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Dietary Habits That Make a Difference

You might have heard this one: “I’m on the Atkins Diet so I can eat as much fat as I want.”

Or maybe this: “I’m taking statins. Don’t have to worry about weight or cholesterol.”

Here’s a better saying by which to eat and live: “You are what you eat.” Let’s see what that means in today’s world.

In this four-part series, we summarize key dietary knowledge and recommend habits that can make a difference in your long-term health. In part I of our series, we look into BMI, calories, exercise and fat in your diet. In part II, we will examine the role of sugar and carbohydrates. In part III, we will report on antioxidants and the combined impact of sugar and fat. In the final part, we will recommend dietary habits for life.

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LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni

What is your BMI and why does it matter?

Do you need to lose weight? How much? Looking in the mirror is a start, but it’s better to look at the chart and see where you stand. Your body mass index (BMI) is a comparison of weight to height that provides a reliable indicator of fatness for most people.

“Losing weight and maintaining an appropriate BMI is not a matter of dieting,” points out LIUNA General Secretary Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni, stressing the need of a healthy diet and regular exercise. “Work yourself and your family into a comfortable, healthy, life-long dietary regime. It may be a struggle at first, but your tastes will evolve, you’ll feel better and you’ll be rewarded physically and emotionally.”

What is the exercise/calorie equation?

No matter how much you exercise, it is difficult to lose weight without a proper diet. But with a proper diet, exercise will accelerate weight loss, tone your muscles, strengthen your body, increase your flexibility and improve your health.

To improve health and reach your target BMI, you need to consider reducing your total caloric intake, changing the balance of foods in your diet and exercising more as well.

What is the appropriate calorie level for you?

Among people of median height and weight (adjust for your own status), a moderately active adult man, aged 19-30, needs 2600-2800 calories per day while a similarly situated woman needs 2000-2200. Between ages 31-50, men need 2400-2600 calories, and women need 2000. After age 50, men’s needs drop to 2200-2400 while women’s drop to 1800.

Reducing weight requires cutting caloric intake or burning additional calories through exercise (or a combination of both). Daily caloric reductions of about 500 calories will result in weight loss of about one pound per week. However, daily intake below 1800 calories for men or 1200 for women is unhealthy.

What is the newest information about fat?

Today, science divides fat into four categories. The healthier are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated kinds, which come mainly from plant sources. Saturated fat is okay, too, but in moderation. Trans fat is best kept to a minimum.

Keep your total fat consumption down; aim for 20-35 percent of your daily caloric intake. Saturated fat should be ten percent or less of your total calories. Trans fat should be less than one percent.

Next month: sugar and carbohydrates.

[Steve Clark]

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