Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Healthy Weight Loss and Dieting

Healthy Weight Loss

No matter how peaceful your nature, when it comes to the battle of the bulge, you have to put up a good fight. In our eat-and-run, massive-portion-sized world, maintaining a healthy weight can be hard enough, and healthy weight loss can be a real struggle. Adding to the difficulty is the abundance of fad diets and “quick-fix” plans that tempt and confuse us and ultimately usually do not work.

Weight management not only makes you look and feel better, it influences your future health. A healthy weight decreases your chances of developing serious health risks such as heart disease or diabetes.

If your last diet attempt wasn't a success, or life events have caused you to gain weight, don’t be discouraged. The key is to find a plan that works with your body’s individual needs so that you can avoid common diet pitfalls and instead make lasting lifestyle changes that can help you find long-term, healthy weight loss success
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Circumventing roadblocks to healthy weight loss

Why do some weight loss programs fail?

Diets, especially fad diets or “quick-fix” pills and plans, often set you up for failure because:

  • You feel deprived. Diets that don’t allow certain types of food (carbs, fat, sugar) in moderation are simply not practical, not to mention unhealthy – eliminating entire food groups doesn’t allow for a healthy, well-rounded diet and creates imbalances in our bodies.
  • You “plateau” after losing a few pounds. There’s actually a second component to healthy weight loss: exercise. Often your body adjusts to a new way of eating, and it’s only with increased physical activity that the pounds will continue to melt away.
  • You lose weight, but can’t keep it off. Diets that severely cut calories, restrict certain foods, or rely on ready-made meals might work in the short term. However, once you meet your weight loss goal, you have no means of lifelong, healthy diet maintenance, and the pounds quickly come back.
  • After your diet, you seem to put on weight more quickly. Restricting your food intake slows down your metabolism – another reason why starvation or “fasting” diets are counterproductive.
  • You break your diet and feel too discouraged to try again. Just because you gave in to temptation and overindulged, doesn’t mean all your hard work goes down the drain. Healthy eating is about the big picture – an occasional splurge won’t kill your efforts. And again, diets that are too restrictive are conducive to cheating – when you feel deprived, it’s easy to fall off the wagon.
  • You lose money faster than you lose weight. Special shakes, meals, and programs may be cost-prohibitive and less practical for long-term weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.
  • You feel isolated and unable to enjoy social situations revolving around food. Without some practical, healthy diet strategies, you may feel lost when dining out or attending events like cocktail parties or weddings. If the food served isn’t on your specific diet plan, what can you do?
  • The person on the commercial lost 30 lbs in 2 months – and you haven’t. Diet companies make a lot of grandiose promises, and most are simply not realistic. Unfortunately, losing weight is not easy, and anyone who makes it seem that way is doing you a disservice. Don’t get discouraged by setting unrealistic goals!

Why do some weight loss programs succeed?

While there is no “one size fits all” solution to lifelong, healthy weight loss, try these tips:

  • Lifestyle Change – Permanent weight loss is not something that a “quick-fix” diet can achieve. Instead, think about weight loss as a permanent lifestyle change. You are making a commitment to your health for life. Various popular diets can help to jump-start your weight loss, but permanent changes in your lifestyle and food choices are what will work long term.
  • Find a cheering section – Social support means a lot. Programs like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers use group support to impact weight loss and lifelong healthy eating. Seek out support, whether in the form of family, friends, or a support group, so that you can get the encouragement you need.
  • Commit to a plan and stick to it – Experiment until you find a good, long-term plan that helps you lose the weight and maintain that loss in a way that works for you. If you cut out just 100 calories a day you could lose 10 pounds in a year. Remember one 12 oz can of a popular soda contains 150 calories.
  • Lose weight slowly. Losing weight too fast can take a toll on your nervous system, making you feel sluggish, drained, and sick. When you drop a lot of weight quickly, you’re actually losing mostly water and muscle rather than fat. Aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week to ensure healthy weight loss.
  • Stay motivated and keep track – Short-term goals, like wanting to fit into a bikini for the summer, usually don’t work as well as goals like wanting to feel more confident or become healthier for your children’s sakes. Keep a food journal or weigh yourself regularly. Find and use tools that help keep you motivated. Stay focused: when frustration and temptation strike, concentrate on the many benefits you will reap from being healthier and leaner.

Weight loss bottom line

Your weight is a balancing act, but the equation is simple: If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. Gaining and losing weight (W) comes down to the simple calculation of calories consumed (CC), or in other words, what you eat, minus calories burned (CB) through metabolism and physical activity.

W = CC – CB

If you eat more calories than you burn then you gain weight or if you eat fewer calories than you burn then you lose weight. In order to lose one pound of fat per week, you need to eat about 500 calories less than your typical diet. Since 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound of fat, if you cut 500 calories from your typical diet each day, you'd lose approximately 1 pound a week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories). Remember, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose 1 pound.

This does not mean that you need to eat less food. Instead, you need to consume fewer calories. With smart choices this is very doable. The key is to choose “low density” foods, which means foods that allow you to eat a larger portion sizes but that is lower in calories. These foods, including many fruits and vegetables, tend to contain more water and fiber. Try starting your meal with a low-density salad or soup (just watch the dressings and sodium) to help fill you up, so you eat less of your entrée. See below for some more easy calorie saving ideas.





Calories* Saved

Starbucks grande café late (16 oz.)


16 oz. coffee or tea



12 oz. can of regular cola


Club soda water with a squeeze of lemon or lime



1 medium glazed doughnut


1 apple



4-inch cinnamon-raisin bagel


2 pieces whole grain toast



3 oz. bag corn chips


2 large carrots with 2 tbsp. hummus



1 cup chocolate ice cream


1 cup strawberries



3 oz. bag plain salted potato chips


2 cups popcorn air-popped



Pancakes with butter & syrup


1 cup cooked oats



Sources: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 2007 and * Actual calories may vary by brand.

Reducing calorie intake promotes weight Loss – type of diet isn’t important

A major study concluded that it doesn’t matter which diet program you choose, as long as it is one that reduces your calorie intake and is healthy for your heart (low in saturated fat and cholesterol). See reference below.

Emotional and social components of healthy weight loss

Food isn’t just used to satisfy hunger – it is also a common part of social interactions and a means of comfort and stress relief. How we eat is also partially dictated by how we were raised – “clean your plate – there’s children starving in Africa” – and how the people around us eat. If your friends and relatives start packing on the pounds, you are more likely to do so as well.

Emotional and social components of healthy weight lossWhat’s a healthy dieter to do? First, consider how and when you eat. Do you only eat when you are hungry, or do you reach for a snack while watching TV? Do you eat when you’re stressed or bored? To reward yourself? Also pay attention to how much sleep you are getting – lack of sleep has been shown to have a direct link to hunger and overeating.

Recognizing your emotional triggers can help make it easier for you to make changes. Once you realize your own personal challenges to weight loss, you can work towards gradually changing the habits and mental attitudes that have sabotaged your efforts in the past.

Is stress and anxiety contributing to your weight gain?

Is stress and anxiety contributing to your weight gain? Stress eating is a common problem. Instead of self-medicating with food, try alternative means of stress relief.

Read Coping With Stress and How to Stop Worrying for tips and suggestions.

Mindful eating helps healthy weight loss

We live in a fast paced world where eating has become secondary. Counter this by paying attention to what you eat, savoring each bite, and choosing foods that are both nourishing and enjoyable. This also helps you achieve healthy weight loss and maintenance. Plus, when our minds are tuned out during mealtime, the digestive process may be 30% to 40% less effective. This can contribute to digestive distress, such as gas, bloating and bowel irregularities.

Mindful Eating tips for Healthy Weight Loss

  • Pay attention while you are eating. Be aware of your environment, eat slowly, enjoy each bite – savor the smells and textures of your food. If your mind wanders, just gently remind yourself to return to focusing on your food and how it tastes and feels in your mouth.
  • Avoid distractions while eating. Try not to eat while working, watching TV, reading, using a computer, or driving.
  • Try mixing things up to force yourself to focus on the experience of eating – try using chopsticks rather than a fork, or use your utensils with your non-dominant hand.
  • Chew your food thoroughly. Try chewing each bite 30 times before swallowing.
  • Stop eating before you are full. Avoid the temptation to “clean your plate”. Yes, there are children starving in Africa, but you packing on the pounds won’t help them.
  • Serve yourself a smaller portion and use small plates, bowls and cups. This will make your portions appear larger. If possible leave the table as soon as you are done. The longer you sit at the table, the more you will eat. If you are hungry later you can have a small healthy snack.
  • Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time and don’t eat out of large bags or boxes. You will be more inclined to eat in moderation if you have thought out healthy meals and snacks in advance. You can buy or create your own small portion snacks in plastic bags or containers. Remember to only eat when you are truly hungry.

Tips for Healthy Weight Loss your Way

Eating and drinking tips

  • Focus on fruits and veggiesFocus on fruits and veggies – The high water and fiber content in many fruits and vegetables make them ideal for healthy snacking and incorporation into meals. Add veggies to your favorite main courses (made from lean meats and whole grains) to make your dish “go” further. In addition, vitamins and nutrients in fruits and vegetables can help your overall health and vitality.
  • Upgrade your carbohydrates – Switch from simple to complex carbohydrates. This means eating fewer products like white bread and white rice and eating more whole grains such as whole wheat bread, whole grain brown rice, millet, quinoa and barley. They give you long-term energy, and have a high-fiber content so you feel full longer.
  • Experiment with protein. Protein keeps you full longer than carbohydrates, but most of us in the U.S. eat more animal protein than our bodies need. In addition, animal protein often comes with high amounts of fat. Figure out how much and what type of protein is the right amount for your body. Choose lean, high quality protein or vegetarian options like beans and nuts.
  • Drink more water. You can easily reduce your daily calorie intake by replacing soda, alcohol or coffee with water. Thirst can also be confused with hunger, so by drinking water, you may avoid consuming extra calories, plus it will help you break down food more easily.
  • Take a multivitamin. This will help you be sure that there are no nutrient gaps in your diet. But remember that it does not substitute for eating a healthy well balanced diet.

Soda: The Secret Diet Sabotager

Soda: The Secret Diet Sabotager Soft drinks are the single biggest source of calories in the American diet, providing about 7 percent of calories. One can of soda pop contains between 10-12 teaspoons of sugar and around 150 calories, so a few soft drinks can quickly add up to a good portion of your daily calorie intake.

Cutting out soft drinks may be an easy way to help you lose some extra weight. Try switching to water with lemon, unsweetened iced tea, or an occasional spritzer made with a touch of juice (juice contains a lot of calories, so use just a taste) and carbonated water.

Lifestyle tips

  • Get plenty of exercise – Exercise is a dieter’s best friend! It not only burns calories, but can actually improve your resting metabolism. No time for a long workout? Research shows that three 10-minute spurts of exercise per day are just as good as one 30-minute workout. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park in the back of the parking lot. Every bit helps. See Exercise Guide for Exercise Haters
  • Get proper sleep – Get proper sleep. People with improper sleep have a much higher risk of obesity. Exhaustion can make you feel hungrier, and impair your judgment. Aim for around 8 hours of good sleep a night. See Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep.
  • Turn off the TV – You actually burn less calories watching television than you do sleeping! If you simply can’t miss your favorite shows, get a little workout in while watching – do easy exercises like squats, sit-ups, jogging in place, or using resistance bands or hand weights
  • Cook your own mealsCook your own meals – Cooking meals at home allows you to control both portion size and what goes in to the food. Restaurant and packaged foods generally contain a lot more sodium, fat, and calories than food cooked at home, plus the portions sizes tend to be larger.
  • Make sure to shop when you are not hungry. Create a shopping list to stick to, and store tempting foods in cabinets or drawers out of your sight.
  • Eat early, eat often. Starting your day with a healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism. And will help to keep you from binging later in the day. Likewise, “grazing” on healthful snacks like fruits, veggies and protein-packed almonds, and eating 6 small, healthful meals throughout the day, rather than the standard 3 large ones, can help keep your metabolism going and ward off snack attacks.

Eating less red and processed meats reduces cancer risks.

A 10 year study of over 500,000 people age 50 - 71 by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-AARP showed a substantially higher risk (ranging from 20% to 60%) for certain types of cancers (esophageal, colorectal, liver and lung) among those people with a diet higher in red and processed meats as compared to people who ate less red and processed meats.

  • Red meat includes beef, veal, pork, and lamb.
  • Processed meats include hot dogs, bologna, bacon, sausage, packaged ham, packaged sandwich meats, pepperoni, salami and virtually all red meat used in frozen prepared meals.

The study ends with: “A decrease in the consumption of red and processed meat could reduce the incidence of cancer at multiple sites.”

More information at: NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study

Popular diets and weight loss programs

While a personalized plan may work better for you in the long run, many people do find success with well-known diet programs such as Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. And even if the popular commercial weight loss plans aren’t quite your style, some of them may provide the backbone of a program that does work for you. Keep in mind, it may take some experimenting to find the right diet for your individual body. It is important that you feel satisfied so that you can stick with it on a long-term basis. If one diet program doesn’t work, then try another one. There are many weight loss programs available.

See Analysis of Popular Weight Loss Plans for a comparison and analysis on some of the popular diet programs.

