Greek-American Yanna Darilis Talks to TNH about Health and Fitness Secrets

Yanna Darili, an American-Greek model, actress, journalist, producer, television presenter and fitness expert. (Photo by Eurokinissi)

Author, nutritionist, health and fitness coach, and TV host and Producer Yanna Darilis spoke with The National Herald about what it takes to be healthy shared some health and fitness secrets with its readers.

The National Herald: Thank you for sharing your knowledge with our readers Yanna!

Yanna Darilis: Thank you Catherina. It’s my pleasure to share some secrets about health! I would like to begin by saying, everyone is interested in their health, and most people actually know what is good for them, but they usually don’t apply it to their lifestyle.

TNH: What is the best diet?

YD: I don’t like to use the word diet in my vocabulary, I prefer to say the biggest part of being healthy is our lifestyle, and an important part of our lifestyle is how we eat. The best advice I have to give on a general note about food is that it is best to eat whatever is from nature. The least processed food is the healthiest. The earth has provided all the nutrients we need to survive and to heal our bodies. Your meals should be eaten 5-6 hours apart and contain lots of leafy green and mutli-colored vegetables, protein, such as organic meat, poultry, or wild caught fish, vegetarian sources, as well such as nuts and seeds such as hemp, almonds, quinoa, beans such as soy, edamame, lentils, and chick peas. Your meal should also contain complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, ancient grains such as spelt, amaranth, whole grains, and should include unsaturated fat. Fruits are also part of the complex carbohydrate group and should be eaten in order to obtain the fiber necessary to balance your glycemic index and avoid spikes in blood sugar. This is why when juicing it is important to have the pulp, so as not to drive up your sugar levels.

Hippocrates had a lot to say about this, as he pioneered that food is our medicine. Nature provided everything that we need to nourish us and heal us when necessary. Over the years, unfortunately, the way food has been manufactured and the way animals are raised has become a hazard to our health. Research has shown that over-processed food empty in calories and high in sugar is playing a major factor in the rise of obesity worldwide. The pesticides and other chemicals used in food production is also causing serious health issues. Therefore, when at the supermarket, chose organic produce, and organic, antibiotic, hormone-free, humanely grown animal products. What is also important is to try to eliminate sugar if possible, however, if you cannot, then really try to cut down on sugar! Sugar is the culprit in a plethora of health problems. Also, the biggest lie about dieting is to go low fat. Fat is an essential source of energy in the human body. Unsaturated fat is healthy and vital for our bodies. Do not be afraid of unsaturated fat, and keep in mind one of the healthiest diets in the world is the Mediterranean diet, and olive oil is a staple product and main component of that diet. So when in doubt about what to eat, keep it safe and chose nature. Thus, we need to be mindful about what we are eating today, and live by the phrase “Pan Metron Ariston” – all in good measure – which when applied to food, is quite important for energy balance.

A major issue to add to this topic is the obesity crisis that the world is suffering from; obesity levels are rising not only in adults, but also in children. The global figures show that 1.9 billion adults, which is 39% of the world, are overweight, and one in 10 humans are obese. These are highly alarming numbers, and what is more alarming is that they are rising. Being overweight and obese means there are a tremendous amount of health risks for diseases such as: Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and an array of orthopedic and arthritic problems. Let’s start getting healthy! Let’s start caring about our lives and our children’s lives.

TNH: What about the latest diet trends?

YD: The Paleo and Keto diets are the latest in diet trends. The Paleo eating lifestyle replicates what our ancient forefathers usually ate: mostly few grains, no processed food, nor any sugar. Higher protein, more fat, less carbohydrates. I personally follow this type of diet.

The Ketogenic diet is a great way to lose weight, and eliminate sugar, however, it needs dedication to be done correctly. The problem is, it is difficult to sustain this diet, and actually needs care. One must be careful when keeping your body in a constant Ketogenic state. This diet causes a metabolic shift, from over utilizing glucose to using fat as the energy source in our bodies.

They both have some similarities, and research has shown that both Paleo and Ketogenic diets result in lower-triglycerides, lower blood pressure, insulin, and blood sugar.

The Paleo diet in my opinion is a more wholesome approach, and does not include dairy and gluten, which may cause disruption of the intestines. Paleo also does not include artificial sweeteners, which have been proven to be difficult to metabolize and some are unhealthy. Please be aware that before engaging in any diet, it is always suggested to consult with your doctor first.

TNH: What is the most important thing to remember about how we eat?

YD: The most important thing to remember is how we feel after eating. If we feel tired, this might mean our body cannot metabolize something we ate, or that it was high in sugar content, therefore spiking our insulin levels. If we feel very bloated and have gas after we eat, it may mean our body cannot digest something very well. We have all the instincts to know what is good and not good for us, we just have to listen – be more aware of what messages our body is giving us. If we have a rash after we eat something, it means we are allergic to it. So become a detective when eating and learn what works and does not work for you. What is good for someone else might not be good for you, bio-individuality is key when it comes to food.

TNH: Why do some people like to eat so much?

YD: Mostly because many people equate food with emotions. Food triggers hormonal responses that include endorphins, which are the feel good hormones.

TNH: So what should we be eating?

YD: We all know what is good and bad for us, so let us begin by saying all products from nature in their natural state are healthy. Over-processed foods are not. Nutrient-dense foods provide nourishment to our body, empty calories high in sugar do not.

TNH: Does chocolate cause acne?

