Diet Advice - What Matters and What Doesn't
Calories matter. It's a remarkably simple concept that people seem to have forgotten. In the quest for the perfect diet, everyone seems to be looking for a villain. We blame carbohydrates, fat, corporate marketing, fast food and even climate change. We desperately want the problem to be "out there" so we don't have to feel guilty about our own actions.
To feel better about our choices, we point to sensational headlines talking about the latest research that validates what we believe. It doesn't seem to matter that many of the studies are poorly conducted or only show a small piece of the puzzle; if they help us justify our behavior, we embrace them as absolute proof. It's time to clear up some common misconceptions.
Fact #1: Simply cutting all carbs to lose weight is a terrible idea. Both sugar and fiber are carbs. When you indiscriminately cut out the carbs in your diet, you also lower your intake of fiber.
Lowering the amount of fiber we eat is exactly the wrong thing to do. People who have diets higher in cereal fiber have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Fiber has also been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by an amazing 40%. Instead of cutting back on carbs from fiber, we should be doubling down.
The smart choice is to cut back on the simple and added sugars in our diet. Studies of diets lower in carbs, typically cut back on sugar, not fiber. But you don't see that distinction in newspaper headlines. So if low-carb is something you want to try, go for higher fiber, lower sugar options.
Fact #2: You don't have to worry about getting food groups perfect, as long as you're reducing your total calories. Some studies show increased protein can help you lose weight. Some show reducing sugar (simple carbs) from your diet is ideal. Some suggest lower fat is the way to go.
In fact, all those options have shown benefit. But simply reducing calories, of all types, is what provides the majority of weight loss.
When subjects are isolated and their food strictly monitored, there are virtually no differences in weight loss between low-fat or low-carb diets. In fact, a study conducted at the National Institutes of Health and published in Cell Metabolism in 2015 came to the conclusion that, "calorie for calorie, dietary FAT restriction results in more body fat loss than CARBOHYDRATE restriction in people with obesity." (Emphasis added by us.)
So in the study, lower FAT was better than lower CARB. But even in that study, the researchers said, "Although the Restricted Fat group lost a bit more fat, fat loss over time was predicted to be similar over a range of carb intakes based on a mathematical model of metabolism."
No matter how you decide to lose weight, cutting calories has got to be a part of it. Here are a few more things to consider when evaluating diet plans.
Ignore plans that use phrases like detox, cleanse or toxins. The human body naturally cleanses itself continuously. Your liver, kidneys, lungs and skin flush waste products out through urine, feces and sweat. Going on a cleanse or detox won't get rid of anything any quicker than that.
Don't start a diet that focuses on a single food for the majority of your calories. Eating the same thing, day in and day out is a great way to develop nutritional deficiencies. It's especially worrisome if the single product you're supposed to eat/drink is provided by the company promoting the diet.
Forget about finding the perfect diet. How a meat eater can successfully cut calories may be very different from how a vegetarian might do it. Concentrate on the healthiest options for your situation.
Finally, be wary of diets with names, like paleo, blood type or color code. They often use flawed or junk science to entice you with a hook, but are often nothing more than lower calorie plans.
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