Though once a popular method for gauging the effectiveness of diets, general health, and weight-loss progress, calorie counting has fallen out of favor in the wellness-conscious world. Even brands like Weight Watchers, which once relied heavily on calories as a measuring tool, have abandoned the metric in favor of holistic-based eating plans. And a new comprehensive study echoes the sentiment growing in popularity that calorie quantities don’t matter nearly as much as the quality of your food.
Over the course of a year, more than 600 people participated in a trial for the study published in JAMA. To ensure genetic differences were accounted for, the subjects were randomly divided into two diet groups: low-carb and low-fat. Both attended classes with dietitians and were taught how to cook at home and eat whole foods (AKA plant foods that are unprocessed and unrefined).
The participants were not given any calorie requirements or constraints; instead (regardless of whether they were part of the low-carb or low-fat group), they were taught to eat and prepare whole foods, with an emphasis on nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods like vegetables, brown rice, lentils, lean meats, salmon, avocados, and more. As part of this change in diet, they were also instructed to cut back on and stay away from added sugars, refined grains, and processed foods.
People who cut back on added sugar, refined grains, and highly processed foods while eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods—without counting calories or limiting portion sizes—lost significant weight over the course of a year.
Ultimately, the people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains, and highly processed foods while eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods—without counting calories or limiting portion sizes—lost significant weight over the course of a year. Furthermore the study found that simply cutting down on carbs, fat, and calories didn’t really have an impact on weight loss whereas changing the quality of a diet was integral to success.
Christopher D. Gardner, PhD, and co-author of the study told The New York Times, “We really need to focus on that foundational diet, which is more vegetables, more whole foods, less added sugar, and less refined grains.”
It’s really common sense: Eating a 100 calories of candy and sugar has to be less beneficial for your body than eating 100 calories of vegetables, right? So try to be more mindful while planning your meals.
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