With the ever-changing dietary guidelines which are never left the same for longer than just a couple of years, the research that is done helps to clarify what you should be consuming in order to maintain your optimal health and optimal weight. Some of the strongest evidence to this day reveals that the calories that you consume do actually matter, but that you also need to focus on food quality, as it is also equally as important when trying to prevent yourself from becoming overweight and promoting weight loss. With that being said, you are going to want to try and only eat high-quality foods, but in portion sizes that are appropriate to your individual lifestyle.
You Must Consider the Quality of Your Food, Not Just the Calories in it
One of the most repeated dietary slogans is ‘a calorie is just a calorie’ and making sure that you are not overeating is a very important health issue that you should always be aware of. If you are not, over time, you will slowly and surely gain excess weight, which will have multiple health consequences, as well as physical consequences as well. So rather than spending all of your time focusing on how many calories that you should be eating, you should also focus on what you are eating. There is actually emerging research that correlates the quality of the foods you eat to achieving and maintain a weight that is considered to be healthy. This means that there are going to be some foods that you should be eating, but also some foods that you should try to avoid at all costs. With that being said, it is best if you not just choose the foods that you are going to eat through their caloric value alone, but rather choose the foods that are of a higher quality and are going to be much healthier for you, while at the same time trying to minimize all of the low-quality foods that are available to you.
Now you may be wondering to yourself, ‘how am I supposed to know the difference between what a high-quality food is and what a low-quality food is.’ Here is a breakdown of what high-quality foods are and what low-quality foods are.
High-quality foods are considered foods that are unrefined and that have been minimally processed. Some examples of these types of foods include fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and different healthy sources of protein.
Low-quality foods are going to be the foods that are highly processed, have been sweetened with sugars, most processed snack foods, refined grains such as white rice or bread, any type of refined sugar, all fried foods, foods that contain a high amount of trans and saturated fats, and foods that are considered to have a high glycemic index, such as potatoes.
With this being said, you need to keep in mind that there is never going to be a ‘one size fits all’ diet that just so happens to be perfect for everyone. You are going to need to take into account your individual differences in both your lifestyle, as well as your genetics. However, this is a very thin line as there are many people who will use their activity level and genetics as an excuse to make themselves feel better for them eating a high amount of low-quality foods as well.
The Quality of Your Food Matters
A study was done in order to analyze whether or not certain foods would be more likely to promote excessive weight gain if eaten on a regular basis. When this type of research is done on specific foods and beverages, it allows scientists to really understand whether the saying ‘a calorie is a calorie’ is a correct statement, or if eating more of the higher-quality foods is really going to help you in your fight for weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight once it is achieved, as compared to when you consume more lower-quality foods.
Research that has been done by the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public health has revealed that the quality of the foods that you consume is actually a very important factor in what foods you should be eating in order to achieve and then maintain a healthy weight for your body, and that the entire notion of the ‘a calorie is a calorie’ is not actually very accurate at all. In fact, there is actually a lot that the saying is not telling you at all.
In a recent study that was done including over 120,000 healthy men and women that spanned 20 years in length, researchers were able to determine that there was a very strong correlation between gaining weight and consuming low-quality foods that included potatoes, potato chips, beverages that had been sweetened with sugars, and both unprocessed and processed red meats. The conclusion that came from the 20-year study was that the continuous consumption of processed foods that contained a higher amount of starches in them, fats, refined grains, and extra sugars would indeed aid in increasing your weight.
In the same study, the researchers were also able to conclude that the foods that were responsible for weight loss were higher-quality foods that included whole grains, vegetables, nuts, yogurt, and fruits.
During the study, researchers did note the importance of the calories that were consumed, suggesting that it was the higher-quality of foods was a huge factor in helping those who lost weight lose that weight, as they were able to consume less calories in general. It is important to note that while the consumption of high-quality foods did increase, the consumption of low-quality foods was decreased as well.
Does Managing Macronutrients Really Matter?
Over the past several decades, there has been a large increase in the amount of diets that have put most of their importance on macronutrients, some of these diets being either low-fat or low-carb. The discussion about the three main types of macronutrients, which consist of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, has become the norm when it comes to talks of the ideal diet. In fact, there are researchers who have even started to compare this ‘macronutrient management’ type of diet to other types of diets in order to help determine which type of diet is actually the most effective in helping you to lose weight and maintain your health. But to date, there is no real type of evidence that can be considered conclusive when it comes to this particular topic.
One 2007 study that was published in JAMA, took four different weight-loss diets and compared them to each other. The diets ranged from being low carbohydrate intake to high carbohydrate intake and took a total of 12 months to complete. Within the trials, more than 300 premenopausal women who ranged from overweight to obese, were randomly assigned one of the diets that was to be tested. The four different types of diets include the Atkins diet (which if very low carbohydrate consumption), the Zone diet (which is low carbohydrate consumption), the LEARN diet (which is a high-carbohydrate diet), or the Ornish diet (which is a very high carbohydrate diet).
After the 12 months had come to an end, it was concluded that the women who followed the Atkins diet had far greater weight loss when compared to any of the other dieter groups. On top of just measuring overall weight loss, the study also measured any secondary outcomes, mainly in the sense of metabolic effects (such as body fat percentage, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels). The researchers discovered that the Atkins group was either comparable or much more favorable than any of the other groups as well.
As for the other three diets (Zone, Ornish, and LEARN), there was absolutely no kind of significant difference in how much weight any of the participants had lost. What was concluded at the end of this study, was that it is very beneficial for weight loss to follow a diet that incorporates foods which are low carbohydrate, high fat and high protein.
While there have been numerous studies done on this same topic, the results are usually similar, those being that while there is no ‘perfect’ diet that will work for everyone, there are ways of eating that can aid you in losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. So just because someone was able to lose a bunch of weight by eating one particular way, that same type of diet may not necessarily work for you and your own lifestyle and genetics. So, if you need a one size fits all type of diet plan, there isn’t one out there for you. But if that is the case, don’t get discouraged. All you need to do is to start swapping out any of the low-quality foods that you are currently eating for more of the high-quality foods that have been proven to help you lose excess weight and maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle.