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Living Healthier in the New Year

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Let me guess. You’re ringing in the New Year with a pledge to live healthier…or at least to drop a few pounds so you look – and feel – better.

Most people aren’t aware a cardiologist can be an excellent source for weight loss. It happens to be my area of expertise. Contrary to most columns though, I’m looking to share my list of “don’ts.”

  • Don’t simply count calories. Not all calories are created equal. Some are “empty,” while other have purpose. A calorie produced from protein is not the same as one from sugar. A protein’s calories come with essential amino acids, which we need. Other calories provide essential oils, such as omega 3, 6 and 9.Conversely, there’s no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. Carbs, in particular the simple, processed ones, such as most baked goods, white bread, pasta, snack food, candy and soft drinks, basically lead to weight gain, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and, potentially, diabetes.

  • Don’t ever think “fat-free” means “healthy.” Basically, fat-free foods are full of carbohydrates. Toss out those so-called “fat-free” foods or snacks and replace them with something protein-based, like nuts, yogurt, cheese, fish, lentils or soybean-based foods.

  • Don’t drink soda – not even diet. The sugar or high fructose corn syrup in regular soda causes an insulin spike that makes you gain weight. Long-term, they’re linked to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and ultimately, diabetes. Thinking of switching to diet? Artificial sweeteners induce the release of insulin causing the same metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and diabetes regular soda does. Even worse, artificial sweeteners may be linked to Alzheimer’s and cancer.

And, if that’s not enough, diet soda may actually work against you losing weight. A University of Texas study on aging found that people who drank two or more diet sodas a day were six times more likely to experience an increase in waist size than those who did not drink diet soda.

Beyond the “sweetener” effect, sodas contain phosphoric acid, which is known to promote osteoporosis or bone loss by leaching calcium from bones. Another ingredient is benzoate or benzoic acid, which, if allowed to get too warm, can convert into benzene…a known carcinogen or cancer causing agent.

My prescription for better health and a fitter you in 2015? Focus on foods that deliver essential amino acids and oils along with their calories; avoid soda and, strange as it may sound, steer clear of “fat-free” foods, which tend to be full of carbohydrates that actually lead to weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and more.

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