Even when eating nutritiously, healthy aging depends on moderating the number of calories you take in. Surprisingly, studies show that if you follow a healthy diet, but eat more than an average number of calories, you won’t fare any better in terms of healthy aging than people who follow the traditional Western diet. You want a lifelong diet plan that provides micronutrients, fiber and antioxidants while still limiting calories. That means whether you count calories or portion sizes, it’s important to keep track of all high-calorie foods, even the healthful ones. Here are some examples. While plant oils — such as walnut, olive, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed and sesame oils — are better for you than butter with all its saturated fat, tablespoon for tablespoon, oils actually have more calories — 120 to 130 calories compared to butter’s 100. Use an oil spray to coat pans before cooking to conserve calories when you really need to use oil. When eating a rainbow of veggies, winter squash and sweet potatoes are great choices in the orange color range, but 4 ounces of squash have only 44 calories compared to 84 calories for the same amount of sweet potatoes. If you need a large portion to feel full, eating squash will allow you twice the volume for the same number of calories. Among the most nutrient-dense fruits, a…  read on >

Americans’ love affair with fast food continues, with 1 in every 3 adults chowing down on the fare on any given day. That’s the finding from a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When asked by researchers, 37 percent of adults said they’d eaten fast food at least once over the past 24 hours. There was one surprise: Bucking the notion that poorer Americans favor fast food the most, the report found that intake actually rose with income. For example, while about 32 percent of lower-income folks ate fast food daily, more than 36 percent of middle-income consumers had fast food on a given day, as did 42 percent of those with higher incomes, the report found. Whatever your income bracket, fast food probably isn’t doing your health any favors. That’s because it “has been associated with increased intake of calories, fat and sodium,” the CDC team said. All that adds up to widening waistlines and hardening arteries, one nutritionist warned. “Most fast food is not good for our bodies,” said Liz Weinandy, a registered dietitian at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. “The more of it we eat, the more likely we are to be overweight or obese and have increased risk for several diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome when talking to patients,” she…  read on >

Weight loss depends on eating fewer calories than your body uses up. But when you eat those calories could make a difference that you’ll see on the scale. An Italian study found that you can boost weight loss by about 25 percent just by eating 70 percent of each day’s calories between breakfast and lunch, including a mid-morning snack, and the other 30 percent as an afternoon snack and dinner. The researchers used the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet for their study. Participants all cut their intake by 600 calories a day. Their calorie breakdown was 55 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat and 15 percent protein, with over 30 grams of fiber daily. At the end of three months, the participants who ate 70 percent of their daily calories through lunch lost 18 pounds compared to 14 pounds lost by those who ate just 55 percent of their calories through lunch. Plus, they lost more body fat and used insulin more effectively, which can help ward off diabetes. It will take some effort to rebalance your calories, especially if you’re used to eating more later in the day and evening. But the results could be more than worth the switch. Key guidelines for following the Mediterranean diet: Most of the foods you eat should be plant-based, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Use plant-based oils, notably…  read on >

You’ve probably heard about the high-carb diet and the low-carb diet, but a new study suggests a moderate-carb diet could be the key to longevity. Researchers followed more than 15,000 people in the United States for a median of 25 years and found that low-carb diets (fewer than 40 percent of calories from carbohydrates) and high-carb diets (more than 70 percent of calories) were associated with an increased risk of premature death. Moderate consumption of carbohydrates (50 to 55 percent of calories) was associated with the lowest risk of early death. “This work provides the most comprehensive study of carbohydrate intake that has been done to date, and helps us better understand the relationship between the specific components of diet and long-term health,” said senior study author Dr. Scott Solomon, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. The researchers estimated that from age 50, people eating a moderate-carb diet would live another 33 years, four years longer than those with very low carb consumption, and one year longer than those with high carb consumption. The investigators also found that all low-carb diets may not be equal. Eating more animal-based proteins and fats from foods like beef, lamb, pork, chicken and cheese instead of carbohydrates was associated with a greater risk of early death, while eating more plant-based proteins and fats from…  read on >

As a tool to reduce the public health toll of drinking, higher taxes on alcohol get the most bang for the buck, a new study finds. Worldwide, more than 4 percent of diseases and 5 percent of deaths are directly linked with alcohol, previous research suggests. In this study, researchers looked at data from 16 countries to find out which of five alcohol-control strategies would be most cost-effective in reducing alcohol-related harm and deaths. Their conclusion: A 50 percent increase in alcohol excise taxes (those included in the price) would cost less than $100 for each healthy year of life gained in the overall population. And it would add 500 healthy years of life for every 1 million people, the researchers said. Such a tax increase would be pennies per drink, according to the study published Aug. 9 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. “Tax increases may not sound the most attractive of policy options but are the single most cost-effective way of diminishing demand and reigning back consumption,” lead researcher Dan Chisholm said in a journal news release. Chisholm is a program manager for mental health with the World Health Organization in Copenhagen, Denmark. Previous studies showed that state excise taxes in the United States average 3 cents for a 12-ounce beer or 5-ounce glass of wine and 5 cents for…  read on >

Eating fewer calories is essential when you want to lose weight, but there’s growing evidence that the quality of those calories matters, too. Eating high-quality foods not only boosts weight loss, but also reduces your risk for chronic diseases. High-quality foods are fresh or minimally processed. Think vegetables and fruits, whole grains, plant-based fats and healthy sources of protein. Fresh or flash frozen choices are best. If you need to buy canned foods, look for no-sugar, no-salt added varieties. Lower-quality foods typically contain refined grains like white flour and various sugars. They’re usually processed and packaged, and high in saturated and/or trans fats — even though manufacturers are supposed to eliminate trans fats, the deadlines to do so have been extended. One study showed just how strong the association is between low-quality foods and gaining weight. When people ate more foods like potato chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red and processed meats — and fewer vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and yogurt — they put on nearly one pound a year. Unchecked, over time, those pounds can start adding up … to obesity. Another study found that increasing the quality of fruit, meat, grains and dairy boosted weight loss after just 12 weeks. To make the switchover easier on yourself, set an attainable goal of eating one new or different high-quality food at least once every…  read on >