Viewing entries tagged
Diet

Cheat Meals: Sin or Savior?

Cheat Meals: Sin or Savior?

Dieting can be really tough, especially when there is so much conflicting information out there – eat this, not that; do that, not this. The topic of cheat meals – or even cheat days – is no exception, and the debate it engenders can get a little heated. After all, both food and health are passionate subjects. What’s it all about, though? Is it really possible to have one meal a week, where you eat whatever you want, and still maintain – or even lose – weight? Cheat meal advocates say yes, and they say they’ve got the science to back them up. 

A Psychological Boost

One of the biggest benefits of cheating, advocates claim, is actually a psychological one rather than a physical one. Everyone knows how tough it can be to stick to a strict regime, and the idea is that a cheat meal will allow you to relax your regime once a week, helping you to stick to it the rest of the time. It provides that added incentive to be ‘good’, because you know that you’re earning a splurge on the weekend[1]. That’s a dangerous road though, and only works for some. It can, potentially, lead to that famous slippery slope. Joe Vennare, creator of The Hybrid Athlete, warns that “some people can’t make the switch from healthy to unhealthy. Once they get a taste of sweets, they binge and can’t go back. It throws off their entire diet plan, serving as a setback instead of a small break from the rules”[2].

 

What Exactly is so Super About Superfoods?

What Exactly is so Super About Superfoods?

We all know the importance of healthy eating, and we all know the dangers that come with a bad diet and an unhealthy lifestyle, but it can certainly get confusing with all that conflicting information out there. The concept of ‘superfoods’ is no different. The term has been subject to both praise and condemnation since it became popularized in the 1990 book Superfood by Michael Van Straten and Barbara Griggs[1], although it still remains quite firmly in the lexicon of many health-food advocates. In fact, between 2011 and 2015, the number of food or drink products containing the word ‘superfood’, ‘superfruit’, or ‘supergrain’ has doubled[2], and they claim to be stuffed full of nutrients and antioxidants that will not only make you look and feel better, but will ultimately help you to live longer. That’s quite an appealing consequence, but are superfoods really as super as they claim to be?

Superfoods

Alison Rumsey at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in New York City explains that superfoods are those foods which have a high content of vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants, and they are important, she claims, because “a lot of things can cause inflammation in our bodies, and cells get oxidized, which can cause many different disease states. Antioxidants help to get rid of these free radicals that happen when you have oxidation”[3]. Superfoods can lower your risk of chronic disease, improve the ageing process, improve depression, increase intelligence, and improve physical ability,[4] according to advocates.

Although, as the American Heart Association point out, there is no set criteria for determining what exactly is and is not a superfood[5], there are certainly some foods that fit the description of being especially nutritious and as a result, seem to uphold the idea that superfood advocates seek to promote. Take almonds as an example. There is solid, scientific evidence to show that almonds are one of the richest sources of vitamin E, and research demonstrates that they can help control cholesterol and blood sugar whilst reducing inflammation. Avocados, similarly, are fantastically rich in nutrients, providing around 40% daily recommended intake of fiber for a woman, 25% vitamin C, 16% vitamin E, 39% vitamin K, and 30% folic acid – all of which makes avocados great for cholesterol control, for diabetes, and even to act as a natural sunscreen. Kale is another oft-stated superfood that has the research to back it up. At only 33 calories for 100g, kale has 200% of your daily vitamin A intake, 134% vitamin C, and a massive 700% vitamin K, making it great for bone health and to help prevent blood clotting[6]. With evidence like that, it’s hard not to take superfood claims at face value.

 

Cheat Days: Heaven-Sent or Wishful Thinking?

Cheat Days: Heaven-Sent or Wishful Thinking?

Dieting is hard. It’s as simple as that. You are depriving yourself of the things you love and if you are new to dieting, there is a chance that you could be suffering withdrawals from sugar and processed foods too. If only there was a way to maintain a healthy diet and eat the things you love. Well perhaps there is. Many now argue that having a ‘cheat’ meal or even a whole day can actually help rather than hinder your weight loss goals. What this means in real terms is that whilst you continue your dieting struggles, you can still indulge in your favourite things on a regular basis, albeit once a week rather than once a day! Some go on to argue that not only is a cheat day enjoyable, but it’s also vitally important to the success of your regimen. Carolyn O’Neil, co-author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous, explains that “sensible splurging is really the key to being able to achieve a healthy lifestyle.”[1] Sounds good right? But is it too good? Can a cheat day really be good for your diet or is it all just wishful thinking?

Motivational Donuts

Perhaps one of the most obvious benefits to a cheat day whilst dieting is a psychological one. It can be tough when you are stuck eating things that perhaps you don’t enjoy whilst seeing everyone else tuck into your favourite foods. The idea of never getting a taste of that delicious treat again can be devastating – and could potentially de-rail even the most determined dieter. So the possibility of a motivational donut or other treat at the end of the week could really help keep you on track. Joe Vennare, creator of Hybrid Athlete, says just that. “It’s a reward for hard work in the gym and adherence in the kitchen,” he claims[2]. Jillian Guinta, professor of Health and Physical Education at Seton Hall University agrees with him, stating that “oftentimes, it may take several weeks to see the scale budge, so knowing that a cheat day is coming up can help keep up motivation.”[3]

 

 

Diet and nutrition: Our instinctual tendencies to consume more calories than needed

Diet and nutrition: Our instinctual tendencies to consume more calories than needed

     It’s hard to look anywhere without finding some dismal statistic about the weight problems prevalent in our society. The 2011-2012 CDC statistics for the rate of obesity in Americans found that 35% of adults were obese; the 2009-2010 statistics found that 18% of children above 6 were obese, too.[i] It’s considered such a problem that First Lady Michelle Obama has developed a campaign to address the prevalence of childhood obesity. We are bombarded with information like this and told that we must, simply must, change for the sake of our health, yet still there’s only been modest improvement in the numbers. A 2007 study in Australia found that although people trying to change their diet usually undertook that change, only 26% of those people were sticking to it rigidly six months in.[ii] Even when faced with the life-or-death decision to change one’s diet following a heart attack or stroke, in a 2013 study only 39% of patients reported eating healthier food after such a life-shattering event.[iii] Why is it so hard to maintain healthy eating habits, even in the face of so much societal pressure and personal incentive to do so?

 

 

 

The Addictive Nature of Carbs

The Addictive Nature of Carbs

Carbohydrates are a complicated business when it comes to eating healthy and losing weight.  It's not easy when the advice seems to contradict itself, with some diets telling people to cut out carbs completely and others touting the benefits of a carb-laden eating plan.  However, recent research conducted at the Boston Children's Hospital seems to have finally laid the carb question to rest, as findings suggest that processed carbohydrates are not only bad in themselves but that they can trigger cravings for further calorie-laden, sugary goods.  

A Fight for Health: The Commonalities of the Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, Slow Carb, and Flexitarian Diets

A Fight for Health: The Commonalities of the Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, Slow Carb, and Flexitarian Diets

Weight loss and health are big business these days, and with so many fad diets claiming to be ‘the one’ to help you meet, or even beat your goals, it is difficult to decide which ones to believe.  There is a group of diets, however, that are increasingly gaining in popularity.  Not only do they argue for a lifestyle change rather than a faddy quick fix but they all advocate similar eating patterns and for very similar reasons.

Google+