Archive for the tag - fat

Is Saturated Fat Good For You?

ButterFor decades, we’ve been told that unsaturated fats are healthy – and that unsaturated fats should be minimized. In the 1960s, studies showed that unsaturated fats raised LDL cholesterol levels. LDL is the bad type of cholesterol that clogs your arteries. Because saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol, the assumption was that this type of fat must increased the risk of heart disease.

However, research is showing that this assumption might not be true. The link between heart disease and cholesterol is, according to researchers, much more complicated.

Over the past 40 or 50 years, researchers have tracked saturated fat intake and followed individuals to examine their risk of heart attack or stroke. After all these years, researchers haven’t been able to prove a clear correlation between the two.

The latest theory holds that an individual’s ratio of good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) to bad cholesterol is a clearer indicator. In terms of heart disease risk, saturated fats may actually be neutral.

Of course, this isn’t a free pass to load up on bacon and ice cream. Indeed, many products high in unsaturated fat are calorie dense and often lack other important nutrients. But this latest finding does illuminate a broader, more complicated approach to nutrition that doesn’t focus on just one nutrient.

When dieters focused on low fat foods in the 1980s and 1990s, for example, we got even larger than ever. A reductionist approach to nutrition just doesn’t seem to work.

Instead of focusing just on fat or just on calories or just on carbohydrates or so on, a wiser approaching is to eat a balanced and colorful diet that focuses on whole foods like vegetables, nuts, fruits and some lean meats like fish or chicken.

 

 

The Worst Fast Food Salad…

One of the big advantages to cooking at home is that you know exactly what goes into your food. There’s no guesswork or clever marketing involved. And the same is true for our salads.

Though grabbing a salad sounds healthy, the reality is that many fast food salads are actually less healthy than the obviously unhealthy alternatives – like a Big Mac. With 550 calories and 30 grams of fat, there’s no question that the Big Mac is a gut-busting and unhealthy choice. But even the Big Mac doesn’t have anything on these salads.

Drum roll please… Some of the worst fast food salads include:

Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad

While the name sounds both innocent and slightly offensive (didn’t we stop using the term “Oriental” a long time ago?), this massive calorie bomb of a salad is no laughing matter. With 1,390 calories and 98 grams of total fat, you are not doing your body any favors with this meal choice. This salad contains 15 grams of unhealthy saturated fat. For most people, that’s an entire day’s worth.

Crispy_Chicken_SaladBut wait, things get worse…

IHOP’s Crispy Chicken Salad

As soon as you see the word “crispy,” run the other way! It’s code for fried. With a mind-blowing 1,400 calories, 88 grams of total fat and 26 grams of saturated fat, this is a terrible salad choice.  Bizarrely, with 28 grams of sugar, it has almost as much sugar as a can of coke. Yikes.

And then for the worst salad of them all…

Chili’s Quesadilla Explosion Salad

With 1430 calories, 96 grams of total fat and 28 grams of saturated fat, this salad is truly an explosion of everything your body doesn’t need. It’s about the equivalent of two and half Big Macs. Don’t do it. Just don’t.

The bottom line: Salad isn’t synonymous with healthy. Play it safe and smart by preparing your salad at home. If you must grab a salad on the go, make sure you Google the nutrition information – even if the salad sounds like a healthy choice. Opt for grilled over fried, ask for no cheese and no bacon and select a dressing that isn’t creamy.

What Skinny People REALLY Think About Fat People At The Gym.

skinnyban20f-2-webThis morning, I noticed a woman signing up for a gym membership at the front desk.

While she was very overweight, the first thing I noticed was her body language. She seemed nervous and uncomfortable – as though she felt out of place.

After putting my clothes away in the locker, I saw her again in the cardio room. I introduced myself and gave her a friendly, reassuring smile. After a minute or two of chatting, she told me that this was her first time in a gym – and that she was literally terrified. She said, “Women like me don’t belong in places like this. I feel like everyone is looking at me and judging me.”

The truth is, she does belong in a gym. We all do. Taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle is important for each and every one of us.

As for people judging her, I suspect it’s the contrary. Most gym goers would be quick to recognize her bravery. And they’re probably impressed by her willingness to make a positive change in her life. Rather than a “look at her” mindset, I bet most people would think “good for her” – if they’re going to think anything at all. In reality, most people are too engrossed in their own workout and their own iPod playlist to really give any of it much thought.

I’m sharing this because I get countless emails from unfit, overweight or obese individuals who are too scared or too intimidated to go to the gym. My point is: Don’t be. Don’t be paralyzed by your fear – which, ultimately, is just another excuse preventing you from creating what you really want.

I think you’ll quickly discover that it’s much scarier in your mind than it is in reality.

Myth: Low Fat Foods Are Healthy.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERASkittles are a low-fat food. But if you eat a lot of skittles, I promise that you’ll still get fat.

Just because something is labeled “low fat” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. And conversely, not all foods containing fat are unhealthy.

Limiting trans and saturated fats is important. In fact, current dietary guidelines recommend that less than 7% of your total calories should come from saturated fat. But fat is just part of the equation.

When we talk about weight management, the formula is pretty simple. To maintain weight, you need to eat the same amount of calories that your body burns. To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body burns. With this in mind, it’s important to recognize that there are many unhealthy, calorie-dense foods with little or no fat. Like skittles.

Beyond saturated and trans fat, pay attention to carbohydrates. While complex carbohydrates are essential, many low fat foods are packed with simple carbohydrates including table sugar, corn syrup, fruit juice, white flour, etc.

Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Heart Association recommend no more than 2,300 mg of sodium each day, and no more than 1,500 mg for high risk groups. To add flavor, manufacturers often pump low fat or reduced fat foods with sodium – so read the nutrition label carefully.

Last but not least, remember that fat isn’t always a bad thing. Unsaturated fats – like those found in olive oils, nuts, avocados, etc. – are essential for proper bodily function.

7 Tricks to Cut Calories.

How-to-Cut-CaloriesWeight loss happens when your body is in a calorie deficit. That is, you take in fewer calories than your body burns. For lasting and sustainable weight loss, the calorie deficit is created by moving more and eating smarter.

Cutting calories sounds like a daunting task. But the truth is, just cutting a few hundred calories per day is enough for most of us to make significant progress toward our weight loss goals. It doesn’t need to be a difficult, expensive or time-consuming process.

For some easy calorie cutting, put these tips to use for you!

  1. Drink your coffee black. You’ll cut out 120 calories without cream and sugar (not to mention 18% of your daily value of saturated fat and 12 grams of sugar).
  2. Leave the cheese off of your sandwich. And don’t use mayo or butter. Guess what? It’ll still taste great. You’ll slim your sandwich by 200 calories – and you’ll still feel just as full!
  3. Order a glass of water in between drinks. If you’re out or enjoying happy hour, remember that many alcoholic beverages are loaded with calories but devoid of nutrition. While eliminating alcohol altogether may seem unrealistic, space out your drinks by having a glass of water in between.
  4. Replace soda with mineral or sparkling water. It will still give you some fizz and flavor, but without any empty calories. A single cup of Coke has more than 180 calories.
  5. Don’t eat the pie… crust. We all need to live a little. Clearly, pie isn’t the healthiest dessert choice – but if you do indulge, do so sensibly. By not eating the crust, you slice nearly 100 calories out of your pie serving. Similarly, if you do have ice cream, get it in a cup instead of a cone. Or top your dessert with a few berries instead of globs of chocolate syrup.
  6. Get a smaller dinner plate. Not only do smaller plates hold less food, which translates to fewer calories, but research shows that smaller plates trick our minds into feeling fuller. By moving from a 9″ dinner plate to an 8″ dinner plate, you can cut an average of 200 calories out of your meal.
  7. Substitute in your recipes. If you’re making meatballs, replace half the meat with brown rice. If you’re baking, substitute avocado or applesauce instead of butter.

While these tips might not apply to all people everywhere, the strategy works and is universal. In your everyday life, it’s very easy to cut a moderate amount of calories while still maintaining the quality of life that you enjoy. Making smarter choices here and there can (and does!) add up over time.

What are some other tips you have for cutting calories? Let me know in the comments below!

Do Genes Make You Fat?

ObeseFamilyCartoonDear Davey,

Most of the people in my family are overweight or obese. When I look at my relatives, I can’t help but think that there must be a genetic component to me being overweight. Is it possible that I’m just genetically destined to be fat?

From,
Chris

Hey Chris,

Thanks for the honest question.

economix-23OECDobesity-custom1Over the last several decades, obesity rates in this country – and many others – have risen dramatically (see chart). Clearly, this huge increase can’t be explained entirely by genetics.

As I’ve said before, weight loss, gain or maintenance is determined by calories in and calories out. If we take in fewer calories than we burn, we lose weight. If we take in more calories than we burn, we gain weight. And if we take in the same amount of calories that we burn, we’re in a neutral state of maintenance.

Though our genes may have some influence on our predisposition to obesity, all of us can manipulate both ends of the calories in/calories out equation to reach a healthier weight. On the “calories in” side of the equation, it means eating healthy, clean and nourishing foods in appropriate quantities. On the “calories out” side of the equation, we need to move more and get active. To make weight loss happen, the caloric total of the foods we eat must be less than the total calories burned.

Clearly, this is a vast oversimplification of the process – and, indeed, there are many other factors involved in weight loss. Some of these factors are emotional and psychological – and some of them can be difficult to deal with.

But to answer your question, the Harvard School of Public Health notes that:

Only a very small percentage of people have such a strong genetic predisposition that they will be obese no matter how hard they try. Even people who are genetically predisposed to obesity can reduce their risk of chronic disease by eating a healthful diet and staying active.

In my humble opinion, it’s far more likely that your relatives are similarly overweight because they’ve adopted similar habits. We know that obesity is contagious; a study by Harvard researchers found that “having four obese friends doubled people’s chance of becoming obese compared to people with no obese friends,” and that the more obese people you come into contact with, the more your risk for obesity increases.

