Today's fast-paced lifestyle often means that we struggle to keep up with our families and friends, our jobs, and more. With so much to do, we often forget to take care of ourselves, forgoing exercise, not eating properly and not dealing with stress-all of these factors can contribute to your risk of developing a deadly condition known as metabolic syndrome. There is a solution to this deadly risk - metabolic syndrome diet.
What is Metabolic Syndrome (MSx)?
Metabolic syndrome is a result of modern lifestyle choices: eating the wrong amounts and wrong types of foods, not exercising and having too much stress in your life. Manifested by a series of events related to abdominal fat and body inflammation, metabolic syndrome puts you at a high risk for developing one or more of the following conditions: diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, blood vessel disease (including stroke and leg amputations), some cancers, dementia, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia and many forms of bodily inflammation. In addition, metabolic syndrome significantly contributes to-and in some cases is wholly responsible for-most modern non-infectious diseases in adults. Developing metabolic syndrome will cost you dearly, both financially and physically, with regard to your length and quality of life. Your belly fat is killing you!
The Metabolic Syndrome Diet
The good news is that metabolic syndrome is preventable. So how can you prevent it? The simplest answer is to reduce your body fat-particularly belly fat. The more complex answer is to change your lifestyle. You can make simple and easy-but very impactful- lifestyle choices such as eating healthfully, exercising regularly and reducing your stress levels. All of these choices will help you avoid the deadly metabolic syndrome.
Exercise & Stress Management Are Key
Exercise and stress management are a crucial part of the metabolic syndrome diet. Exercising regularly for twenty minutes at least four times a week is critical in reducing visceral fat, which will help reduce your risk for developing metabolic syndrome. Learning how to effectively manage your stress is also highly beneficial in relieving and preventing metabolic syndrome.
Here are some basic rules to help keep you on track and to avoid the metabolic syndrome:
- Live within 10% of your normal body weight. The basic formula for men is 106 pounds for the first 5 feet; allow 6 pounds for very additional inch. For women, the guide is 100 pounds for the first 5 feet, allowing 5 pounds for each additional inch.
- Keep your body-mass index (BMI) ratio, which measures weight and height to less than 24, and keep your waist-to-hip ratio to less than 1.
- Track your calories for weight loss and/or maintenance. This figure will be dependent on your body size and needs, but in general, most people don't need more than 2,000 calories a day. Avoid falling below 1,200-1,500 calories a day for weight loss.
Healthy Eating Guidelines
The Metabolic Syndrome Diet will play a significant role in your health. By making small changes, it's easy to incorporate better eating habits into your diet over time. Here are some simple changes you can make now:
- Eat Early. Eat when you wake up. Don't skip breakfast. Try non-processed granola with fruit, skim milk and yogurt as a parfait. Another great breakfast is Kashi, Shredded Wheat or other whole grain cereals with 3 to 5 grams of fiber per serving. Try this with yogurt and or low-fat milk and dark berries.
- Eat Often. Eat smaller amounts of foods more frequently. For example, instead of eating 1 or 2 large meals a day, have a small meal or snack every 3 to 4 hours. This will help you maintain energy and optimal nutrient levels. Infrequent eating can cause the body to go into a "stress mode" between meals.
- Eat More Fiber. Eat more unprocessed fruits, whole grains, nuts, avocado and vegetables early in the day. These fiber-rich foods make you feel fuller longer. Cruciferous veggies (from the cabbage family) are a good source of fiber as well.
- Fruits & Veggies. Eat more fresh fruits and veggies. They are full of carotenoids, which help protect against cancer and the metabolic syndrome. Some examples of a serving size is 1/2 a cup of fruits and vegetables, 1 cup of leafy greens, 1/4 cup of dried fruit, and 6 ounces of fruit or veggie juice. Remember to make sure you choose fresh fruit or vegetables; processing removes nutrients and usually adds unhealthy preservatives.
- Salads. When ordering salads, always order the dressing on the side. The calories in a tossed salad with dressing can add up to 1,000 calories! A typical Chinese chicken salad can range anywhere from 500 to 1,000 calories. Avoid large quantities of full-fat and/or creamy salad dressings. Try substituting rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice or salsa. If you must use regular dressing, order it on the side and dip your salad instead so that you use a much smaller amount.
- Portion Control. When you dine out, control portion sizes by splitting an entrée with someone else or having half of your meal packaged to take home with you before it comes to the table.
- Unsaturated Fats. Use olive oil or other unsaturated fats, such as canola oil to cook your food, and request this when eating out. Avoid solid dairy or vegetable fats such as butter, margarine and Crisco. The fats you should consume should be primarily in the form of unsaturated fats-no trans fats and limited saturated fats. Aim for mostly polyunsaturated fats from sources rich in omega-3 or omega-6, or monounsaturated fats from olive, canola or other cold-pressed oils.
- Omega-3 & Omega-6 Fats. The best omega-3 fats come from fish oil sources such as Antarctic krill oil, particularly when taken in EPA or DHA forms. The ALA forms of omega-3 fats are also healthy, but are not converted as efficiently in the body. ALA fats from walnuts, flaxseed and soybeans are beneficial if they constitute a significant part of your diet. Maintain a reasonable balance between your intake of omega-6 and omega-3 oils (e.g., less than 10:1). Examples of omega-6 sources include corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil and soybean oil-all good choices to help avoid the metabolic syndrome.
- Monounsaturated Fats. Monounsaturated fats are extremely healthy. Examples include olive and canola oils, and nuts. Most nuts are monounsaturated and healthy, but high in calories, so should be eaten in moderation.
- Foods to Eliminate. Eliminate or decrease your intake of red meat, dairy products (especially milk, cheese and butter), mayonnaise and baked desserts. Eggplant and tofu are excellent meat substitutes.
- Whole Grains. Limit or skip bread with meals unless it is whole grain. If you do eat bread, dip it in olive oil rather than butter or margarine. True whole grain bread contains 3 or more grams of fiber per serving and is made with whole or sprouted grain flour (e.g., oats, barley, quinoa, amaranth, bulgur, millet, soba, etc.), not white or bleached flour. Choose whole grain pastas over white pasta. If you eat pizza, choose a thin crust, light cheese and vegetable toppings.
- Soups. Avoid creamy soups.
- Alcohol. Keep your alcoholic intake to 1 per day for women and 2 per day for men. If you enjoy mixed cocktails, use low-calorie mixers such as V-8, Crystal Light and Del Monte Fruit to reduce your overall caloric intake. Pure alcohol averages about 200 calories per drink, and adding fruit juice could add another 100 calories. Wine is a good alternative, averaging about 90 calories for a 4 ounce serving.
- Animal Fats & Meat. Avoid or reduce your consumption of animal fats and meat. If you eat meat, choose the leanest cuts possible and remove the fat and skin.
- Fried & Processed Foods. Avoid fried foods, barbequed foods and processed meats such as salami when taking steps to avoid the metabolic syndrome. They are high in "empty" calories, contain unhealthy fats and preservatives and have few nutrients.
- Sautéed Foods. Sautéed foods cooked simply in soy or olive oil are a better choice, but avoid using a lot of oil.
Here are some important tips to help you adhere to a metabolic syndrome diet.
- Fill half your plate with fresh vegetables or fruits.
- Skip bread with your meal if you plan to have dessert.
- Try low-cal Jennie Craig or Healthy Choice meals for quick, convenient dinners or lunches.
- Avoid fast foods, fried foods, fatty foods and oily foods.
Smart Snacking Tips
Eating a healthy diet allows for snacks, but you must make smart choices. The two most important factors to keep in mind are: the total calories you're consuming, and the type of calories you're consuming. In other words, avoid empty calories and make smart food choices instead to avoid the metabolic syndrome. Here are some basic guidelines to keep your metabolic syndrome diet on track:
- Go for Protein. The best snack contains protein, such as low-fat cheese or nuts, since they will leave you feeling full for a longer time. You can add a small piece of chocolate (preferably dark) or other sweets if you must have something sweet.
- High Fiber Snacks. Another great snack is a fiber-containing food. It requires more time to digest a high-fiber food, which means you get hungry less frequently. Vegetables and fruit are good choices.
- Snack Early. Snack early in the day when energy levels are at their highest. Eating early will help you feel satisfied in the morning. Consume most of your calories by midday, and fewer at night.
- Avoid Sugary Snacks. Avoid high fructose foods such as fruit juice, candy, desserts, processed grains and sugar. These foods are high on the glycemic index and contribute to metabolic syndrome. Sugar moves rapidly into the bloodstream, tends to cause insulin resistance, is stored as fat and is metabolized too rapidly. Since the sugar rush from these foods is over quickly, hunger sets in more frequently and contributes to a vicious circle.
- Avoid Processed Foods. Avoid processed foods such as most packaged chips and baked goods. Instead of potato chips, choose pretzels or fat-free popcorn and make sure you keep portions small.
- Size Matters. Watch your portion size and keep snacks between 150-200 calories. Try portion-controlled snack foods in 100-calorie or small serving packs.
- Cereal. Cereal makes a great breakfast and a good snack during the day if you choose whole grain options with low sugar. An ideal cereal contains at least 3.5 grams of fiber per serving. Add dark fruits such as berries or raisins for more nutrition. Try yogurt!
- Drinks. Drink lots of water. Avoid sweetened sodas and most fruit juices, which have a high sugar content and no fiber. (Eating the whole fruit is much better.) Limit your consumption of diet drinks, as they have preservatives, and although they are less glycemic than sugary drinks, they are also less healthy than flavored waters, tea or coffee (minus added cream and sugar).
- Granola Bars. Most granola bars are just cleverly marketed candy bars, with high sugar and salt content and little nutritional value. Some good options include Nature's Choice, Nature's Path, Kashi, Healthy Valley and Odwalla. All of these contain whole grains and at least 3 grams of fiber. Be aware of the total calories you consume when avoiding the metabolic syndrome.
- Probiotics. Aim for probiotic snacks such as yogurt 3 times a week. Probiotics contain good bacteria that is healthy and aids in digestion. Yoplait and Dannon both offer probiotic yogurts.
- Healthy Snack Options. Examples of good snacks, if you keep the calorie count down:
- Vegetable juice.
- Small serving of nuts, les than 1/4 cup.
- Piece of whole fruit, with or without a dab of peanut butter.
- Whole wheat crackers or soy chips
- 100-calorie of fat free popcorn
- Instant oatmeal, single package, or other unsweetened multigrain or whole grain cereal such as Cheerios.
- Healthy snack bars such as Luna or Kashi, which are less than 200 calories.
- 4-6 ounces of light yogurt or fat-free pudding.
- Single serving of dried fruit or nut mix.
So, that's it really. The Metabolic Syndrome Diet will play a significant role in your health improvement. By making small changes, it's easy to incorporate better eating habits into your diet over time. The first day of the rest of your life is today....so why not get started today?