Related articles

Choosing a Diet PlanChoosing a Diet Plan
The Pros and Cons of Popular Weight Loss Programs and Diets

Healthy Fats and NutritionHealthy Dietary Fats
The Truth About Fat, Nutrition, and Cholesterol

More Helpguide Articles

References and resources for Healthy Weight Loss

Weight loss Basics

Counting calories: Getting back to weight-loss basics – how calories determine your weight and ways you can best cut calories from your diet. (Mayo Clinic)

USDA Calorie Chart (PDF – 52 pages) National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 17 (USDA)

What type of weight loss diet works best

Low-fat? Low-carbs? Answering best diet question Researchers put four popular diets -- high carb, high fat, low-fat and high protein -- to the test to see which of the regimens resulted in more weight-loss success (CNN)

Just Eat Less. Heart-healthy, low-cal diets promote weight loss regardless of fat, protein and carb content according to a study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (Science Daily)

Emotional and social components of healthy weight loss

How to stop emotional eating – Ways to curb emotional eating from sabotaging your healthy weight loss efforts. (Mayo Clinic)

Emotional Eating Test – Do you have issues with food? Take this online test and find out! (Psychology Today)

Mindful eating for healthy weight loss

Mastering the mindful meal – Explains the effects of mindless eating, and offers exercises to help you become a more mindful eater. (Brigham & Women’s Hospital)

Tips for healthy weight loss your way

How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight – Illustrated guide to healthy ways to lose weight. (National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)

Just Enough for You: About Portion Sizes – Offers tips for managing portion sizes at home, and when eating out. (Weight Control Information Network)

Tips for Setting and Meeting Your Weight Loss Goals – After you’ve made the commitment to start losing weight, set goals that are realistic, specific, and measurable. (Mayo Clinic)

Weight Loss Myths

Weight loss and nutrition myths – Debunking myths about food, dieting, and exercise. (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease)

Red meat consumption

Meat Intake and Mortality – Technical abstract of the NIH-AARP study. (Archives of Internal Medicine)

NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study: Impact of Diet and Lifestyle Factors on Cancer Incidence – Summary of the report and a downloadable PDF version of the research report. (AARP)

Paying a Price for Loving Red Meat – This article is a good overview of the NIH-AARP study. (New York Times)

Maya W. Paul, Certified Holistic Health Counselor and Suzanne Barston contributed to this article. Last modified: March 2009

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Healthy Dietary Fats

Guide to Understanding Fats; Choosing Healthy Fats for your Diet

For over thirty years, fat in our diet has been considered the culprit in obesity, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Unfortunately, the resulting “low fat” foods and diets haven’t resulted in most people controlling their weight or becoming healthier. In fact, the opposite is true.

It’s the type of fat that matters in addition to how much you consume. Reducing your intake of some types of fats reduces the risk of several chronic diseases, but other types of fats are absolutely essential to our health and well-being.

Sifting through all the conflicting information on fats can leave you with even more questions. What do you need to know about polyunsaturated fat, omega 3 fatty acids and other terms in the language of fats? Learn to incorporate the good fats into your diet while reducing your consumption of the bad fats.

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Myths and facts about fats and oils

Myths and facts about fats and oils

Myth: Eating a low-fat Diet is the best way to curb obesity.


  • The obesity rates for Americans have doubled in the last 20 years, coinciding with the advent of the low-fat revolution.
  • In the 1960s, Americans ate 45% of their calories from fat – and only 13% of us were obese. Now, while most of us get only about 33% of our calories from fat, 34% of us qualify as obese!

Myth: Low–fat diets are essential to help you lose weight


  • Ironically, cutting fat out of our diets seems to have the opposite effect: while Americans have been eating less fat, we’ve been gettingfatter. In place of fats, many people turn to foods full of easily digested carbohydrates, or to fat-free products that replace healthful fats with sugar and high-calorie, refined carbohydrates.
  • You need to cut calories to lose weight - fats are more filling, and curbing hunger can stop you from indulging in additional calories.
  • The 2006 Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial showed that women on low-fat diets didn't lose any more weight than women who followed their usual diets.

Healthy fats are essential to good health

The human body uses fatty acids to do everything from building cell membranes to performing key functions in the brain, eyes, and lungs. The functions of fats include:

  • Brain – Fats compose 60% of the brain and are essential to brain function, including learning abilities, memory retention and moods. Fats are especially important for pregnant women, since they are integral to fetal brain development.
  • Cells – Fatty acids help your cells stay moveable and flexible, as well as being responsible for building cell membranes.
  • Heart – 60% of our heart’s energy comes from burning fats. Specific fats are also used to help keep the heart beating in a regular rhythm.
  • Nerves – Fats compose the material that insulates and protects the nerves, isolating electrical impulses and speeding their transmission.
  • Lungs – Lung surfactant, which requires a high concentration of saturated fats, enables the lungs to work and keeps them from collapsing.
  • Eyes – Fats are essential to eye function.
  • Digestion – Fats in a meal slow down the digestion process so the body has more time to absorb nutrients. Fats help provide a constant level of energy and also keep the body satiated for longer periods of time. Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can only be absorbed if fat is present.
  • Organs – Fats cushion and protect your internal organs.
  • Immune System –Some f ats ease inflammation, helping your metabolism and immune system stay healthy and functioning.

