Why Whole Foods Are the Key to Keeping Pounds Off
The obesity epidemic in the US remains a puzzle to researchers and policymakers. A widely publicized report issued in June 2010
concluded obesity “threatens America’s future.” Both the health and financial costs are staggering and unsustainable.
In just the past year, the adult obesity rate rose in 28 states, falling only in the District of Columbia. If everyone were a healthy weight, Medicare costs would be 8.5% lower and Medicaid would be 11.8% lower.
There’s only one problem. The mainstream nutrition guidelines the report describes to get everyone thin don’t work. These dietary recommendations had the Federal stamp of approval for the last five years, yet obesity rates have skyrocketed in that time.
A complete change in how Americans eat is the answer. Half measures are basically useless and give only the illusion of getting anywhere. This illusion is dangerous because it prevents meaningful action.
A whole foods, plant-based diet is the solution to permanent, hunger-free weight loss. Studies consistently find that people on a plant-based diet are significantly thinner than followers of a meat and dairy diet. For example, one comprehensive review of medical journal articles concluded 38 out of 40 studies found those who avoid meat weigh substantially less than those who eat meat. (See references to Chapter Two of The Perfect Formula Diet for many more studies looking at the relative weight of those on animal-free diets.)
Of course, there are plant-based eaters who still weigh too much. This time, whole foods rather than manufactured foods are the answer. Most importantly, Americans consumed an average 640 calories of added fats per person every day in 2008. That equates to almost 67 pounds of fat on your body just in one year. Think margarine, olive oil, and every other vegetable oil as the likely culprits here, if you are overweight on a plant-based diet. Of course, if you consume oil but are not overweight, you might be short-changing yourself the vital nutrients found only in whole foods (by eating fewer whole foods to keep your calorie count in check).
So what is it about a whole foods diet that will get you to a healthy weight without deprivation or a growling stomach? Six key
mechanisms drive success.
1. Your body has exquisitely tuned sensors for both calories and nutrients. When it gets enough of both, your appetite automatically turns off. A meat and dairy diet has loads of calories, but lacks sufficient nutrients. Your body keeps sending you out to get more food in the quest to survive. Natural appetite controls are disabled in the futile mission of getting optimal nutrition from animal and manufactured foods.
2. Animal and manufactured foods have addictive properties. You may eat when not really hungry just for a “food high.” Irresistible food cravings drive eating binges. Whole plants do not have this addictive quality, so it’s way easier to consume them only when you are actually hungry.
3. Whole plant foods are dense with fiber, which is not digestible by humans. Fiber makes you feel full but adds zero effective calories. This is not true for ruminants like cows, deer, and moose, who actually can digest fiber. You would need three more stomachs to be able to equal this feat.
4. Caloric density is the amount of calories in a spoonful or forkful of food. Vegetables and fruits have the lowest caloric density of all foods. In fact, you would have trouble getting enough calories from
just fruits and veggies. Potatoes, beans, and whole grains round out the whole foods menu, allowing you to feel full and satisfied. Animal and manufactured foods, on the other hand, tend to have higher caloric density than whole plant foods. This means you have to eat more calories to fill your stomach.
5. High energy is a great side effect of a whole foods, plant-based diet. With all that vigor, you will naturally want to exercise more. The activity burns calories and can even rev up your metabolism so you burn more calories all day long.
6. The excess proteins in animal foods push up levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1, or IGF-1 for short. In addition to being a cancer-promoter, IGF-1 spurs growth. In fact, factory farms feed animal protein to naturally vegetarian animals, such as cows, to speed maturation and make the animal gain weight faster. Animal protein has the same effect on people. IGF-1 may be one mechanism for this outcome.
Here’s the bottom line. Choose a variety of whole plant foods: vegetables, fruits, beans, potatoes, and whole grains. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Take a walk with your new-found energy. Then go shopping for some smaller size clothes.
Intrigued? Now you can use our Whole Foods Blog Finder to target informative, fun postings on plant-based nutrition. Quick information at no cost!
Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet, a nutrition book built on sustainable food choices. Enjoy six kinds of whole foods for permanent, hunger-free weight loss and health.