Confusion about Nutrition
Low fat, low carb, gluten-free, organic…what’s best, what’s bad…how to maintain that weight loss that you worked so hard to achieve? Experts link the explosion of obesity to the dietary misinformation of the 1970‘s and ‘80s, when “fat” became that four-letter word that health experts linked to as the contributing factor for heart disease. The “fat-free” fad led to the marketing of scads of new products, consumer confusion and sudden and overwhelming overconsumption of refined, processed …carbs! Instead of successful weight management, the rate of obesity and diabetes soared and today Americans consume more calories daily (average 3,654) than any other people on earth...with the majority of calories coming from refined carbohydrates including sugar-sweetened beverages.
Studies show that it is the unfettered consumption of refined carbs and sugary drinks, accompanied by fewer whole foods, that’s causing the problem. It’s not the carbs, per se…it’s the type of carbs! We’re plagued by a lack of activity too. People are more likely to eat out and on the run than at home with their family. Purchasing and preparing fresh food in our fast-paced society is increasingly rare, and challenging.
A Diet is a Diet…is a Diet
Studies show that (at least in the short term) lower-carb diets are more effective than low fat and low calorie diets for weight loss. However, over the long-term, all three popular weight loss diets…low carb, low fat, or calorie-restricted…show similar failure, that is, regardless of the weight loss diet, people regain weight. In fact, the single most important criteria for permanent weight loss maintenance is whether or not you’re getting consistent and regular physical activity.
If you modify your diet permanently, and eat a higher percentage of calories from quality protein and fewer calories from processed carbohydrate will this equate to weight loss success and better health?
A 2010 study included approximately 800 European adults, who had lost approximately 8% of their starting weight on a low calorie diet (they reduced their usual intake by approximately 500 calories daily). Those whose diets provided more calories from protein and “low glycemic index” carbs which meant more vegetables, whole grains and whole fruit were most successful in maintaining their weight loss compared to those who ate less protein and more servings of processed and refined foods (high glycemic index) such as sugary cereal, juice and white rice. And those eating more protein calories continued to lose weight, even compared to the group eating more calories from unprocessed carbs.
Protein and Aging
Protein may also play a role in aging and avoiding sarcopenia, or a loss of muscle mass and strength that’s associated with aging. Research shows that a higher percentage of calories from protein may prevent sarcopenia, while also helping with weight management compared to diets lower in protein and carbohydrate. The study’s authors concluded that rather than recommending a large, global increase in the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein for all elderly individuals, (currently the recommendation is about 0.8 g per kilogram of body weight), a better idea is to include a sufficient amount of protein with each meal…about 25-30 grams of high quality protein per meal. How much is this? A 6-oz can of tuna is 40 grams; a large egg has 6 grams…a cup of milk 8 grams. For good information about protein-containing foods, go to the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.org website. www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/protein-foods.html
The Best Diet
We don’t eat foods in a vacuum, we eat foods within the context of a total diet, and we eat meals consisting of a combination of foods and nutrients. Portion size of all nutrients is critical in this context—just adding protein without considering calories is a recipe for weight gain! However, exchanging a percentage of carb calories for some lean protein (not processed red meats, but more fish, fowl, and plant-proteins) may help control appetite, increase satiety, moderate blood glucose, and help raise “good” HDL. Protein satiates better than carbs (and fat) and exchanging carb calories for protein may help to reduce daily calories successfully. Swap processed carbs for whole, stay with lean and plant-based protein, and stay healthy.
Registered and Licensed Dietitian Susan Burke March is the author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally—a fun and informative book intended to liberate serial dieters and make healthy living and weight control both possible and instinctual over the long term. Her latest project is her new eBook for convenient weight loss, The Common Cent$ Diet for Busy Girls, www.thecommoncentsdiet.com. Susan consults with individuals and companies to create personalized and practical weight management solutions. Email her at Susan@SusanBurkeMarch.com.