"Faces" in the Fats Families

To understand good and bad fats, you need to know the names of the players and some information about them:

Monounsaturated fats

  • Are liquid at room temperature and turn cloudy when kept in refrigerator.
  • Primary sources are plant oils like canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil. Other good sources are avocados; nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans; and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds.
  • People following traditional Mediterranean diets, which are very high in foods containing monounsaturated fats like olive oil, tend to have lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Polyunsaturated fats

  • Are liquid at room temperatures as well as at cold temperatures
  • Primary sources are sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils, and also foods such as walnuts, flax seeds, and fish.
  • This fat family includes the Omega-3 group of fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and your body can’t make. In addtion, Omega-3 fats are found in very few foods.

Saturated fat

  • Are usually solid at room temperature and have a high melting point
  • Primary sources are animal products including red meat and whole milk dairy products. Other sources are tropical vegetable oils such as coconut oil, palm oil and foods made with these oils. Poultry and fish contain saturated fat, but less than red meat.
  • Saturated fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).
  • It is unnecessary to eat saturated fat sources since our bodies can produce all the saturated fat that we need when we consume enough of the good fats.

Trans Fats

  • Trans fats are created by heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen gas, a process called hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenating vegetable oils makes them more stable and less likely to spoil, which is very good for food manufacturers – and very bad for you.
  • Primary sources of trans fat are vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
  • Trans fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), as well as lowering HDL, or good cholesterol.

All fatty food contain several “fatty faces”

Each type of fat or oil is a mixture of different kinds of fats. The following chart shows how common oils have a balance of different types of fat:

Adapted from Harvard School of Public Health: What Type of Fat Is It?





Olive oil





Safflower oil










Stick margarine





The Omega-3 group: Super Healthy Fats

We should all be increasing our intake of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which we need for body functions like controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain. We’re still learning about the many benefits of Omega-3, but research has shown this fatty acid can have a positive impact on:

  • Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Epidemiologic and clinical trials have shown that omega-3 fatty acids reduce CVD incidence (American Heart Association), by:
    • decreasing risk of arrhythmias, which can lead to sudden cardiac death
    • decreasing triglyceride levels
    • decreasing growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque
    • lowering blood pressure (slightly)
  • Liver cancer: omega-3 fatty acids may be an effective therapy for both the treatment and prevention of human liver cancers. (University of Pittsburg study)
  • Depression: Omega-3 fatty acid DHA reduces symptoms of depression probably because it increases gray matter in the brain. (University of Pittsburg study)
  • Dementia - Eating fatty fish, high in omega 3, lowers the likelihood of developing “silent” brain lesions that can cause memory loss and dementia (University of Kuopio in Finland)

Types of Omega 3 fatty acids

The three key members of the Omega -3 family are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA);eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA); and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, or sardines, or some cold-water fish oil supplements. Canned (albacore) tuna and lake trout can also be good sources, depending on how the fish were raised and processed.

You may hear a lot about getting your omega-3’s from foods rich in ALA fatty acids. ALA is the most common Omega-3 found in American diets and is found in abundance in flax seeds and flax seed oil, as well as walnuts. While your body may be able to convert ALA into EPA and DHA, you can’t be sure – only some people have the ability to do so. Thus, to insure you get enough of these vital nutrients, it’s prudent to include fatty fish or fatty fish oil supplements in your diet. But, if you eat no fish or fish oil, getting just ALA is better than nothing - your cardiovascular protection may still go up, though not nearly as much as with fish oils.

Some people avoid seafood because they worry about mercury or other possible toxins in fish. Most experts agree that the benefits of eating two servings a week of these cold water fatty fish outweigh the risks.

Choosing the best Omega-3 Supplements

When choosing an omega-3 supplement, keep the following in mind:

  • One 500-mg capsule per day is sufficient – any more than that is extraneous and could even be detrimental to your health. The American Heart Association recommends consuming 1–3 grams per day of EPA and DHA. For certain medical conditions, higher doses of omega-3 might be beneficial, but make sure these are prescribed by a medical professional.
  • Choose supplements that are mercury-free, pharmaceutical grade and molecularly distilled. Make sure the supplement contains both DHA and EPA. They may be hard to find, but supplements with higher concentrations of EPA are better. A good ratio to look for is 3:2 (EPA:DHA).
  • Check the expiration date!

The Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio

Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are both essential fats (meaning the body can’t make them and instead we need to get them from the food we eat). The proper balance of these two fats is extremely important for a number of reasons – one being that omega-6 fats are the precursors for pro-inflammatory molecules (which helps us avoid infections and promotes healing) whereas omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory and turn off the inflammatory response when it is no longer needed.

