Listen to your body and eat what it needs

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By: Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

Bobbi Bowers/Flickr

Have you ever thought about why and what you eat?

Surveys show more than 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese and the number is increasing. Experts are debating what kinds of foods pack on pounds. Moderation in food and exercise are the best ways to manage your weight and prevent heart disease, cancer and more.

Some might ask if it’s fats or carbohydrates that make Americans overweight. Many diets eliminate whole food groups such as carbohydrates. The problem is that when one goes off the diet and returns to old, unhealthy eating habits, the weight comes back. If you want to lose weight and stay healthy, you have to eat fewer calories and exercise more. The idea or practice to simply cut out whole categories of foods from your eating does not work in the long-term.

Learn and practice how to choose healthy fats and carbohydrates. Experts recommend you reduce overall fat intake for heart health to reduce weight. Research shows some fats, used in moderation, have health benefits. Highly monounsaturated fats such as canola and olive oil are considered heart healthy.

Similarly, omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, flaxseed, walnuts and canola and soybean oils may protect against cancer. The questionable fats are saturated fats from animal proteins founds in foods like red meat, whole milk and whole milk products such as cheese and butter.

Fat moderation also means you limit the use of products that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which contain trans fatty acids. At one time, most margarine contained trans fats, but most companies have created versions that do not, so read the labels.

Refined carbohydrates such as white sugar, white rice and processed cereals raise insulin levels and encourage overeating. Then your body stores the excess fat at the waist and hips.

So eat more of unrefined carbohydrates such as whole wheat, whole oats, brown rice and bran cereals. These foods are digested more slowly and contain dietary fiber, which research shows is linked to lower colon cancer risks.

Also, eat cancer-fighting vitamins and phytochemicals in fiber-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Abandoning fruits and vegetables because they also contain carbohydrates could prove disastrous to your health. A wiser course is to eat moderate portions of the types of carbohydrates and fats that are good for your long-term health.

For more recipes and tips from Purdue Extension Educator Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, subscribe to the Food & Nutrition email newsletter.
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