On reaching your 40th milestone what’s next? Looking after your health is a good place to start. There are numerous conditions which can be prevented by re-visiting some basic nutrition rules. Following a well balanced Low Glycaemic Index eating plan whilst also adopting healthy lifestyle practices is relatively simple, however, for many, putting this into practice is easier said than done.
Most men in Singapore have to manage the challenges of long working hours, client entertainment, frequent long haul travel and late night or early morning conference calls interrupting food choice & availability and meal & sleep patterns. Then there’s the challenge of fitting in quality family time whilst also training for the Singapore Marathon, which everyone in the office signed up for!
In today’s 24/7, full on society, nutrition and good lifestyle practices are often a last thought until a warning sign or diagnosis is uncovered during a routine medical. It’s all too easy to slip out of the habit of eating healthily. This article hopes to inspire and empower you to change your ways to live a healthier, happier life.
Common diseases and conditions which can be prevented by eating well are:
- Raised cholesterol levels, resulting from excess consumption of saturated fats, excess alcohol and insufficient exercise
- Elevated blood pressure which can be exacerbated by high intakes of dietary salt and stress
- Diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance contributed to by an increase in body weight
- Increasing waist circumference and body weight resulting from poor food choices
What is a Low Glycaemic Index eating plan:
Low Glycaemic Index foods take longer to be absorbed providing you with a longer lasting source of energy. They are typically high in fibre and research has shown that they assist with preventing cardiovascular disease and some cancers, reducing cholesterol and blood glucose levels whilst maintaining a healthy weight.
Bread, cereals rice and pasta: Base meals around high fibre low glycaemic index carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread and wholegrain pita & tortilla, oats, wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholemeal pasta, basmati rice, brown rice, baby potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams.
Fruits and Vegetables: Aim to eat 5 portions of fruits and vegetables every day. Choose fresh, dried, fresh juice, frozen or canned. Try making smoothies by blending fruits or adding skimmed milk, low fat natural yogurt or soy milk/yoghurt. Use as snacks and ensure that each meal is served with a generous portion of vegetables or salad.
Milk and Dairy Foods: Aim for 2-3 servings per day as part of meals, drinks or snacks to provide a good source of Calcium and Vitamin D. Choose lower fat alternatives for milk, yoghurt, fromage frais and sour cream. 1 serving = 150ml low fat milk, 1 small pot (125ml) of low fat yogurt or fromage frais, 90g cottage cheese, 40g low fat cheese or 20 g full fat cheese.
Meat, Fish and Alternatives: The body needs these protein foods to repair itself and to maintain muscle tissues. Aim for 2-3 servings of protein foods daily.1 serving = 75g lean meat, poultry without skin, 90g lean minced beef, 125g oily fish (mackerel, salmon, pilchards, sardines, fresh tuna), 2 eggs scrambled, boiled or poached, 2 tablespoons of nuts or seeds, 4 tablespoons of pulses, lentils, beans or dhal or tofu.
Fatty, sugary foods and drinks: Eat these occasionally in small amounts. Cut down on saturated fats and choose lower fat alternatives. Choose lean cuts of meat and reduce fat cooking methods
Suffering from elevated cholesterol levels?
Cholesterol is a type of fat found naturally in the body and is essential for the normal function of our cells. It is the starting point for hormones and used to make Vitamin D. Too much cholesterol in the blood causes blood vessels and arteries to become narrowed and blocked with fatty deposits which can lead to angina, pain on walking, a heart attack or a stroke.
Different types of cholesterol: Cholesterol needs to be carried in the blood by lipoproteins. Lipoproteins can be High Density (HDL) or Low Density (LDL). HDL Cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol transporting cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver to be broken down and removed from the body. LDL Cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol which transports cholesterol from the liver to the body’s tissues. Some LDL is essential but too much will cause a build up of cholesterol on the walls of arteries. So it’s important to keep these levels low.
Inherited cholesterol: One in 500 people will inherit a genetic condition called Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH), which causes very high cholesterol levels. People with FH have a higher risk of heart disease earlier in life and need cholesterol lowering medications to reduce their cholesterol level sufficiently. Diet and lifestyle changes such as avoiding smoking are also important for those with FH. Family members of someone with FH should be tested as there is a 50% chance that they will be also affected.
How can cholesterol be lowered? Maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and follow an eating plan based on Low Glycaemic Index foods. Research has shown that choosing more of these foods help to reduce cholesterol by 25%.
Can I still eat cholesterol containing foods? A small amount of cholesterol comes from foods such as eggs, shellfish and offal. Most cholesterol is produced by your liver when you eat foods containing a lot of saturated fat. Once you have eaten foods high in saturates the liver converts these into cholesterol. An excessive amount of saturated fat in the diet leads to increased cholesterol levels. If you are eating a balanced diet, you only need to cut down on eggs or other cholesterol containing foods like shellfish if you have been told to by your General Practitioner or Dietitian. Many cholesterol containing foods are relatively low in saturates and contain other useful nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc, vitamin D, Vitamin E and calcium.
Saturated fats to cut back on: processed meats, pies, pastry, sausages, laksa, fried noodles, fried rices, fried tofu or other fried snacks, butter, ghee, lard/suet, cakes and biscuits made with butter, lard or other saturated fats or hydrogenated vegetable oil, full fat cheese & cream.
Focus on :
- Soluble Fibre – found naturally in oats, oatmeal, oat bran, beans, pulses, fruits and vegetables. The oat fibre binds to cholesterol causing it to be excreted by the body. This fibre also helps you to feel fuller for longer slowing the absorption of food and in turn reduces cholesterol levels. Research has show that eating 1-3g of oat fibre everyday can help to significantly reduce cholesterol levels.
- Plant Sterols/stanols – these are found naturally in plant foods such as soybeans, corn, nuts, vegetables oils and grains in small amounts.
- Soya Protein – Soya is a good source of vegetable protein, low in saturated fat and high in fibre.
- Body weight – aim for a Body Mass Index of 20-25 kg/m 2. . You can calculate your own by using the following equation: Weight (kg) / Height (meters)2 . Values over 27 – 30 are a warning sign that you need to lose weight as you are increasing your risk of nutrition related diseases. For Asians values from 23 – 27.5 is a warning sign that there is an increased risk of these diseases.
- Exercise – Research has shown that increasing your activity level increases the “Good” HDL cholesterol and helps to achieve a healthy body weight, reduces stress levels, reduce blood pressure and improve mood and energy levels.
- Oily Fish & Omega 3’s – what’s it all about? Research has shown that regular consumption of oily fish in the diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease particularly for those who have already had a heart attack. Aim for 2-3 portions of oily fish per week to achieve the required amount of Omega 3 fatty acids. A portion is 140g of salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines or pilchards (fresh or tinned). If you do not like oily fish then consider taking a fish oil supplement to build up your levels of Omega 3 on a daily basis. Choose a supplement with a high EPA: DHA ratio and which provides 500mg EPA (a fatty acid) daily.
What’s raising your blood pressure?
Salt is the main dietary culprit for increasing blood pressure. Current recommendations are to eat less than 6g salt per day.. Try using herbs and spices for flavour rather than salt. Salt is also found in large quantities in preserved and processed foods such as ham, bacon, smoked fish, canned products such as sausages and fish (choose tuna in water), cheese, salted butter, stock cubes, bottled sauces, breakfast cereals, crisps, pretzels and salted nuts. Bread is also high in salt, so limiting the amount of bread you consume to less than 4-6 slices per day can help to reduce your salt intake.
Current recommendations are to increase activity to at least 30-40minutes, five times a week, so that you are feeling out of breath. Try walking (try using a pedometer to motivate you to do more walking), using the gym or swimming pool in your condo, yoga, pilates or join a dance class. Join a gym for group exercise classes (spinning, aerobics, body pump) or combine this with using a personal trainer if you prefer 1:1 support. At weekends be more active by walking, cycling in local parks, gardening, washing the car and playing activity games with your children. Keeping an exercise diary with goals you have achieved can help motivate your progress. During the working week consider taking the bus (its kinder to the environment too!) and get off a few stops earlier, walk the escalators and stairs rather than taking the lift, walk or cycle to work. If you are new to exercise start off slowly and seek advice on the exercise which suits you.
Love your Liver!
It’s easy to forget how much alcohol you are consuming over the period of a week when you have clients to entertain, BBQ’s and dinner with friends at the weekend. Alcohol is often mis-used to relieve stress but this is not the best way to wind down after a hectic week at work. Alcohol is a source of “empty” calories which will raise your blood triglyceride and LDL- cholesterol levels, increase your weight and change your body shape. All these can lead to cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and liver & pancreatic disease including failure and possible carcinoma.
Current recommendations are to have 3 – 4 alcohol free days per week to allow the liver, which metabolises alcohol, to rest. If you drink over the recommended amount of safe units per day this is termed a “binge”. Your liver will take at least a month to recover its normal function.
How many units can men drink each week?
21 units per week and no more than 4 units in one day.
What’s a unit of alcohol?
Soupilicious or Soup Spoon – try their vegetable/lentil based low calorie soups with wholemeal bread, tortilla wraps and low calorie salads. Avoid cream based soups.
Cedele – try their wholegrain pasta/nut based salads with wholegrain bread or rolls. Choose wholegrain bread sandwiches with no butter or mayonnaise plenty of salads and small portion of lean meat, smoked salmon, tuna or cheese. Try wholemeal fruit scones for a low fat low GI snack.
ReLoad – meat & vegetarian salads, smoothies, wraps.
Subway – Choose wholegrain bread sandwiches with no butter or mayonnaise plenty of salads and small portion of lean meat, smoked salmon, tuna or cheese.
Hawker Stalls – choose soup based noodles with steamed vegetables, Chicken rice with steamed chicken and not roasted, avoid fried snacks, fried rice and fried noodles. Go easy on the condiments e.g. soy sauce.
Japanese Food – Sushi, steamed noodles, steamed rice with stir fry chicken, fish or meat, Baked fish with steamed rice or noodles, salads, edamame beans (ask for no salt).
Thai – mango or papaya salad, steamed rice with baked/grilled fish or meat, soup noodles without coconut milk.
Western – choose grilled meats and fish, plenty of salads and vegetables. Avoid cream based sauces, fried foods and rich desserts.
Nutrition & Dietetic assessment and advice is available for any of the issues discussed in this article by our team of Registered Dietitians from The Food Clinic @ Body with Soul www.thefoodclinic.com.sg.
Victoria Hally Registered Dietitian and Accredited Sports Dietitian at The Food Clinic