Is Healthy Foods For Weight Loss Still Relevant?
Losing weight can be a daunting task and we often have to put in some hard work to achieve this feat. Statistics show that it is important for us to keep a 80-20 balance, which means that 80% of the focus should be on nutrition and 20% on exercise and other physical activities for weight loss to be effective. While there is a lot of information and misinformation, we have assessed over 20 research papers related to weight loss and have simplified how food impacts weight management and which food products to eat for a sustainable weight loss.
Understanding Calories and Weight Loss
When we talk about weight loss, we talk about calories. In reality calories are essential for us in our daily living. It is the basic energy fuel used by our body to function effectively. When we eat food, we consume calories and when we engage in physical activity or sleep we burn calories. Even our body itself keeps burning calories for its internal functions like digestion, healing etc. When examining weight loss the quantity of food consumption matters less than the quality and the type of food we put into our system.
The difference between calories we intake and calories we burn determines our weight gain or weight loss. In simple terms
If, Calories intake > Calories burnt = Increase in body weight
If, Calories intake < Calories burnt = Decrease in body weight
Typically to lose 1 gram of body fat you need to burn 700 calories more than what you intake. What is important to understand here is that you need a calorie deficit to lose weight.
But are all calories the same? Would consuming 1 calorie of carbohydrates as compared to 1 calorie of proteins or fat get the same nutrition and would reducing their intake lead to similar weight control?
Actually, No. However, there are a lot of misconceptions around this. A calorie from sugar might only give you carbs, but a calorie from Spinach, would give you other essential nutrients as well.
Latest research suggests that some foods may make it easier to keep calories in check like grains, fruits and nuts, while others foods like refined carbs and sugar may make people more likely to overeat. We will examine the details of this further in the article.
Then there are other misconceptions about different foods. Many of us believe completely cutting out fat from their diet will help them in losing weight but research states otherwise. In fact studies show that the consumption of fat has reduced significantly but the obesity rate is still high.
Healthy food therefore consists of those food items that are rich in nutrients and proteins. These food products also keep us filled for longer. It provides the body with energy and increases overall health.
Food categories and their impact on weight loss? So, how healthy food is still relevant for weight loss?
Do fats lead to weight gain?
A common misconception among people is that Fats are a strict No-No, when it comes to weight loss. A research study conducted in the US showed that foods low in fat contain high carbohydrate contents and don’t really help in losing weight. Instead, people who consumed a moderate to high fat diet lost just as much weight and in some studies even more weight than people who consumed a low fat diet. The problem here being that foods that are low in fat are high in carbs which makes you susceptible to weight gain, obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
Infact, the type of fat that we consume impacts our weight more. Another eight year study on females showed that increasing mono-saturated and polyunsaturated fat in diet did not impact weight change, however increasing trans fat, saturated fat and animal fat had a positive correlation with weight change.
For more information on this study, click here.
Can Protein impact body weight?
Most certainly Yes. As per research, a high protein diet certainly has a positive impact on weight reduction at least in the short term. The reduction in weight can also be attributed to higher fat and lower carbohydrates associated with high protein diet. Two key factors of protein making you feel fuller, and higher energy requirements to digest proteins contribute to weight loss by reducing the food intake.
Similar to fats, The type of protein is equally important. While as per study spanning over 20 years people Consuming red meat and processed meat had witnessed a higher weight gain in comparison to people consuming nuts, beans, fish, or poultry. In addition red meat and processed meat have also been linked to enhance the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer whereas nuts, beans, fish, or poultry seems to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Are all carbs the same for weight loss?
Reduction of carbohydrate intake certainly contributes to weight loss over a short period of time. However, for a sustained weight management, less processed forms of carbohydrates like whole wheat, brown rice, barley, and other whole grains-are digested more slowly than refined grains. Refined grains when consumed get easily digested in the body. These are called foods with high glycemic index which cause immediate increase in blood sugar and insulin leading to short spikes of hunger. People often tend to overeat because of this, if this continues over a long term it can certainly lead to weight gain and diabetes. High fiber content in whole grains increases the time taken for digestion and keeps us full on lower calories.
Sugar – sweetened beverages and weight
Refined sugars are high in carbs and when we consume more of it in liquid form for example through our energy drinks or fruit juices or Sodas it increases hunger thus causing us to eat more. A meta-analysis of 88 studies found clear associations of soft drink intake with increased energy intake and body weight. Also, foods that are high in refined sugar increases the risk of obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
Against the popular notion of people eating fruit juices are not a healthier option for weight loss than sugar-sweetened beverages. Even fruit juices with 100% fruit and no added sugar fruit juices are as high in sugar and calories as sugary sodas. This is established by a 20 years long study on diet and lifestyle habits of 120,000 men and women. Research found that people who increased their intake of fruit juice gained more weight over time than people who did not.
There are limited or no studies to establish that moderate drinking leads to weight gain. However, as per few recent studies on diet and Lifestyle change found that increasing alcohol intake did lead to increasing weight. The results also vary with the type of alcohol consumed the findings varied by type of alcohol.
According to results from a National Institutes of Health study, people who consumed more processed food had a significant increase in their calories. Differences seen even when both groups are given the same calorie amounts. unprocessed food items contain natural edible food parts from plants and animals.
So what exactly are some foods that help in weight loss and how do we eat right?
Let us now cut right to the chase and examine a few of these healthy foods that aid in weight loss.
Spinach is low in calories and high in nutrients which makes it really effective in weight loss. Spinach membranes contain thylakoids which research has proven to be beneficial in weight loss and it also gives us the feeling of being satiated or full. It also consists of hormones like glucagon, peptide-1 (GLP-1) that suppress appetite which again makes you feel full.
A research study conducted to examine the benefits of spinach for weight loss showed that consuming spinach led to 43% weight loss in a span of 3 months and showed low BMI index too. Thus, the benefits you obtain of consuming spinach for weight loss is really high.
Along with its weight loss properties, spinach also prevents cancer, balances blood sugar levels, improves bone density, boosts immunity, prevents cardiovascular diseases and is also beneficial for the skin and hair.
How to consume– Add spinach in your salads and also to your eggs for a protein rich breakfast in the morning. You can also add it in your stews and soups.
What to be cautious about- People who are prone to kidney problems like kidney stones should not consume spinach. Spinach also lowers blood sugar levels and hence patients who are on medications should monitor their blood sugar levels after consuming spinach. People who are allergic to chard and beets are also likely to be allergic to spinach and hence should avoid its consumption. Spinach is also high in Vitamin K1 that helps in reducing blood clots and hence people who are on blood thinners should not consume this food item without medical advise.
2. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are high in fiber which absorb large amounts of water in the body and also expands the stomach due to its high protein contents which reduces appetite and increases feelings of satiety. It is very low in calories content and has zero cholesterol levels thus being effective in weight loss.
Chia seeds are also rich in antioxidants. It contains Omega 3 fatty acids and helps build muscle mass.
How to consume– Add 1-2 teaspoons of chia seeds to smoothies, salads, yogurt, oats or porridge.
What to be cautious about- People who face severe digestive issues should avoid too much consumption of chia seeds. People with bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis should also monitor their intake of chia seeds.
3. Flax seeds
Flax seeds again are high in fiber thus makes you feel full which reduces appetite. It is high in protein-omega 3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties that aid in weight loss.
Flax seeds is the richest source of phytoestrogens (lignans) which reduces other problems like heart diseases, cancer and osteoporosis. Flax seeds also balance blood sugar levels in the body. It and also has anti-cancer properties
How to consume– Have 1-2 teaspoons of flax seeds in the morning after waking up with water. You can crush some flax seeds, add some lemon wedges and drink it with warm water in the mornings. You can also add it to your salads, brown bread sandwiches with tomatoes and avocado or to your yogurt.
What to be cautious about- People suffering from scleroderma and intestinal disorders are advised to not consume flax seeds. Also, it induces menses which is why pregnant women are also advised to not have them. Flax seeds also lower blood pressure and hence people with low blood sugar levels should monitor their consumption.
4. Black coffee
Black coffee is a low calorie drink containing chlorogenic acid which is associated with weight loss. Chlorogenic acid also reduces glucose production in the body and decreases the production of fat cells in the body which in turn means lesser calories in the body. It also contains caffeine and antioxidants which are directly linked to weight loss. It helps increase the body’s metabolism and also stimulates the nervous system.
How to consume– Have one cup of black coffee with no sugar in the morning along with your breakfast to boost metabolism and improve concentration and to reduce weight. You can also have a cup of it before bed.
What to be cautious about- As black coffee contains caffeine, it increases energy and stamina reduces sleep which is why it shouldn’t be consumed by people with sleep disorders like insomnia. It also shouldn’t be consumed by people diagnosed with anxiety as black coffee releases high levels of stress hormones.
Garlic burns calories, reduces appetite and detoxifies the body. According to a research study, garlic significantly decreases the mRNA levels of adipogenic genes in white adipose tissues (WAT) thus reducing fat. Thus, garlic is an excellent fat burner that you need to add to your meals today!
How to consume– Add garlic to your daily meals. You can also crush 1-2 garlic pods and have it with lemon and honey in warm water in the morning.
What to be cautious about- Pregnant women are advised to not consume too much garlic as it induces labor. Also women who are lactating are advised to not consume garlic as it alters the taste of milk. Garlic contains a compound called allicin which increases toxicity of the liver if taken in large quantities and hence people with liver problems are advised to not consume it. Also people suffering from bleeding, nausea and diarrhea are advised not to consume garlic.
Around 90% of a watermelon is water which suppresses appetite and therefore it is a beneficial option for weight loss. It is high in fiber which makes you feel satiated and very low in calorie levels. It also contains arginine which is an amino acid that helps in the burning of fats. Watermelons also detoxify the body and its anti-inflammatory properties also promote weight loss.
How to consume-Snacking on watermelon after meals can be really beneficial as it can help reduce food cravings. It can also be added to your fruit salad or had during breakfast.
What to be cautious about- People with severe hyperkalemia or high potassium levels in the body should not consume watermelon. Also people facing nausea, diarrhea and bloating shouldn’t consume it.
7. Ghee or clarified butter
Ghee is packed with amino acids that reduce the size of fat cells. It acts as a lubricant for the gut thus cleansing the entire digestive system. It is also high in DHA that is Omega 3 fatty acids and CLA that is Omega 6 fatty acids that help you shed those extra kilos. The short chain fatty acids (SCFA) in ghee helps in digesting food faster which means that it boosts your metabolism thus promoting weight loss.
How to consume– Add 1-2 teaspoons of ghee to your meals everyday. You can also add a teaspoon of ghee to hot water every morning that will help flush out toxins from your body promoting weight loss.
What to be cautious about- People with cardiovascular problems, severe obesity should not consume ghee. Also, people with oily skin and scalp should consume low amounts of ghee.
Nuts help to boost your appetite and aid in weight loss as they are rich in fiber and protein content which as we know by now reduces appetite. Nuts contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that help reduce weight and lower cholesterol levels. People believe that consuming nuts like cashews, walnuts, pistachios, almonds causes weight gain but the opposite is actually true. In fact a study showed that people who consumed nuts along with exercising and engaging in other physical activity were 31% less likely to gain weight. It also helps in suppressing hunger and gives you the feeling of being full. It increases peptides and cholecystokinin which are hormones that regulate appetite.
How to consume- Add nuts to your salads. You can also chew on a few nuts in the evenings as they make a healthy snack.
What to be cautious about- People who have difficulty in swallowing should not have nuts. Also check for allergies before consumption.
Tomatoes help in fighting leptin resistance which is a type of protein in the body that prevents us from losing weight. It is very low in calories. It is rich in fiber which makes you feel full. In fact, a single tomato only contains 16 calories and hence eating 1-2 tomatoes will make you feel satiated. Tomatoes are also rich in antioxidants which reduces oxidative stress which again is beneficial for weight loss.
How to consume– Add tomatoes to your meals, salads, smoothies, soups. You can also make a healthy brown bread tomato sandwich with egg, avocados and some cucumbers.
What to be cautious about- People with rheumatoid arthritis should not consume tomatoes as it will lead to joint pain. Also consuming too much of tomatoes is not good either as it can lead to dizziness, headaches, nausea and vomiting.
Chickpeas like tomatoes are also high in fiber and proteins that helps you feel full and satiated thus reduces your cravings. This has been seen to be proven by research studies too. According to one such study where participants consumed about half a cup of chickpeas a day had less food cravings, consumed fewer calories and managed to keep their weight loss schedule on track. When they stopped consuming chickpeas, they were seen to consume more processed and refined food items rather than healthy food. Chickpeas also maintains blood sugar levels, increases heart health and helps in digestion,
How to consume– Add a half cup of chickpeas with tomatoes, tofu, capsicum, a dash of olive oil and some salt and have this as a snack in between meals. You can also add it to your curry with some coriander, onions, tomatoes for a nice heavy protein rich meal.
What to be cautious about- People with skin rashes and inflammation and high potassium levels in the body are advised to not consume chickpeas.
11. Chicken, eggs and fish
Having these protein packed meals for lunch and dinner can really help you feel satiated and the benefits obtained from these food items will help promote weight loss. Fish is high in omega 3 fatty acids that helps you feel full. Along with protein, chicken is also rich in calcium and phosphorus that aid in weight loss. Just like the other two eggs are low in calories, boosts metabolism and is a healthy way to start the day.
How to consume-You can have your eggs however you like whether boiled, scrambled or poached for breakfast which is an excellent way to start the day. Add chicken and fish to your daily meals and add more flavor and color to your meals including vegetables, onions, tomatoes etc.
What to be cautious about- People with severe heart conditions, high level cholesterol should monitor their intake of these food items.
Along with the consumption of these food items and exercise, dietary habits also aid in weight loss. One such habit is intermittent fasting. Which is the practice of skipping one or two meals daily i.e not consuming any food items for the span of 10-12 hours which is the time gap between dinner and breakfast. Click here for more information on intermittent fasting and how to go about with it to aid in weight loss. You can also use this website to check your consumption of macronutrients and its calorie levels.