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Facing facts about that fatty food

ONE of the best ways to drop weight quickly is to cut way down on fat since fat of any kind contains 9 calories per gram, twice as much as protein and carbohydrates. Zhang Qian reports.

The standard ways to lose weight are eating less, eating right, and exercising regularly - in short, taking in fewer calories than the body burns.

Treatments like acupuncture may help suppress appetite, but there's no quick fix.

It's imperative to watch what you eat, especially the fat. Those who want to drop weight quickly find that a big reduction in fat intake is a big help.

Each gram of fat of any kind - "good" fats like olive and canola oil or "bad" fats like animal fat - all contain 9 calories per gram. That's more than twice as many calories in a gram of protein or carbohydrate.

Diets rich in saturated fats and transfats (hydrogenated oils) can raise blood cholesterol and contribute to heart problems and stroke risk. Those rich in monounsaturated fats (like olive oil, canola oil, flax oil) actually lower "bad" cholesterol and raise "good" cholesterol. People should inform themselves about the kinds of fats and oils they commonly eat.

Fat is a big issue because a lot of Chinese food and snacks are oily, especially in Shanghai. Many of the oils are saturated fats and transfats.

"Taking in less fatty factors is essential for most people in the weight-loss process," said Jin Shan, program development director of Weight Watchers Danone Weight Loss Consulting Co.

"Regular exercise can help you consume the excessive nutrition, and acupuncture can suppress the appetite to prevent overeating," said Jin. "But calorie intake is not always how much you eat but what you eat."

Most of the time people don't know about the fat and calorie content of what they are eating, especially when they eat out, he said.

Be particularly careful in restaurants, he advised.

"Qingchao Xiaren" (saut??ed shelled shrimp) is a favorite when dining out and many people mistakenly believe they contain less oil and fat than other dishes. But according to a measuring process by Weight Watchers, 229 grams of shrimp meat absorb around 80g of oil after cooking by a professional chef. The cooking adds a lot of fat.

Many other Chinese restaurant dishes are also fat bombs. These include "laocu huasheng" (deep-fried peanuts with Chinese vinegar) and "Ningbo kaocai" (braised bok-choy). Though both are vegetable dishes, they are seasoned heavily with sugar and oil. Measurements show that 450 grams of green vegetables absorb about 80g oil and 160g sugar when made into braised bok-choy; and 0.5 kilogram of peanuts absorbs about 60g oil when cooked as deep fried peanuts with Chinese vinegar.

For a healthy diet, it is advised to eat no more than 30 grams of oil or fat per day, according to the China Nutrition Association.

"Obviously, how the foods are cooked contributes to calories apart from the ingredients," says Jin. "Usually restaurant cuisine contains many more calories than homemade food."

For example, braised dishes in restaurants look bright and shiny because clear oil is poured or brushed on the dish when it's done. Various seasonings such as sesame oil, spicy oil and salad oil common on cold dishes and contribute to the delicious taste and shine.

Fried foods covered by flour or bread flour and then cooked in oil usually absorb double the amount of oil in food that hasn't been coated. Vegetables cooked with eggs also required double the oil of simple pan-fried vegetables with just a little oil.

Choosing relatively simple dishes such as grilled fish or lean meat can cut down on calories. Japanese cuisine is known for being highly nutritious and delicious without using a lot of oil.

Mediterranean cuisines using a little olive oil are recommended. While it contains the same calories as other oils, extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil is also good for the heart.

Traditional Anhui, Sichuan and Hunan cuisines with rich color and lots of oil are not recommended. Relatively plain dishes from Zhejiang, Guangdong and Huaiyang cuisines won't ruin your losing weight project much.

In addition, Chinese dumplings (in soup or steamed, not fried) are fairly low in fat calories. Much less oil is used in steamed and stewed cuisines; vegetables very quickly boiled can be dressed with a little oil.

Those who have no choice in what's placed in front of them, can still cut calories by eating less and avoiding buttering bread. Jam is a better choice than butter.

Choosing lean cuts of meat or removing fat and removing chicken skin reduces fat intake. Skimming off the floating oil on soups also cuts calories. Rinsing off fat can help. Placing an oily piece of food on rice lets the rice absorb some of the fat.

Drinking some Pu'er tea or dry red wine or dry-white while eating can also help cut the grease of a rich meal.

Traditional advice calls for eating and chewing slowly to reduce the amount eaten.

It usually takes around 20 minutes for the stomach to feel "full" and send that message to the brain. So eating slowly can aid in weight loss and reduce overeating.


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