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Eating Smart

Serve Up the Veggies, Not Fad Diets

September 23, 2002|SHELDON MARGEN and DALE A. OGAR | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Unless you've been living underground for the last few years, you know that the fat-versus-carbohydrate controversy has refused to die.

Although a lot of people have made money promoting fad diets of one sort or another, the bottom line is that calories do count and the only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in. The theory behind the high-fat diet is that foods high in saturated fat fill you up more quickly, and thus you consume fewer calories.

In the short term, that may actually work. However, if you do manage to lose some weight, what about your long-term risk of heart disease and cancer when your diet is routinely high in saturated fat?

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, which supports research in cancer prevention and treatment, effective weight loss and control are all about proportion and portion size. About two years ago, the institute began a campaign, called "The New American Plate," to urge people to change the proportion of food on their plates to two-thirds (or more) vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans and to one-third (or less) meat, chicken or fish.

According to the institute, "the higher percentage of plant food is intended to crowd the animal protein and fat to the periphery of the plate."

The logic here, of course, is that plant foods tend to be rich in vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals that help our bodies fight cancer and other chronic diseases.

Of course, healthy eating is only one part of the equation. Regular exercise not only helps burn extra calories but also is a wonderful gift to your body.

It doesn't take much exercise to lower your risk of heart disease, certain cancers and even depression, and it makes the job of losing weight and keeping it off much easier.

* For a free copy of the American Institute for Cancer Research's brochure "Veggies: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life," go to www.aicr.org or call (800) 843-8114, Ext. 74.

*

Dr. Sheldon Margen is a professor of public health at UC Berkeley; Dale A. Ogar is managing editor of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter. Send questions to Dale Ogar, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-7360, or e-mail to daogar@wellnessletter.com.

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