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posted: 11/25/2013 6:00 AM

Your health: Fruit topping doesn't make treats healthier

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  • Don't let the fruit on top of calorie-dense foods fool you into eating more of the dessert.

    Don't let the fruit on top of calorie-dense foods fool you into eating more of the dessert.


Deceptive desserts

Topping that calorie-dense cake or ice cream with a bit of fruit may deceive you into eating more of the treat, according to the November issue of Men's Health magazine.

A study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology reports that people underestimate the calories in unhealthy food if it's adorned with a healthy topping. A dish of ice cream with fruit was judged to have 125 fewer calories than the same amount of plain ice cream, the magazine reports.

We subconsciously try to justify our choice and reduce our guilt when we eat high-calorie treats, says study author Ying Jiang, Ph.D.

With the holidays fast approaching and lots of sweet temptations headed your way, the magazine advises asking yourself before indulging: How much would I eat if this had no redeeming ingredients?

Better late than never

If you are a middle-aged "couch potato" and don't exercise regularly, here's some news that should be of interest to you.

Even if you're over 50, you might still prolong your life by starting an exercise program, reports Harvard Health Publications.

But Swedish researchers have found that the positive effects don't happen immediately; it takes about 10 years for the life-enhancing effect to appear. The Swedish study kept track of 2,205 men for more than 20 years, beginning at age 50. Researchers divided them into groups based on exercise levels. In the first five years of the study, death rates were lowest among those who exercised the most.

But some men started to exercise between 50 and 60. After 10 years, their death rates were as low as those of men who had exercised all along.

Exercise made as big a difference in death rates as quitting smoking, researchers said. This study looked only at men, but it is reasonable to think that women could see similar benefits.

Here's some tips to getting started:

• Make the commitment to exercise.

• Set your exercise goals and plan your program.

• Include activity to increase your heart and lung fitness (aerobic exercise), endurance, flexibility and muscle strength.

• Aim to exercise at least three times a week, preferably more. If you already do mild exercise a few times a week, try exercising every day.

• Once you are doing moderate daily exercise, try bursts of more intense activity.

If you decide to begin a regular exercise program, you can hope to live longer and live better.

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