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Quite often I my clients whether or not they drink and the answer is often “Only a little on social occasions.” Now I don't know about you, but you can have at least 365 social occasions each year, if not one every weekend. There is a great deal of media coverage given to research about the benefits of moderate alcohol intake in reducing your chance of heart disease and granted there may indeed be benefits, but aren't there other, safer ways to reduce your likelihood of cardiovascular disease, like good nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight. Last time I checked alcohol didn't help too much with the latter two categories. Alcohol contains 7 empty calories per gram. It can also wreak havoc on your hormone levels, damage your liver, dehydrate you, depress you, impair your judgment, addict you and leave you with an always fashionable beer belly - but don't let that stop you from drinking socially or for health reasons.
Whenever people gather around and cite the news, or media as a source of health information I always bring up margarine. In the 1980’s it was touted as the new health food, and a far superior alternative to butter, as it was low in saturated fats. Just as it is today, no one questioned the veracity of those statements and we seem to have ignored the fact that we know today that margarine contains the worst type of fat possible, trans fatty acids which we know well as hydrogenated oils. These fats are artificially created and the human body simply is not able to function well with this new synthetic fat that man has made to make foods last longer on the shelf and give them a smooth texture and taste. Banned in many parts of the world outright, trans fatty acids lower your good cholesterol, and hike up the bad cholesterol. It also has been linked to an increase in risk of heart disease and diabetes. No one has yet to come out and say to the general public that the media, the books, and the TV shows with countless doctors proclaiming the benefits of consuming margarine over butter as a way to prevent heart disease and yet we still let ourselves be educated by those that stand to gain a lot of money form endorsing products that they have a vested interest in. We spend so much time learning about ways to make money by way of our careers, but invest little in learning what is best for our bodies.
Milk is a high sodium, high fat and high sugar food that will bloat your physique and keep you from attaining the look that you are training for. We grew up hearing (thanks to the great sums of money invested by the dairy association lobbyists) that milk was the 'perfect food' and that’s true if you are an infant. As we get older however our ability to digest milk declines. This, along with the fact that adult mammals do not drink milk leads me to believe that milk is a food geared towards a particular stage of our development. As an adult, drink it regularly and just watch your toes disappear. If you have to drink it stick to the skim version and not the 1% and 2% variety. (Ladies, don’t worry about calcium and osteoporosis if you decides to skip milk- there are many better alternative and to be honest there are no validated studies to show that calcium loss is prevented by drinking milk or taking supplements. What has been observed is that calcium loss can be prevented by increasing weight bearing exercises and increasing exposure to Vitamin D. It doesn’t sell dairy products, but keep in mind as well that in Europe and the United States, milk is a staple, and yet we have high incidences of bone loss in our population, while many in third world countries where milk is not consumed they have no such occurrences. Sadly bone loss has far more to do with a high sodium, high caffeine, high phosphorus diet (from carbonated beverages) and or alcohol intake, lack of exercise and sun exposure.
4. Non-Dairy Creamers.
This one almost got past me. Apparently creamers are made with hydrogenated oils and trans fatty acids- the same fatty stuff that makes cookies and donuts taste so good. Unfortunately they will also destroy your health and your waistline so stay away from them. (The FDA does not yet require that trans fatty acids be listed, but if you see hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list you'll know it's there.
3. Rice Cakes
As odd as it may sound, rice cakes have a higher glycemic index than sugar due to their low fiber levels- so forget about adding it to your diet if you are serious about getting and staying in shape. They are also so highly refined that they are also devoid of nutrients, and don’t even consider the chocolate and butter flavored versions. Read more in good carbs vs bad carbs.
A personal favorite. I love to hate granola in all of its incarnations. It is marketed in a manner similar to the aforementioned rice cakes as a 'health food' with labels proclaiming that it is 'all natural', well, natural does not mean good for you! Granola is nothing but candy with good press. It’s chock full of sugar, fat and calories and are best left on the supermarket shelf.
1. Diet Shakes
Another one of those suspicious 'health foods'. They promise quick nutrition and weight loss in a gulp or two, the truth is usually far less promising. Firstly, the majority of those so called 'shakes' like Slim Fast, are nothing but glamorized milk shakes. That's right- milk shakes, filled with sugar and fats, with some vitamins thrown in for good measure. So forget about a quick fix, if you want to get slim fast, put the shake down, it will only get you fat fast. Protein shakes are on that negative list as well as they are no more than milkshakes with better publicity. Read more about protein shakes here.
Information contained in this article is not meant to treat, diagnose illness, nor substitute for medical counsel and is intended for purposes of information and education only. Consult your physician before modifying your diet or starting any exercise program. Copyright 2009 by Kevin Richardson, Naturally Intense NYC Personal Trainer.
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Controlling Your Eating Habits
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Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs
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