Nutrition plays a central role in transforming your body – whether that’s shedding fat or building muscle.

The food choices you make every single day can make or break your journey towards your fitness goals and a better physique.

Ultimate Performance has worked with thousands of successful clients and helped them achieve body transformations they never thought possible – so we know how to optimise diets for maximum results in minimum time.

Five basic rules underpin what we do at UP where nutrition is concerned – and to keep clients lean and healthy we always suggest:

1. Eat every 2-4 hours
2. Make sure every meal contains a source of protein
3. Eat vegetables with each meal
4. Consume a mix of healthy fats daily
5. Ensure the majority of your carbohydrates are from quality sources and are consumed either around training and/or at night.

Both quality and quantity of calories are always key when it comes to fat loss or muscle building – and so is the macronutrient ratio of those calories shared out between protein, carbs, and fats.

When it comes to constructing a diet that will support your body transformation goals, optimise your performance in the gym, help your recovery and create the best conditions for fat loss and muscle growth, there are a number of key foods that we suggest to many of our clients.

Here is a list of 15 body transformation diet essentials covering proteins, carbs, and fats….

ANIMAL PROTEIN SOURCES 

1. Chicken breast

If there’s one food everyone knew was going to make this list, it had to be chicken breast. A staple in bodybuilding diets, this cut of white meat has plenty of benefits that make it essential to achieve a body transformation.

A 100 g serving of uncooked chicken breast has 165 kcal,  approximately 30g of protein, zero carbs and only 3.6g of fat

Why is it beneficial?

Due to its low fat and high protein, chicken breast is one of the best and leanest protein sources. This high ratio of protein to total calories makes it a great food for anyone watching calories and trying to lose fat, due to the increased metabolic rate of a high protein diet as well as the satiating effect of protein: a diet high in protein will make you feel fuller even if the total calories are the same, so you’re more likely to be compliant because you won’t be hungry all the time.

If your goal is to increase muscle mass, a diet high in protein will also be essential to provide the building blocks so your body can create more muscle tissue.

Chicken breast is a great source of selenium (over 50% of the RDI per 100g), an essential mineral which has antioxidant capabilities, helps fight and prevent cancer (1) and is thought to have positive effects on inflammatory, cardiovascular and neurological diseases as well as infections (2, 3).

Chicken contains Vitamin B3 and B5 (approximately 70% of the RDI) which are essential for the conversion process of carbohydrates and fats into energy as well as increasing HDL or good cholesterol (4).

It also contains Vitamin B6 (30% of the RDI) which has been shown to increase fat loss by 33.6g daily when combined with the amino acid leucine (5), also present in chicken. If this doesn’t sound like much, realise that it adds up to an extra kg of weight loss per month!

How to consume it

Chicken breast is an extremely versatile meat and can be cooked in many different ways, but it’s best to stick to grilling and oven roasting to minimise the fat added during the cooking process.

The recommended intake will vary for each individual depending on multiple factors, but a rough recommendation would be to shoot for 2g of protein per kg of bodyweight and have a different protein source each meal.

For an 80kg person, this would mean 160g of protein daily or 32g in each one of 5 meals, equivalent to approximately 150g of (uncooked) chicken breast.

4 chicken marinades

2. Salmon

Salmon is the common name for several species of fish. The most common type you will find in shops and supermarkets is Atlantic salmon. It’s a very versatile fish that can be eaten just as readily for breakfast as it can for dinner. It should be a staple in any body transformation diet.

100g of uncooked Atlantic salmon contains 208kcal, 20g of protein, 13g of fat and 0 carbs.

Why is it beneficial?

Just like chicken breast, Salmon contains B vitamins and selenium and is a great source of quality proteins that will make it easier for you to lose weight and gain muscle mass for the reasons previously mentioned.

However, as opposed to chicken breast, salmon contains plenty of good fats and is a great source of Omega-3 essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.

EPA and DHA have huge positive effects on your health. They are potent anti-inflammatory compounds and have been proven to be significantly beneficial in the treatment of autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases like coronary heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and migraine headaches; as well as back and neck pain (6,7).

In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids have been noted to augment muscle protein synthesis, which leads to increased muscle mass (8).

Salmon is also a good source of potassium (363mg per 100g, or 10% of the RDI), an essential mineral that has a role in lots of body functions: helps conduct nerve impulses and muscle contractions, maintains normal heart function, reduces blood pressure (9) and prevents excessive water retention by counter acting sodium (10).

Excessive fluid retention will make you look bloated and soft, especially at lower body fat percentages, so having adequate potassium levels will make a difference in the way your body looks.

Another benefit of salmon is its high astaxanthin content. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid (like the beta-carotene, found in carrots) and it has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-antioxidant effect. It can help burn more fat when training (11), as well as reduce muscle damage and free radicals (12).

How to consume it

Salmon is very versatile and can be eaten raw in sushi and sashimi, steamed, smoked, grilled, baked or poached. Canned salmon is also a good alternative that provides similar benefits to its freshly-caught counterpart.

The suggested dietary target for Omega-3 fatty acids is 610mg/day for men and 430mg/day for women, which can easily be met with just two 100g salmon portions per week, each containing 2.1 grams of omega-3.

salmon and feta

3. Lean Grass-fed Beef

Beef is a type of red meat. It is primarily composed of protein, with varying amounts of fat depending on the cut. When referring to lean beef, we’re usually talking about the types of beef meat that contain 10% fat or less.

A 100g serving of 95% lean beef mince will contain 136 calories, 20g of protein, 0g of carbs and 5g of fat.

Why is it beneficial?

Beef is one of the best sources of high-quality protein. You can read about the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef HERE. The amino acid profile (the type of building blocks a certain protein is made of) is practically identical to our own muscles, so it’s particularly beneficial for situations where muscle tissue is being built.

It contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies need and cannot synthesize from other sources. One of these essential amino acids is tyrosine, which is involved in the creation of brain signalling molecules such as dopamine, and stress hormones like adrenaline.

Like all other red meats, beef is rich vitamins and minerals including:

  • Iron: required for healthy red blood cells which transport oxygen through the body. The iron in animal sources is known as heme iron is better absorbed than non-heme iron found in plants.
  • Vitamin B12: also needed for red blood cell production, neurological function, and fat metabolism.
  • Zinc: a potent antioxidant, very important for the functioning of the enzyme, hormone and immune systems. Zinc intake can also boost testosterone in men who are deficient in the mineral.

Beef, particularly grass-fed, is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, related to heart health and decreased inflammation, and a type of fat called Conjugated Linoleic Acid or CLA. This type of fat has been linked to a reduction in body fat (13,14).

Another benefit of lean beef is its high content in muscle growth- and performance-related compounds like creatine (15), taurine (16) and carnosine (17). These compounds will increase your performance in the gym and optimise the results you can achieve in the shortest amount of time.

How to consume it

Beef is very versatile and can be consumed by itself in steak or mince form, or in addition to other dishes like salads, stews, etc. The recommended intake and the particular type of beef will vary depending on the individual calorie, protein and fat needs of the individual. If your calories are low because you’re trying to lose body fat, it becomes even more important to choose leaner cuts of beef.

steak pear and blue cheese

VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN PROTEIN SOURCES

4. Quinoa

Quinoa is a plant crop grown primarily for it’s edible seeds and is often mistaken for a grain. However, it is not a grain and to be more precise it’s a flowering plant that is part of the amaranth family.

1 cup of uncooked quinoa (170g) will pack about 620 calories, 24g of protein, 10g of fat and about 109g of carbohydrates.

Why is it beneficial?

Quinoa is often a go-to source of quality protein for vegetarians and vegan as it has a relatively high protein content compared with other plant-based sources. However, it can just as easily be used as part of a balanced omnivorous diet – particularly with its protein and complex carbohydrate content.

So nutritionally it ticks the boxes. But, of course, you’ve got to make sure the numbers fit within your macros. Unlike sources of animal protein like chicken, which have little or no carbohydrate or fat content, quinoa contains a considerable amount of carbs and some fat, so be mindful when calculating your daily macronutrient targets.

This superfood also has other fantastic benefits too. It is gluten free which is great for keeping inflammation under control and is useful for anyone with intolerances or sensitivities to gluten found in many grains.

It is also a complete protein which means it contains all nine essential amino acids the body needs for growth and repair. It’s a particularly good source of lysine, an amino acid that helps tissue growth and repair and the formation of collagen for healthy skin. It also has a higher antioxidant content than conventional grains.

Quinoa is also full of fibre, which helps the digestive system and keeps you feeling fuller for longer when dieting.

How to consume it

Quinoa is a great ingredient that has a host of uses in the kitchen – from a protein and carb-rich main meal, to a side dish or even breakfast choice.

It has a great nutty taste, which makes it a great addition to everything from stews to salads. It takes 10-15mins to cook and can be eaten on its own or used alongside other hot or cold foods. It is also a great substitute for white rice, where you want a more complex carbohydrate.

UP always advises clients to eat their carbs at night to help with dietary compliance and to promote better sleep – and quinoa can be the perfect option in the evenings that provides both protein and carbohydrate.

quinoa stuffing

5. Buckwheat

Like quinoa, buckwheat is a plant crop grown for its grain-like edible seeds. It’s not classified as a “true” grain, but rather a pseudo cereal (seeds that can also be ground down into flour).

100g dry will contain around 343 calories – 13g of protein, 3.4g of Fat and 72g of carbs.

Why is it beneficial?

Buckwheat is high in protein for a plant-based source, although it’s protein content doesn’t quite match that of quinoa. It is an excellent source of the essential amino acid Lysine. Lysine is an essential amino (protein building block) that aids tissue growth and repair as well as the formation of collagen for healthy skin.

It’s also rich in the Omega-6 fatty acid such as linoleic acid which helps with gene expression and cell membrane health.

Buckwheat is also known to contain important vitamins such as Vitamin B1 which helps improve cell function in the body and Vitamin C which boosts and helps maintain our immune system.

Like quinoa, it is completely free of gluten, so it’s a perfect protein source for plant-based eaters or anyone who has sensitivities to gluten or Coeliac Disease.

It has a high fibre content, which is good for the digestive system while also slowing down the digestion of protein and staving off hunger for longer.

How to consume it

Buckwheat’s versatility makes it a great ingredient to have around the kitchen, and it’s something that’s used in a host of different dishes around the world.

It can be used as a substitute for oats in porridge, which can be mixed with fruit, nuts, and spices.

Buckwheat noodles are popular in Asian cuisine in dishes like miso ramen soup. It can also be used to bulk out salads with some extra protein and carbohydrates, or as a healthy side dish to accompany your Sunday roast.

If you’re eating buckwheat while on a diet where you track macronutrients, be mindful of the carbohydrate content of it when recording your daily calories and macros.

Buckwheat

6. Eggs

Eggs are one of the best sources of protein you can get and are perfect if you’re on a body transformation, trying to get lean and build some muscle. Free range, organic eggs are packed with protein, fat and essential vitamins and minerals.

One large egg will contain about 70 calories, 6g of protein around 5g of fat, of which 2g is saturated.

Why is it beneficial?

Eggs are one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can buy and should be included in any body transformation diet.

Eggs are a great source of protein which is important for building lean muscle. Interestingly, eggs happen to provide the richest mix of essential amino acids compared to even chicken, beef, fish and vegetarian sources such as tofu (18).

They also contain essential fats like Omega 3’s which help improve cognitive function and reduce inflammation, to name just a few benefits.

Eggs are packed with vitamins and minerals including vitamin B12, choline, folate and riboflavin. In particular, eggs are a great source of vitamin A which is good for maintaining healthy skin and immune system, vitamin D which helps with bone density health, and Vitamin E which supports a healthy reproductive and nervous system.

For many years, eggs have been demonised and classed as unhealthy as they are “full” of cholesterol and increased the risk of coronary heart disease.

Do they contain cholesterol? Yes. But cholesterol is important as it actually helps the body produce essential hormones. Eggs have also been shown to increase HDL which is your “good” cholesterol.

So unless otherwise instructed by a health professional, you can eat eggs, including the yolk, to help maintain a balanced diet.

How to consume them

Eggs can be cooked so many different ways that it makes them a fantastic ingredient if you’re eating on a strict meal plan. The tremendous variety of recipes and ways you can cook with eggs means you won’t easily get bored.

Eggs make an ideal meal at breakfast that is filling, healthy and packed with protein and fats. It is this protein and fat content that makes eggs great breakfast fuel because of the ability to improve our focus and productivity in the morning.

Eggs can be baked, boiled, poached, scrambled, fried or turned into a variety of omelettes alongside your favourite ingredients.

One thing to be mindful of is the amount of fat contained in eggs which bump up the calorie count – particularly if you’re tracking your macros closely.

pizza omelette

CARB SOURCES

7. Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are starchy, sweet, root tubers. Although sharing the name, sweet potatoes are just distantly related to white potatoes and have different health benefits.

100g contains 86 calories, 1.6g of protein, 20g of carbs and 0 fats.

Why is it beneficial?

A sweet potato contains roughly double the amount of fibre than a white potato (2g vs. 4g) and approximately 90% of the recommended Vitamin A daily intake which the human body converts from beta-carotene, the natural antioxidant that gives sweet potatoes its characteristic colour.

Vitamin A is essential for normal vision, bone growth, healthy skin, and protection against infections. It also fights inflammation by neutralising free radicals and protects against inflammation-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (19).

Sweet potatoes also contain approximately 25% of RDI in Vitamin C, which is another excellent antioxidant, plays an important role in collagen production – essential for healthy bones and skin – and is necessary to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that controls our moods, sleep/wake cycles, and the way we experience stress and pain.

Another great benefit of sweet potato is its low Glycemic Index, especially when steamed or boiled – a score of 46, as opposed to 94 when baked –. The glycemic index helps measure the impact of a certain food on blood sugar levels.

Foods that have a lower score increase blood sugar gradually, so it remains more stable after a meal. This means that you won’t experience an energy rush and crash cycle after consuming low GI foods, and you may store less of those sugars as fat due to the slower release into the bloodstream, which will cause a more gradual insulin release – a hormone that stores excess blood sugar as glycogen in our liver and muscles as well as in the form of fat tissue.

How to consume it

Choose the sweet potatoes with darker orange colour, as they contain more beta-carotenes. Make sure to consume your sweet potatoes with 3-5g of fat to improve the absorption of vitamin A. Due to the lower GI; it is recommended to consume it steamed or boiled rather than roasted or baked.

Try seasoning mashed sweet potatoes with some cinnamon and nutmeg for a sweet but healthy snack or side dish.

Spiralised sweet potato

8. Spinach

Spinach is an edible flowering plant & part of the Amaranthaceae family native to central and western Asia.

Spinach has long been associated with strength and good health ever since the days of Popeye who would devour cans of it, before pulling off incredible feats of strength. While you might not be immediately deadlifting any world records after having a plateful, there are plenty of reasons why this should be a dietary staple.

100g contains 23 calories, Protein 2.9g, Fat 0.4g and Carbs 3.6g.

Why is it beneficial?

Spinach is jam-packed with minerals and antioxidants that are crucial to a healthy diet and for anyone looking to change their body composition.

Spinach is rich in iron and iron plays a pivotal role in the function of red blood cells. Why is this important? Red blood cells help transport oxygen around the body which for us in training is crucial to muscle function during exercise. The more oxygenated blood we have moving around the body, the more we can increase the volume of oxygen being delivered to our muscle tissue and cells, which helps us push out those last vital reps of each set.

Spinach is also an excellent source of vitamin K which helps with blood clotting, vitamin A which is a powerful antioxidant; it also helps maintain healthy vision and aids neurological function, to name just a few benefits.

In addition, it also contains vitamin C and folic acid as well as being a good source of manganese (helps with growth and development), magnesium (helps keep the Central Nervous System calm and blood pressure under control), iron and vitamin B2 (aids with energy production and the metabolism of fat cells).

When it comes to leafy greens that give a lot of bang for your buck spinach has got to be on the weekly shopping list for people.

How to consume it

Spinach is great when eaten raw to add some crunch to salads. But equally, it can be steamed for several minutes to wilt the leaves or alternatively pan-cooked with a little grass-fed butter and garlic as a side dish.

It is the perfect combination with eggs in the morning, particularly if you struggle to eat high volumes of heavy foods first thing in the day.

peanut beef skewers

9. Broccoli

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable from the cabbage family, enjoyed for its nutrient-rich green florets.

100g contains 34 cals, Protein 2.8g, Fats 0.4g and Carbs 7g.

Why is it beneficial?

This is another green ‘superfood’ vegetable that is a must for any diet.

Like other green vegetables, it’s known for its high vitamin content and for containing powerful antioxidants.

Brocolli has serious anti-inflammatory properties. Like other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli contains isothiocyanates like sulforaphane which has anti-inflammatory mechanisms.

It also contains vitamin C, which helps build and maintain a healthy immune system, and high levels of both calcium and vitamin K, both of which are important for bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis.

Broccoli is full of fibre, which is of great benefit for satiety on a diet, but really assists in maintaining a healthy gut and helps with regular bowel movements.

Like other greens, such as spinach, it’s dense with other vital minerals such as magnesium, which is essential for calming the central nervous system (CNS), and zinc, which helps maintain or boost testosterone levels.

It is a great non-starchy source of carbohydrate that aids digestion, maintains low blood sugar levels and can help curbs overeating while on a diet plan.

How to consume it

Broccoli is a great food to add low-calorie volume to your meals to help fill you up. You can boil broccoli, although steaming your florets for around 5 minutes retains the flavour and crunchy texture of the broccoli than boiling it in water.

There’s nothing less appetizing than cold, soggy vegetables.

broccoli - essentials foods for fat loss

10. Blueberries

Blueberries are heralded as another modern day ‘superfood’ and for good reason. These small, black berries are packed with nutrients that are beneficial for health and can aid our body composition goals.

100g will contain just 57 calories and only 14g of carb.

Why is it beneficial?

Blueberries might be tiny, but they’re one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. There are few other fruit or vegetables that compare pound for pound in terms of antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants are molecules that seek out and neutralise other cells that can potentially cause damage in the body; so they are important when we’re trying to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

It’s the protective effect against free radicals and toxins, as well as the inflammation-busting properties of blueberries that make this fruit a must in your diet.

Blueberries also contain vitamin C (24% of RDI), which helps boost the immune system, and vitamin K (36% of RDI) which aids blood clotting and helps with maintaining healthy bones. It is also a great source of manganese (25% of RDI).

How to consume them

Blueberries are great as a snack later on in the day that are relatively low calorie and low carb. They are a flavoursome addition to give your summer salad a different dimension.

You can just as easily add them to your post-workout protein shake or to add into your oats alongside some cinnamon and Greek yoghurt.

blueberry protein pancakes

11. Oats

Oats are a whole-grain cereal grain commonly consumed for breakfast as porridge.

100g contains 389 calories, 17g of protein, 66g, and 7g of fat.

Why is it beneficial?

Something that makes oats stand out from most other grains is the amount and quality of the protein it provides (20).

This makes oats a good source of protein for vegetarian and vegan clients who can’t rely on animal protein sources.

However, the protein in oats is incomplete, which means that it doesn’t contain all of the nine essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins that the body cannot synthesize and has to obtain directly from foods).

For this reason, oats should always be combined either with another incomplete protein, like nuts, to create a complete protein, or directly with a complete protein like milk.

Oats are one of the best sources of manganese (233% of the RDI per 100g), a mineral that plays a role in bone production, skin health, and blood sugar control, a key factor for fat loss.

Another great benefit of oats is their high fibre content (11g per 100g of oats). The fibre in oats – known as beta-glucan – is a soluble fibre.  Soluble fibres will partially dissolve when mixed with water and create a gel-like layer in the gut. These type of fibres, particularly beta-glucan, have been linked to numerous health benefits such as:

  • Reduced LDL (“bad”) and total cholesterol (21) and thus, decreased risk of heart disease.
  • Increased insulin sensitivity and lowered blood sugar levels, due to the increased time it takes for the foods to be absorbed when beta-glucan is in the digestive tract. This makes oats a great source of carbs to add after an initial low-carb period when dieting, especially in overweight and/or insulin resistant clients (22,23,24)
  • Increase your satiety and feeling of fullness due to the thick layer they create in the stomach as well as the release of a satiety hormone produced in the gut called PYY. This will make you consume fewer calories with less effort, and thus achieve better fat loss results (25,26,27)

How to consume them

All types of oats have essentially the same nutritional value, so the type you choose will depend on the texture you prefer (less processed will be crunchier), and the time you have (finer cut oats will cook faster).

The most common and easy way to consume oats is in a porridge with water or milk. If cooked with water, make sure to combine them with another source of protein to obtain all the essential amino acids.

Oats should be soaked overnight at room temperature or higher to help break down an anti-nutrient called phytic acid, which can block mineral absorption.

The best way to soak them would be adding an acidic ingredient like Greek yoghurt or kefir to begin fermenting the grains and release all the vitamins in oats while breaking down phytic acid the most.

If you don’t want to consume dairy, another good option would be to add lemon or apple cider vinegar and adding some buckwheat to aid in the phytic acid breakdown.

Overnight oats

FAT SOURCES

12. Grass-Fed Butter Ghee

Butter ghee is made from cows’ milk and is popular in Indian cuisine, tracing its roots back thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine where it was exalted for its rejuvenating qualities.

Ghee is butter actually butter which has been simmered for longer, removing the water and milk fats and leaving a creamy, nutty flavour.

1tbsp contains around 112 calories, Protein .04g, Fat 14g.

Why is it beneficial?

When compared to normal butter it’s nutrition profile is very different. Ghee has no lactose or casein, unlike normal milk or butter, and good quality ghee products will have no sugar.

It’s also rich in short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, which are used by the body to maintain a healthy gut. It also contains medium-chain fatty acids – fats that are absorbed quickly and can be used by the body as a source of energy.

It can help reduce inflammation which is key to preventing dozens of chronic diseases linked to or caused by inflammation which include Alzheimer’s, asthma, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Parkinson’s and many more.

For people who are lactose- or casein-sensitive, butter ghee can be a great option because the production process eliminates these allergens.

Ghee butter made from milk from grass-fed cows will contain high levels of conjugated linoleic acid (more popularly known as CLA). If you’re not aware of the benefits, studies have shown that CLA can significantly reduce body fat and prevent weight gain through increasing our metabolic rate and its ability to help increase lean muscle mass.

Ghee contains fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K. A low intake of dietary fat will greatly affect the absorption of these vitamins as they can only be absorbed with dietary fats. This can lead to a deficiency in these important vitamins.

How to consume it

Butter ghee is the perfect cooking oil and its nutty flavour can enhance any dish. It makes a great oil to cook with as it has a very high smoke point compared to things like olive oil and coconut oil, meaning the fats are less likely to break down under heat and release free radicals.

It can be used in healthy baking, and it is great to sauté meats like beef and lamb to enhance the flavour. A knob of butter ghee can enhance your steamed vegetables, or you can add a portion to your morning coffee and blend it up to make the perfect, creamy pre-workout drink that is rich in energy-providing MCTs and performance-enhancing caffeine.

Tikka curry

13. Avocado

The avocado is actually a fruit, and it’s thought it originated in Mexico. Now more and more people are understanding that healthy fats are an essential part of a balanced diet, the popularity of avocados has skyrocketed.

It’s not hard to see why with myriad health benefits and incredible versatility in the kitchen as a great ingredient in sweet and savoury dishes alike.

100g will contain around 160 calories, Protein 2g, Fat 15g, Carbs 9g.

Why is it beneficial?

Usually, when we see the fat content on products in supermarkets, we will mostly find that all three types of fat – monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated.

The majority of fat in avocados are ones considered the most beneficial for health – around 60% monounsaturated fat and 12% polyunsaturated fat.

Monounsaturated fats are beneficial for the heart and brain, and they’re also shown to help improve insulin resistance and regulate blood sugar levels which are both important when dieting to improve body composition.

The healthy fats in avocados are known to be good transporters of vitamins around the body, so vitamins such as vitamin E, which help reduce cholesterol and prevents molecules attacking healthy cells in the body, and vitamin K that aids blood clotting, can be distributed around the body.

