With spring around the corner, it’s a matter of weeks before we’re bombarded with advertisements for fad diets and quick-fix diet pills. Everywhere you look – your Facebook feed, magazines, television – you’ll see miracle weight loss promises pop up like blossoms in spring.
If you’re desperate to lose weight before the warmer weather arrives, these fad diets might sound tempting. But beware, cautions Dr Peter Hill from Met-S Care, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. “Diets must be based on sound nutritional science. Any diet that is not derived from science and proven research is ultimately bound to fail,” he says.
It’s not all bad news, though, because there is ample research around eating plans that are successful not only for weight loss but for overall improvement in health too. One such example is the oft-talked about Low Carb Healthy Fat (LCHF) diet, which has demonstrated its success in many well-designed studies. “I would like to make the point, however, that any diet that is narrowly focussed, in other words, only focussed on the food and drink a person consumes, is doomed to fail in the end. To be successful in weight loss and to see overall health improvements, we must focus on our physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual aspects, too,” says Hill, who is also a researcher in metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of chronic conditions that include, amongst others, increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level (or Type 2 diabetes), excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol (low HDL cholesterol) and high blood fat levels (triglyceride).
South African obesity prevalence data reveals that approximately 70% of adult women and 40% of adult men are overweight or obese, and 80% of obese adults suffer from metabolic syndrome. “Not only are we fatter but we are sicker than ever with 40% of South African adults over the age of 35 hypertensive and the prevalence of all of the other fellow travelers of the metabolic syndrome, including, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and dementia riding the pandemic wave,” comments Hill.
So what is causing this increase in obesity and metabolic syndrome? Hill says it’s largely because of the foods we eat. “We have been told for years that the solution to weight gain is to exercise more and eat less, particularly less animal fat. However, we now know that carbohydrates cause havoc with our systems, and we have to undo the years of misinformation around their consumption.”
Carbohydrates, especially glycaemic carbohydrates, are easily converted into blood glucose and this increases insulin levels faster than proteins do (dietary fats have little or no impact on insulin secretion). Extended and high levels of insulin make the body really good at storing fat and not very good at burning it, making weight gain and retention inevitable. This is often accompanied by constant hunger and lack of energy.
“If insulin regulates fat storage, then bringing insulin levels back to normal should be the main objective. This can be achieved by cutting out sugar and other refined carbs and moderating protein consumption. If you are going to consume carbohydrates, make sure they’re low glycaemic complex carbs especially those that contain high amounts of fibre,” says Hill. “Your body responds differently to them, you digest them slower and they have a more moderate effect on blood-sugar levels. The high fibre also provides roughage and aids in digestion. However, these ‘good’ carbohydrates should still be consumed moderately and should only make up a small portion of your diet.”
He continues, “We have been told repeatedly that there are a few simple lifestyle modifications that we can apply in an effort to improve health outcomes. These include the obvious ones such as healthy eating, smoking cessation, losing weight, getting enough sleep and exercise, reducing stress levels, and not drinking too much. Now people need to learn the importance of following a diet that is based on controlled carbohydrates (no sugar and refined carbs), moderate proteins and sufficient healthy fats. Remember, a successful eating plan is associated with long-term or permanent weight loss, as well as additional health benefits.”
Hill concludes by sharing these golden rules about healthy eating:
- Cut out sugar and refined carbs, eat complex carbs in moderation, and consume sufficient protein and healthy fats.
- Insulin is the ‘fat building’ hormone and so any diet that regulates insulin, provides essential nutrients and sufficient energy goes a long way in providing a balanced diet.
- Low-fat or fat-free diets and products may be ‘unhealthy’ because of the amounts of added sugar used to make them taste better.
- Avoid trans-fats, margarine and re-heated seed oils as these are ‘unhealthy’ fats.
- Avoid anything with added sugar and that includes all sugar sweetened beverages, fruit juice (loaded with sugar), cakes, biscuits, sweets, sauces, canned fruit, low-fat sweetened dairy products (e.g.yoghurt) etc.
- Watch your consumption of fruit and starch-laden vegetables.
- ‘Calories do count’ and so portion size is important. Watch the protein – we generally need much less protein than we think we need.
- Keep hydrated by drinking water.
|Complex carbs (medium carb vegetables and grains)||Sugar-laden foods||Low carb fruit||Low carb vegetables||Healthy fats||Unhealthy fats|
|Kidney beans, broad beans, black beans, lentils, cashew nuts, peanuts, soya beans, peas, Corn, sweet potato, rice, oats, carrots, beetroot||Cakes, biscuits, chocolates, sweets, canned fruit, fruit juice, sugar sweetened beverages, ice cream, beer||Berries (black, blue, cranberry strawberry), lemon, lime||Spinach, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, cucumbers, peppers, baby marrow, eggplant, gem squash, cabbage, asparagus, pumpkin, butternut (limited)||Avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, olives, low-carb peanut and nut butters, coconut flour, almond flour||Margarine, seed oils (e.g. canola, corn, sunflower oil), trans fats (e.g. Used in commercially-baked biscuits, pastries, cakes, crisps)|
If you are living with any of the chronic conditions associated with Metabolic Syndrome and would like help to modify your lifestyle and improve your self-care, visit a Dis-Chem pharmacy and get help. Met-S Care works with Dis-Chem Pharmacies to empower people living with Metabolic Syndrome to take control of their condition. Read more at www.metscare.com.