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Taking the fat out of fast could help cut obesity

Taking the fat out of fast could help cut obesity

The ‘obesity crisis’ hit the headlines again this week with the news that the increasing number of takeaways on our high streets was partly to blame for the nation’s expanding waistlines.

Apparently, there are now more than 61 outlets per 100,000 people, compared with 47 in 2010. Research by Cambridge University showed a link between increased access to fast food and higher body mass index.

When I first started studying nutrition, I saw a rather disturbing video of a 20-year-old McDonald’s meal. I say disturbing because it looked like it had just been cooked. Even the fries appeared fresh. Why? Preservatives galore of course.

If it’s bad for you why does it taste so good?

It’s often said that all the food that is bad for you is what tastes the best. This is what makes takeaways so popular, as well as the fact that they are a quick and easy option for those who can’t or don’t want to cook – or just need to grab a bite of what makes them feel good.

But, ultimately, fast food cons the body into eating more. In fact, the term ‘junk food’ is an accurate description. This is because the high levels of sugar, salt, fat and preservatives in processed foods play havoc with our neurotransmitters and hormones.

Our brains receive signals from pleasure pathways that use hormones, such as serotonin and dopamine, which influence our eating behaviours. That is why we tend to eat more if we’re bored or stressed.

Hunger hormones tell us when we need to eat and, importantly, when we are full. Leptin in the fat cells decreases appetite, while Ghrelin does the opposite as the stomach empties. Processed foods disrupt this process by distorting the hungry hormones, encouraging us to overeat.

Healthier options

In the US you can find fast food outlets offering ‘broiled chicken’, which is far healthier than the fried version. But this is not available in the UK. Ideally, all takeaway chains should be encouraged to bake, grill, steam or boil instead of frying.

Other healthy choices are:

• More salads
• Baked potatoes instead of chips
• Switching to low sodium salt, such as pink Himalayan
• Offering burgers without the bun
• Dip meals, such as hummus with sticks of carrot or cucumber
• Using meat from animals not fed on antibiotics, corn or soybeans
• Batter-free chicken nuggets
• No more super-sizing (unless a customer specifically asks for it)

Start healthy eating young

The NHS has estimated that one in five children aged between 10 and 11 are obese. It is important therefore to get them eating healthy foods to prevent them becoming overweight adults.

One way of doing this is to make cooking fun. Easy recipes that parents and children can do together at home, using good healthy ingredients. Burgers don’t have to be off the menu – make them with quality meat and serve with salad and a baked potato.

But can you really encourage people to ditch fried food and eat less, I hear you ask. Well, according to Deloitte, this is already happening. In 2017, they conducted a survey on long-term food trends. More than three-quarters of respondents said they had adopted healthy eating habits; at last half thought that portion sizes at fast food restaurants were too large and 83% believed that the typical fast food menu didn’t offer enough healthy choices.

With just a few simple changes it’s possible to enjoy a takeaway without piling on the pounds.

Healthy weight healthy cholesterol

Have you been trying to lose weight, but also wondered about your cholesterol? You don’t have to be overweight to have high cholesterol, but overweight people are more at risk of high cholesterol and the dangers it presents. Lowering your cholesterol levels can help you lower your weight.

How can lower cholesterol help weight loss?

Most people know cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in our blood and can lead to the clogging of our arteries. However, cholesterol is also found in all our fatty organs–liver, heart, brain and reproductive system–areas of the body that cholesterol testing normally does not include. Our cells need cholesterol for the integrity of our cell membranes, that is, to build structure to the cell. It is also important for producing hormones such as oestrogen, testosterone, adrenalin, and helps the metabolism to work more efficiently.

There are two types of cholesterol. One is called HDL (high density lipoprotein) and the LDL (low density lipoprotein).

  • HDL is known as “good cholesterol” because it works with the liver to eliminate excess cholesterol from your body.
  • LDL is called “bad cholesterol” because it takes cholesterol to your arteries, leading to the clogging of our arteries as mentioned before.

What are the usual suspects when it comes to cholesterol and weight gain?

When lowering cholesterol most people don’t know quite where to start in terms of what sort of things to eat. The obvious culprits are those that are high in saturated fats. Lard, full fat cheese, and meats that contain a high level of fat all fall into this category. Meat products to watch for include sausages, meats that you eat with the skin, or processed meats.

Other foods you should be avoiding are if you want to lose weight and keep a healthy cholesterol are:

  • Cakes and sugary treats. Raise your LDL and will lower your HDL.
  • Crisps (potato chips). These are high on the processed food list.
  • Refined Grains products. These are high on the glycaemic (sugar) index and will raise your LDL.
  • Milk and cheese products. Milk fat can have negative effects on your cholesterol due to some of the fatty acids it contains.

What foods should I include in my diet to lower cholesterol and lose weight?

If you want to be healthy and maintain a good weight, including beneficial and healthy foods that also contribute to lowering cholesterol levels, such as:

  • Fresh vegetables: Cabbage, artichokes and broccoli are foods that protect your arteries from a build-up of plaque.
  • Salmon: This fish promotes good cholesterol because of the essential fatty acid it contains.
  • Nuts: Almonds are good for weight loss, due to their antioxidant properties and as a protein they also help fight weight gain and promote a feeling fullness.
  • Beans and legumes: These are high in fibre and we need fibre to get rid of excess cholesterol.
  • Olive oil: This is a good fat, and we need good fats to break down bad fats.
  • Avocado: These contain good levels of soluble fibre and a source of good fat.
  • Garlic: Apart from tasting great, it has so many positive health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol, and reduces blood pressure, which sometimes goes hand in hand with high cholesterol.

Not enough has been said about how fibre can lower cholesterol. It helps rid the body of excess cholesterol by binding with the cholesterol. Because fibre is not digested, the cholesterol bound to it passes through digestive system along with the fibre without being absorbed by the body.

The importance of adding fibre into your diet for lowering cholesterol

Soluble fibre is something that is often found lacking in the western diet. This may be because eating things like potatoes, which are easy to make, are low in fibre but easily accompany most other foods groups in a meal.  However, adding more fibre into our diets is not as difficult as it sounds with a little planning.

  • Oat bran. Typically people will have porridge oats for breakfast, but did you know that by adding things like 2 tablespoons of soluble fibre like oat bran into foods like soups, casseroles, smoothies and salads, is an easy way to increasing your intake of fibre?
  • Lentils, beans and peas. Increase your variety of foods to make lentil casseroles, add some beans and peas into your rice dishes to add that additional fibre.
  • Salads and vegetables. You can also add fibre into salads, dips include some roasted vegetables as a side dish with your protein, when you have your
  • Fresh fruit for dessert. Choose a healthier option that contains fibre, like a good fresh fruit salad containing, apples, strawberries, prunes, pears…all this mixture of fruit adds fibre into our diet.


The importance of drinking water to support weight loss

It is important to stay hydrated to help shift toxins out of the body. Water also helps to deal with cravings for food. Sometimes people eat more when they are dehydrated, because they confuse it with hunger when in fact they need hydration. Drinking in between meals will stop your hunger.

Completing your meal before 9pm

You should aim to complete your last meal of the day by 9 pm. Otherwise you will be going to bed on a full stomach, giving your digestion and liver an extra workload that it doesn’t need.  Optimum “liver time” is between 1 AM – 3 AM, when it filters the toxins from the blood in preparation for the next day. Eating after 9 PM disrupts this flow of digestion and interferes for the liver to fully recuperate while you sleep.


Everything is linked in the body

In this blog I have addressed how cholesterol levels can be linked to weight management. When you lose weight you can also use the opportunity to lower your cholesterol, if necessary.


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