Gone are the days of eating white bread. Many people are aware that whole-grain has more nutritional heft than white, fluffy, overly milled breads, but it’s not always easy to pick a good loaf when you’re at the grocery store.
Sometimes, a refined loaf of bread can masquerade as something more nutritious. Patrol the bread aisle and you’ll see terms like whole wheat, multigrain, seven-grain, 12-grain, all-natural, organic and enriched, to name a few. Who wouldn’t throw up their hands trying to decide what to buy?
Dietitian Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, helps break down which bread is healthier and what you should stay far away from.
Look for ‘100%’ on labels
When browsing the bread aisle at your grocery store, look for the term “100% whole-grain” or “100% whole-wheat” on the package.
“If you’re wondering which is better, either one works,” says Jeffers. “Whole wheat is a whole grain.”
Although different grains offer different benefits, many whole-grain breads are primarily made with wheat. If you’re looking for a nice mix of grains, check your ingredient label. Primary ingredients should be listed first in order of the amount within the loaf (wheat, oats, flax seeds, barley, buckwheat, etc.).
“Be cautious of terms like ‘wheat’ or ‘multigrain’ that don’t mention a percentage,” she warns. “They sound healthy, but they’re probably made with partially or mostly refined white flour. Wheat flour is 75% white flour and only 25% whole-wheat.”
“Enriched” is another clever term that means the maker of the bread has added nutrients to an otherwise nutrient-free white bread. When you see that word on a label, put it down and look for something else.
Unless you find that 100% on the package and whole-wheat listed as the first ingredient on the label, the bread is simply a refined loaf of bread with synthetic nutrients added to replenish those natural nutrients lost in the milling process.
Good bread makes your body happy
The benefits of eating 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain far surpass just the taste. Eating whole-grain foods within an overall healthy diet helps to lower your risk for many diseases, including:
Whole-grains are also rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins and many other nutrients that help to lower blood pressure, reduce gum disease, strengthen the immune system and help control weight. The Whole Grains Council reports that benefits are greatest with at least three servings per day, but every whole grain helps.
Say ‘no’ to substandard bread
Most other bread is made with grains that have been finely milled. The resulting flour is whiter and lighter — in more ways than one.
Not only does this refined flour look whiter and bake fluffier, but it also falls short of many of the nutrients essential to optimum health. Whole-grains begin as a whole grain kernel: bran, germ, endosperm.
The milling process mechanically removes the bran, which is the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain and contains B vitamins and other minerals. Milling also removes the second germ layer, which is rich in Vitamin E and essential fatty acids. In the end, what’s left is the starchy center, which is ground into flour for various baking purposes.
“Refined flour lacks all of those wonderful nutrients and high-starch foods like white bread can quickly raise your blood sugar levels, putting you at risk for diseases like diabetes,” she says. “That’s why you should consider nothing but the best: 100% whole wheat or whole-grain bread.”
The food signals the body to start burning fat and stop storing it.
Around 3 servings of yoghurt each day can double weight loss, research finds.
People in the study who ate yoghurt lost twice as much body fat as those that did not.
Yoghurt is rich in calcium, which is thought to aid weight loss.
Calcium signals the body to start burning fat and stop storing it.
Dieters taking calcium lost 81 percent more belly fat.
Belly fat is particularly dangerous, with strong links to heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.
Professor Michael Zemel, the study’s first author, said:
“Not only did yogurt help the study participants lose more weight–the average weight loss was 13 pounds–they were about twice as effective at maintaining lean muscle mass.
This is a critical issue when dieting — you want to lose fat, not muscle.
Muscle helps burn calories, but it is often compromised during weight loss.”
The study included 34 obese people who were all put on a calorie-restricted diet.
Their diet was restricted by 500 calories each day.
Half of them were given 500mg of calcium per day as a supplement, while the other group were given 1,100mg plus three servings of low-fat yoghurt.
The results showed that those taking the higher dose of calcium lost 22 percent more weight, 61 percent more body fat and 81 percent more belly fat.
Professor Zemel said:
“The moral of the calcium story is to not dump dairy when you’re dieting.
Not only is it critical to keep your calcium levels high so you won’t lose bone density, it will also help you maintain your muscle mass and increase your fat loss.
A diet rich in low fat dairy foods, like yogurt, can help make your weight loss efforts easier.”
About the author Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks: Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Some people believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that eating breakfast increases weight loss. But is this true? And, if so, which are the best breakfast foods for weight loss?
There is little evidence to support the idea that eating breakfast can increase weight loss. Breakfast is just another meal. That said, eating breakfast can give a person energy for the day. This may reduce the risk of overeating and, in this way, support weight loss efforts.