YD: If you are referring to Chocolate in its processed sweet bar form, then acne flares are usually due to the sugar and not the cacao. Cacao beans have not been linked to causing acne. Cacao beans are one of the world’s superfoods in its raw form, they are high in calcium, iron, and magnesium, assisting in mental clarity, energy, and support your immune system due to high antioxidant benefits. They have also been found to help fight depression.

TNH: Should we be eating dark chocolate regularly?

YD: Eating cacao beans (raw form of chocolate) is very beneficial due to the benefits mentioned, thus eating a few beans daily are very good for you. Eating dark chocolate in the processed form of a chocolate bar with sugar and milk is not suggested.

TNH: Should we fast?

YD: Fasting has been practiced throughout the ages and it is used for a variety of reasons, spiritual, religious, physical, and for weight loss, to name a few. Whatever the reason, fasting is extremely beneficial, when done correctly.

TNH: How often and for how long?

YD: This depends on the end goal.

TNH: What are the health benefits?

YD: Mental clarity, regeneration of cells, elimination of toxins, fat burn, to name a few.

TNH: Should we exercise when we fast?

YP: It depends on what type of fasting you are doing. It is usually better when engaged in intermittent fasting, and yes it is safe, if you don’t have health problems, and the best time to exercise when fasting is in the morning, although studies have shown if you can last to the end of the fast and exercise before you break the fast, this is the most beneficial.

TNH: Do we need to take vitamins when we fast?

YD: Again, this depends on what type of fast you are doing. Whether Intermittent or longer duration fasting, you can take vitamins if the vitamins do not contain sugar or wheat. Gel vitamins are usually better. If you are engaged in intermittent fasting, I suggest taking the vitamins after you break the fast. It is important to note that vitamins in general should be taken when there are deficiencies, however, it has been shown that we can receive all the necessary vitamins and minerals that we need through food.

CD: How often should we detox?

YD: Detoxing refers to cleansing the body of toxins from your major organs, but not only that. Full cleanses are generally suggested two times a year, even up to four times a year according to health enthusiasts.

TNH: How about exercise?

YD: Exercise is a very important part of our pathway to a healthier life. Again I will say, “Pan Metron Ariston”, nothing in excess. Back in time, people were healthier because they walked, did physical labor on their farms, ate less, and ate more natural food. So I suggest exercising a minimum of two times a week for at least 30-45 minutes, a full body workout that includes aerobic, resistance training, and flexibility exercises.

TNH: Running or walking?

YD: Walking and running are aerobic exercises with the difference being intensity levels. Both improve your cardiovascular health and result in a variety of benefits. Whether one is better than the other depends on your physical fitness level, your physical health, and your fitness-health goals. Running is a higher intensity exercise, and has benefits such as higher caloric burn; more muscles are being utilized, and runners experience the “runner’s high” due to the release of endorphins, thus giving you a feel good effect. However, there is higher stress on the body, and may have downsides such as long term overuse injuries. Walking is always what I call a “safe proof” exercise for the body. Walking has tremendous benefits, it is a lower intensity, but more sustainable exercise method, however if you are choosing walking as an exercise to improve your cardiovascular fitness and to burn off calories (stored energy), then you must increase your pace so that you are making an effort to increase your heart rate, while at the same time have a comfortable gait. So walking is wonderful all around, even to get you some “active meditation” to clear your mind.

TNH: Does exercise combat depression and anxiety?

YD: Absolutely, along with the release of endorphins, Dr. Miller of Harvard Medical school has found that exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus (a region of the brain which helps regulate your mood), thus improving nerve cell connections, and that in turn helps fight depression.

TNH: How many times a week should we exercise?

YD: A minimum of once a week for maintenance, for weight loss maximum of 5-6 days a week. It all depends on your goal and physical fitness capabilities and limitations.

TNH: How do we increase our BMR?

YD: Basal Metabolic Rate can be increased when you exercise; the more muscle your body has, the higher your metabolism.

TNH: What should our fat percentage be according to our sex, body type, and age group?

YD: This depends on individual measurements. If men exceed fat percentile 25%, and women 32%, they are considered obese. This chart can help you gauge the general facts of percentile averages:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_fat_percentage

TNH: Is fat percentage more important than weight?

YD: Muscle weighs more than fat so I suggest to never really worry so much about the scale. It is better to see how your clothes fit to understand weight loss.

In closing, I would like to add that an integral part of being healthy actually also begins from our mind. I believe we need to add philosophy into our life. The great teachers of antiquity, including our very own Hellene, Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, also believed that health begins with our thoughts. It may be a hard concept to grasp, so let me simplify. One of the main things that trigger health problems is stress. Stress begins from a situation or circumstances that bring you to a place of worry and overthinking. The way we all deal with our problems is different, however one thing is usually the same, worrying. Worrying leads to overthinking and sometimes our thoughts may lead to create more stress by worrying about things that don’t even exist!

Simply, stress increases our cortisol levels and in turn causes many other conditions to arise, especially when stress becomes chronic.

TNH: So what is a good way to deal with it?

YD: Well, everyone deals with stress differently and that determines how it may affect our health. The best way to deal with stress is to apply stress-free strategies to our lives. Meditation and deep breaths are important, along with stretching. Try to problem-solve situations, try to see situations in a different light, add some philosophy into your life, and try to understand that all situations are in our life for us to learn and grow from. Try to take the drama out and add logic and pragmatism. These are a few ways to turn stress and worrying away from yourself and to direct energy towards solving an issue or changing something you don’t like instead of worrying about it.