It seems like there’s always a new study or a new diet trend that could help you lose weight. It can get confusing trying to sort out what’s real and what’s not, especially if science itself reports that something works or a newly svelte friend is gushing about the diet she’s on. If you’re looking for ways to change eating habits for weight loss, it might help to keep two things in mind: First, a lot of scientific research needs further studies with larger groups or with human test subjects for more conclusive results; and second, what works for some people may not work for you.



Over the years, there has been some convincing data that has emerged amid sometimes conflicting studies. Read on to find answers to your questions about proper eating habits for weight loss.

Q: It’s just calories in, calories out, right? So all I need to do is restrict my calorie intake to lose weight?

A: Not exactly. True, you can lose weight by simply eating less, but research has shown that the quality of the calories counts as well, so you also have to pay attention to the source of your calories. For example: Half an apple has 37 calories versus a glass of soda which has about 41 calories. While they may be calorically comparable, an apple is a much more nutrient-dense option. Additionally, it will keep you feeling fuller for longer, preventing you from caving and binge-eating later on. It’s worth noting that studies have also shown that sugary drinks like soda contribute to weight gain over time.

Q: Can a low-fat diet help me lose weight?

No. Packaged foods touted as “low fat” normally have other additives (like sugar) to improve their flavor. What’s important is consuming the good kind of fat (unsaturated), from food like avocados and fatty fish, instead of saturated fat, which you get from red meat and deep-fried food.

Q: My friend dropped a lot of weight on a high-protein diet. Is this the best way to go?

High-protein diets have been found to make people feel fuller, increase energy burn, and hold on to lean muscle. Short-term studies have yielded favorable results, but longer-term studies seem to indicate that a high-protein diet isn’t better than other types of diets. It also matters what type of protein you’re consuming. Red meat and especially processed meat have large amounts of saturated fat and have been found to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. If you do decide to start a high-protein diet, make sure you get your protein from healthier sources like fish and legumes. (You can read more about protein here

If you’re interested in the ketogenic diet, the Harvard School of Public Health (HSP) has this to say: “Available research on the ketogenic diet for weight loss is still limited… A ketogenic diet has been shown to provide short-term benefits in some people including weight loss and improvements in total cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. However, these effects after one year when compared with effects of conventional weight loss diets are not significantly different.”

The HSP goes on to say that eliminating several food groups from your diet (the way keto drastically reduces carbs, including eliminating most fruits, for instance) may not be sustainable, but that a ketogenic diet may be an option for those having a hard time losing weight through other means. Just make sure you consult a physician and a dietician to get the exact ratios of protein, carbs, and fat your body needs and focus on protein-rich foods that are low in saturated fat.

Q: Should I avoid all carbs?

Just as there is good fat and bad fat, and good protein and bad protein, there are also good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. Bad carbs—white rice, white bread, potatoes, sugary drinks—cause a spike in blood sugar and make you hungry sooner, so it stands to reason that over time, bad carbs contribute to weight gain. Go for unrefined carbs like whole-grain bread, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables. They provide a slower energy burn, are more nutrient-dense, and make you feel full longer.

Q: Are there specific foods or ingredients that can help me along?

There is no substitute for a balanced diet and regular exercise. Research indicates that certain foods like pepper, ginger, and saffron may help suppress appetites, keeping you from overeating. Saffron seems to exhibit antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties on top of keeping hunger at bay. Try adding these ingredients to your meals. If you’re interested taking supplements, such as saffron extract for weight loss, be sure to consult your doctor beforehand.




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