Obesity is a growing problem in the United States – did you know that 41.9% of U.S. adults are obese? Coincidentally, the rise in obesity began at the same time that highly processed foods started gaining traction.
Highly processed foods may be convenient, but they come with a hefty price – a load of calories, little to no nutrients, and an increased risk of diseases. On the contrary, whole foods are incredibly nutritious and can help you reach your weight goals!
How do these foods help you lose body fat and maintain a healthy weight? Keep reading to see!
What Are Whole Foods?
Whole foods are single-ingredient foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. They lack chemical additives and are mostly unprocessed. For example:
- Unprocessed Meat
There are tons of whole foods to choose from, so it is easy to pick ones you can enjoy and use to reach your goals!
11 Reasons Whole Foods Help You Lose Weight
A nutrient-filled diet with whole foods is great for your health and can help you drop pounds. Whole foods are more nutritious, have fewer calories, and are more satisfying than most processed foods.
You can take a massive step towards a healthier way of life by simply replacing processed foods with more natural foods. What’s more, forming a habit of eating whole foods — rather than following a temporary diet — will make it easier to maintain a long-term healthy weight.
Worried that healthy foods might cost more? Check out this guide for eating healthy on a budget!
1. Whole Foods Are Nutritious
Whole, unprocessed plant and animal foods are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are great for your health. However, processed foods are low in micronutrients and can increase your risk of health problems.
Processed foods can impede weight loss in a few ways. For instance, a diet of processed food without enough iron may limit your capability to exercise since iron is essential for transporting oxygen throughout your body. This would restrict your ability to burn calories through exercise.
Struggling to shed those extra pounds? A nutrient-deficient diet could be the culprit – it won’t fill you up, leaving you wanting more food than you should be eating.
In a study of 786 people, researchers compared how participants felt after meals on a low-micronutrient diet versus a high-micronutrient diet. Surprisingly, despite consuming fewer calories, nearly 80% of participants felt more full and satisfied after meals on the high-micronutrient diet.
Eating natural foods is the way to go when trying to increase your intake of nutrients. They contain various nutrients challenging to find in any single supplement, including plant compounds, vitamins, and minerals. Nutrients in whole foods also work better together and are more likely to survive your digestive tract than supplements.
Diets rich in nutrients help lose weight by filling nutritional gaps and reducing the feeling of hunger.
2. Whole Foods Have Higher Protein Content
Protein is the key to successful fat loss! It boosts your metabolism, reduces hunger, and helps regulate your weight. But, when it comes to getting an optimal amount of protein, it’s not just about the amount – your food choices are just as important.
That’s why whole food sources are your best bet: they are less processed and typically higher in protein and lower in calories. Additionally, their essential amino acids are more available and easier to digest.
Examples of whole food sources of protein include meat, eggs, legumes, and nuts. You can check out this helpful article if you need help finding high-protein foods.
3. Whole Foods Don’t Contain Refined Sugars
Don’t be fooled by the ‘sugar’ in fruits and veggies! Unlike refined sugars, natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables have added benefits, like essential vitamins and minerals, plus plenty of fiber and water – all of which are essential for a healthy diet.
Refined sugars, in contrast, are often added to processed foods. Commonly added sweeteners are high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar. Foods with higher refined sugar content are usually high calorie and provide fewer health benefits. Ice cream, cakes, and cookies are just a few examples, and eating more of these foods has been linked to obesity, so if you want to lose weight, it’s best to limit them.
Refined sugars also do not make you feel full. Studies show that a high refined sugar intake can increase the production of the hunger hormone ghrelin and reduce the brain’s ability to make you feel full. On the other hand, whole foods don’t have added sugar but contain other beneficial nutrients.
Foods high in added sugar are usually higher in calories, do not keep you full, and increase your risk of obesity.
4. Whole Foods are Higher in Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber provides many health benefits, one of which is helping to facilitate weight loss. When it mixes with water in the gut, it forms a thick gel that may reduce hunger by slowing down the transit of food through the gut.
In addition, soluble fiber can also impact the production of hormones associated with appetite. Research has found that soluble fiber can lower the production of hunger-inducing hormones and boost the production of hormones that make you feel full, such as cholecystokinin, glucagon-like peptide-1, and peptide YY.
Whole foods generally contain more soluble fiber than processed foods. Some excellent sources of soluble fiber include beans, flaxseeds, sweet potatoes, and oranges.
