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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tips for staying healthy and fit in 2012

By Henry Horder

The first principle of staying fit and healthy is to eat a healthy and varied diet, consisting of a sensible balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats and fruit & vegetables. The recommendation for the latter is that a normal healthy adult should consume five portions of fruit & vegetables per day. A "portion" consists of one apple, orange, banana or fruit of similar size, or a handful of smaller fruits such as raspberries, blackberries or grapes - or the equivalent quantity of vegetables (which can be fresh, tinned or frozen). A single serving of vegetable soup, or of fresh fruit juice (without added sugar), also counts as one portion.

Whilst it is not advisable to cut out fat altogether (as it is needed to transport fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K around the body), it is essential to keep a close eye on fat intake. Fat is a highly-concentrated source of energy (there are nine calories in 1g of fat, more than twice the calories in 1g of protein or carbohydrate) which means that it is very easy to consume too many calories when eating foods which are high in fat. This is particularly true of saturated fat, too much of which can increase the concentration of blood cholesterol and also increase the risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is usually solid at room temperature, and is usually derived from animal sources. It is found in lard, butter, hard margarine, cheese or whole milk, or in foods such as cakes, pastry and biscuits which contain these fats. The white fat found on red meat and underneath the skin of poultry is also saturated fat. It is preferable, wherever possible, to consume unsaturated fat. This is generally liquid at room temperature and usually comes from vegetable sources such as sunflower oil, olive oil, soya oil and soft margarine, although it is also found in oily fish such as mackerel, sardines and salmon.

If you smoke, now would be a good time to quit. Apart from making your breath, hair and clothes smell stale, smoking carries tremendous health risks such as lung cancer or emphysema. Tobacco is also expensive to buy, so quitting will also improve the health of your bank balance!

Drink alcohol only in moderation. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to blood pressure or obesity problems, whilst prolonged alcohol abuse may lead to liver, kidney or heart failure.

Regular exercise is also important. But this doesn't have to mean spending a not-so-small fortune on a personal trainer or a gym subscription - a brisk 30-minute walk in the fresh air a few times a week will have just the same effect at zero cost. And if you load up your iPod with a few audiobooks, or perhaps even a language course, you can exercise your mind at the same time!

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