In recent decades the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids has become way out of balance in the western diet. Most people consume far too many omega-6 fatty acids and consume far too little omega-3 fatty acids. This ratio is one of the important factors that can help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, inflammatory conditions, and depression.

Tips for helping to balance your intake of the omega fats

  • Avoid vegetable oils such as corn or safflower oil.
  • Reduce your consumption of meats and dairy products.
  • Eliminate highly processed foods.
  • Increase consumption of omega-3 rich foods such as wild-caught cold-water fish like salmon, flaxseed oil, and walnuts.

Understanding the “bad” fats

Damaged fat: letting good fats turn bad

A good fat can become bad if it gets damaged by heat, light or oxygen. Poly-unsaturated fats are the most fragile. Oils that are high in poly-unsaturated fats (such as flax seed oil) must be refrigerated and kept in a dark container. Cooking with these oils also damages the fats. Never use oils, seeds or nuts after they begin to smell or taste rank or bitter.

The worst fats: Trans fats (trans-fatty acids - TFA)

A trans fat is a normal fat molecule that has been twisted and deformed during a process called hydrogenation. During this process, liquid vegetable oil is heated and combined with hydrogen gas. No amount of these trans fats is healthy - if your diet doesn’t contain enough good fat, your body will use the deformed trans fats instead, which could possibly contribute to major health risks from heart disease to cancer.

So why are trans fatty acids (TFAs) so prevalent in commercial foods? Partially hydrogenated oils (what comes out of the hydrogenation process) are more stable (less likely to spoil), can be transported more easily, and can withstand repeated heating, which makes them perfect for frying up those French fries and burgers at your favorite fast food establishment.

Trans fats may be found in foods like:

  • Baked Goods -- cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and some breads like hamburger buns
  • Fried foods -- doughnuts, French fries, fried chicken including chicken nuggets, and hard taco shells
  • Snack foods -- potato, corn, and tortilla chips; candy; packaged or microwave popcorn.
  • Solid fats -- Hard margarine (stick margarine) and semi solid vegetable shortening.
  • Pre-mixed products -- cake mix, pancake mix, and chocolate drink mix.

TFAs tend to raise total LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lower HDL (good cholesterol). This can contribute to major health problems, from heart disease to cancer. No amount of trans fat is healthy, and should be kept below 1 percent of your total calories.

Be a trans fat detective

  • Use your own investigative skills to avoid trans fats:
  • When shopping, read the labels and watch out for “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients. Even if the food claims to be trans fat free, this ingredient tells you that the product is a trans fat suspect.
  • When eating out, put fried foods, biscuits, and other baked goods on your “skip” list. Avoid these products unless you know that the restaurant has eliminated trans fat
  • Most states have no labeling regulations for fast food, and it can even be advertised as cholesterol-free and cooked in vegetable oil. Eating one doughnut at breakfast (3.2 g of TFA) and a large order of french fries at lunch (6.8 g of TFA) adds 10 grams of TFA to one's diet, according to the American Heart Association.
  • Some cities (i.e. NYC, Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston), as well as the state of California, have banned trans fats in restaurants. This has caused some big chains to start to move away from using trans fats. Learn more and look into whether your city or state is part of this group.

Fats and your cholesterol

For many people, unless you have diabetes, there is only a weak link between the amount of cholesterol we consume and our blood cholesterol levels. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the biggest influence on blood cholesterol level is the mix of fats in your diet—not the amount of cholesterol you eat from food.

While it’s prudent to watch the levels of cholesterol you eat, healthy fats can actually help your body process cholesterol in a more beneficial manner. For example:

  • Monounsaturated fats lower total and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, while increasing good cholesterol (HDL).
  • Polyunsaturated fats can lower triglycerides and fight inflammation,
  • On the other hand, saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol. Trans fats are even worse, since they can not only raise your bad LDL cholesterol, but also lower the good HDL cholesterol.

If you have or are at risk for Cardiovascular Disease or Diabetes

Do not change your diet without consulting your physician!

The bottom line: How much fat is too much?

How much fat is too much depends on your lifestyle, your weight, your age and most importantly the state of your health. The USDA recommends that the average individual:

  • Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of calories
  • Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories (200 calories for a 2000 calorie diet)
  • Limit trans fats to 1% of calories (2 grams per day for a 2000 cal diet)
  • Limit cholesterol to 300 mg per day

However, if you are concerned about cardiovascular disease, the American Heart Association suggests a similar plan, but limiting saturated fats to less than 7% of your calories (140 calories for a 2000 calorie diet). You can figure out your personal daily fat limitations based on your body type and age here.

