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You have questions, I have answers

Dear Marilynn: What do you think about a raw-food diet? I heard about it from a good friend, who started eating all raw food and has never felt better. She wants me to try it. I’m 27 and in good health, but I could stand to lose about 20 pounds. Would eating raw food help me lose weight?

  • L.L., via e-mail

Dear L.L.: There’s a growing raw-foods movement in the country, and your friend’s “I feel so much better” reaction is one big reason why.
Raw food is live food. It is uncooked, unprocessed and plant-based.

Fruits, nuts, sprouts and seeds are part of the raw-food diet; poultry, meat, fish and dairy are not. Nothing is heated beyond 118 degrees, so the enzymes are not destroyed and the food is easily digested. Raw-food devotees believe eating that way improves their physical and mental health, and boosts their energy and immune system. I don’t doubt it. It can feel a bit extreme, but that’s no reason not to try it - if you’re prepared for certain obstacles.

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Dining out is the major one. If you live in a big city, chances are you can find an all raw-foods restaurant, a great way to sample some yummy and sophisticated dishes. Another way is to check out www.learnrawfood.com, the site run by Jennifer Cornbleet, author of “Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People” (Book Publishing Company). To make her basic recipes, all you need is a food processor, a blender and a willingness to try something new. And delicious. (Cornbleet’s recipe for flourless chocolate cake is amazing.)

As for losing weight, you may or may not slim down on a raw-food diet, but you won’t know until you try it. If it turns out you love eating raw, great. If it feels like punishment, forget it. Life is too short to spend it forcing down lasagna noodles made from zucchini.

Dear Marilynn: My wife is very fit. She runs, she swims and she just started a spin class at our local Y. She also drinks wine every night with dinner. Sometimes she’ll finish half a bottle. I know that a moderate amount of alcohol is good for a person, but I don’t know the definition of moderate. Should I be concerned?

  • Jim, via e-mail

Dear Jim: I’m a wine drinker myself, so I always pay attention to the studies that show the benefits of drinking a little wine every day. Wine has been shown to be good for your heart and memory, and it may prevent bone loss, too. At least one big study - by the Brits, including more than 10,000 people - indicated that alcohol, particularly wine, can reduce the risk of infection by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, which is a major cause of gastritis, ulcers and stomach cancer. One of my favorite studies links drinking wine to losing weight - wine and beer may increase your metabolic rate.

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But it’s important to remember that moderation is the key. So how do we define “moderate?” For women, a conservative estimate is one 5-ounce glass of wine a day (or a 12-ounce beer, or a 1-ounce shot of the hard stuff). A second glass of wine isn’t going to kill her. Half a bottle may be tipping the scales toward immoderate. Personally, I wouldn’t worry about your fitness-conscious wife. I’d toast her and, after two glasses, gently remove the bottle from the table.

Dear Marilynn: I’m 84 years old. I read that DHEA is a good anti-aging supplement. I’ve never taken anything like it before, but I’m tempted. Should I try a bottle?

-R.E., via snail mail

Dear R.E.: No. Save your money. Don’t fall for the hype. DHEA, dehydroepiandrosterone, an androgenic steroid found in human urine, is unproven as an anti-aging agent. Ditto for a zillion other so-called anti-aging products and supplements. If you want to age gracefully, with strength and energy, stay active, eat smart and fill your life with kindness and love. Popping pills won’t work. Never has. My guess is never will.

Marilynn Preston is a fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues. She welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.