This article explores the best breakfast foods to eat to aid weight loss. It also discusses breakfast options to suit vegetarian, vegan, and restricted diets. Read on to learn all there is to know about eating breakfast and losing weight.
Breakfast food tips
To get the most out of breakfast, it is best to eat nutrient dense foods. These foods offer more nutritional value per calorie, which may help a person feel fuller longer.
Here are some breakfast food tips that may support weight loss:
Eat fiber-rich foods
People who regularly eat fiber-rich breakfasts may have less visceral fat and inflammation.
People trying to lose weight may benefit from eating fiber-rich foods for breakfast and throughout the day.
A 2015 study found that diets rich in fiber helped people lose more weight and improved symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a risk factor for diabetes.
Other studies link fiber to better health and more weight loss. For example, a 2012 study found that adolescents who ate more fiber had less visceral fat and less inflammation.
Eat more protein
Eating more protein for breakfast or at any other time of day may support weight loss.
Numerous studies link higher protein diets to more weight loss. A 2014 analysis suggests that protein may help people feel fuller, reducing overeating. People may also burn more calories when they eat protein.
Protein-rich foods are generally rich in other nutrients, allowing a person to get a wide range of nutrients without consuming lots of calories.
Avoid high calorie options
Try to avoid foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Reducing calorie intake at breakfast time and throughout the day may help a person lose weight.
To cut down on calories, avoid adding sugar to breakfast foods. A healthy oatmeal breakfast can become a sugar-laden, high calorie meal when a person adds lots of brown sugar. Select cereals that contain less sugar and avoid pancakes and pastries that contain lots of sugar.
Avoid sugary drinks
Be mindful of the role of drinks in calorie content. A glass of orange juice typically contains more than 100 calories but offers little nutritional value. Opt for eating the whole fruit rather than drinking juices.
Eat whole foods
Eating whole foods instead of processed foods may help a person lose weight. Try replacing white bread, pasta, and bagels with whole grain options.
Whole grain offers more nutritional value and may reduce the risk of some types of heart disease. Because whole grains are rich in fiber, they may support weight loss and reduce constipation.
Should you eat breakfast?
With interest in intermittent fasting increasing, some people are now opting to skip breakfast altogether. But does skipping breakfast support weight loss?
Not eating breakfast may support weight loss because it means a person goes longer without consuming calories, which may lead to a lower total calorie intake throughout the day.
However, skipping breakfast may not support weight loss for everyone. For some people, skipping breakfast leads to overeating at lunchtime. In this way, skipping breakfast may lead to higher overall calorie consumption, undermining weight loss.
Research around breakfast and weight loss is inconclusive. A 2019 BMJ meta-analysis and systematic review suggests that skipping breakfast may support weight loss. Examining 13 trials, researchers found that not eating breakfast offered modest decreases in weight.
However, the study’s authors also note that the data is not strong. Other factors might account for the difference. Scientists need to do more research to fully understand whether avoiding breakfast is an effective weight loss strategy.
Breakfast foods for vegans
Peanut butter on toast is a healthful breakfast choice for vegans trying to lose weight.
As for all people, it is essential for people who follow a vegan diet to consume sufficient protein. Consuming protein helps people to feel full, which may support weight loss.
Vegan breakfast foods may be a healthful option for anyone wanting to limit meat consumption or add variety to their diet. Also, eating more vegetables increases a person’s fiber and nutrient intake.
Many vegan breakfast options are rich in protein, fiber, and other nutrients. Here are some vegan breakfast foods to try:
vegan scramble (using tofu instead of eggs) and kale, broccoli, or spinach
peanut or almond butter on whole grain toast
oatmeal with blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries and an optional teaspoon of honey
whole grain cereal with soy or almond milk
avocado toast on whole wheat bread, seasoned with lemon juice and sea salt
vegan BLT made from soy bacon, lettuce, tomato, and whole grain buns
rolled oats with peanut butter
smoothie with avocado, banana, frozen berries, and a teaspoon of honey
Breakfast foods for vegetarians
Vegetarians can choose from a wide variety of delicious breakfast foods. Adding dairy products makes it easy to get plenty of protein to support weight loss.
A 2011 study compared the diet of vegetarians to nonvegetarians. Researchers found that vegetarian diets were more nutritionally dense. This may be because vegetarians eat more fruits and vegetables than meat eaters. The study’s authors also suggest that a vegetarian diet may support weight loss.
