Expert: Just Counting Calories Doesn’t Help If You Want to Lose Weight

If you want to lose weight or live a healthier life, you don't necessarily have to count calories.

If you want to lose weight or live a healthier life, you don’t necessarily have to count calories.
Oscar Wong/Getty Images

You need to stop counting calories and focus on eating the right ingredients if you want to lose weight. So says Tim Spector, a professor of Genetic Epidemiology in London.

Highly processed foods can be less filling than whole foods, causing people to eat more than they are actually hungry for.

“Food that has been heavily processed is the enemy,” Spector said. The longer the ingredient list, the more processed the product tends to be.

If you want to lose weight and live a healthier life, you shouldn’t count calories, but make sure you eat fewer highly processed foods. So recommends epidemiologist Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London.

Although a certain calorie deficit is required to lose weight, that alone would be the wrong approach. It is also important what calories are eaten. According to Spector, nutritional information on labels is often inaccurate. Plus, he automatically burns fewer calories if he eats mostly whole foods with no artificial additives.

“We have to stop talking about calories,” he told Business Insider. “Highly processed foods are the enemy.” people monitor their reactions to understand their body’s response to food.

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Many foods are processed in some way, such as oatmeal, yogurt, or flour. However, highly processed foods are mass produced and contain additives such as colors and preservatives to achieve the desired taste or texture. These additives have been linked to various health problems in the past. Examples of highly processed foods include pre-baked cakes and cookies, and potato chips.

Research suggests that more than half of the food consumed in high-income countries is highly processed food.

A small 2019 study by the US National Institutes of Health found that people whose diets were high in highly processed foods ate an average of 500 more calories per day and gained more weight than those who ate processed foods. fresh. Science is not yet unanimous on the reasons for this. However, some suspect that our hormones may interact differently with processed foods.

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According to a 2020 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, highly processed foods may also be linked to an increased risk of heart disease and a shorter lifespan.

“It’s a myth that calories are useful”

Spector believes that the biggest (and most damaging) myth is that calories are good for you. Its importance is “greatly overestimated”. Instead, people should focus more on food composition, Spector said.

“We all have very different metabolic needs. So we cannot compare ourselves with others. Just because someone else sticks to an arbitrary calorie limit doesn’t mean we should,” he said. A croissant, for example, has fewer calories than toast with avocado and an egg. However, the latter has nutritional value. much higher and will keep you full for longer due to the fiber, protein, and healthy fats.

According to Spector, counting calories often leads people to eat more highly processed foods because they may appear lower in calories at first glance. He says many producers are now removing fat and sugar from foods to reduce calories, and instead adding chemicals and sweeteners to preserve flavor.

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But they don’t keep you full for long. Research suggests this eventually leads to eating too many low-calorie but highly processed foods, which can lead to long-term weight gain.

Whole grain foods, on the other hand, are much more filling as they typically contain more fiber and protein. As a result, energy from food is released more slowly, resulting in a longer feeling of fullness, according to Spector.

Nick Shaw, a bodybuilder, personal trainer and nutrition coach at RP Strength, told Business Insider that he encourages people to eat whole foods if they want to lose weight, even when less nutritious foods have the same number of calories and macros.

“You should always keep food quality in mind when considering how much to eat each day,” he said. “If you stick mostly to whole foods like lean protein (for example, sweet potatoes or whole grains), you can still lose body fat.”

Avoid foods with more than ten ingredients.

Technically processed but not highly processed foods also lend themselves to a healthy diet. Examples include canned fruit, frozen vegetables and yogurt, Spector said. To tell if a food is highly processed, you need to look at the length of the ingredient list. A general rule of thumb might be this: If a food has more than ten ingredients, you should probably stay away from it.

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This text has been translated from English. you can find the original here.

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