Tasty for your Heart and Belly

I know, talking about losing weight during holiday season gets tiresome. I hear that I should nibble on celery sticks and drink water at parties, if I want to avoid the dreaded December fat gain. But you know what? I won’t.

If someone invites me to her home, and goes to all the work of making some good food, and I care enough about it to emerge from my winter cocoon and drive there in the Minnesota weather environment, I’m going to eat some. Not the cocktail weiners, but certainly some rich, tasty treats. I can’t wait.

So, I’ll work on balance, eating light some other day, getting up early for spinning class, all that yadda yadda weight management stuff. One day of indulgence does not obesity make.

But the best strategy by far has now been exposed. The latest study on whole grains was conducted at Tufts University. The participants logged their whole and refined grain consumption, and they had their fat measured. Researchers looked at both subcutaneous fat, the kind that you can pinch as it spills over the top of your jeans, and visceral fat, the kind that lurks inside your belly cavity. While the jiggly fat you can see is not exactly good for you, it’s that lurking stuff that really hurts.

Visceral fat, which builds up around your organs and bloats out your midsection, is associated with high blood pressure and heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Compared to this fat,  jiggly thighs and muffin-tops are a blessing.

So, it turns out that the people who ate at least three servings of whole grains, and limited their refined grains to one serving a day had 10% less of the visceral fat. This is not the first study to find this association. But the big difference this time around was that the researchers found that the effect of eating whole grains was diminished when people still ate lots of refined grains.

That means that your three servings a day isn’t as effective for making you healthier if you still eat three servings a day of white stuff.

I know, we are not supposed to make this too hard. When we talk about healthy eating, we have to live in the real world, and help people make gradual changes.

But here is the thing. If you go whole grain almost all of the time, you can get away with indulging in some treat foods. Whole grains are daily detox, soaking up cholesterol and toxins as they pass through the system. Whole grains keep the healthy bacteria happy, and have the kinds of fiber and complex carbs that keep you humming along.

And they keep that insidious fat from gathering in your midsection.

So here is my big holiday diet. Eat all whole grain breads, cereals and pastas. Cook whole grains instead of white versions. Eat lots of veggies and fruits.

And when somebody offers me pie, smile, thank them, and enjoy the heck out of every bite.

Brown Rice For Dessert