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How much is too much?

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I get asked this question a lot, “How much is too much?”.  The questions range from weight, to types of food, to fat and sodium.  The food culture that we live in tells us to eat what you want, and as much as you want.  The problem is that each one of us has to suffer the consequences of those decisions.  We are the ones that have to fight disease, obesity, lack of energy and guilt.

So what I decided to do is put together a how much is too much list, so that you will know exactly what you should be eating in the proper amounts.  What you will discover is that some of these foods have been “blacklisted” as foods you should avoid all together.  The fact is that all of these foods can be consumed if they are in the correct amounts.  Remember, Americans tend to over do things a little.

For good health and weight management you’ll want to limit your daily intake of these items to the following amounts:

1.) Fat (total): 65 grams – fat has gotten a bad rap lately and for good reason, Americans eat too much of it!! Fat itself it not bad, we just need to watch how much we consume of it.  You do need to be aware there are good fats and bad fats.  The good fats are the ones that we need to consume daily, they are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.

Many health professionals, do say that monounsaturated fats reduce a person’s risk of developing heart disease. The Mediterranean diet is full of monounsaturated fats (Olives and avocados). Nutritionists say polyunsaturated fat is good for our health, especially those from fish, known as the Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.  Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids protect us from heart disease as they lower blood cholesterol levels.  Health care professionals say Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may also help reduce the symptoms experienced by people who suffer from arthritis, joint problems in general, and some skin diseases. (Oily fish (sardines, mackerel, trout, salmon and herring), safflower oil,  grape seed oil, and sunflower oil. )

Trans fats are synthetically made, they do not naturally occur.  They are also known as partially hydrogentated oils.   Trans fats are not essential for human life and they most certainly do not promote good health.  Trans fats should be avoided.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for American 2005, the following percentages are recommended:

  • Children aged 2 to 3 – total fat limited to 30%-35% of total calorie intake
  • Children aged 4 to 18 – total fat limited to 25%-35% of total calorie intake
  • Adults aged 19 and older – total fat limited to 20%-35% of total calorie intake

2.) Saturated Fat: 20 grams –  Nutritionists say saturated fats increase health risks if you consume too much over a long period of time.  A large intake of saturated fats will eventually raise cholesterol levels, which can lead to cardiovascular disease and possibly stroke.

3.) Cholesterol: 300 milligrams – The American Heart Association recommends that you limit your average daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams.  If you have heart disease, limit your daily intake to less than 200 milligrams. People can significantly lower their dietary cholesterol intake by keeping their dietary intake of saturated fats low and by avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat and that contain substantial amounts of dietary cholesterol.

4.) Sodium: 2400 milligrams (1400 milligrams for people with heart problems) – You’ve been trying to eat less sodium — just a pinch of table salt on your baked potato and a dash on your scrambled eggs.  But a pinch here and a dash there can quickly add up to unhealthy levels of sodium.  Consider that just one teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium.  And it’s not just table salt you have to worry about.  Many processed and prepared foods already contain lots of sodium — and it’s these foods that contribute the most sodium to your diet.

Your body needs some sodium to function properly because it:

  • Helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body
  • Helps transmit nerve impulses
  • Influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles

5.) Fish Oil: 3000 mg a day –  The FDA says it is safe to take up to 3000 mg of Omega-3 per day.  BUT!  3000 mg of Omega-3 is not the same as 3000 mg of Fish Oil.  If your bottle of fish oil says ’1000 mg Fish Oil,’ that is the volume of fish oil per pill.  That is NOT the amount of Omega-3 in that pill.  A 1000 mg pill typically has only 300 mg of Omega-3.

If you take fish oil that you bought at the drug or grocery store, you will need to take 10 pills to get 3000 mg of Omega-3.  Are you taking 10 pills a day?  Probably not!  So no need to worry.  A dosage of 10 pills is simply unreasonable! And will probably cause side effects like bloating, gas and excessive burping.  With a Pharmaceutical Grade Fish Oil like OmegaVia, you can get 3000 mg of Omega-3 with just 3 pills.

6.) Chocolate:  You can never have too much chocolate . . .no, wait . . .forget I said that!  Few foods evoke as much passion as chocolate.  And for chocolate lovers (like myself), the idea of giving it up altogether, even if it means being healthier, is often not an option to consider.  Well, this is one instance when you can have your chocolate and eat it too, because study after study is confirming that chocolate is actually very good for you.

But there are some ground rules.

First, ONLY dark chocolate is healthy.  Not milk chocolate, not white chocolate and not any combination in between (sugar, sugar, sugar and more sugar).

Dark chocolate contains flavonols, which have antioxidant properties that can help protect your body from damaging oxidative stress, and there’s evidence that consumption of dark chocolate can improve your:

  • Glucose metabolism (diabetic control)
  • Blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular system 
  • Epicatechin, a compound found in unrefined cocoa, is another one of the powerhouse compounds that makes dark chocolate good for you, according to Norman Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who has spent years studying the effects of routine cocoa drinking on the Kuna people of Panama. The Kuna, who drink up to 40 cups of cocoa a week, have a less than 10 percent risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes.

Unfortunately, epicatechin is removed from commercial cocoas because it tends to have a bitter taste.

Chocolate is a perfect example of when less is more. Researchers found that eating a precise amount of chocolate — 6.7 grams a day — will give you the best health benefits. Eat any more than this and the beneficial effects will diminish and even disappear.

6.7 grams of chocolate amounts to one small square of chocolate two or three times a week, so we’re talking about a very moderate amount here if you’re using chocolate for health purposes.

Keep in mind, too, that chocolate really needs to be high quality and minimally processed to be healthy. Look for varieties that use the least destructive processing techniques and preserve the highest levels of the beneficial polyphenolic bioflavanoids that are naturally present in cocoa.

Finally, if you are struggling with serious disease of any kind (diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, cancer, etc.) you should hold off on eating chocolate, as most all of it contains a lot of sugar, and sugar depresses your immune system.

7.) Fruit: 2 cups – Yes, fruit is high in natural sugars, and grapes are among the sweetest of fresh fruits. No wonder cold grapes taste so good!

Should you cut back on fruit?  Probably — especially if you want to lose weight and eat a balanced diet.  All of the food groups are important. If you go overboard on one kind of food — even one as terrific as fruit — you’ll miss out on the valuable properties of other healthy foods.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend two cups of fruit and 2-1/2 cups of vegetables each day for a person on a 2,000-calorie diet.  You are eating twice the recommended amount of fruit and less than half the recommended amount of vegetables.

8.) Sleep: 7 to 8 is recommended – A number of studies connect several downsides, including higher obesity and diabetes risk, to longer sleep duration (9-10 hours or more).  The consensus seems to support the average of 7-8 hours a night as optimal.  However, people have legitimate differences in sleep need.  The vast majority of folks probably fall into the average need range, but there are always outliers.  If you keep a healthy lifestyle and a genuinely good sleep schedule, but have to drag yourself through the day with less than nine hours of shut eye, you’re likely in this group. I think the key here is quality over quantity. Remember that college roommate who slept through his classes until noon or later?  He was likely up well past midnight (doing who knows what). When you miss out on those early hours of deep sleep, it’s tempting for the body to stay in bed and try to make up for the deficiency.  

9.) Protein: 1 gram per lb. of body weight – My recommendation, and this is for someone who is currently working out, is 1g of protein per pound of body weight.  Men’s Health magazine recommends eating protein at every meal: “protein is the best nutrient for jump starting your metabolism, squashing your appetite, and helping you eat less at subsequent meals.”

Like all things pertaining to individuality, how much protein you need varies from person-to-person. If you workout every, single day (I do), then that ratio may work for you. However, you should always check with a doctor before engaging in any diet change.  Now, back to “how much is too much,” according to the American Council on Exercise, “excess protein may lead to dehydration, because protein metabolism requires extra water for utilization and excretion.” Joanne Larsen, a registered dietitian, states on her website, “Protein should comprise ten to 15% of total calories.” 

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