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Good nutrition for positive weight control

Never before have the statistics on obesity been so high in New Zealand, with more than half of the adult population being either overweight or obese. When we look at these statistics, we find that the NZ pattern is similar to the United States trend.

Good nutrition for positive weight control

Information on good nutrition and what we should and shouldn't eat seems to change so frequently, it is often hard to keep up with the latest research and ideas. There are definitely some very specific "trends" with relation to "diet and what to eat and not" and some do have foundation and scientific basis - however be careful of the ones that sound "too good to be true", as they usually are.

On average only three meals per week are cooked in the home and the average time spent cooking the main meal is only 30 minutes. Since the trend of frequently eating out is expected to continue, strategies to improve the diet are essential and must address our food choices when eating out, as well as when preparing and organising meals.

I have been helping people reduce their total body fat levels for many years now and the key to doing this successfully is actually quite easy. In fact, a lot of it is just plain common sense.

In today's diets, researchers have found more and more of us are consuming far too many carbohydrates (rice, pasta, potato, bread, sugar) and too little protein (such as meats, fish, nuts and seeds). For the health professionals who are seeing these people, this is posing a real concern - especially as new research shows that some of our major health risks may be initiated by such diets.

Lets look at this a little closer....

A too high a carbohydrate intake produces too much insulin...

Insulin is the hormone that is produced by the pancreas when we eat sugar or foods that release sugar upon digestion, such as carbohydrates. Insulin enables our cells to absorb glucose from the blood. The cells process the glucose to make the energy they need to function. However , if you eat too much sugar or carbohydrates in proportion to your protein intake, your pancreas will pump out too much insulin. This can have many harmful effects.

The pancreas may, over time, become fatigued and no longer able to produce insulin, leading to diabetes. The high level of insulin causes insulin resistance. This means that there is so much insulin in the blood that the cell receptors may become exhausted or may not be produced in as great a number. The cell then becomes unreceptive or resistant to the effects of insulin.

The problem is that when cells become resistant to insulin, they lose energy and messages are sent out, which make the pancreas produce more insulin. This increases the levels in the blood, or hyperinsulinaemia, which leads to more resistance.

This is a problem because insulin causes the body to store carbohydrates as fat and stops fat being used as a source of energy production. So the high levels of insulin being produced by the over consumption of carbohydrates (or eating the wrong type of carbohydrates) will not only make you fat, but keep you fat and this may be one the major reasons why people are not able to effectively reduce their total body fat levels.

The importance of maintaining muscle mass...

Many practitioners, who are working specifically with fat loss, are finding that when they are "measuring" peoples total muscle mass, this is coming up well below the optimal amount for their height and age. This is of major concern, as we now know that maintaining a "positive" or active muscle mass is essential for good health, as well as longevity.

Muscle mass is considered by experts as our No.1 biological marker for aging. To maintain an active muscle mass and to stay anabolic (building of healthy cells), we need to consume more calories from low fat protein sources and less from starch-based carbohydrates.

Typically, lean-body cell mass, but especially muscle mass, declines with age. From young adulthood to middle age, the average person looses 3kg of lean body mass per decade. This rate of loss accelerates after the age of 45.

Muscle is a key determinant of metabolic rate. A higher metabolic rate will typically result in more kilojoules being consumed per day and greater control over body fat mass. To achieve long-term weight control, muscle mass must be adequate. As well as this, a progressive reduction in basal metabolic rate is a recognised characteristic of the aging process and diminishing muscle mass may be largely responsible for this.

So what can we do to address these issues?

Have a close and honest look at your own diet and exactly what it is that you are or are not eating. To get your metabolism working you need to eat regularly. Don't think that because you may be carrying extra fat, you need to eat less - in fact, this couldn't be further from the truth.

It is ideal to eat smaller, more frequent meals, so your metabolism keeps working all day.

Don't leave breakfast too late after rising and then consider eating each 2½ hours during the day.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner should consist of a good portion of protein (about the size of your own palm), a smaller carbohydrate and a big salad or lightly cooked vegetables (but not potato or other starchy vegies).

You should have snacks (to keep your blood sugar levels up and your metabolism working), but ideally these should consist of protein only. A handful of almonds, an egg or a portion of a delicious protein bar are good choices.

Eating out for dinner is easy - choose a steak, fish or chicken with vegetables. An oil and vinegar dressing is a good choice.

Cut out the simple carbohydrates - lollies, sugar, white flour products, soft drinks etc.

We all need to drink more water - but ideally not at a meal, as this dilutes your digestive enzymes. Get a sipper bottle so you can accurately monitor how much you are drinking and sip on this consistently throughout the day - ideally no less than 2 litres a day.

Exercise is essential...

The more exercise you can do, the more fat you will burn. Any "movement" that produces resistance (rowing, swimming, weights etc) will also help to increase muscle mass - so long as your protein intake is adequate. If you are not used to doing any exercise, you may want to seek the advice of a professional trainer. But remember - any exercise you do, you will benefit from - so start off realistically and work up from there.

For more detailed information on insulin resistance, protein, building a better muscle mass and fat loss in the new millennium, phone any of the team at Ideal Health. Ph 0800 HEALTH.

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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

If you need help or advice, please email our naturopathic team with your health question.  Please allow 48 hours for a response.

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