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Using an Asthma Inhaler
Using an Asthma Inhaler


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Online learning resources for diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and nutrition.
Diabetes 101: Learn more about diabetes, managing your blood sugar levels, and your diet.
Diabetes 201: Learn more about diabetes, managing your blood sugars, and your diet.
Asthma 101: Learn more about asthma and dealing with shortness of breath.
Hypertension 101: Learn more about hypertension and managing your blood pressure.
Nutrition 101: Learn more about improving your nutrition and diet

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Office Hours: Ask the Expert

Fat from Fiction

By Samantha Schoech

So you want to lose some weight…who doesn’t?

Everybody from talk show hosts to ex-housewives has advice on how to get thin. The sheer amount of weight loss information could send you straight to the cookie jar.

Some say eat all protein, others say no protein. Will citrus do it? Is dairy the enemy? Do I cut fat out all together? Butter or margarine? What kind of fat is "good" fat and what kind of fat is "bad" fat? Eat more, weigh less?

Which diet guru do I worship?

Myth: Will power is the only way

Actually, will power can only take you so far. Nutritionists agree — the only diet plans that work are the ones we can live with.

The problem lies in maintaining a diet for the rest of your life. Sure, you’ll lose weight by only eating cabbage for a month. But that month will be horrible, and you’ll gain all the weight back when you return to the land of the living and indulge in the occasional ice cream cone.

Myth: I will lose weight if I cut out all fat

Like water, air and sleep, the human body needs fat. A no-fat diet is just plain bad for you — it will make your hair crackly and your skin flaky and it can prevent your body from absorbing important nutrients.

Nutritionist Heather Fitzgerald, R.D.E. explains that when we eat no fat at all, we deny ourselves essential fatty acids. Fat is necessary for thousands of cell functions, our reproductive systems, nerve functions and the protection of our internal organs.

Furthermore, much of what we appreciate about food, namely taste, is often dissolved in the fat content. A no-fat diet can mean a lot of meals that taste like cardboard. In short, cutting out all fat can leave you incredibly grouchy and offer no relief from bad hair days.

Myth: If I simply cut down on fat I will lose weight

Not exactly. Unfortunately, there is no trick to losing weight — you simply must burn more calories than you take in.

Sure, it’s easier said than done, but weight loss is possible through a combination of regular exercise and a lower-calorie diet. Fitzgerald warns that even when dieting we must still consume enough calories to maintain a healthy metabolic rate.

"Enough" varies according to a person’s size and activity level. For an average woman weighing 150 pounds who exercises for 20 minutes three times a week (the minimum recommendation), Fitzgerald prescribes a diet of 1600-1700 calories a day for healthy, permanent weight loss.

Let them eat fat

But don’t overdo it. The American Dietetic Association recommends that we eat no more that 30% of our daily calories in fat. This means you can eat a 30% fat diet and still lose weight.

Be sure to cut down on your total calorie intake, and eat a variety of foods. Don’t forget your veggies. Fitzgerald says, "an easy way to judge how healthful your food is is to look at the color. The more colorful a meal, the better."

A fat is a fat

All fat is fat when it comes to weight loss. But when it comes to health, all fat is not created equal.

There are "good" fats and "bad" fats. They come in three varieties:

  • Saturated fat — animal fats, butter, cream, mayonnaise and coconut and palm oils
  • Polyunsaturated fat — vegetable oils and seeds
  • Monounsaturated fat — olive oil (the most monounsaturated of them all), avocado oil and some margarine (those that haven’t been hydrogenated)

Excessive fat of any kind can be bad for weight control or general health, but saturated fat is the worst.

Substitute a monounsaturated fat such as olive oil for a saturated fat such as butter and you can significantly reduce your chances of heart disease.

Some studies indicate that olive oil can reverse some of the negative health effects of saturated fat, namely high cholesterol. But sadly, it will not make you skinny.

Common sense is the best diet

Although eating healthfully may be a challenge, it isn’t all that complicated.

Limit your fats, but don’t be fanatical. When possible, replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats. Read labels. Drink water.

Think about what you’re eating: is it going to help or hinder your weight and health goals?

Finally, about those diet books — avoid fads. If they worked, we wouldn’t have a new one every three months, would we?




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