One of the most common pieces of advice for weight loss is to simply reduce the amount of calories you take in. If you eat less food you will lose weight and if you eat more food you will gain weight. Easy, right?
Not exactly. Nutrition is a complex science and I don’t blame people when they are confused about what foods to choose when planning a healthy diet. No matter how educated you are on health or nutrition, it is a pretty well accepted fact that fruits and vegetables are a healthier choice than processed and high fat foods. We are taught that foods that are higher in fat and calories will make us gain weight and that we should limit these foods. This is all true, but unfortunately people are still confused when it comes to calories and exactly how much of the healthy fruits and vegetables they should eat daily in order to lose weight in a healthy way.
Many people ask me for my advice on what foods to eat to lose weight. My firm belief to have a solid foundation in your diet and long term health is to eat mostly plants. And by that I mean that at least half of all the food you eat should be fruits and vegetables. The other half should be a good variety of whole grains, legumes, healthy fats, and protein (found in plants, nuts, dairy, lean meats and fish). Although this sounds like simple and boring advice, it is completely true. Eating this way helps keep calories in check and incorporates a good variety of vitamins and minerals. It also is a great source of fiber and can help limit sodium intake. A focus on whole and foods that are not processed is essential for your health. It will help stabilize your metabolism and curb hunger. Replacing 100 calories worth of carrots with 100 calories from a cookie is not an even exchange! You have to look at what nutrients make up those 100 calories as well.
A recent study put out by the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital looked at 3 different diets consisting of the same calories and how they impacted weight loss. They examined low-carb (Atkin’s diet), low-fat, and low-glycemic (the diet of whole foods and plants that I recommend above) diets and compared their effects. The results showed that low-carb and low-fat diets were not as beneficial to long-term weight loss and health and that low-glycemic is better for supporting optimal results (see here). This study supports my recommendations that eating a varied diet made mostly of plants will help improve health. While this news isn’t particularly new, it amazes me that new studies are still being made to support this and how people still are confused with nutrition. Whether you are trying to lose weight or just trying to eat a diet for better health, please remember: eating a variety of plants = good health!