Avocados are also a good source of fibre, which we know is key for maintaining a healthy gut and regular bowel function, as well as controlling blood sugar levels.

How to consume it

Avocados are known for their rich and creamy texture – and they’re perfect in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Most people will add them to salads or smash them up alongside chilli, lime, onions, and tomatoes to make a healthy and flavoursome guacamole.

But equally, their mild flavour and creamy texture lends itself to use in healthy desserts like this chocolate protein mousse. Just be mindful that avocados contain a considerable amount of calories, so always use them sparingly and keep track of your intake with apps like MyFitnessPal.

UP chocolate mousse

14. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A staple of the Mediterranean Diet, olive oil can be found in different types (Light, Virgin, Extra Virgin). The difference between these types is the amount of processing, with Extra Virgin Olive Oil being the most beneficial due to minimal processing, which preserves the highest levels of beneficial compounds.

1 tbsp (15ml) contains 119 kcal, 14g fat, 0 carbs and 0 protein. Like all oils, the calorie content per unit is very high, so it’s important to keep an eye on portion sizes!

Why is it beneficial?

Extra virgin olive oil is a great source of monounsaturated fats (73g per 100g), primarily oleic acid. Monounsaturated fats – and olive oil in particular (28)- has been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease risk by decreasing LDL, often referred to as “bad cholesterol,” and increasing HDL or “good cholesterol”.

Extra virgin olive oil is also the best dietary source of squalene, an antioxidant compound which has been shown to have anti-carcinogenic effects (29), as well as anti-ageing properties due to its protection of the skin and enhancing the efficacy of mitochondria (30).

Other antioxidant compounds found in extra virgin olive oil include vitamin E, hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol.

How to consume it

Extra virgin olive oil is a tasty and healthy alternative to salad dressings, a great addition to vegetables, and it can also be used for cooking. But keep in mind that it’s smoke point (the temperature when it starts burning and producing smoke) is 207 degrees Celsius, so it’s not the best choice for high-temperature dishes.

Avocado oil, or butter ghee would be a better option for this particular use.

Olive oil

15. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a type of saturated fat, made up primarily of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs).

1tbsp (15g) contains 117kcal, 14g of fat, 0 carbs and 0 protein.

Why is it beneficial?

Medium chain triglycerides can aid in weight loss by increasing fat oxidation (commonly known as fat burning) in overweight people. (31)

Studies have shown that increasing intake of MCTs while keeping calories the same can result in a small but significant increase in the rate of fat loss over time, as well as a muscle mass sparing effect when in a caloric deficit due to increased ketone production – the byproduct of fat metabolism –  (32,33,34)

Coconut oil can also help reduce your waistline, especially in males. (34)

Based on these studies, it might be sensible to replace other saturated fats like butter with coconut oil, if fat loss is your goal, but It’s also important to remember that replacing other dietary fats with coconut oil may negate any potential fat loss effects if the caloric content of coconut oil is greater than what previously consumed.

In simple terms, total calories consumed will mostly dictate weight gain or loss, independently of the type of food.

Other benefits include possibly reducing total cholesterol (35), which is a risk factor for heart disease, and increasing insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetics (36).

How to consume it

Coconut oil is most effective when about 5-10g of MCTs are included in the diet. This is  7.7-15g of coconut oil, or one-half to one tablespoon.

Coconut oil can be used in raw in salads, smoothies, and desserts and it can also be used for cooking, remembering that it has a smoke point of 175 degrees.

Final Thoughts

No one single diet will work for everyone. Nutrition is a very individual thing and every client we work with at UP is different. But time and time again we deliver the best results with clients following some very simple basic diet rules.

You might not enjoy eating every item on this list – and that’s fine. Make healthy substitutes. But ensure that you’re eating a mix of good quality, lean proteins, healthy fats, piles of green vegetables and complex carbohydrates from unprocessed sources and you cannot go far wrong with your diet.

UP founder Nick Mitchell always says ‘Eat from the land’ – and this is advice that will stand you in good stead. Stay consistent with your diet, track your calories and your macros, train hard and the rest will fall into place.


References

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17348006

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3277928/

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22381456

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