How A Phytonutrient-Rich Diet
Can Aid With Weight Loss

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How A Phytonutrient-Rich Diet Can Aid With Weight Loss

Weight loss is one of the most popular health-related topics. Literally hundreds of different diets have come and gone over the years with many making outrageous claims of guaranteed weight loss of up to 15 pounds in 1 week. Although some of these diets can result in weight loss of this magnitude, there is actually more to the story.

Most fad diets recommend 500 to 1000 calories per day. These low calorie diets are ineffective at maintaining long-term weight loss because lean tissue such as muscle, bone and organs are used for energy in these starvation-like conditions. This decrease in lean body mass reduces the metabolic rate over time and can result in a lower body weight, but a higher body fat percentage. For example, let's say a woman that weighs 150 pounds decides to start a diet. If she started at 30% body fat, this means that she had 45 pounds of fat on her body (150 x 0.30). Now, after 3 weeks on a low calorie fad diet, she has lost 20 pounds, 16 pounds of water and lean tissue and 4 pounds of fat. Sounds pretty good, right? Not so fast; she now weighs 130 pounds and her body fat percentage has actually increased; from 30% to 31.5% (41 pounds of fat divided by 130 pounds).

When loosing weight with any diet, a small amount of lean tissue is lost as well, that's normal. But in order to actually decrease body fat percentage, most of the weight needs to come from fat stores. Low calorie diets are deceiving because it's easy to see the number on the scale dropping quickly, but it's not so easy to tell how body fat percentages are changing.

We all know that diets don't work because they typically are not maintained. Sustained weight loss and then maintaining new weight are based on making gradual lifestyle changes that include diet and exercise. If seeking to adjust your diet to make it easier to lose weight, there is a not-so-secret method that will help; consume a diet that is rich in phytonutrients.

The richest sources of phytonutrients are fruits and vegetables; grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, aloe vera juice and tea are also good sources. Phytonutrients are chemicals that are found in plants that have numerous health benefits including strong antioxidant properties, enhancement of the immune system, anti-aging effects, and the prevention of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. In addition to these health benefits, phytonutrient-rich foods can also aid with weight loss.

Fruits and vegetables have a low "calorie density", which is a measure of the number of calories that a food has in relation to the weight of the food. For example, an average candy bar has about 250 calories in a 2-ounce bar or 125 calories per ounce. An 8-ounce box of dry pasta has about 850 calories or just over 100 calories per ounce. For comparison, an 8-ounce apple contains 120 calories or 15 calories per ounce. An orange is about the same, 15 calories per ounce. A 6-ounce baked potato has around 150 calories, or 25 per ounce. To look at it another way, an 8-ounce apple has 120 calories. If you ate 8 ounces of candy bars, you would consume 1000 calories. So, fruits and vegetables have a much lower calorie density than other foods, which means you can eat the same volume of food, and stay full and satisfied for a fraction of the calories found in other foods.

There are numerous diets that claim to enhance weight loss; high protein, high fat, low fat, low car . the list goes on and on. But at the end of the day, weight loss comes down to the number of calories that you eat compared to the number of calories that you burn. That's it. So the amount of carbs, fat, protein does not matter in the least. In fact, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine supported this conclusion. Anyone can go on a crash diet for a month or two and lose weight. This study compared patients on 4 different diets and followed them for 2 years. No other weight loss study has followed dieters for this length of time. At the end of the study, all diets resulted in weight loss because they were low in calories, but there was no advantage to low fat, high protein, high fat, or high fat-high protein diets.

What this means is that if you eat foods that are low in calories, you will lose weight, provided that you are burning more calories than you consume. For most people trying to lose weight, burning 500 to 1000 calories more than you eat each day is considered ideal and will result in 1 to 2 pounds of fat loss each week. Depending on your activity level, this comes out to about 1200-1500 calories per day for women and 1500-2000 per day for men. Eating less than this will result in lean tissue losses and a slower metabolism. The combination of a phytonutrients rich diet, which has fewer calories than a traditional Western diet, and gradually increasing your physical activity, is the best way to lose weight and maintain your new weight for years to come.

Dr. Linda Kennedy MS SLP ND

References

Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, Smith SR, Ryan DH, Anton SD, McManus K, Champagne CM, Bishop LM, Laranjo N, Leboff MS, Rood JC, de Jonge L, Greenway FL, Loria CM, Obarzanek E, Williamson DA. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009 Feb 26;360(9):859-73.

 

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