As a clinical nutritionist, I’m often faced with busting the myth that calorie counting alone leads to weight loss. Thanks in part to fad diets and rampant misinformation about nutrition, it comes as no surprise that many people consistently struggle with losing weight this way.
Food, and its nutritional value, are so much more than the numbers found on a label. Here’s why counting calories won’t guarantee weight loss.
Focus on quality over quantity. A study recently published by the Journal of American Medical Association found that participants who cut back on added sugar, refined grains, and processed foods while eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods — without worrying about cutting calories — lost an average of 12-13 pounds after one year.
Led by Christopher Gardner, director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, the trial was conducted with more than 600 participants and $8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Nutrition Science Initiative, and other groups.
These results offer a counter-view to the old weight loss adage “consume fewer calories than you burn.” Instead, the study reveals that diet quality, not quantity, is what helps people lose and manage their weight most easily in the long run.
Don’t count calories, count chemicals. If you regularly consume added sugar, refined grains, and processed foods, you have more to worry about than cutting back on calories.
As a society, we have become obsessed with calories; so much so that we often neglect the importance of consuming foods — especially those with a high caloric count — for their overall nutritional value. Instead, we choose foods that are low in calories, but masked by chemicals that are slowly making us fat, or worse.
If you typically buy whole foods, you’re on the right track. The closer a food item is to its origins, the more likely it is to contain the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Whole, organic foods also tend to be packed with phytonutrients — compounds found in certain plants that are beneficial to human health and help prevent various diseases. In addition, eating whole, nutrient-dense foods can promote satiety, preventing you from overeating throughout the day.
Start with grass-fed, pasture-raised, and organic proteins such as lamb, pork, bison, elk, chicken, turkey, or duck. If you prefer to eat fish or seafood, choose wild salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, or haddock, as well as wild clams, scallops, mussels, oysters, or shrimp.
For sides, choose ancient grains such as quinoa, amaranth, or sorghum, and any organic green vegetable (this is where you’ll find those phytonutrients).
Choose oils from avocados, walnuts, almonds, macadamia, flaxseed, or hemp to both consume and cook with. You should also include fatty fruits — like avocados, coconuts, and olives — in your diet, as well as wild organic berries, cherries, and the occasional apple.
When it comes to milk, skip the dairy and choose an alternative like almond, coconut, hemp, or cashew. But make sure you choose one without large amounts of added sugar.
Eat for a healthy gut. In a healthy digestive system, the cells that form the paper-thin lining of the small and large intestines are packed very closely together. In fact, they’re so close that only what should pass through — digested food and water — can enter the bloodstream.
But the tight junctions of the gut lining can easily be disrupted and become too porous. Diets high in chemical-laden, processed foods, sugar, and other substances can damage the gut lining and force it to become more permeable.
These same factors also affect the balance of both the trillions of beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut. When this balance is disturbed, harmful bacteria can get the upper hand and cause an increase in gut permeability. The result is intestinal hyper-permeability, commonly referred to as “Leaky Gut Syndrome.”
This condition allows toxins, bacteria, undigested food particles, and other undesirable gut contents to enter the bloodstream and circulate to the rest of the body, including your brain. Your gut not only affects your mental state in how you feel physically, but the reverse is also true: Your mental state affects your gut and gut health.
To fix the gut’s absorptive properties, I use two acronyms as my guide — no GPS: gluten, processed foods, or sugar; as well as no DNA: dairy, nicotine, or artificial sweeteners.
Stop eating any foods you suspect you’re allergic to or cannot tolerate. And, stop drinking soda, even the sugar-free kind.
You can also help reverse the effects of a poor diet and manage your gut health with the natural supplement Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC)—a shiitake mushroom extract. AHCC contains glucans, which can help naturally boost the immune system, decrease certain innate immune signalers, and decrease inflammation.
Like most effective weight-loss regimes, reversing conventional wisdom around weight loss will take time. Scientific evidence shows that calorie counting alone won’t help you achieve the goals you’ve set for losing weight.
Instead, pay close attention to the foods you eat. Choose nutrient-dense, organic foods that contain simple ingredients — and absolutely no chemicals.
Cutting out added sugar, refined grains, and anything processed will help you manage and lose weight more effectively in the short term, and live an overall healthier life in the long run.
For more information about Dr. Silverman, please visit www.drrobertsilverman.com
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