How do you go about implementing these recommendations? The simplest way to approach fats is to replace the saturated and trans fat in your diet with healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and to increase your intake of Omega-3 fatty acids. Use these percentages to your advantage by making sure the fat you do consume is healthy (monounsaturated or polyunsaturated).

Fat-friendly lifestyle tips: Out with the bad, in with the good

Okay, so you realize you need to avoid saturated fat and trans fat… but how do you get the healthy monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega-3 fats everyone keeps talking about?

  • Dress your own salad. Commercial salad dressings are often high in saturated fat, unhealthy chemicals, and made with inferior, overly-processed, damaged oils. Create your own dressings with high-quality, cold-pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil or sesame oil and your favorite herbs.
  • What’s better: butter or margarine? Both have good and bad points. With margarine, choose the soft-tub versions, and make sure the product has zero grams trans fats and no partially hydrogenated oils. Regardless of whether you choose butter or margarine, use it in moderation and avoid adding it to other foods. Olive oil is a healthier substitute.
  • The meat of the matter. Beef, pork, lamb, and dairy products are high in saturated fat. Reduce your consumption of these foods. When you do eat them, choose low-fat milk and lower-fat cheeses like mozzerella whenever possible; enjoy full-fat dairy in moderation. Go for lean cuts of meat, and stick to white meat, which has less saturated fat.
  • Don’t go no-fat, go good fat. If you are concerned about your weight or heart health, rather than avoiding fat in your diet, try replacing all the bad fats with good fats. This might mean replacing some of the meat you eat with beans and legumes, and using vegetable oils rather than tropical oils, which tend to contain more saturated fats.
  • Ask what type of oil your food is cooked in. When eating out, ask your server or counter person what type of oil they use in their cooking. If it’s partially-hydrogenated oil, run the other way. Otherwise, see if you can request your food to be prepared using olive oil, which most restaurants have in stock.

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References and resources for healthy fats

Understanding Healthy Fats

Nutrition Action Newsletter: Face the Fats – (PDF) Describes the complicated relationship between good fats, bad fats, and various diseases. (NUTRITION ACTION HEALTHLETTER, July/August 2002)

Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good – Overview on good and bad fats. Includes information on the latest studies about healthy fats and heart disease, obesity and cancers. (Harvard School of Public Health).

Healthy Fats – Explains what types of fats and how much of them should be included in a healthy diet. Includes a chart listing typical serving sizes. (University of Michigan)

Super healthy fats: Omega-3 Essential fatty acids

Omega-3 Fats: An Essential Contribution - What Should You Eat ... – All about health benefits of the important omega-3 fatty acids, including the best food sources in which to find them. (Harvard School of Public Health)

Choosing Fish for Nutrition, Safety, and Sustainability – (PDF) Comprehensive article on selecting fish rich in EPA and DHA with tips on both minimizing environmental pollutants and choosing sustainable fish (Kansas State University)

Omega-3 Fatty Acids –Simple charts listing Omega-3 Fatty Acid Content of Selected Foods (Tufts University)

The world’s healthiest foods: Omega-3 fatty acids – Rates foods based on their omega-3 content; discusses supplementation. (George Mateljan Foundation)

Omega-3 fatty acids – Comprehensive article on omega-3 and several diseases and conditions (University of Maryland Medical Center)

Micronutrient Information Center: Essential Fatty Acids – Comprehensive article on Essential Fatty Acids with detailed information on omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and the importance of their ratio. (Oregon State University)

Trans fats and food labeling

Trans fats 101 Detailed article on trans fats with tips and menu suggestions (University of Maryland Medical Center)

Trans fats now listed on nutrition label – Laws requiring food manufacturers to list trans fat on nutrition labels. How to read and understand trans fat listings. (USDA)

Nutrient Content Claims & Percent (%) Daily Value Guide to understanding all claims on food labels (American Diabetes Association)

Trans fat: On the Way out! – Periodically updated information on the ban of trans fats in restaurants with a chart listing where they have already been banned. (Center for Science in the Public Interest)

Fats, cholesterol and heart disease

Fats & Cholesterol – Discusses the relationship between fats and cholesterol and cholesterol’s effect on heart disease. (Harvard School of Public Health)

Trans fat: A cholesterol double-whammy– Trans fat lowers good and raises bad cholesterol, making it even worse than saturated fat in the fight against heart disease. (Mayo Clinic)

Meet the fats - some are better than others - The American heart Association’s campaign about the role of good fats and bad fats in fighting heart disease. (American Heart Association)

Eggs and Heart Disease - Discuses the role of eggs in your diet (Harvard School of Public Health)

Heart healthy tips for Eating Out

Your Guide To Eating Out Comprehensive illustrated article full of tips and suggestions (American Diabetes Association)

Maya W. Paul, Suzanne Barston, Jeanne Segal, PhD., Mary Toscano, and, Robert Segal, M.A. contributed to this article. Last modified: August 2009.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Skin Care Treatments

Skin makes the major part of the human body which is exposed to the external environment. This exposure to air, water and dust may cause serious skin problems. To avoid these skin problems, proper skin care treatment should be carried out in a routine manner. These skin care treatments keep the skin healthy and glowing, using skin care treatment for longer time will not let your skin look old.

