Dr. Kevin Most: Spring exercise and the importance of nutrition
As the weather finally appears to be changing and warming up, we start to pull our summer clothes out of hibernation. For some you may find that the summer clothes shrunk thru the winter and in order to save some money you may consider exercise and diet instead of complete replacement of your wardrobe.
We all know that during the winter we often exercise less and eat more heavy comfort foods to get us thru the long winter with cold days and short sunlight. For many the thought of dieting is painful, and we really are not good at it. Eating smart is much better than the diet many of us have fallen into thru the winter. This is a great time to educate yourselves on some nutritional highlights that may help you shape your future eating habits. Remember eating habits and diets impact your health well beyond the number you see on the scale.
Let’s take a minute to look back over the last year and see what research taught us this year about nutrition. We all want to know what diets are the best and what foods we should avoid because of the unexpected negative effects.
One of the more popular studied dietary habits had to do more with timing than actual diet. A popular well studied diet is the diet of intermittent fasting. This is a plan where the individual fasts for a set number of hours each day. This has been shown to help lose weight, improve their health and some studies show may extend your life. This diet does not discuss what to eat but instead, when to eat. The most popular ones are the daily 16 hour fast, for this the individual eats from 1 pm until 9 pm, skipping breakfast altogether, and then fasting after 9 pm for the next 16 hours, and then repeats the cycle. There are other plans that look at fasting for 24 hours one to two times a week, now many cannot handle that so they have a very low calorie diet 2 times a week, 500-600 calories total for the day. The 16/8 diet is the more popular of the fasting diets.
Studies have shown that these diets boost 2 important metabolites that are needed to rejuvenate the body and thus keep the body younger for longer.
But wait!! What about breakfast being the most important meal of the day? What about breakfast being needed for diets where weight loss is the goal, what about it being the foundation for the day. Well, a study published last month in BMJ. Researchers found that those who skipped breakfast actually had less body weight than those who had breakfast regularly and also it found that those who ate breakfast had a higher total daily calorie intake. The study did not address the type of breakfast which can have large swings in caloric value, think about the individual that has oatmeal or an egg versus the pancakes, bacon, buttered toast items we often equate with breakfast.
First we can do some math on calories, this is helpful as most restaurants have calories posted for items or meals and it can help you set a goal for your day. The average woman needs to consume about 2000 calories a day to maintain their weight, the average man needs 2500 calories a day. Now these are average and do not take into consideration daily exercise, height, weight, age or employment. If you want to lose one pound a week, women would have to cut back to 1500 calories a day and men should set a goal of 2000 calories a day to lose that pound.
Need a little perspective-
Burger King Whopper- 672 calories
McDonalds Big Mac – 561 calories
Medium French fries – 200 calories
Pizza hut Slice – 200 calories
Coke 12 oz.- 150 calories
Salads- Caesar’s- 600 calories
Salads with Vinaigrette- 200 calories (the calories are all in the dressing)
Minestrone soup bowl- 250 calories
So just the simple Burger, Fries and Coke can get you over 1,000 and that is saying you don’t super-size or refill your drink. If you do you are closer to 1,400 calories, oh yeah I forgot you want cheese on your burger tack on another 100 calories. Trying to put on weight, get the double whopper or the Wendy’s baconator, both of these approach 1,000 calories if you add cheese. Trying to lose weight consider a salad with a good dressing or a cup of nondairy based soup
There are great websites with calorie counting information for almost any fast food or fast casual restaurants. One I like is Calorie King. Being informed allows you to make good decisions for your heart and your weight as many of these items are loaded with salt as well as fat.
Now some of the choices we can make seem quite simple when we think about them but are much harder to actually put into our lives. A perfect example is ultra-processed foods, although we all probably know they can be harmful, the ease of purchasing them leads them into our diet. These foods have been shown to have high contents of sugar, salt and fat, all of which make them taste good. However most are low in fiber and the nutritional value is close to zero.
A study completed last year actually showed that an increase in your diet of 10 percent ultra-processed food actually leads to a 14 % higher mortality risk. Many may be asking what are examples of ultra-processed foods. How about chips, candy, ice cream, boxed cake mix, canned vegetables, frozen pizzas are just some examples. Each of us probably looks at this list and sees something on that list that we consume each day.
One key to a better diet is to eliminate these from your diet or make a conscious effort to cut back on these and substitute with fresh vegetables or fruit.
If you are looking to start a diet understand that the goal should not be just weight loss, it should also have a goal of good health. There are so many diets and we all have friends that tell you which is the best diet because it worked so well for them. If you google weight loss diets the list goes on forever. I will give you the top diets as supported by the medical field. The goal of these diets is not only weight loss but actually good health.
The top two diets in e opinion of many are the DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet. The great thing about both of these diets is it actually teaches and promotes a new way to eat. Both diets promote whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats like olive oil. Both of these diets are low in red meats and promote fish and other lean proteins. If you are planning on a diet consider looking up both of these. There is plenty of information on these diets and the best thing is both are sustainable diets. This is in contrast to many other diets that are structured to just lose weight. Often dramatic weight loss diets will work as the individual is motivated, however they bounce back and put the weight back on as they revert back to their old habits. These two diets are actually more of a way to live than a “diet”. Couple healthy eating with a reasonable exercise program and you will protect your body from many cancers, diabetes and heart disease and hit your goal of weight loss as well.
What other simple foods can we add to our diet to make an impact on our weight and overall health? A few unique studies completed in the past year discuss three items we probably don’t think of every day, Flaxseed, Blueberries, Onions and garlic.
Hopefully many of you have heard of and are using flaxseed. Flaxseed can be used in many foods including baked goods as well as smoothies. The reason it is so good for us is it contains a healthy form of fat, fiber and antioxidants. That combination helps lower the risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease. A study recently completed shows that it also helps balance cholesterol levels and lowers blood pressure. It is digested quickly and thus lowers obesity markers and aids in weight loss while giving some protection from colon cancer. When taken before a meal, flaxseed fiber may make you less hungry when eating your regular meal and thus you eat less.
Flaxseed can be added to breakfast cereal, can be added to sandwiches or can be added to yogurt. Each of these are simple to do and will improve your health.
What about onions and garlic? A study completed last month shows that these two key ingredients in many foods are important in protecting our health. Garlic has been known to have antibacterial properties and many use it to fight the flu or treat insect bites. The study completed last month shows that these two also have anti-cancer effects as well. These vegetables are in the allium family of vegetables, and the study looked at individuals who ate large amounts of these and compared to others who ate a small amount. The group that had these regularly in their diet had a 79 percent lower risk of colon cancer.
Now many may not like the smell or odor of garlic and onions, or you may be more concerned about heart disease based on your family history so let’s discuss blueberries. A study out of London last month showed that the blueberry is loaded with antioxidants that aids in heart disease. The study looked at individuals who ate 200 grams of blueberries each day for a month, they found that these individuals saw a significant drop in the blood pressure of these individuals. The investigators looked at these individuals and determined that they would have needed blood pressure medication daily to achieve this result. If you are an individual who wants to get off your blood pressure medicines, a combo of daily exercise, salt restrictions and blueberries may get you that result.