In other words, we tend to pick up the habits of the people around us.

Love,
Davey

Late Bedtimes and Less Sleep Lead to Weight Gain.

couch potato catYou’ve probably heard the age-old adage, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” I’m not sure about the wealthy or wise part, but healthy – at least, according to a growing amount of research – has some truth.

Researchers from the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania published a study in the July issue of SLEEP; it’s the largest and most diverse healthy-sample study ever conducted in laboratory conditions. For the study, 225 healthy participants were recruited for up to 18 days in the laboratory. The participants were broken into two groups and either spent only 4 hours in bed for five consecutive nights or 10 hours in bed for five consecutive nights. Throughout the study, meals were served and food was readily available.

When researchers crunched the data, they discovered that the sleep-restrictive group ate a significantly larger amount of calories due to late-night calorie consumption. During their extra awake time, the participants ate… and ate. And ate some more. Moreover, the proportion of calories from fat was higher during late night snacking.

Though it’s totally possible and very healthy to snack on celery sticks or carrots, the data shows that we’re less likely to make those choices late at night. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say it’s not when you eat, but what you’re eating – and how much of it – that counts most.

In other words, it’s always important to be mindful of your food choices, but this is especially true at night. Don’t fall for a case of the mindless munchies!

18 Empty Calorie Foods.

251726The other day, I referenced empty calories in a post – and I received a number of emails asking about the term.

The USDA defines empty calories as:

Calories from solid fats and/or added sugars. Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. For this reason, the calories from solid fats and added sugars in a food are often called empty calories.

Solid fats are solid at room temperature like shortening, lard or butter. Added sugars are sugars or syrups that have been added to foods during preparation or processing.

In order to stay in a calorie balance and avoid weight gain, it’s important to stay within your daily calorie allowance. For example, many people may aim to eat 2,000 calories in a day. While this number may sound lofty, those calories can go fast; it’s important to get the vast majority of calories from foods that provide the essential nutrients our bodies need. Let’s spend our calories on foods that actually nourish us!

With all that in mind, here are 18 foods and beverages loaded with empty calories; these should be consumed sparingly. Empty calorie calculations provided by the USDA:

  1. Soda – 100% empty calories
  2. Fruit drinks – 100% empty calories
  3. Beer – 100% empty calories
  4. Cheddar cheese – 66% empty calories
  5. Frozen yogurt – 53% empty calories
  6. Ice cream – 76% empty calories
  7. Fried chicken – 80% empty calories
  8. Chocolate chip cookies – 68% empty calories
  9. Chocolate cake – 77% empty calories
  10. Fruit flavored low-fat yogurt – 61% empty calories
  11. Cinnamon sweet roll – 61% empty calories
  12. Onion rings – 58%
  13. Butter – 92% empty calories
  14. Margarine – 89% empty calories
  15. Frozen whipped topping – 92% empty calories
  16. Cream cheese – 88% empty calories
  17. Glazed doughnut – 67% empty calories
  18. Beef bologna – 57% empty calories

This list isn’t exhaustive – but you get the idea. In a nutshell, it’s all about replacing foods that are high in solid fats or added sugars with healthier options.

27 Fast Food Items with 1,000 Calories or More.

War-on-fast-food-006The thing about calories is that they tend to add up.

We know that a calorie deficit is required for losing weight – which means that you take in fewer calories than you burn. For those of us looking to maintain our current weight, we need to be in a calorie neutral state where we’re consuming the same number of calories that we burn.

Regardless, counting calories means being very mindful of the foods we consume and avoiding the calorie bombs on many fast food menus. Case in point, the below infographic shows 27 different fast food items with more than 1,000 calories – including a nearly 10,000 calorie burger and a 2,140 calorie order of cheese fries.

Are any of your favorites on this list? Any surprises?

Fast-Food-Items-with-1000-Calories-and-More

Does Fast Food Make You Fat? [Study]

ronaldfcdonaldsmallA few weeks ago, I posted about Subway – and how their menu is deceptively unhealthy. Today, I’m kicking up the rhetoric by sharing a fast food study that was published by the science journal The Lancet.

Following 3,000 young adults for a period of 15 years, researchers found that those participants who ate fast food more than twice per week gained an extra 10 pounds of body weight and were twice as likely to be insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for Type II diabetes. In other words, there’s a strong correlation between fast food and both obesity and diabetes.

Of course, this isn’t to say that you can’t make sensible selections at fast food restaurants. Indeed, McDonald’s has apples on the menu. But this is to say that most of the people who eat fast food aren’t opting for apples – and that healthy selections are difficult to find or far and few between.

I don’t share this study because I’m against fast food. I’m not. I share this study because I’m for nourishing food – and most fast food isn’t that. If your health is a priority (and I hope it is – after all, we only get one body), then focus on eating well instead of eating fast.

Eat well. Feel well. Be well.