Here are some vegetarian breakfast ideas:
whole grain cereal with 1% milk
Greek yogurt with berries
plain vanilla yogurt with bananas
two slices of white cheddar cheese with a handful of mixed nuts
hard boiled egg sprinkled with salt
avocado with cottage cheese and hot sauce
poached eggs on whole grain toast
scrambled eggs with hot sauce instead of cheese or salt
Breakfast foods for meat eaters
While meat is high in many nutrients, it is also a high calorie food due to its fat content. Lean meats and poultry contain less fat and calories than red meats, so choosing these types of meat is a good option for meat eaters hoping to lose weight.
Reducing the amount of meat in each meal and replacing it with nutrient-rich, high fiber vegetables may also help.
The following meals can support healthy weight loss:
grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce on whole grain bread
Canadian bacon with yogurt or eggs
turkey sausage scramble with lots of vegetables
Breakfast for people with dietary restrictions
Having allergies or an underlying health condition need not affect a person’s enjoyment of breakfast. There are plenty of alternatives available.
Here are some breakfast options for people with dietary restrictions:
Many people have food allergies or sensitivities to lactose, nuts, and eggs, which many breakfast foods contain. Fortunately, there are many substitute options available:
Lactose intolerance: Lactose free milk and milk substitutes, such as almond milk, can be good options for people with lactose intolerance.
Nut allergies: Lentils, chia seeds, and quinoa can be healthful options for people with nut allergies.
Egg allergies: People who cannot eat eggs should consider lean meats, nut butter, and nuts instead.
For people with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, finding breakfast options that do not contain gluten is essential.
Many food stores sell gluten free versions of common breakfast items, including:
Another gluten free breakfast idea involves serving high protein foods, such as eggs or lean meats, with wilted spinach and cooked tomatoes.
People with diabetes can eat hard boiled eggs for breakfast to manage their blood sugar levels.
People with diabetes must keep their blood sugar levels consistent. Skipping breakfast may not be healthful for people with diabetes, particularly if they take medication for their condition. People who take medication for their diabetes typically need to consume some carbohydrate to manage their blood sugar levels.
Here are some breakfast options for people with diabetes:
scrambled eggs with wilted spinach
hard boiled eggs
a handful of nuts
lean meats with spinach or kale
Breakfast habits can support weight loss but how this works varies from person to person. Eating breakfast may aid weight loss for some people as they stay fuller for longer, which prevents snacking during the day. For others, skipping breakfast supports weight loss because it leads them to consume fewer calories overall.
Losing weight requires a person to burn fewer calories than they eat. To sustain weight loss, a person must stick to a reduced calorie diet and pair this diet with more activity. To make sustainable dietary changes, it is vital that a person finds healthful foods they enjoy eating.
Highly restrictive diets are often difficult to follow. Instead, incorporate a few treats and find nourishing, low calorie foods that taste good. A dietitian or doctor can help a person develop the right meal plan for their needs
Chances are, you need to boost your intake of at least one or two nutrients. Even the most disciplined eaters can be, unknowingly, skipping out on key essentials, which can eventually drain energy and lead to health problems.
According to Health Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), conducted in 2004, many people’s diets don’t provide enough vitamins and minerals. (Results from the 2015 CCHS have yet to be released.)
Haphazard eating and an increased reliance on heavily processed foods can undermine your diet.
Certain eating plans can also shortchange your body of nutrients.
A low-carbohydrate diet (e.g., ketogenic, Atkins-style) can deprive you of gut-friendly fibre, vitamin C and folate, a B-vitamin that repairs DNA in cells. Gluten-free diets can lack fibre and folate, too.
Even if you do eat the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, you might need more. Aging and certain medications can interfere with nutrient absorption.
Sure, you can take a supplement to bridge nutrient gaps. And, in some cases, I recommend that you do.
Adding whole foods to your diet, though, should be your first line of defence. Along with vitamins and minerals, whole foods deliver fibre, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals.
Nutrients to pay attention to
It’s necessary for normal vision and immune function. Yet, according to Health Canada, more than one-third of Canadians don’t consume enough.
There are two types of vitamin A in foods: retinol, ready for the body to use, and carotenoids, which are converted to vitamin A in the body. Foods high in retinol include beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, tuna, milk and cheese.
It’s carotenoids, though, that many people need more of. In addition to providing vitamin A, research suggests that a higher intake can help guard against heart attack, stroke and certain cancers.
Outstanding sources include sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin, spinach, collards, kale, dandelion greens and cantaloupe. You’ll absorb more carotenoids if you eat your meal with a little fat.
As many as 35 per cent of Canadian adults don’t consume the daily recommended 2.4 mcg of B12, a nutrient needed to make red blood cells, repair DNA and keep our nerves working properly.
B12 is found primarily in animal foods – meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. Some foods are fortified with B12, including plant-based “milks” (1 mcg per cup) and soy products. Fortified nutritional yeast, sold in natural-food stores, is also high in B12.
If you’re over 50, you might be getting less B12 than you realize. The absorption of B12 from foods relies on an adequate release of stomach acid. As many as 30 per cent of older adults have atrophic gastritis, a condition that reduces the stomach’s ability to release acid.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), drugs used to treat ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease, interfere with B12 absorption by reducing stomach acid. Metformin, a medication that controls blood sugar, also reduces B12 absorption.
Older adults, vegans and people taking PPIs and metformin long-term should take multivitamin or B-complex supplements to ensure they’re meeting daily B12 requirements.
More than one-third of our diets fall short of vitamin C, used to make collagen, help the immune system work properly and enhance iron absorption from plant foods. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage.
The recommended daily intake is 75 mg (women) and 90 mg (men). (Smokers need an extra 35 mg.)
Include at least two vitamin C-rich foods in your daily diet such as red and green bell peppers (152 mg and 95 mg per ½ medium, respectively), oranges (70 mg per 1 medium), kiwifruit (64 mg each), strawberries (98 mg per cup), cantaloupe, broccoli, cauliflower and tomato juice.
To prevent chronic disease, some experts recommend a daily intake of 200 mg, an amount you can get by eating at least 5 daily servings (2.5 cups) of fruits and vegetables.
As many as 4 out of 10 Canadians consume too little magnesium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure, blood sugar and muscle and nerve function. That’s likely because some of the very best sources – pulses, leafy greens, bran cereal – are not everyday foods for many people.
Eating a diet high in magnesium is also tied to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and colon cancer.
Adults need 310-320 mg (women) and 400-420 mg (men) each day. Excellent sources include oat bran, brown rice, quinoa, spinach, Swiss chard, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, black beans, lentils, tofu and edamame.
People who are likely to take a proton pump inhibitor long-term should take a daily magnesium supplement (200 to 250 mg) in addition to eating magnesium-rich foods.
Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is Director of Food and Nutrition at Medcan.
When it comes to getting healthy, it’s not all about working up a sweat. In fact, there are tons of practical and beneficial habits you can work into your day-to-day that have nothing to do with hitting the gym or making rounds on the ClassPass circuit.
Some of these lifestyle adjustments involve eating more mindfully, which includes techniques like slowing down as you eat and paying attention to signals that let you know when you’re full. But getting enough sleep, reducing stress and cutting back on alcohol are all important too.
“Our environment, our habits and our mindset are almost just as important as what it is we are putting in our mouths. And we have to realize that,” said Lisa Young, a registered dietitian and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University.
Here are some tips for boosting your health that have nothing to do with burning calories, but are almost guaranteed to leave you feeling better:
1. Slow down at meal time.
These days, everything we do ― eating included ― tends to happen at hyper speed. And it’s simply not good for your health. Nutritionists advise slowing down and chewing each bite of food somewhere between 20 and 30 times, which makes it easier to digest and absorb. In fact, the more you break down the food in your mouth, the more you’re going to absorb in the intestine, said Kelly Johnston, a registered dietitian and health coach at Parsley Health.
For the sake of digestion, try setting aside a bit more time so you can eat your meals in a less hasty way, even if it’s not 20 to 30 chews per bite of food.
“I always say the first line of digestion is your mouth, and chewing is such an important part of that,” Johnston said. “The less work you do in your mouth, the more work you have to do in your stomach and intestine, which can cause bloating downstream, constipation and just more work for the intestine.”
Eating at a slower pace also gives you more time to register fullness, which can lower your chances of overeating.
“Challenge yourself to take at least 15 to 20 minutes to finish a meal, because that is how long it takes for your gut to tell your brain it’s full,” said Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, a registered dietitian in New York City.
2. Limit your distractions while eating.
Despite the fact that more than half of Americans eat lunch at their desks each day, nutritionists say this isn’t the best choice for your health. For one, the body has trouble prioritizing digestion when you’re stressed.
“The uptick of the stress hormone cortisol may cause nutrients to become poorly digested and disrupt the normal digestion process,” Beckerman said.
We get it though: Sometimes you have no option other than to work through lunch. In these situations, Young suggested planning exactly what you’re going to eat. This can help you avoid overeating, which seems to happen way too easily when you’re focused on your screen rather than the food you’re putting in your mouth.
“The problem when you eat mindlessly is that you don’t even realize that you’ve eaten,” Young said.
