Thursday, January 29, 2009

Never say diet!

(Or eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you diet)

RICE and fish ‘til they rest in peace—that’s no longer the perennial Filipino diet that has turned any which way, shaped over the years by the available food choices and a weakened peso purchasing power that can hardly grapple with ever-rising food costs. Once dirt-cheap galunggong or round scad fetches P80 a kilo as of January 2009. Some 30 million families grub on less than a U.S. dollar daily (about P50); so they turn to more affordable instant noodles, P5 per 65-gram packet oozing with salt and industrial-strength flavors to hush howling tummies.

Weight- and waist-watchers the world over can take a cue from the Pinoy daily food fare that guarantees restricted calorie intake. Fact is, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization country profile sort of paints Filipinos as fashionably skinny—nearly 32% of preschool children are underweight-for-age, about 20% of adolescents and 13.2% of adults including adults were underweight making them chronically energy deficient.

More than half of local households had less than 100% per capita energy intake— why, calorie restriction diets which supposedly prolong life isn’t a craze yet hereabouts—resulting in loss of body fat among adults and stunted growth for children.

On the other hand, overweight and obesity affect a significant proportion of children, adolescents and adults—pleasingly plump but predisposed to certain health risks as evidenced by the rising trend in prevalence of diseases of the heart and vascular system.

Consider diet: a particular selection of food, designed or prescribed to improve a person's physical condition or to prevent or treat a disease. Today, the term connotes a food regimen to improve one’s physical condition likely to pare down unsightly bulges or cause weight loss. From vintage 1970s Atkins to celebrity endorsed Zone, every letter of the English alphabet stands for as much 10 diets, each seeking to shed a dieter’s pounds. There’s even a 3-hour diet, a-pound-a-day-in-21-day diet—each touted to induce weight loss.

The most current weight-loss fad, the morning banana diet has Japanese women going bonkers over Philippine bananas—which accounts for over 90% of bananas consumed in Japan, making local exporters richer by $400 million in 2007. To shed excess avoirdupois—a pharmacist invented the diet for her overweight hubby—the dieter can splurge on bananas and lukewarm water for breakfast, eat anything for lunch or dinner before 8 p.m., and hit the sack before midnight.

It turns out that the human brain works best with around 25 grams of glucose running in the blood stream— roughly the same amount found in a banana. So, a banana binge for breakfast may likely make the dieter go bananas.

The fad spread via social networking sites, peaked in popularity by 2007 and turned up books, testimonials from actors, and a television show. Fact is sweet potato or the humble camote— body-builder chow which has powered Jamaica’s Usain Bolt to several gold medal-swiping runs in the 2008 Beijing Olympics-- has higher and more bio-available potassium and energy-dense simple sugar than bananas. In fairness, camote may likely draw the attention it deserves, become the cynosure of weight-watcher’s eyes in due time.

MOST delicious-sounding of all weight-loss regimes: “The Chocolate Diet” a low calorie, low fat diet plan with small amounts of chocolate allowed daily cooked up by British diet author and editor Sally Voak promises a loss of seven pounds in two weeks. The catch: chocoholic shuns off chocolate in the first week to rein in dark cravings, a 50-300-calorie daily chocolate allowance in the second week.

The diet, spelled out in a $20 book has an exercise add-on: choco-bingers, sugar addicts and premenstrual cravers are advised to walk briskly for at least 20 minutes daily, be involved in a relaxing exercise such as swimming or yoga a couple of times a week.

The diet is touted as good for chocoholics who don’t want to give up the cravings. Too, it promotes intake of veggies—but the calorie allowances are too low for most dieters and those who are very physically active. And it may not be helpful for non-chocoholics.

THE regimen of ascetics, passive dissenters like Mohandas K. Gandhi fasting to the death for political ends, and some 30 million Filipinos still scrimping on grub on their tables to keep body and soul together: calorie restriction or anti-aging diet.

However, while the lifespan of many animals (monkeys, rats, spiders) were extended with restricted calorie intake, many theories exist as to why the various experiments on animals have resulted in longevity. And it’s tough for the dieter since sufficient nutrition (vitamins and minerals) must be maintained while lowering energy intake as much as possible.

Even so, this diet has gained many adherents the world over, fired with hopes of living long lives.

DR. Robert Atkins wrote about the Atkins Diet in the 1970s and had Time Magazine dubbing it “the most popular diet program.”

The weight loss program is hinged on the process of ketosis-- the lowered level of carbohydrate intake nudges the body to use up its fat reservoirs. Too, carbohydrates coax creation of insulin to convert the excess to fat—less carbohydrate, less insulin, less add-on fat.

The diet has four phases-- each with a carefully controlled level of carbohydrate intake:

·Phase 1 lasts for at least two weeks and calls for a maximum of 20 grams of carbohydrate intake-- no starchy vegetables, fruits, grains, or breads.

·Phase 2 involves adding more fibrous vegetables (carbohydrates) until the so-called “Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing” is reached. The calibrated increases in carbohydrate intake are carefully managed on a week-by-week basis.

·Phase 3 and 4 keeping up stages in which carbohydrate intake can be increased - but only until the point that weight is maintained. Shun any food that may lead to weight gain.

Atkins has been very successful for many people and has resulted in not only significant weight loss - but also health improvement. Atkins is a high-fat diet—and most government health agencies recommend not more than 30% fat in our diet. But with Atkins you can easily consume more fat than this.

Too, one must question how healthy is ketosis -- it may have the desired short-term effect, but what about the long term? And certain organs may be overworked to sustain the process of ketosis.

LITERALLY the father of all diets, Chankonabe is a deliciously revolting fare taken twice a day to gear up girth with blubber— and sumo wrestlers have to pile up poundage in gargantuan proportions for the demands of the sport. Records have it even sumo grand champions—they pack as much as 800 pounds in heft—don’t die from split-second bursts of violence in the ring, Heart and brain attacks do ‘em in.

Chankonabe is legal steroid, a hand-me-down concoction from the 19th century— gallons of chicken, fish, horse meat, pork or beef stock a-simmer in a huge wok, tossed in with chunks of miso (fermented soy bean paste), tofu, carrots, cabbages, leeks, potatoes, lotus roots, daikon radishes, shiitake mushrooms, and burdock roots… a yummy protein-packed brew that, Japanese believe, helps make the bones denser. It’s healthy taken in moderation.

But sumo wrestlers ought to have bottomless appetites— 10 bowls of chanko, eight huge bowls of rice, 130 pieces of sushi, and 25 portions of barbecued beef washed down with beer plus an occasional side dish of shrimp siomai (steamed dumplings), omelettes or fried chicken is routine eating for one meal. A wrestler named Takamisugi attained legend status for downing 65 bowls of the stew— about 29 pounds of beef—in one sitting. He stopped: his jaws got tired munching.

Proteins and carbohydrates provide 4 calories; fats pack 9 calories per gram. But not all foods have the same number of calories per unit of volume, say, a cup of cucumbers has 14 calories while one cup of raisins bursts with 520 calories. That's the secret for bulking up: choose calorie-concentrated foods.

The best proteins for gaining muscle come from lean meat-- chicken, lean beef, egg whites, turkey and fish. Shun fatty cuts of beef, as well as pork, sausage, bacon and whole milk products because they ooze with huge amounts of artery-clogging, unhealthy saturated fat.

GOUT gets the goat of overweight people—keeping up a healthy body weight keeps it at bay. Too, extra fluid intake can help flush uric acid crystals out-- beer and alcoholic drinks can’t and ought to be shunned. Along with prescribed medications, a low purine diet can bust bouts with joint aches. Certain foods pack purine, the chemical that turns into uric acid when broken down in the body.

A gout management diet includes foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, low in protein and low in fat.

Shun these high-purine foods like the plague: beer, anchovies (bagoong Pangasinan or Balayan included), organ meats (brains, kidney, liver, tripe, innards or the sweetbreads that go into heavenly kare-kare, callos, dinuguan, or bopis), game meats, gravies, yeast, meat extracts, sardines, herring, scallops.

These can be taken in moderation: fresh and saltwater fish, shellfish, eel, meat, poultry, meat soups and broth, asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower, spinach, legumes, oatmeal, bran, wheat germ, whole-grain breads and cereals, eggs.

Some people have found strawberries helpful while certain nutrients in dark berries may help ease down hellfire in joint points, even lower the uric acid. Oily fish like salmon, or fatty acids in virgin coconut or olive oil or nuts ease inflammation too.

FOLLOWING a low-carbohydrate diet akin to Atkins, dieters Neris Thomas and India Knight together shed 140 pounds in one year—their combined weight was 434 pounds—and turned up the “Idiot Proof Diet” to share what they learned with others.

The food regimen, spelled out in their Idiot Proof Diet book—retails at $25—consists of three phases, Phase 1 is an all-low carbohydrate stage similar to the Atkins diet induction phase. The initial is the most extreme— with carbohydrate and caffeine intake at the pits—and it took six months for Thomas and Knight to get through this.

In Phase 2 dieters are permitted a daily carbohydrate allowance of 40-100 grams. By Phase 3 dieters can slowly add carbohydrates each week-- if there’s weight gain occurs, pare down on carbohydrates again.

In all phases of the diet, refined carbohydrates and sugars are shunned—refrain from bread, pasta, rice, potato and desserts. Recommended: meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, cheese, butter, cream, green vegetables, avocado, nuts, and herb tea. Dieters are encouraged to increase their exercise—walking is acceptable-- to at least 20 minutes daily.

The authors point up the psychological aspects involved in weight loss. They also acknowledge how closely food intake is related to emotional well being.

As idiot-proof as it gets, the diet doesn’t involve calorie-counting, and is easy to follow with familiar foods. The rub: the weekly grocery bill can balloon since high protein foods and fresh produce fetch high prices. Too, high protein diets can lead to constipation owing to inadequate fiber intake. The consequent rapid rate of weight loss may not be healthy and there is the risk of increased weight gain after carbohydrates are reintroduced.

