extra good for skin?
Cantaloupe, pumpkin, kiwi, blueberries, papaya and red peppers to name just a few!
You take a really positive approach to health, putting the emphasis on choosing what’s fresh and delicious and good, not eliminating what’s bad. What do you notice most in your clients when they start viewing food this way?
Once people begin to focus on eating well, instead of not eating poorly, they start to love how healthy they feel in other areas of their life too. I love empowering people to put the best foods in their body.
It’s nice to see a diet go beyond weight-loss. I’d love to hear another thought or two about how inflammation and stress, and also mental benefits fit in here?
All of the foods I promote in my book have multiple benefits. For example, cinnamon not only helps control blood sugar, but also can be a great diet aid by making food taste better. I like people to get the most out of every bit of food they eat. Also, managing stress, getting adequate sleep, hydrating properly, pampering yourself, and living in a healthy environment. These are all factors of a nutritious life that impact not only your health but weight loss itself. The excellent part is that even just one of them can get the wheel spinning in the right direction. Drink your water with lemon at breakfast, and you just may have a bit more energy to power through your morning workload, squeeze the gym in at lunch, And then sleep better… you get the idea.
You also wrote a book on snacking for weight loss. What should we look for in a snack? Any favorites to recommend?
Snacks should be calorie-controlled to provide a little bit of fuel to keep your metabolism revved and energy up. But they should also provide adequate fiber and or healthy fat and protein to keep you full and satisfied until your next meal. And, of course pack in as much additional nutrients such as antioxidants as possible. I personally love a green apple with 2 teaspoons natural peanut butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon!
To give you a sense of what to expect from O2 diet eating, here’s a recipe Keri’s picked out from her book (sounds like a pretty unbeatable brunch idea)…
Keri Glassman’s Caramelized Pear and Pecan French Toast
Serves 1; ORAC value: 4,600
1⁄4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1⁄3 cup peeled and chopped pear
1 tablespoon chopped pecans
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon honey, divided
1 omega-3-enriched egg
1 tablespoon fat-free milk
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 slice 100% whole wheat bread
1. Place a nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with canola oil cooking spray.
2. Combine the vanilla, pear, pecans, 1⁄8 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1⁄2 teaspoon of the honey in a small bowl and stir to coat. Add the mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the skillet and set aside. Coat the skillet once more with cooking spray and return to the heat.
3. Beat the egg, milk, and 1⁄8 teaspoon cinnamon in a shallow bowl. With a fork, dip the bread into the egg mixture. Flip to coat both sides.
4. Place the bread in the skillet and cook, 1 minute per side, or until the bread is lightly browned and the egg is cooked.
5. Top with the reserved topping and serve drizzled with the remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon honey.