3. Eat whole rather than processed foods.
Ultra-processed foods are often high in sodium and added sugars and come with long lists of ingredients, many of which do little in terms of benefiting your overall health. Making a real effort to swap processed for whole foods is a great way to get healthier. Consider focusing on foods that exist in nature like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats and high-quality proteins like beans, fish and meat.
“Processed foods have fillers, stabilizers and thickeners that can disrupt your body’s ability to soak in essential vitamins and nutrients from real foods,” Beckerman said. “You’ll be able to deliver and maximize the purest forms of nutrients to your body when you can eat whole foods.”
4. Get enough sleep.
When you’re trying to squeeze in time for everything possible in life ― work, social commitments, family, exercise, cooking healthy meals and more ― maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is often pushed aside. But getting enough sleep probably deserves a higher spot on your list of priorities. After all, this is the time of day where your body relaxes and repairs.
The exact amount of sleep varies from person to person, but somewhere around seven to eight hours a night is a good target, Johnston said. You surely know this from experience, but when you don’t get enough sleep, your body struggles the next day.
“Research shows that if you don’t get enough sleep, you automatically usually have an elevated blood sugar the following day because you haven’t metabolized well,” Johnston said.
Meanwhile, sleep deprivation disrupts the balance of the body’s hunger and satiety hormones, which can lead you toward that bottomless-pit feeling where you eat and eat but don’t feel full, Beckerman explained. Not getting enough sleep also leads to low levels of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate the body’s energy balance by inhibiting hunger. The result? Increased cravings of sugary and sweet foods, Beckerman said.
5. Find a way to let go of stress.
Some stress is good for you, especially the type that appears when you’re excited. But chronic stress, the kind that feels inescapable, can have a ton of negative effects on the body, from depression and anxiety to gastrointestinal problems and cardiovascular disease. For the sake of your health, it’s important to find a stress-relieving habit you can turn to regularly to balance the daily demands that drain you.
For some, this release can have to do with exercise, like going for a walk or going to a yoga class. For others, it might mean journaling, meditating or talking to a close friend. Really, the method is up to you as long as you take some time to yourself to let some of the stress fade away.
“Just recharging your battery is so important,” Johnston said.
6. Cut back on alcohol.
Besides contributing to those dreaded hangovers, drinking more than the recommended amount (up to one drink a day for women and two for men) can increase your risk of cancer and high blood pressure, as well as contribute to poor sleep, overeating, impaired cognitive function even after the alcohol leaves your system and earlier signs of aging, like wrinkles and broken blood vessels.
Many types of alcohol are also super sugary, which can lead to weight gain and problems with blood sugar levels. Additionally, alcohol and sugar can both negatively impact “the health of our gut and our microbiome,” Johnston said.
Alcohol also impairs the efficacy of the hormone leptin, which as mentioned earlier, plays a role in keeping you full.
“This imbalance influences our powerful brains towards convincing us that we want more carbohydrate heavy and greasy meals,” Beckerman said. So, while there’s usually nothing wrong with a drink here and there, it’s best to keep it to a minimum.
Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows that the standard prescription for weight loss is to reduce the amount of calories you consume.
But a new study, published Tuesday in JAMA, may turn that advice on its head. It found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods while concentrating on eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods — without worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes — lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year.
The strategy worked for people whether they followed diets that were mostly low in fat or mostly low in carbohydrates. And their success did not appear to be influenced by their genetics or their insulin-response to carbohydrates, a finding that casts doubt on the increasingly popular idea that different diets should be recommended to people based on their DNA makeup or on their tolerance for carbs or fat.
The research lends strong support to the notion that diet quality, not quantity, is what helps people lose and manage their weight most easily in the long run. It also suggests that health authorities should shift away from telling the public to obsess over calories and instead encourage Americans to avoid processed foods that are made with refined starches and added sugar, like bagels, white bread, refined flour and sugary snacks and beverages, said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
“This is the road map to reducing the obesity epidemic in the United States,” said Dr. Mozaffarian, who was not involved in the new study. “It’s time for U.S. and other national policies to stop focusing on calories and calorie counting.”
The new research was published in JAMA and led by Christopher D. Gardner, the director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. It was a large and expensive trial, carried out on more than 600 people with $8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Nutrition Science Initiative and other groups.
Dr. Gardner and his colleagues designed the study to compare how overweight and obese people would fare on low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets. But they also wanted to test the hypothesis — suggested by previous studies — that some people are predisposed to do better on one diet over the other depending on their genetics and their ability to metabolize carbs and fat. A growing number of services have capitalized on this idea by offering people personalized nutrition advice tailored to their genotypes.
The researchers recruited adults from the Bay Area and split them into two diet groups, which were called “healthy” low carb and “healthy” low fat. Members of both groups attended classes with dietitians where they were trained to eat nutrient-dense, minimally processed whole foods, cooked at home whenever possible.
Soft drinks, fruit juice, muffins, white rice and white bread are technically low in fat, for example, but the low-fat group was told to avoid those things and eat foods like brown rice, barley, steel-cut oats, lentils, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, quinoa, fresh fruit and legumes. The low-carb group was trained to choose nutritious foods like olive oil, salmon, avocados, hard cheeses, vegetables, nut butters, nuts and seeds, and grass-fed and pasture-raised animal foods.
The participants were encouraged to meet the federal guidelines for physical activity but did not generally increase their exercise levels, Dr. Gardner said. In classes with the dietitians, most of the time was spent discussing food and behavioral strategies to support their dietary changes.
The new study stands apart from many previous weight-loss trials because it did not set extremely restrictive carbohydrate, fat or caloric limits on people and emphasized that they focus on eating whole or “real” foods — as much as they needed to avoid feeling hungry.
“The unique thing is that we didn’t ever set a number for them to follow,” Dr. Gardner said.
Of course, many dieters regain what they lose, and this study cannot establish whether participants will be able to sustain their new habits. While people on average lost a significant amount of weight in the study, there was also wide variability in both groups. Some people gained weight, and some lost as much as 50 to 60 pounds. Dr. Gardner said that the people who lost the most weight reported that the study had “changed their relationship with food.” They no longer ate in their cars or in front of their television screens, and they were cooking more at home and sitting down to eat dinner with their families, for example.
“We really stressed to both groups again and again that we wanted them to eat high-quality foods,” Dr. Gardner said. “We told them all that we wanted them to minimize added sugar and refined grains and eat more vegetables and whole foods. We said, ‘Don’t go out and buy a low-fat brownie just because it says low fat. And those low-carb chips — don’t buy them, because they’re still chips and that’s gaming the system.’”
In a new study, people who ate lots of vegetables and whole foods
rather than processed ones lost weight without worrying about calories or portion size.
Dr. Gardner said many of the people in the study were surprised — and relieved — that they did not have to restrict or even think about calories.
“A couple weeks into the study people were asking when we were going to tell them how many calories to cut back on,” he said. “And months into the study they said, ‘Thank you! We’ve had to do that so many times in the past.’”
Calorie counting has long been ingrained in the prevailing nutrition and weight loss advice. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, tells people who are trying to lose weight to “write down the foods you eat and the beverages you drink, plus the calories they have, each day,” while making an effort to restrict the amount of calories they eat and increasing the amount of calories they burn through physical activity.
“Weight management is all about balancing the number of calories you take in with the number your body uses or burns off,” the agency says.
Yet the new study found that after one year of focusing on food quality, not calories, the two groups lost substantial amounts of weight. On average, the members of the low-carb group lost just over 13 pounds, while those in the low-fat group lost about 11.7 pounds. Both groups also saw improvements in other health markers, like reductions in their waist sizes, body fat, and blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
The researchers took DNA samples from each subject and analyzed a group of genetic variants that influence fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Ultimately the subjects’ genotypes did not appear to influence their responses to the diets.
The researchers also looked at whether people who secreted higher levels of insulin in response to carbohydrate intake — a barometer of insulin resistance — did better on the low-carb diet. Surprisingly, they did not, Dr. Gardner said, which was somewhat disappointing.
“It would have been sweet to say we have a simple clinical test that will point out whether you’re insulin resistant or not and whether you should eat more or less carbs,” he added.
Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, said the study did not support a “precision medicine” approach to nutrition, but that future studies would be likely to look at many other genetic factors that could be significant. He said the most important message of the study was that a “high quality diet” produced substantial weight loss and that the percentage of calories from fat or carbs did not matter, which is consistent with other studies, including many that show that eating healthy fats and carbs can help prevent heart disease, diabetes and other diseases.
“The bottom line: Diet quality is important for both weight control and long-term well-being,” he said.
Dr. Gardner said it is not that calories don’t matter. After all, both groups ultimately ended up consuming fewer calories on average by the end of the study, even though they were not conscious of it. The point is that they did this by focusing on nutritious whole foods that satisfied their hunger.
“I think one place we go wrong is telling people to figure out how many calories they eat and then telling them to cut back on 500 calories, which makes them miserable,” he said. “We really need to focus on that foundational diet, which is more vegetables, more whole foods, less added sugar and less refined grains.”
4 Tips to Balance your Gut from a Holistic Therapist.
When treating those with anxiety, my clients and I work together to help balance different aspects of life: body, mind and spirit. Science is showing us that cultivating good digestive health is a crucial piece of the treatment puzzle. Research is showing that the bacteria in your gut can directly affect your behavior and emotions…. This might be surprising for many, however it’s a critical, and often overlooked factor in treating anxiety. Healing and restoring balance to one’s digestive tract, ideally with the help of an integrative medical doctor can make a huge difference in symptoms. Your digestive tract can be damaged by chronic stress, medication use and exposure to foods that aren’t great for your body (to name a few). Many factors besides poor digestive health may contribute to your symptoms. Maybe you’re in an unhealthy relationship, suffer from low self-esteem, struggle with panic attacks, or worry needlessly about little things. No matter what the issues that are contributing to your anxiety, experiencing it can leave you feeling isolated, scared and mentally exhausted. When it comes to treating emotional distress, utilizing multiple agents of change is the most beneficial way to experience relief. For example, when treating anxiety, it’s extremely beneficial not only to receive therapy, but also to change your diet, exercise, patterns of self-talk, methods of self-care and introduce relaxation techniques. Working on balancing your gut flora can be a very healing addition to the aforementioned therapies. While research is still emerging, science is supporting the idea that your gut bacteria affects your emotional health. Dr. Michael Gershon first brought this groundbreaking science to the public with his lab studies with rodents. He was first prompted to study the connection because of his interest in serotonin; 90% of our serotonin is produced and manufactured in the gut! He wrote, The Second Brain, which describes the role of the digestive tract in regulating emotional health and decision making.
Some fascinating research has been conducted to further this idea. Researchers swapped the bacteria in anxious mice and fearless mice by changing diet, adding antibiotics or adding probiotics. They found that the timid mice actually started taking more risks and acting more gregarious and the opposite also happened: the fearless mice acted more timid. In a 2013 study published in Gastroenterology, researchers studied the effects of probiotics in humans. After 4 weeks of ingesting probiotics, they scanned the brains of each participant. The researchers found subtle signs that the brain circuits involved in anxiety were less reactive.
But, how do the brain and the gut communicate? The brain and the gut are in constant communication via the vagus nerve, a large nerve that connects the two. The concept of “gut feeling” and butterflies in your stomach is actually a real thing! In a study conducted in Ireland, researchers found that when the vagus nerve was cut in mice, they no longer saw the brain respond based on changes to the rodent’s gut flora. Scientists have also begun to study certain neurochemicals that have not been described before being produced by certain bacteria, thus suggesting that gut microbes can produce their own version of neurotransmitters. This is another way that gut microbes may communicate with the brain. Pretty fascinating, right?!
Wondering how to nourish your digestive tract? Here are 4 tips.
1.) Start eating more and more WHOLE foods. Limit processed foods, sugar, alcohol and caffeine. Choose fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, and lean proteins. Check out this article from Dr. Mark Hyman on the subject. Start with small changes. Choose a sweet potato instead of fries, eat half of your dessert rather than the whole plate, or order an open faced sandwich. Changes should feel do-able, not overwhelming and anxiety producing!
2.) Increase your body/food awareness. Notice how you feel after eating. Take note of fatigue, bloating, anxiety, gas, reflux or any other symptoms that you might be experiencing. This will allow you to start mapping patterns and become aware of what foods might be troublesome for you. If you continually eat foods that don’t react well to your body, it can damage your delicate digestive lining and balance of good bacteria. Log your findings for at least a week.
3.) Eat foods rich in probiotics. This can include yogurt, kefir, fermented foods and sauerkraut.
4.) Reduce Stress. Stress can damage your very thin digestive lining. Practice relaxation techniques, meditate, use positive self-talk and engage in activities that bring joy. Managing stress will help you to heal from the inside out and also reduce anxiety symptoms.
Most of all, if you are struggling with anxiety, reach out for help from a therapist who specializes in anxiety or your doctor. Relief from symptoms is possible!
Wishing you the best of health
By Meghan Toups MS September 22, 2014
About the Author: Meghan Toups is a frequent contributor on Expanded Consciousness, she is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia. Meghan also received her health coaching certification and training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she was trained in more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods.
Nutritionists have a lot of advice to give, especially around weight loss. But what are the number one tips they tell people who are trying to drop pounds?
We tapped 12 nutritionists for the answer—you might be surprised by what they said.
Be Nice to Yourself
“Talk to yourself as if you were talking to a friend. All too often we revert to negative self-talk, especially when it comes to our bodies. ‘You look so fat in that’ might pop into your head when you talk to yourself, but you would never use such harsh words to someone dear to you. Try to be your biggest fan instead of your worst enemy. That negative talk could lead to apathy, overeating, and dietary sabotage.” —Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., author of Read It Before You Eat It
Ask Yourself if You’re Really Hungry
“Learn the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Traditional diets cut calories, which can seem like a drastic change if you are used to eating more food than your body needs. When you feel deprived, it’s hard to find the motivation to continue, which is why most traditional diets fail. Instead, focus on fueling your body when you are hungry with healthy, nourishing foods. When you reach for a snack at 2 p.m. because you ‘always’ do, ask yourself if you’re really hungry or just bored, tired, or stressed. If you’re hungry, have a healthy snack. If you’re not, figure out what emotion is really going on and address that. Shifting the focus to this mindset makes weight loss so much easier.” —Alexandra Caspero, R.D., founder of Delicious Knowledge
Stop Dwelling on What You Shouldn’t Eat
“Focus on the foods and drinks you should be saying ‘yes’ to, rather than focusing on ones you should cut. If your mantra is ‘no junk food,’ it’s likely that junk food—the very thing you are trying to avoid—is top-of-mind. Focusing on eating the healthy foods you love, like roasted cauliflower, pomegranate arils, or Sriracha hummus, makes you think about how to include them in your daily or weekly meals. That will help your unhealthy choices fall to the wayside.” —Tori Holthaus, R.D., founder of YES! Nutrition, LLC
Eat Whole, Not “Health” Foods
“Weight loss will happen as a side effect of choosing whole foods that provide the nutrients you need. New research demonstrates that foods labeled as ‘healthy,’ like ‘healthy cookies,’ may be contributing to the obesity epidemic because people are more likely to overeat them.” —Brigid Titgemeier, R.D., registered dietitian nutritionist at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine
“Of course we have to watch our calories consumed, but how about focusing on calories expended? According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week. I recommend trying a combination of things such as strength training, cardiovascular training, and core work to increase activity and lose weight. Keep a journal of your active minutes each week, or use an app, to stay accountable and hit your minute goals. —Jim White, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios in Virginia
Don’t Ditch the Fat
“It’s a common misconception that you need to cut fat out of the diet to lose weight; however, omega-3s in fatty fish like salmon, and monounsaturated fatty acids in foods such as avocado and olive oil have been linked to healthier waistlines. Eat these healthy fats to increase satiety and lose weight more easily.” —Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor in nutrition and exercise science at Central Washington University
Make a Plan
“Planning is the key to weight loss, maintaining a healthy weight, and living a healthy lifestyle. Plan out your meals and snacks in advance, grocery shop based on those meals and snacks, prep food ahead of time, and think through the ways you can incorporate your favorite unhealthy foods in moderation. In my experience the people who plan are the ones that succeed.” —Wesley Delbridge, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Rework Your Favorite Meals
“Don’t eliminate the foods you love. Instead, learn how to eat them in a healthier way. For example, don’t stop eating pasta. Add lots of veggies and lean protein, like shrimp, chicken, or beans to your pasta bowl, and avoid heavy, creamed sauces. Remember, the real win in weight loss is keeping the weight off, not just losing it quickly.” —Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet
Make Changes You Can Stick With
“Find a diet that is a lifestyle change you can embrace forever. Studies show that ‘diets’ don’t work because people don’t stay on them. A diet shouldn’t be something you go ‘on’ and ‘off.’ It should be something sustainable. It should be a way of eating for life—an eating pattern that doesn’t make you feel hungry, deprived, or obsessed with food.” —Sharon Palmer, R.D., author of Plant-Powered for Life
Follow Your Own Path
“There is no one meal plan that will lead to sustainable weight loss in everyone. People have to find what works for them, based on their own needs and preferences. —Maria Elena Rodriguez R.D., program manager of The Mount Sinai Health System’s Diabetes Alliance
Don’t Forget Calories
“No matter what plan you’re following, if you take in too much energy, it will get stored. When you’re aware of roughly how many calories you’ve eaten for breakfast and lunch, you’ll know if you can have some dessert after dinner. It’s kind of like a budget.” —Holly Herrington, R.D., dietitian at the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Medicine
Take Things Slow
“Don’t try to change everything about your diet at once. Start by making one improvement in what you’re eating or one improvement in how much you’re eating, but don’t try to change both at once. Ease into it, and you’ll find that the healthy changes you make become much more doable.” —Georgie Fear, R.D., author of “Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss”