The way you eat and the way you drink can affect your lifestyle. The bad eating habits that follow can influence you both psychologically and physically. But it's never too late to improve your eating routine.
All it takes is some common sense and self-control.
1. Overeating: The Commonwealth Department of Health and Nutrition estimates that a third or more adults are overweight, increasing chances of obesity, raised blood pressure, arteriosclerosis (hardened arteries), strokes, coronaries, diabetes and gout.
What you can do: Eat less each day and exercise more. Omit luxury foods such as ice cream, bacon, pies and sweets, and substitute low-calorie foods. For example, replace homogenized milk with skim, or orange juice with tomato juice. Eat boiled eggs instead of scrambled, and eat fruit for dessert instead of pies.
2. A poor nutritional balance in meals: This is often compounded by the problem of food faddism. Many dieters endure semi-starvation before they return to bad eating habits. Some diets like the banana diet (protein-depleted and dangerously high in potassium) can contribute to health problems.
What you can do: Emphasize a variety of fresh produce rather than processed foods. Overall calorie intakes should contain 30 - 35 percent of fat, 15 percent of protein and 50 - 55 percent of carbohydrates (sugars and starches), preferably the type found in fruits, grains and vegetables.
3. Eating too much fat: Nutrition Researchers say fats now comprise about 40 percent of our total diet, instead of the 30 percent recommended by the National Heart Foundation.
Excess fats in the blood stick to artery walls, narrow their openings, impede blood flow and reduce oxygen supplies. Strokes, heart attacks or joint damage are caused by loose bits of the fatty sludge forming clots in the arteries. Excess fat can also lead to arteriosclerosis and cancer of the colon.
What you can do: Cut down on all fats, especially the more saturated types found in meat, butter, homogenized milk and whole milk cheeses. Favor unsaturated fats found in walnuts and almonds, and use no more than a teaspoon daily of safflower, sunflower, soy or cottonseed oils. These oils and nuts also supply essential linoleic acid.
4. Eating too little fiber: This has been blamed for ailments like diverticulitis (infected pockets in the large bowel), hernias and bowel cancer, all diseases uncommon among high-fiber consumers. Fiber, the parts of plant food that the system can't digest, helps keep water in the stool, expanding its bulk, speeding elimination and lessening risks due to accumulated toxins.
What you can do: Increase your fiber intake. Eat more plain, boiled potatoes, brown rice, whole-grain products, dried peas and beans, carrots, apples, bananas, strawberries and other plant foods. Bran is the best source of fiber.
5. Eating sugary snacks: This common habit spoils the appetite and leads to dental decay.
What you can do: Eat nutritious snacks such as low-fat cheese on whole wheat bread, a carrot or an apple. If you must snack on sweets, be sure to rinse your mouth afterward.
6. Skipping meals or indulging in food binges: This plays havoc with the body's chemistry, upsetting the delicate balance of enzymes, brain transmitters and sugar-controlling hormones like insulin and glucagon. Many people omit breakfast, but in fact it's the meal your body needs most.
Food binges, especially with sugary foods, cause violent peaks and subsequent falls in blood sugar and insulin, creating unnatural appetite swings.
What you can do: Start the day with a nutritious breakfast: fruit juice for vitamin C, cereal for energy, and protein - from milk, an egg or low-fat cheese - to sustain energy levels.
7. Large evening meals or night time snacks: If you don't eat all day and save up for a big dinner, your fat-converting processes become accustomed to receiving a lot of food all at once, and the excess calories are converted straight into fat.
What you can do: Eat three to four small meals a day. Snacks should include protein (eg, cheese) and carbohydrates (e.g. whole wheat bread).
8. Eating too fast: This not only lessens the pleasure of savoring good food but also means you eat too much. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register that the stomach is full.
What you can do: Eat slowly, taking small mouthfuls, and chew thoroughly.
9. Not drinking enough fluids: This is particularly problematic in hot climates and for people on high-protein diets (kidneys become overloaded with protein wastes and extra liquid is needed to flush them out). Water regulates body temperature and acts as a solvent, transporter and lubricant.
What you can do: An average adult needs a minimum of two to three cups of fluid (juices, soups or plain water) a day and a total of about three litres of water, including the amount eaten in foods. Most vegetables and some fruits are about 80 percent water; milk, 87 percent; and beef, 55 percent.
10. Too much caffeine: The medical consensus is that excess caffeine may aggravate cardiovascular illnesses.
Caffeine acts directly on the body's central nervous system, causing mood lifts followed by let-down or depression. In pregnant women, it is suspected that caffeine increases the risk of birth defects such as cleft palate.
What you can do: Try switching to decaffeinated coffee and herbal teas without caffeine.
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