Before going for skin care treatment, you should do proper homework to know about the skin type and tone. There are certain treatments designed for special types of skin. They can only work for the specific skins, other skins can not use it otherwise they will affect the skin adversely. Dry skins and oily skins are the two basic types of the skin. In case you have dry skin, then applying oily skin care treatments will make your skin drier.

However it is advised to use natural skin care treatments. It uses natural ingredients like roots, flowers, herbs and oil. Usually honey, milk and butters are used to make the skin healthy and sleek. These natural ingredients are mixed in different proportion to give the desired affect to the skin.

However it requires huge time to devise such skin care treatment in home. Therefore there are companies providing skin care treatments. These treatments are designed on the basis of skin types and the desired look of the skin. Skin lotions are the most used product for the skin care treatment. They are the most important part of every girl’s bag. They are simple to apply and use. Hand lotions, body lotions and bath lotions are used to keep the skin healthy.

Skin Care Treatments There are skin care treatments which are not natural and need surgery. To get wrinkle free skins or hairs removed, girls normally go for laser surgery. That can be effective, however it demands huge amount and due unnatural nature of the treatment, it also has its side effects. Therefore it is advisable to cure the skin using natural ingredients and products made up of natural in gradients.

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Skin Care Tips

Most people are affected by bad skin either due to the climate of a specific region or have it be hereditary. The causes are many, but the solutions are few. Or at least that’s how it used to be. Although there is no solution to permanently rid yourself of bad skin, there are certain procedures and steps one can take in order to benefit and care for bad skin.

The first thing to do is always clean yourself. Cleaning is a major part as it rids your skin of the old cells. The type of cleanser you use is an important determinant. Most people end up using bar soaps which tend to dry out their skin further, you would need a bar soap which in fact moisturizes your skin as well as contains the right mix of oil. Too much of it will end up blocking your pores and clogging them, whereas too little of it will leave your skin ashy and dry when you exit the shower.

Skin Care TipsAnother important factor in bad skin care is the exfoliation of the skin. It should be done on a weekly routine and the difference in noticeable immediately. Most men tend to exfoliate daily when they shave, which is why their skin looks overall better than most females. Exfoliation is basically removing the top layer of dead skin cells that dull a person’s complexion. There are many different price ranges and options available to suit anyone interest in this.

Skin Care TipsBad skin care is still not complete unless this step is completed. Looking into a good moisturizer is an important key factor to making bad skin vanish. The basic rule is that the skin will tell a person as to how much moisturize is necessary. If it’s too tight you need to moisture, whereas if you overmoiturize you may clog your pores.

The sun has a major impact on our skin as it contains UV lights which have a negative toll on our skin. The number one reason behind wrinkles is sun damage. The application of sun screen is an important part of overall skin care.

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Dry Skin Care

Dry skin has been around for many years affecting a wide range of people with different ethnic backgrounds and lifestyles. It does not matter who you are, what you do, we all have in some part of our lives been victims of dry skin.

Dry skin usually occurs on our hands, sides of our abdomen, and knees. It is usually common when the humidity level drops, especially in winter months. There can also be some hereditary or genetic problems which cause dry skin. Dry skin care is important as it can lead to other types of diseases as well, much more severe inflammation of the skin.

The best few things a person may be able to do with ease is to take showers or baths that are no more than 10 minutes each in lukewarm water. Application of moisturizer right after towel drying yourself from the shower is a key factor in dry skin care. Using the proper moisturizer, body soap, and hand soap have a major role that they play on our skins.

Some soaps have too many different types of oils for our skin type, so it is necessary to find the right one which gives us the best result. Certain soaps may leave our skin dry if they contain not enough oils, and some soaps may have too many oils and block our pores from oxygen. It is important to have a variety readily available at your hand for the current situation you are in. Heavier creams are more suitable in the winter times, as light lotions are important in the summer time.

Dry Skin Care Dry skin care can also be helped by using mineral water instead of tap water as some deposits in tap water may be damaging to your already dry skin. Applying a light mist of mineral water on your face and lightly patting it dry will show improvements instantly. The need of gentle cleaning is important, but there needs to be careful protection. Touching your face gently as well as handling it is one of the most important things any one can do to help caring for dry skin.

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©2009 Healthy Tips | by TNB