You want to shed those extra pounds and you know you’re not eating right, so you look to health foods. Health foods tend to offer more nutritional support than processed or prepackaged foods, but not all are good for weight-loss. We dug through every piece of information we could find to collect the facts. University studies, research and medical advice were all part of the equation. Everyone deserves to know exactly what to expect with health food, so here we are.
What is Health Food?
Health food is a term often used to describe foods that support overall health and wellness. On a broader scale, the weight-loss community tends to say diet foods are the same as health foods, though that’s not always the case.
Health Foods and Weight-Loss – “What’s the Best?”
If you’re looking to switch out some unhealthy foods with healthier foods, you can look at several categories like fruits, vegetables, healthy starches and whole grains.
Fruits are a critical part of a healthy lifestyle as they provide essential nutrients and, in some cases, fiber. It is important to add fruits to your diet if you’re overweight or obese. This condition can cause undue stress on the heart and fruit-rich diets may help fight that effect. According to the journal Nutrition, “Consumption of antioxidant substances contained in fruit could be a useful strategy in the design of hypocaloric diets that, with the weight reduction, could increase the improvement of cardiovascular risk factors related to obesity.”
If you’re trying to lose weight, vegetables are the perfect addition to your diet. Most vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrition. Think rainbow when choosing vegetables as each color offers different support. Green, leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, collards and even romaine lettuce have very few calories but they offer tons of vitamins. You may be surprised to find “dark green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of fiber, folate and carotenoids. These vegetables also contain vitamins C and K and the minerals iron and calcium,” based on information from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.
Not all starches are not necessarily healthy. Any starch made from white flour is not considered a health food. White flour is bleached – that’s enough to throw up the red flag. Starches to avoid include white bread, white rice and white potatoes. In place of these foods you can add complex carbohydrates, whole grains and sweet potatoes. In general, white lacks color and color means vitamins and nutrients.
When you think of whole grains do you picture that “wheat” bread in the grocery store? Just because the label says wheat, does not mean it is a health food. Whole grains are the key, so “whole wheat” is what you’re looking for. Other whole grains include whole oats, bulgur, brown rice, whole grain barley, whole rye and buckwheat. Air-popped popcorn is also a great source of whole grains and fiber.
Changing to Health Food – “Guaranteed Weight-Loss?”
If you think changing to health food will immediately help you lose weight, you are mistaken. No matter what food you consume, you have to maintain a negative balance of intake to output. Basically, you need to eat fewer calories than the body needs each day. Cutting back 500 calories a day equals one pound lost each week. This is not a one-time change. As you lose weight, the body needs fewer calories and you’ll need to cut back again to continue losing.
Something to consider is protein. As part of your change to health food, you need to change out fatty proteins for lean proteins. Based on a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, “a modest increase in protein content and a modest reduction in the glycemic index led to an improvement…and maintenance of weight loss.”
Are Health Foods Clinically Proven to Help With Weight-Loss?
There’s not necessarily clinical proof stating that health foods will promote weight-loss. If you eat fewer calories than the body needs, no matter the source of those calories, you will lose weight. When choosing health foods you’re looking at overall health. No one wants to be thin and unhealthy. The idea is to be the ideal weight and healthy at the same time. There are some health foods that work perfectly to curb hunger and help you lose more weight.
These high-fiber sources of protein are underappreciated unless you are a vegetarian or vegan. All it takes is one, small serving of beans added to your afternoon meal to fight that afternoon hunger. Skip the snack and you’re more likely to lose weight. Plus, few Americans get enough fiber in their diet.
Starting your day with a good source of protein may be enough to stop you from overeating for the rest of the day. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, “The weight of evidence…suggests that high protein meals lead to a reduced subsequent energy intake.”
The average American consumes fewer than 14g of fiber each day, despite the fact that at least 25g is suggested. Fiber slows the digestive process, making it easier to fight those cravings that all-too-often cause excessive intake of simple carbohydrates. Plus, fiber is clinically proven to support weight-loss. “Individuals with low fat…and high fibre…intakes lost more weight compared with those consuming a high-fat…, low-fibre…diet,” says the journal Diabetologia.
You can find long lists of negative-calorie foods all over the internet, but there is no research supporting the claim that it takes more calories to digest these foods than they provide. What is known is that they are part of a healthy diet and they do provide few calories, lots of water and fiber. The Mayo Clinic says, “Many of these foods are vegetables and fruits, which can be part of an overall healthy diet plan. But they’re probably not negative-calorie.” So, negative-calorie foods do have calories, but they are certainly health food by every definition of the term.
Carbohydrates and Low Glycemic Index
One of the easiest, but time consuming, ways to add health foods for weight-loss is to switch out high glycemic foods for low glycemic foods. The glycemic index measures the effect carbohydrates have on blood sugar levels; the lower the index, the less effect and vice versa. The journal Clinical Nutrition offers, “Lower-GI energy-restricted diets achieved through a specific differential food selection can improve the energy adaptations during obesity treatment, favouring weight loss and probably weight maintenance compared with higher-GI hypocaloric diets.”
The Bottom Line on Health Food
There is no doubt that health food needs to be a part of your everyday diet. Losing weight aside, if you eat a rainbow of foods you’re more apt to get all the vitamins and minerals you need. When you are looking to lose weight, switching out foods with a high glycemic index for ones with a low glycemic index is a great option. And, it’s important to start your day with a lean source of protein and fiber to keep that hunger at bay.