Let us start with a question – What is the best way to lose weight? Is it intense exercise or less eating? Or both?
You cannot lose weight just by exercising. Regular exercise will make your heart and muscles strong. To lose weight you have to eat less and eat healthy. This has to be a lifelong strategy. Scientific evidence shows most people (who lose weight) will regain their weight over a period of time as they revert to their old eating habits.
There are many challenges faced by people who try to lose weight and maintain the loss. The challenges are to avoid foods containing sugar, salt and fat.
When you start cooking or sit down to eat, ask yourself – am I flirting with my enemies? How grave are the consequences? Let us look at the answers in more detail.
Your enemy number one – sugar.
Today, our diet is packed with huge amounts of added sugars.
Sugar is used as an ingredient in many packaged foods. Statistics from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows Americans eat about 17 teaspoons of added sugars per day. That’s significantly more than the American Heart Association’s recommendation of not to consume more than nine teaspoons a day. We are consuming twice the amount of sugar than recommended.
We know added sugars are bad for us. It is associated with an increased risk of overweight and obesity. That is directly linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown odds of being overweight or obese were 54 percent greater among individuals with the highest intake of sugars compared with those with the lowest intake.
Those who like to eat sweet stuff also increase the risk of heart disease. Several studies have shown a higher sugar intake also meant higher levels of total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides irrespective of your weight.
Your enemy number two – salt.
We know too much sodium (salt) is bad for your heart. And yet, most North Americans consume about 50 per cent more than the maximum of 2,300 mg per day of salt. Reducing salt intake reduces the risk of heart disease.
Sodium is present in all types of food as a preservative or to improve the taste. It is lurking in some foods you wouldn’t necessarily suspect.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 categories of food (breads, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts and cured meats, soups, burritos and tacos, savory snacks, chicken, cheese, eggs and omelets) account for 44 per cent of our overall sodium intake.
Best thing is to cook at home. Restaurant foods are heavily loaded with salt. Eating at home is always healthier and safer.
Your enemy number three – fat.
If you eat the right kind of fat then fat is good for you. Studies show different types of fats -monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated – had varied effects on health.
Saturated fat is the bad one. Instead of consuming saturated fat, eat unsaturated fats (fish, nuts, olive oil) or healthy carbs (grains, legumes). This way you can protect your heart. You want your heart to pump forever!
Avoid trans fats. American Heart Association says, “Doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffins, pies and cakes are examples of foods that may contain trans fat. Limit how frequently you eat them. Limit commercially fried foods and baked goods made with shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.” Trans fat is really bad fat.
Eat more foods that contain unsaturated fat. Avocados, nuts, olive oil, and fatty fish should all appear regularly on your plate. Keep an eye on the calorie intake. Otherwise these foods are good.
My favourite diet: heart-healthy Mediterranean diet with a four-point plan.
According to Mayo Clinic website, if you’re looking for a heart-healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet might be right for you.
The main components of Mediterranean diet include:
- Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats
- Weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs
- Moderate portions of dairy products
- Limited intake of red meat
Sounds pretty simple! Enjoy!