Term Paper: Eating for Good Health

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[. . .] The second phase is called ongoing weight loss and this continues until the dieter has reached within 5-10 pounds of their desired weight. In this phase of the plan, carbohydrate intake is increased by 5 grams a week and in the order suggested in the diet plan. In the third phase, pre-maintenance, carbohydrate intake is increased by 10 grams a week and once again in the order laid down by the plan. In the final phase, lifetime maintenance, dieters learn to control their eating and maintain weight for life. This means a lifetime of following a similar regime as the dieter did throughout the plan, counting carbohydrates and sticking to a diet rich in fats and proteins.

A low-carbohydrate diet such as Atkins must be viewed with caution. Government recommendations clearly state that a balanced diet should include all food groups on the food pyramid and in the proportions suggested. The government guidelines also suggest that no more than 10 per cent of body weight should be lost within six months without there being some risk to health (such as the lack of menstruation often suffered by anorexics!) Carbohydrates have several functions in the body: they are broken down to provide energy and heat and stored as fat. They also spare proteins from being used to provide energy and heat - which happens when there is an inadequate supply of carbohydrates, depriving the body of nutrients derived from proteins (such as nitrogen from the breakdown of amino acids). Atkins and other such diet gurus claim that the body cannot handle high blood sugar that comes from eating carbohydrates and this leads to excess insulin secretion, which somehow creates a craving for more carbohydrates. Eating anything causes an increase in blood sugar - insulin is secreted when proteins are eaten, for instance. If we look at the advice given to diabetics controlling their condition through eating, these people are encouraged to cut down their intake of simple carbohydrates and choose complex carbohydrates instead, not to dramatically increase their protein and fat intake! The authors of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets tend to ignore facts like these when they talk about healthful nutrition. It might also be added at this point that 'banning' certain foods surely only encourages those seeking to lose weight to crave restricted foods all the more, which then leads to talk of 'addiction' to certain foods. it's a popular notion right now that people are addicted to sugars in their diet and many fad diets seem to talk about carbohydrate addiction in the same way as they would alcoholism or drug addiction. Then there's the question about encouraging dieters to eat more red meat when this in turn increases levels of saturated fat in the diet. Of course we need fats in the diet, but saturated fats have been proven to increase the risk of coronary heart disease through increasing blood cholesterol levels. There's also a proven link between red meat and colorectal cancer. The American Dietetic Association also points out that: "high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets tend to be low in calcium and fiber, as well as healthy phytochemicals (plant chemicals). Some authors of fad diets advise taking vitamin-mineral supplements to replace lost nutrients. However, supplements should 'bridge the gap' in healthy eating and not be used as a replacement for nutrient-rich foods." Looking at the Atkins Center website, there is a whole section dedicated to products to use in conjunction with the program - from food bars and low-carbohydrate ready meals to a host of supplements - is this perhaps a case of marketing drive over the drive for health?

Another favorite fad diet approach to weight loss is ultra-low-fat eating. In the U.S.A., the name Dean Ornish is synonymous with this kind of reduction dieting and in the UK, diet guru Rosemary Conley has sold millions of books and other products, with regular TV appearances since her first book hit the shelves in the 1980s. Ornish has written several books, both for coronary heart disease patients and for reduction dieting. The Ornish approach to dieting means a vegetarian diet, with a fat intake of around 10 grams per day. Government guidelines suggest no more than 30 grams of fat should be eaten in a day - so Ornish's suggested reduction in fact consumption is dramatic. The Ornish regime means excluding all cooking oils and animal products aside from non-fat milk and yogurt. High-fat plant foods such as avocados and nuts and seeds are also off limits for those following Ornish's diet plans. In his book Eight More, Weigh Less - based on his Life Choice Plan - the author suggests that dieters 'graze' throughout the day rather than stick to three large meals and it differs from other weight-loss diets in that the amount of food that can be eaten is not restricted. This diet program is an adapted form of the diet devised by Ornish for reduction of blood pressure and blood cholesterol in coronary patients, but is marketed as a weight-loss plan. In common with other approaches to dieting, Ornish and others like him (such as Conley in the UK) also talk about exercise and other positive lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation and stress reduction techniques.

On his website, Ornish states that the reason for cutting down on fat from the diet is that breaking down fat for use as energy burns more calories than cutting carbohydrates. He also suggests that regaining weight is often caused by eating less food: "You can eat fewer calories by consuming less food. That's why you can lose weight on any diet, but it's hard to keep it off because you feel hungry and deprived. An easier way to consume fewer calories is to eat less fat, because fat has nine calories/gram whereas protein and carbohydrates have only four."

Fats within the body have various functions. These include: providing energy and heat; supporting body structures such as the kidneys and eyes (which both have fatty pads behind them for protection); transporting fat-soluble vitamins a, D, E and K; making up the protective coating of nerves (the myelin sheath); making up sebum; providing an energy store and insulation as subcutaneous fat deposits; and helping postpone the feeling of hunger through prolonging the emptying time of the stomach.

Once again we must stress that cutting down the variety of foods we eat may do more harm than good. A balanced diet is vital for health. Essential fatty acids such as linoleic acid cannot be made by the body, but come from polyunsaturated fats in the diet. A diet without any animal products (meat or fat) removes the most natural way to take in beneficial substances such as fish oils, which can help protect the body against heart disease. Suggesting that people suddenly become lacto-vegetarian (ie vegetarians that do eat dairy produce) in order to lose weight and look after their health is somewhat extreme and verges on irresponsible as it may also be counterproductive. For the dieter, vegetarianism means yet another banned food to add to the growing list from the various popular diet crazes and, sadly, yet another reason to fail in the long-term. Taking on a whole new approach to eating - such as vegetarianism - is a perfectly valid choice when done for either ethical reasons or for disease prevention. But while many people may choose to have the odd vegetarian meal occasionally, a wholly vegetarian diet is not the everyday choice of the vast majority of the population. Soybeans may be grown in the U.S.A., but they are not what most think of as a national dish! http://www.gnc.com/health_notes/Diet/Dean_Ornish_Diet.htm" There are many reasons for the popularity of various diet crazes. It only takes one a-list celebrity follower to create a craze for a particular diet plan. Publicity is all and it seems the more coverage gained in the media for a diet program, the more likely members of the public are to try emulating their rich and famous heroes and heroines. Then there's the willingness to try new options where other ways have failed - seeking a 'quick fix' by letting someone else do the hard work of calculating what to eat and what to avoid. As the increasing popularity of diet drugs and fat-burning supplements also prove, the 'easy' way is often the most attractive. But the simple truth is that there is no 'easy way' when it comes to adopting a healthy lifestyle. Fad diets tend to cut out essential nutrients. When the human body is forced into a state of fasting, the body eventually digests not only its fat stores, but cell proteins from muscle and other tissues can end up being broken down for fuel. Regular exercise is also an important factor in a healthy lifestyle if we are seeking to prevent ill health, rather than simply cure illness and much as fad diets may suggest exercising, how is the dieter to do this when starved of energy? Healthy eating should be for… [END OF PREVIEW]

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