For the best results, try to get plenty of fiber daily from whole foods, as they provide many other essential nutrients. However, a supplement may be beneficial if you have trouble consuming enough fiber.
5. Whole Foods Contain Polyphenols
Plant-based foods offer polyphenols with powerful antioxidant properties that can help protect against disease and potentially aid in weight loss. Lignans, stilbenoids, and flavonoids are the three main types of polyphenols.
Of these, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) – a flavonoid – is linked to weight loss. Found in green tea, it is thought to increase the impact of fat-burning hormones like norepinephrine. Studies suggest that drinking green tea may help you burn more calories, with the average person potentially able to burn an extra 60-80 calories daily.
6. Whole Foods Don’t Contain Artificial Trans Fats
Have you wondered why those delicious but unhealthy processed foods can stay shelf-stable for months? It’s because of trans fats – and not the natural kind. Artificial trans fats are made by pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils, transforming them from liquid to solid.
This process not only lengthens the shelf life of processed foods but also increases the risk of severe health conditions. For example, studies have found that monkeys who ate artificial trans fats gained more weight than monkeys who ate a diet rich in monounsaturated fats. Moreover, the extra weight was concentrated in their belly area, which increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health issues.
Fortunately, you don’t need to worry about artificial trans fats with whole foods. Though some sources like beef, veal, and lamb contain natural trans fats, studies have found that these trans fats are harmless.
7. Whole Foods Help You Eat Slower
Taking time to savor your meals is often overlooked advice regarding weight loss. Eating slowly allows your brain the time it needs to recognize when you’re full.
Whole foods can help slow your eating as they typically have a firmer, more fibrous texture that requires more chewing. This simple act can help you lose weight by making you feel fuller with a smaller amount of food.
For example, research on 30 men indicated that those who chewed each mouthful 40 times ate around 12% less than those who only chewed 15 times. The study also showed that those who chewed 40 times had lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin in their blood after the meal and higher levels of the fullness hormones glucagon-like peptide-1 and cholecystokinin.
8. Whole Foods May Reduce Sugar Cravings
Navigating weight loss can be difficult, especially when you have a sweet tooth. Berries and stone fruit are great alternatives to sugary snacks. They can help satisfy cravings as you reduce sugar consumption.
Your taste preferences may also change as you switch to a healthier diet. For example, eating more natural foods could cause your cravings for sugar to decrease or even vanish altogether.
9. You Can Eat More and Lose Weight
Ever wonder why whole foods are so filling? It’s because they contain a good portion of air and water that takes up more space on our plate – but without the extra calories! That’s why we feel fuller after eating these types of foods.
If you’re looking for great food choices to fill you up without being too high in calories, try pumpkin, cucumbers, berries, and air-popped popcorn. You’ll be glad you did!
10. Whole Foods Reduce Your Consumption of High-Calorie Foods
Obesity is a massive global health crisis, with over 1.9 billion adults categorized as overweight or obese. Interestingly, the significant uptick in obesity occurred around the same time heavily processed foods became widely accessible.
For instance, one study analyzed the relationship between highly processed food consumption and obesity in Sweden from 1960 to 2010. The study revealed a 142% surge in the consumption of highly processed food, a 315% upsurge in soda consumption, and a 367% rise in the consumption of highly processed snacks like chips and candy. Simultaneously, obesity rates more than doubled, from 5% in 1980 to over 11% in 2010.
Eating more natural food helps to reduce the intake of heavily processed foods that are lacking in nutrients, filled with empty calories, and raise the risk of various health-related diseases.
11. Whole Foods Will Help You Make a Lifestyle Change
Are you looking to shed those extra pounds quickly? Crash diets may seem like a great idea initially, but keeping the weight off is the real challenge. Most crash diets help you reach your goal by restricting food groups or drastically reducing calories.
However, if their eating style is something you can’t maintain long-term, then weight regain can be expected. That’s where eating a diet rich in whole foods can help you step in the right direction. Not only will this eating style make it easier to maintain weight loss, but it’ll also improve your overall health.
Although weight loss might be slower with this approach, you’re more likely to keep the weight off as you’ve established a healthier lifestyle.
How do Whole Foods Help You Lose Weight?
The short answer? They are lower in calories, help your body function properly, and build better habits!
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