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Determining what to eat to lose weight sounds like a simple prospect. Eat healthy foods in moderation and you will be fine, right? Except there are literally countless diets and food guides, each with their own theories and commercial interests.
The science of nutrition is complex and becoming ever more complex as we discover more about the body and what affects it. Genes, environment, the way food is prepared, and even the bacteria in our stomachs makes a difference in how food is absorbed into our bodies.
The scientists of the world have been trying to make sense of this complex puzzle for well over a hundred years, but it is only in the last 15 years that dietary science has started to become reliable.
Even then, the scandal of the low-fat/high-sugar weight loss idea (it turns out most fats are fine but sugar is not) has made a lot of people wary. This is a shame because there is finally enough evidence to make good decisions if people could only trust in them.
One of the main findings has been that if someone is on a diet, it is the strongest predictor of them not losing weight in the long term. Counting your calorie intake or calories per day does not assure loss of body fat.
If dieting is out, eating intelligently is in. No more fads or trendy diets, they are not fat burning and will only make you ill. Eat less, eat healthy, enjoy your food fully, and you will lose weight.
Dietary fibre is essential for gut health and therefore the health of your body. Foods rich in fibre, like whole grains and most root vegetables, give the gut something to press against.
This seems to be very good for your stomach, helping it extract more water and promoting a healthy gut flora (the mix of bacteria and fungi that live in our intestines that are essential to our health). Generally, foods that are high in dietary fibre are also low in fat and sugar, so that is an added bonus.
For a few decades, the advice was to just reduce the amount of fat in our foods, especially saturated fats. While saturated fats are definitely not good for us in large quantities, the current scientific consensus is that unsaturated fats are not as bad as we once thought.
Because so many people replaced fats in their foods with sugar to make them taste good, they were inadvertently doing more damage to themselves than if they had just eaten foods with with fat in them. Sugars, particularly high-fructose refined sugars, cause havoc to the body’s insulin and blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes is very strongly related to sugar intake; obesity is often caused by too much sugar.
This is a problem. Sugar is delicious. Our bodies have evolved to seek out as much of it as possible. Prior to about 150 years ago, sugar (from sugarcane) was rare in our diets. We have not had enough time to evolve and cope with easily available sugars everywhere, so we still crave it like our prehistoric ancestors did. This makes it hard to reduce.
It is possible, however. Simple things like avoiding sugary snacks between meals and eating richer and tastier meals at designated meal times can help. Even brushing your teeth after dinner to stop you from snacking can work. The sugars in fruits are more easily digested. The body knows well how to deal with them in a healthy way, so substituting your sugary snack for a piece of fresh fruit is healthier.
A surprising fact is that drinking water boosts the body’s metabolism for an hour or so. Dehydration is also a massive factor in hunger, so if you are feeling hungry and it is not your meal time, try drinking a pint of water and waiting 20 minutes. It takes around 20 minutes for the body to realize it feels full, so if you can have a drink and wait, you give your body time to reassess how hungry it is.
Your body needs water for all of its metabolic functions and many scientists believe a lot of people go about their daily business chronically dehydrated. In order to lose weight, you have to get your body working as efficiently as possible. Drinking plenty of water is not included in “what to eat to lose weight” but it is vitally important.
Green foods (vegetables and salads) are most of what our ancestors would have eaten in the past. Humans have had modern diets for less than a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms, so our bodies are still tuned to how we used to eat. This means we should eat plenty of green vegetables and leaves. Greens have lots of fibre, nutrients, water, and are relatively low in calories for how much they fill you up.
You were probably nagged as a child to eat your greens and with good reason. They are what to eat to feel healthy and lose weight.
These days, most people eat meat on most days. This is very bad for us. Meats generally contain high fat contents and often come wrapped in carbohydrates and sugar-based condiments. There are also health risks associated with processed meats. Alternative ways of getting lean proteins and micronutrients include chickpeas, lentils, and mushrooms.
It is usually much more satisfying too, which will help to keep you losing weight healthily. In spite of a pasta-heavy diet, Italians are largely healthy with less belly fat than Americans. For your cooking needs, you should switch out your vegetable oils or fatty butter for some tasty light olive oil.
Before making sudden changes to your diet, communicate with your doctor about a long-term plan for weight loss. The more gradual the life changes, the more likely they will work. The primary reason diets do not work is because they are speedy hacks and not genuine life changes. With small gradual improvement, you will surely adapt to a new diet and lose weight.
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