Naughty but nice – in moderation
With the festive season over, it’s time to hit the diet again – and newspapers and magazines are full of detox and fasting regimes designed to help you shed the extra pound you’ve gained.
But some ‘bad’ foods and drinks may actually be good for you – as long as you consume them in moderation.
If you’re finding the thought of all that deprivation just too depressing, try a different approach and enjoy small portions of some of those feel-good foods (and activities) you always thought were off limits.
‘Bad’ foods that can be good for you
A recent review of seven studies of 114,000 patients published by Oxford University found that people who ate the most chocolate had a 37 per cent lower risk of developing heart disease and a 29 per cent lower risk of suffering a stroke. Lead author Dr Oscar Franco urges caution, saying “chocolate may be beneficial but it should be eaten in a moderate way, not in large quantities and not in binges”.
New research by Professor Jonathan Powell of Oxford University says that the silicone mineral content in beer can boost bone density and help prevent the brittle bone disease osteoporosis. Professor Powell has also shown that silicone deficiency can reduce aortic circumference and could be bad for heart health. So, on that basis, a glass of beer may be good for heart health too – but stick to a small glass.
A study published by the Harvard School of Public Health found women in their 50s who drank in moderation (a single glass of wine, a pint of beer or a single measure of spirit) were far more likely to reach 70 in good health than heavier drinkers or teetotallers.
Dieters were once told to avoid them like the plague because of their high fat/calorie content. New research from Harvard Medical School published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests dieters who snack on nuts and fruit were slimmer in the long term and lost more weight than those who avoided them. Just a handful is enough because nuts contain about 600kcal per 100g.
University of California research suggests coffee may protect against developing type 2 diabetes. A study published this year showed that women who drank at least four cups a day are less likely to develop diabetes as non-coffee drinkers. Coffee, it seems, may regulate levels of a protein called ‘sex hormone-binding globulin’ (SHBG), which is thought to play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Don’t go too mad though – coffee contains caffeine, which is a stimulant that can keep you awake and may contribute to anxiety.
Turmeric, one of the spices frequently used in curries, contains curcumin which is high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. According to a review in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, more than a billion people worldwide consume curcumin in food and it has long been used in Eastern medicine. Curcumin has been shown to improve autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Be sensible though – avoid the creamy, high-fat sauces like masalas and kormas, and choose oven-baked tandoori and vegetable curries instead.
‘Unhealthy’ activities that have their health benefits too
The stay safe in the sun messages have been very effective in the UK. Whilst no-one is disputing that too much sun can cause skin cancer, there is also evidence that our increasingly indoor lifestyles and penchant for sun creams is leading to vitamin D deficiency, which is made by the body on exposure to sunlight.
A recent UK survey found 50 per cent of the population is deficient in vitamin D and 16 per cent have a severe deficiency during winter too. Other research cited by Oxford University has found that vitamin D deficiency can increase your susceptibility to autoimmune disease such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and even certain cancers and dementia. Vitamin D deficiency can also cause the bone disease osteoporosis and rickets in children.
Experts are now saying that we should aim to get out in the sun for a few minutes a day without sun cream to ensure we have sufficient vitamin D levels. The exact amount of time has not been specified but exposure should be ‘typically short and less than the time needed to redden or burn’.
They look great but we’ve all been told they’re bad for our feet. Italian research suggests high heels may be good news as they tone the pelvic floor muscles and boost sex life.
The early bird apparently catches the worm but teenagers allowed a lie-in and a later start to the day have performed better in exams, according to an experimental trial organised by Oxford University at a Teesside Comprehensive.
Research conducted on mice found that those fed alternate high fat/low fat diets lived 25 per cent longer than those on a high fat diet, so it is worth dieting even if you do gain the weight again. The Ohio University study said there was nothing detrimental to lifespan in losing weight.
If you have any questions about eating healthily and exercising to lose weight you can send a question to our panel of experts.
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