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Fats and staying healthy for more fun travels

You have to eat to live, but some of us who live to eat - particularly in the United States which, according to a recent study, has the largest number of overweight people in the world.

Researchers Brownell and Wadden have found that since the early 1900s, fat intake in this country has risen "from 32% to as high as 43% of total caloric intake." No doubt fast food restaurants have contributed. The good news is it's never too late to change your diet or get fit through exercise. Besides looking trim, you'll feel better, and be less prone to disease and illness, and can spend more time in your fun travels.

Doctors believe a high-fat diet puts you at high risk for cancer and heart disease, while a diet low in saturated fats can reduce these risks. Also, cutting back on the quantity of fats significantly reduces the risk of breast, uterine, and colon cancer. For healthy eating, Dr. Brian Morgan of the Institute of Human Nutrition at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, feels food intake should be about "15-20 percent protein; 30-60 percent complex carbohydrates; and 20-30% fat," and that the best way to accomplish this is by eating "balanced meals containing fresh fruits and vegetables, poultry, and fish."

Fiber in the diet is another important factor, since it is known to reduce the risk of colon cancer as well as constipation. Recent studies indicate that certain types of cancer are caused by free radicals - the active molecules within our bodies that may act as irritants and are "powerful enough," says Morgan, "to cause this disease." Antioxidants can help fight those nasty free radicals that can cause damage or even kill cells, thus breaking down the immune system causing infections and diseases besides cancer, like heart disease.

Scientists feel that free radical damage may also cause premature aging, and that certain free radicals may be formed by exposure to radiation, toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke, and unclean air, as well as ozone exposure. Normally, these rascals are kept from harming our cells by free radical scavengers that neutralize them, and by certain enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, methionine reductase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase naturally formed by the body. However, Mazur, researchers, and scientists believe that the body can fight back against these free radicals with the aid of vitamin A, beta-corotene, vitamins C and E, and the mineral selenium, along with melatonin, certain herbs, and natural food supplements including wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts, and beta-carotene, which soak up free radicals.

The fatty acids found in fish oils may also protect against heart disease, as well as alleviate arthritis and other inflammatory diseases of the joints. Recommended beneficial foods with known healing potential include broccoli, a source of fiber and beta-carotene that's high in vitamin C; apples, grapefruit and oranges, rich in pectin to help reduce blood cholesterol levels; oats, a source of fiber; peppers, high in vitamin C; potatoes, a source of vitamin C, with the sweet potato containing beta-carotene; low-fat yogurt, rich in calcium and low in fat; dark green leafy vegetables, high in beta-carotene with iron and fiber; soybeans and soy products, a source of protein, soluble fiber, and B-complex vitamins.

Herbs, used as far back as anyone can remember by Native Americans, Romans, Egyptians, Persians, and Hebrews, have finally been validated by many in this country to have positive healing properties, without the side effects that drugs often have. Many people recommend consulting a nutritionist or naturapathic doctor before taking any, and stocks natural herbs in the form of tablets, capsules, liquid beverages, extracts, oils, and more from the herbal teas to aid in relaxing and sleeping, to herbal collars made with pennyroyal to combat fleas. They also believe that taking acidophilus, daily may aid in the digestion of proteins, has anti-fungal properties, helps in reducing blood cholesterol levels and in digestion, and enhances the absorption of nutrients. Aloe Vera, known for its healing properties and as a moisturizer, when used internally, aids in the healing of stomach disorders, ulcers, hemorrhoids, rectal itching and, as Mazur points out, "is helpful when used in conjunction with a colon cleanser." Barlean's flaxseed oil, is rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, and fiber, and is a good source of B vitamins, protein, and zinc while low in saturated fats and calories. Studies indicate it can also reduce inflammation and swelling caused by arthritis as well as lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels

Besides eating properly, exercise is the key ingredient to keeping fit. Exercise has proven to reduce cholesterol levels, heart disease, depression, and stress - and will provide you with more energy, keep your body strong while trimming it, and make you feel much better physically and mentally.

What's the best exercise? Walking is simple, easy on the joints, and free. During inclement weather, I've found the next best thing is to get on my treadmill while catching up on my favorite show or old video tapes. While it's true that you need space for a treadmill or other exercise equipment, they are a great investment in taking care of your body. I purchased a Proform brand treadmill, which has proven to be reliable. However, if you don't have space, or don't have the self-discipline to get on it at least five times a week, it's wise to join the local YMCA or a health club. Paying dues is a great incentive to use the facility and equipment and, while there, you can also opt to use the weights and other equipment while receiving advice from one of the trainers on how to use everything properly.

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