QUALITY of living depends on the liver, goes the quip. Dr. Sandra Cabot of Australia must have taken that in earnest, plied out “The Liver Cleansing Diet” in 1997 that became a serious bestseller.

Poor diet and nutrition hampers the functions of the liver— a major actor in neutralizing toxins and metabolism plus some 500 other functions. Dr. Cabot avers that improved liver function can induce weight loss—she had worked with 1540 patients for two years that had a 100% success rate via liver cleansing. Impaired liver functions can touch off these symptoms that, it is claimed, can be weaned with a liver cleansing diet:
· Abdominal bloating
· Overweight
· Poor digestion
· Frequent fatigue and headaches
· Ill moods
· Bad breath and coated tongue
· Irritable Bowel Syndrome
· Sluggish metabolism and allergies
· Overloaded immune system
· Hypertension
· Alcohol intolerance or excess alcohol intake
· Inability to lose weight

The liver detox diet calls for the dieter to :

· Eat only when hungry.
· Drink 8-12 glasses of filtered water every day.
· Limit intake of refined sugars, shun artificial sweeteners.
· Identify and refrain from allergy-causing foods.
· Eat fresh food, with plenty of raw fruits and veggies.
· Avoid excessive saturated or damaged fats.

Heaping the onus of health issues on the liver is a tad simplistic an approach to dieting. Too, there is dearth of scientific evidence to bolster claims that detoxifying diets are effective.

ALow Salt Diet” aims to cut the daily intake of sodium chloride, the common table salt. Daily recommended intake of sodium is 2.4 grams-- or a teaspoon of table salt per day.

Studies have ascertained that a reduction of sodium can lead to a lower blood pressure: a level of 1,500 mg—less than a half-teaspoon-- has been found to have the best affect for people with high blood pressure (or hypertension).

Many foods contain ‘hidden’ quantities of sodium, so it pays to read the food label. Better still shun canned, convenience, cured or processed foods that pack oodles of salt in various guises.

THE three-phase “South Beach Diet” plan was drawn up by cardiologist Dr Arthur Agatston based at Mount Sinai Hospital, South Florida for his overweight heart patients. The patients lost weight and got excellent health results.

A two-week induction phase without rice, pasta, and breads starts out the South Beach Diet. Right off, weight loss at this period ranges from 8 to 13 pounds. Meats, shellfish, chicken, turkey, and fish can be taken-- along with nuts, fat-free cheese, eggs, salads, and veggies.

Phase 2 puts the carbohydrates back on the menu-- very sparingly, that leads to weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week.

Phase 3 is toughing it and loving a healthy lifestyle, eating health-giving foods and keeping the ideal weight.

Sane and sound principles of eating in balance, little-and-often, carbohydrates of low glycemic index—or those that don’t cause blood sugar levels to soar instantly-- make up the South Beach diet that had socked positive impact on the feeding habits of millions.

Drawback: There are some food items, say, turkey and salmon, that aren't budget-friendly and good nutritious foods fetch premium prices than highly-processed convenience chow.

SOUTHERN Mediterraneans have a lower incidence of heart disease than their Western counterparts. The good culprit: lower levels of saturated fat in their food fare. Voila: Mediterranean Diet that offers oodles of vegetables and fruit, salads slathered with olive oil, bread, pasta, and other grains. Plus wee amounts of animal-based protein from occasional intake of fish and poultry; red meat is rarely eaten. Low to moderate quantities of wine—a glass a day with a meal-- and some eggs round out the menu.

Southern Mediterranean peoples—in Greece, Spain and Italy-- don’t see their everyday food fare as a heart-healthy diet—it’s a way of life.

THE “Macrobiotic Diet”-- it hews close to the Far Eastern philosophy of macrobiotics (or "Great Life")-- has the numbers on its menu down pat:

· 50% whole grains
· 25% seasonal vegetables, cooked or raw.
· 10% protein foods - such as fish or legumes.
· 5% seaweeds
· 5% soups
· 5% fruit, nuts, or seeds

Its adherents contend that food should be organically grown, eaten fresh and—no wolf downs, please-- chewed slowly, in a relaxed manner.

Sugars, spices, alcohol, eggs, meat, and cheese are out as these can whack out the body's tenuous yin and yang equilibrium.

Macrobiotics is more of a way of life than just weight loss diet.Too, there are claims made about the healing properties of the macrobiotic diet—say, cancer and heart conditions have been tamed by this diet.

Here's the rub: there lurks nutritional deficiencies in this diet-- particularly calcium and iron.

CHEW that cud of diets but for most Filipinos, despite a hundred or less grassroots food terminals called Bagsakan Centers up in the drawing boards, access to food is still the most pressing woe. To address this, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) has turned up nutritious meals, P22 a pop that needs to be dished out for the dirt-poor in 46,000 barangays all over the country.

No comments: