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posted: 12/28/2011 6:00 AM

Why how you lose weight matters

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Q. Isn't weight loss supposed to raise good HDL cholesterol? I was overweight, and after losing weight my HDL went down. Am I better off overweight?

A. The answer to your first question probably involves how a person loses weight, not the weight loss itself. Low HDL ("good cholesterol") is a risk factor for heart disease; losing weight if overweight and being physically active can help raise HDL levels.

If your calorie-cutting efforts focused on cutting fat and including more carbohydrate -- particularly if you choose mostly refined carbohydrates (sweets, white bread, white rice and juice, for example) that may be the problem. You may benefit from shifting food choices to get a few more calories from healthy fats like nuts and olive and canola oil (in stir-fries and salad dressing) and make most of your carbohydrate choices whole grains, vegetables and beans.

As for your second question, if you were previously overweight, the solution is not to go back -- excess weight also increases heart disease risk through a greater chance of high blood pressure, and excess weight itself is a cancer risk.

If this seems overwhelming, I urge you to find a registered dietitian to help you find a balanced approach to eating that supports overall health and weight control. You can find an RD in your area at the website of the American Dietetic Association by clicking on Find a Registered Dietitian.

One more vital thing: make physical activity part of everyday life. Begin by working up to 30 minutes a day, which can be accumulated in blocks of 10 or 15 minutes. Then aim for 60 minutes daily for best results. Not only does this burn calories and assist weight control; it also shifts hormones to raise those good HDL levels.

Q. How does the calorie and saturated fat content of venison compare to that of beef and pork?

A. Venison is leaner and lower in calories. Trimmed of outside fat, a 3-ounce cooked portion (the size of a deck of cards) of a solid piece of venison contains less than 1 gram of cholesterol-raising saturated fat. This is almost as low as turkey breast, and nearly as low in calories. That's even less than the same portion of lean cuts of beef (top, eye and tip of round) and pork (tenderloin and sirloin or loin chops) with outside fat trimmed off.

Ground venison is higher in fat than its solid cuts, but it is still lean, with a little over three grams of saturated fat in the same deck-of-cards serving. That's a realistic fit for most people's healthy target of about 15 grams of saturated fat a day.

A 3-ounce serving of venison is about 50 calories lower than the same portion of a lean red meat and about 150 calories lower than the highest-fat choices.

Regardless of fat content, limit all meat portions to cover one-third or less of your plate to leave plenty of room for the fruits, vegetables, grains and beans so vital to good health.

• Provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

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