The Healthiest Way to Eat and Lose Weight

There are many “diets” promising quick weight loss. Many diets have come and gone including cookie diets, low calorie diets, low carb diets, meal replacement diets, and grapefruit diets just to name a few. The problem is that none of these work long term. Sure, you might lose some weight quickly, but most pounds eventually return. Many dieters eventually gain more than they originally lost. Diets do not work!! They never have long term. The only way to lose weight is to change your lifestyle for good. The best diet or lifestyle should allow for weight loss and improved health long-term without causing hunger. As talked about in a previous post, low carb diets allow people to lose weight quickly. Unfortunately, the long term cost can be high. Diets high in saturated fats can lead to heart disease, stoke and cancer. Diets high in protein can lead to kidney damage and osteoporosis. The best way to lose weight permanently and to improve your health is to eat a low fat diet that is high in complex carbohydrates and fiber. Saturated fat has been shown over and over again to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and many cancers (including breast cancer). The liver creates LDL cholesterol (the bad kind that clogs arteries) from saturated fat. Foods that have a lot of fat tend to be calorie dense. This means you need to eat a lot to get filled-up, but you end up eating a lot of calories in the process. Fruits and vegetables are not-calorie dense – you can eat a lot and get filled up without eating a lot of calories. A good practice is to to start off each meal with either a fruit or vegetable (or salad). Complex carbs are also important. A good carb will have a large amount of fiber. The more fiber you eat the better. Fiber helps lower cholesterol and helps prevent colon cancer. The bad carbs are the simple carbs. The simple carbs cause an insulin spike and help put on weight. Stay away from the simple carbs such as: sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, white bread, white rice, white pasta and white flour. This low fat and high complex carbohydrate lifestyle is an easy way to lose some weight and to help prevent multiple diseases while not feeling hungry.

Why Low Carb Diets are Dangerous

Low carbohydrate diets are the current craze (Atkins, South Beach, ect.). They work by eliminating carbohydrates completely from the diet. Without any carbs, one would be eating only fat and protein. The brain depends on sugar as its fuel, as it cannot use fat or protein. When one cuts out the carbs from their diet the body quickly uses up its stored carbohydrate (glycogen). Once these stores are used up, all the body has left to burn are fat and protein. The body converts fat to ketones which the brain can use as fuel.  This process is called ketosis and is an emergency measure the body uses to save its muscles and vital organs. In other words, the body reacts as if it is starving. Ketosis causes suppression of the appetite which helps with weight loss. Furthermore, a large amount of initial weight loss is due to loss of water not fat. One problem with low carb diets, is that when one subsequently eats some carbs the body thinks it is no longer starving and stops producing ketones. The appetite suppression effect is no longer present and hunger takes over and one will crave carbs. Water weight is then rapidly regained. Another problem with low carb diets, is the large amount of fat, especially saturated fat that is eaten on low carb diets. Saturated fat is turned into LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) by the liver. This is why cholesterol levels do not change much on low carb diets. High LDL cholesterol then leads to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Finally, low carb diets depend on people eating large amounts of protein. High amounts of dietary protein can directly lead to kidney damage. Moreover,  high dietary protein can lead to calcium being lost through the urine. This then results in an increased risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis. Animal protein lacks disease and cancer preventing nutrients and antioxidants. Fruits, which tend to be avoided on low carb diets are loaded with fiber and antioxidants. Any diet that limits high nutrient, antioxidant, and fiber rich foods needs the be seriously reconsidered.

Calorie Density is One Key to Losing Weight

Different types of foods have different calorie densities. Fats have 9 calories per gram. Protein and carbohydrates have only 4 calories per gram.  When we sit down to eat, we tend to eat the same number of spoonfuls, or volume of food. It’s a pretty fundamental response. So if each bite averages just 5 calories (such as an apple), you’re in a far better situation for losing weight than if each bite averaged 50 calories  (a bite of a double cheeseburger).  To lose or maintain one’s weight it is important to eat a lot of low calorie density foods. Fruits and vegetables have a low calorie density. Low-calorie-dense foods don’t pack a lot of calories per bite. Fruits and vegetables have both water and fiber making them big and heavy and therefore more filling. This is why fruits and vegetables are so important (besides their large amounts of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants).   Starting every meal with either a piece of fruit or salad can help one lose weight as you get filled up on less calories.  Food loaded with sugar, simple carbohydrates, and fat tend to be high calorie density foods. You get a lot of calories per bite and they do not fill you up so you eat more. It becomes very easy to overeat and gain weight.  Examples of high calorie dense foods include cereals, dried fruit, breads, cheeses, pretzels, granola bars, cookies, peanuts, ground beef and doughnuts. Sticking to low calorie density foods helps you to remain full and feel satisfied after meals. Therefore you avoid hunger and still take in less calories helping to shed those extra pounds.

Calories and Weight Loss

A calorie is defined as the measurement of energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories. Therefore, 3500 calories need to be lost to lose 1 pound of fat. By reducing caloric intake by 100 calories a day, one would lose almost a pound a month or 10lbs a year. On the other hand, by eating an extra 100 calories a day, one would put on 10lbs a year and 50lbs over 5 years. Walking a mile (2000 steps) burns about 100 calories. By walking an extra mile a day, one could lose 10lbs in a year. Therefore, by lowering one’s caloric intake by 100 calories a day and walking an extra mile a day, one could lose 20lbs in a year. Losing weight does not need to be complicated. Crazy diets are not necessary. Small changes in caloric intake and increases in activity on a daily basis will lead to significant weight loss over time.

Saturated Fat Leads to Hardening of Arteries

Dietary saturated fat, not cholesterol, is the major cause of high blood cholesterol and especially high LDL (bad) cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol directly lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Saturated fat increases LDL (bad) cholesterol, increases inflammation, and causes the blood to be more sticky. Foods that are typically high in saturated fat include meat, cheese, whole-milk products and tropical oils. The goal is to eat no more than 5-10 grams of saturated fat a day. Lowering one’s LDL cholesterol is a great way to lower one’s risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Cardiovascular Disease = Number One Killer

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of both men and women. The good news is that it both preventable and treatable. Risk factors include hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, lack of physical activity, smoking, and a family history. It is important to be screened if you are at risk.