Antioxidants are also anti-fat
Free radicals are now blamed not only for making you look old but also for making you fat. Dr Zane Andrews, neuroendocrinologist at Monash University, says these oxidizing molecules damage the cells that tell us we’re full. Free radicals emerge when we eat, which is something even the keenest dieter must do to survive, but they’re especially prevalent when we gorge on chocolate bars, chips, and other carbohydrates. With every passing year, these fullness signifiers suffer wear and tear – causing the ‘stop eating!’ signal to get weaker and appetites (and possibly our stomachs) to get bigger. The best way to fight back? Avoid the junk and load up on colourful, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
Pick a diet, any diet
As established diet books constantly reinvent themselves to sell copies and win converts, a curious phenomenon has emerged: Ornish, Atkins, and everyone in between are sounding remarkably similar. The low-fat gurus now say that certain fats are okay, while the low-carb proponents are beginning to endorse whole grains. With every new guideline and selling point, each diet acknowledges that there are really four basic rules to healthy eating (drumroll, please):
• Consume carbs in the form of whole grains and fibre.
• Avoid trans fats and saturated fats.
• Eat lean protein.
• Fill up on fruits and vegetables.
The low-carb South Beach Diet, for example, now espouses the virtues of eating the Mediterranean way-including lots of carbohydrate-rich fruits and vegetables. The latest Atkins book emphasises the ‘good carb’ message, too. Weight Watchers, a champion of the points system, is now offering a ‘no counting’ option based on healthy choices like those above. Jenny Craig is pushing Volumetrics, a high-volume, low-kilojoule strategy. And everyone gives a thumbs-down to processed and sugary carbohydrates, which cause insulin to spike and can lead to more fat and even diabetes.
Low-fat-diet guru Dr Dean Ornish, says, “It’s the end of the diet wars.” His most recent book, The Spectrum, even offers recipes that can be prepared in various ‘degrees’ – from a vegetable chilli served plain (low-fat) to one served with olives (more fat) to still another served with turkey breast sausage (still more fat).
The key to all of this, of course, is moderation rather than deprivation – eating in a way you can live with. And for some people, an important side effect of eating more plant-based foods is that it’s better for the environment and good for your health.
You can be fat and fit
A growing body of literature suggests that size doesn’t matter when it comes to your health. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine surveyed 5440 American adults and found that 51 per cent of the overweight and almost 32 per cent of the obese had mostly normal cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, and other measures of good health.
Further defying conventional wisdom, the article also reported that 23.5 per cent of trim adults were, in fact, metabolically abnormal, making them more vulnerable to heart disease than their heavier counterparts.
The latest Australian Department of Health recommends accumulating 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities each week.
Try some tricks for sneaking in fitness throughout your busy day like forgoing the elevators for the stairs, getting off one train or bus stop earlier, and parking your car a few blocks away.
Remember exercise scientist Steven Blair, the self-described short, fat, bald guy? At age 69, his blood pressure is in check, his cholesterol levels are normal, and his heart is strong. What’s more, he may have even more positive vital signs, according to his recent study in the journal Obesity: men who are fit (determined by their performance on a treadmill) have a lower risk of dying of cancer than out-of-shape guys, regardless of their body mass index, waist size, or percentage of body fat.
The news is heartening, says Blair, “We don’t have great tools to change people’s weight, but we know we can change their fitness levels.”
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