Nutrition and Weight Loss Harry Mills, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 11th 2005
Most weight loss programs begin with a reducing diet (designed to promote weight loss) which creates its effect by limiting how much of different types of foods one can eat. There are a bewildering number of reducing diet styles, however. Some recommend a simple reduction in the total amount of food consumed, while others recommend specific reductions of particular types of foods consumed (breads and pastas, for instance). A knowledge of basic nutrition concepts helps us to understand why the variety of recommendations exist.
The Food Pyramid
A good starting place for diet and nutrition information is the USDA's research-based Food Pyramid guide for selecting a healthy diet.
The food pyramid starts by dividing foods into the following six food groups:
The six groups are then arranged into a pyramid shape to indicate the relative proportions of each food that people should eat each day. For example, the Grains (bread, cereals, rice and pasta) group takes up a larger percentage of the pyramid's area than other groups to indicate that proportionally more servings of bread, cereals, rice and pasta are appropriate to eat each day versus other groups. Importantly, not just any grain is recommended. At least half of the grains eaten in a given day should be 'whole' grains, which contain the grain germ (fertile seed part), and the bran (hard outer seed coating). Look for whole wheat breads and pastas when making food choices, if possible.
The Fruits and Vegetables groups's area is smaller than the Grains group, but larger than the Milk and Meat & Beans groups, suggesting that more fruits and vegetables are to be consumed than milk, meat or beans for balanced nutrition. The types of fruit and vegetable choices made are important as well. Whole, fresh fruit is much better for you than fruit juice. Dark green and orange vegetables such as spinach and carrots are in general better for you than vegetables that do not have these colors, and fresh vegetables are in general better for you than canned vegetables. When choosing dairy or meats to eat, the pyramid suggests that you choose lower fat varietys. When chosing oils and fats to use for cooking and eating, the pyramid indicates that liquid choices (such as olive oil) are better than solid choices (such as butter, margerine, or shortening). The Oils group is the smallest of all the groups, indicating that as a percentage of your total diet, relatively few oils should be consumed.
For the first time ever, the pyramid now includes a physical exercise componant as part of the essential food groups, to indicate that regular physical exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week (60 minutes a day for children and teens!), is vital for everyone's health.
Carbs, Fats and Protein
The six food groups recognized in the food ...
Weight Loss: Junk foods vs. Whole foods Harry Mills, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 11th 2005
The body needs both calories and nutrients to function properly. Unfortunately, not all foods provide quality nutrients. So-called 'junk foods' (e.g., candy bars, sodas, fast-food hamburgers, etc.) are high in calories and in refined sugars and/or saturated fats, but do not provide other worthwhile nutrients. While junk foods can be sources of quick energy, they are bad for health overall. If empty calories replace more important nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, the end result is a poorer quality diet. A steady diet of junk food can actually contribute to malnutrition and disease. In children and adolescents a steady diet of junk food might negatively effect growth and development.
In the last century, food producers have taken to refining foods so that they will last longer on supermarket shelves. The process of refining food, however, often damages its nutritional value. The white flour used to make white bread provides a good example. Wheat berries that get ground to make flour have several parts - the bran, or outer protective layer, the germ, or living seed, and the endosperm, which is the starchy food source the germ will consume while growing. White flour is made by removing the germ (which contains oil that would go rancid) and bran parts (which contain fiber) of the wheat berry and grinding what is left. As much of the nutritional value of wheat is found in the germ and bran parts of the wheat berry, white flour ends up having very little nutritional value. Whole wheat bread made from whole wheat flour (so-called because it is made by grinding the whole of the wheat berry including the bran and germ) contains far more nutritional value than white bread.
The best, most nutritional foods to eat tend to be 'whole' foods; minimally processed and arriving at the supermarket with much the same composition they had while growing. Whole grains such as whole wheat, whole oats and beans which retain their beneficial fiber provide more nutrients than highly processed foods and may also reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Minimally processed foods containing fiber also help moderate blood glucose levels, aid elimination, assist in lowering blood cholesterol, and make weight management easier.
Organic foods vs. Conventional foods.
Most of the foods and meats found in a regular supermarket are produced on factory farms with the aid of chemical pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Though most of these chemicals wash away, trace levels remain in foods and get eaten by people. This is of particular concern with regard to meat animals which get raised on pesticide dosed vegetation and concentrate pesticides in their tissues. Many people feel that having such chemicals in their foods is a bad idea that can lead to health problems. The alternative to conventional foods are organic foods, whi...
Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths WIN Updated: Feb 13th 2003
"Lose weight fast! We'll tell you how!"
Try the low- carbohydrate diet, the high-protein diet, the green tea diet, and the cabbage soup diet--or drink a shake and lose 10 pounds in 10 days"
And so on, and so on, and so on. With so many products and weight-loss theories out there, it's easy to get confused.
This fact sheet will help clear up some of the confusion about weight loss and nutrition and be a guide for making good decisions about your health. If you have any other questions, or if you want to lose weight, talk to a health care professional. Your doctor, a registered dietitian, or other qualified health professional can give you advice on how to eat a healthy diet and lose weight safely.
Myth: Fad diets work for permanent weight loss.
Fact: Fad diets are not the best ways to lose weight and keep it off. These eating plans often promise to help you lose a lot of weight quickly, or tell you to cut certain foods out of your diet to lose weight. Although you may lose weight at first while on these kinds of diets, they can be unhealthy because they often keep you from getting all the nutrients that your body needs. Fad diets may seriously limit or forbid certain types of food, so most people quickly get tired of them and regain the lost weight.
Research suggests that losing 1/2 to 2 pounds a week by eating better and exercising more is the best way to lose weight and keep it off. By improving your eating and exercise habits, you will develop a healthier lifestyle and control your weight. You will also reduce your chances of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. (For more information about how to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle, read Weight Loss for Life, listed in the "Additional Reading" section at the end of this fact sheet.)
Myth: Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight.
Fact: Your body needs a certain amount of calories and nutrients each day in order to work properly. If you skip meals during the day, you will be more likely to make up for those missing calories by snacking or eating more at the next meal. Studies show that people who skip breakfast tend to be heavier than those who eat a nutritious breakfast. A healthier way to lose weight is to eat many small meals throughout the day that include a variety of nutritious, low-fat, and low-calorie foods.
Myth: "I can lose weight while eating anything I want."
Fact: This statement is not always true. It is possible to eat any kind of food you want and lose weight. But you still need to limit the number of calories that you eat every day, usually by eating smaller amounts of food. When trying to lose weight, you can eat your favorite foods--as long as you pay attention to the total amount of food that you eat. You need to use more calories than you eat to lose weight.
The best way to lose weight is to ...