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You on a Diet: What You Need to Know

        Health | Diets


Unhealthy fats, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, enriched flour and white foods: These are common in everybody's kitchen, so let's look at why they're bad and why ditching them from your diet will help improve your health.

First, bad fats like saturated and trans fats clog arteries and raise cholesterol levels. Choose foods that contain less than 4 grams of saturated fat and zero grams of trans fats per serving. Note that some fats are healthy fats, though. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help to lower the risk of developing certain diseases including heart disease. Don't be afraid to keep them on the menu.

Now let's talk about that sweet tooth. The average American eats 31 five-pound bags of sugar every year [source: Casey]. It's not only the sugar in your morning coffee that adds up, but also, it's the hidden sugar in processed foods and beverages. For example, one can of soda contains about 39 grams of sugar per serving [source: Brain]. Aim to eat foods that contain less than 4 grams of sugar per serving.

But sugar is just the beginning. Most Americans eat too much white food, too. White foods are typically foods that have been highly processed. They include pasta, rice, cereal, bread, crackers and baked goods -- foods that contain ingredients such as enriched flour, bleached flour and white sugar that have been stripped of their nutrients. Highly refined foods spike our blood sugar levels and make us tired and overweight. Read labels, and trade white foods for those with whole grains to add fiber and good carbs to your diet.

Of course, exercise is vital to burning calories. But Oz and Roizen recommend daily physical activity to benefit overall fitness. A keystone of their program is walking.

Walking is one of the best ways to help increase your body's strength and stamina, and you should set 10,000 steps every day, or a minimum of 30 minutes, as a goal. Combine walking with strength training 30 minutes a week to help build muscle. In addition, be sure you sweat. Push your workouts to sweat as much as an hour a week (all at once or in intervals) to keep your heart muscle in good condition. And finally, don't forget to stretch. Stretching helps keep you limber and improves your balance, which means fewer aches and pains and a reduced risk of falling as you age.