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By Teresa Roberts
I have a simple way of solving our country’s healthcare problem long term. Every citizen needs to take responsibility for keeping themselves healthy by eating right and exercising. If we have children in our home we need to teach them about nutrition and how to make wise choices outside of the home. Our healthcare decisions are made in the grocery store and restaurants. We can make healthy, nutritious choices, or we can make wrong choices which give us short term pleasure with long term consequences. When we begin to suffer the consequences of bad choices we end up at the doctor’s office or the hospital. This is where we make “sick care” choices.
We know our health is directly influenced by what we eat. That should be our key motive for eating healthy. We live in a media culture that puts tremendous pressure on folks to be beautiful and skinny. This has resulted in an epidemic of eating disorders. It doesn’t matter how great your body looks, or how skinny you are if you have an unhealthy heart with clogged arteries from a build up of fat substances. As Kenneth Cooper said, “It is like having a Cadillac body with a dead engine!” If we simply focus on eating right for the benefit of being healthy, weight loss, healthier organs, prettier skin, shinier hair etc. will be the end result. It is what the latest fad diet promises, but unlike the fad diet, your results do not end with the fad. Eating healthy has to be a way of life. You have to develop the habit of making health conscious choices.
The biggest killer in the United States is heart disease. I understand that all heart disease is not from a lack of exercise and diet, but the majority is. We are going to focus on fat, because I believe evidence prove fat to be the biggest culprit in most American’s diets. Does this mean a no fat diet? Absolutely not! Our bodies need healthy fats. Fats help nutrient absorption, nerve transmission, and maintenance of cell membranes. Nonetheless, when we consume an excess amount, fats contribute to weight gain, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Fats are not created equal. Some fats promote good health while others increase our risks of heart disease. The key is replacing bad fats with good fats in our diet.
Monounsaturated fats (MUFA) are one of the good fats. These fats lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol). Nuts, including peanuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios, avocado, canola and olive oil, are high in MUFAs. MUFAs have also been found to help in weight loss, particularly body fat.
Polyunsaturated fats are also considered a good fat. These fats lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Seafood like salmon and fish oil, as well as corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils are high in polyunsaturated fats. Omega 3 fatty acids belong to this group.
The bad fats are saturated fats, which come from animal fat and trans fats. Saturated fats raise total blood cholesterol as well as LDL, the bad cholesterol. These fats are mainly found in animal products such as meat, dairy products, eggs and seafood. Some plant foods are also high in saturated fats such as coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. Trans fats were invented as scientists began to “hydrogenate” liquid oils so that they could withstand better during food production process and provide a better shelf life. As a result of hydrogenation, trans fatty acids are formed. Trans fatty acids are found in many commercially packaged foods. Commercially fried food such as French fries from fast food chains as well as other packaged snacks such as microwave popcorn has these fats. These fats are also found in vegetable shortening and hard stick margarine.
So what can we do? Avoid using cooking oils that are high in saturated fats and trans fats such as coconut oil, palm oil, or vegetable shortening. Instead, use oils that are low in saturated fats such as flaxseed oil, canola oil, or olive oil. Minimize your use of commercially packaged foods which are high in trans fats. Always read labels to look for trans-fat free alternatives. As saturated fats are found in animal products, use lower-fat version dairy products such as 1% or skim milk instead of whole milk. There are thirty- two pats of restaurant butter in one gallon of whole milk! Trim visible fats and skins from meat products.
We need to learn to read labels and count our fat grams. According to leading nutritionist, no more than thirty percent of your daily intake of calories should be fat grams. One gram of fat has nine calories. Note, carbohydrates and proteins have only four calories per gram. As you can see fat has twice the calories. Most Americans on an average take in eighty- two fat grams a day! If we are consuming fifteen hundred calories a day, thirty percent of our fat grams would be fifty grams daily. Fifty grams aren’t required, but you want to consume no more than fifty grams. If you will keep count for a month you will be in the habit of making health conscious decisions.
No one can do this for you. Think of the long-term results of bad choices. You will lose quality and longevity of life. Only you can take responsibility for your health. It is a personal decision. The American people can rescue themselves from the healthcare crisis by investing in prevention rather than focusing on cures. Medical treatment often involves treating ongoing symptoms rather than cure. The time to take responsibility is now, and it is never too late. This week go out in the fresh air and sunshine for a walk, and begin counting fat grams. You will see results!
Teresa Roberts is owner of Masterpiece Fitness, and a Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, WaterArt Instructor, Water Rehabilitation Specialist, Sports Conditioning Specialist, and Cancer Exercise Specialist. Please check out her website @ masterpiecefitness.com. Find Masterpiece Fitness on Facebook. For questions, comments, or appointments, email: email@example.com, or phone 276-236-8748, (cell) 276-237-6680.