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Friday, July 8, 2011

Calories What Counts: Quantity or Quality?

All calories are not created equal.
We’ve been told for years, “a calorie is a calorie in terms of weight loss”. Decrease your calorie consumption by 500 calories per day (by way of modifying your diet and exercise), and you will lose one pound per week. And, while cutting calories will help you lose weight, recent studies indicate the types of food you eat may be just as important as how much you eat.

One 2010 study found that eating processed foods may have a profound affect on obesity. Researchers examined the post-meal energy expenditure for people who ate either processed foods or “whole” foods (less processed foods including whole grains). What they found was the post-meal energy expenditure for people who ate the processed foods was 50% lower than those who ate “whole” foods. Since the subjects in this study ate the same number of calories, researchers concluded the processed foods may be contributing to weight gain.

In a more recent study, researchers found that people who drink diet sodas were more likely to be obese than their non-drinking counterparts. It’s true that diet soda has zero calories. But, even with no added calories, the waistlines of diet soda drinkers grew 70% more than those who avoided sodas. Those who drank two or more diet sodas per day saw their waist circumference increase by 500% over non-drinkers.

Traditional thinking says if you cut out the calories of soda, weight loss is a given. However, according to one article, we can’t fool our brains with empty calories. From increasing blood sugar to simply triggering our desire to eat more, diet sodas may not be as harmless as you may think.

The moral of the story? Focus your efforts on “whole”, non-processed foods. Things like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help weight loss. And, if you’re a soda drinker, the non-processed rule applies to you as well. Swap your soda for water or 100% juice for a healthier alternative.