People seeking weight loss often seek the latest and greatest diet. Some biotech companies even offer DNA tests to pinpoint the perfect diet for your genetics.
While we all have different health characteristics based on our unique makeup, losing weight might be more about the quality of what you eat than the type of diet, regardless of your genetics.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that dieters following either a healthy low-fat diet or a healthy low-carb diet lost on average about the same amount of weight after one year. Dieters were not instructed to count or cut calories, but instead were taught to maximize vegetables and minimize refined flours, added sugars and trans fats and focus on whole foods that are minimally processed, nutrient-dense and home-prepared.
While technically a low-fat diet could include white rice, juice and muffins, a low-fat diet focused on quality and nutrient density emphasizes whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, for example.
Similarly, a healthy low-carb diet would not just highlight foods such as processed meats and butter, but good sources of beneficial fats from avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and grass-fed and pasture-raised animal products.
Participants in the JAMA study were not forced to follow restrictive diets, but instead attended dietitian-led courses on how to adhere to their assigned diet type without feeling deprived in addition to receiving guidance on healthy eating.
There was a focus on food choices and eating behaviors and those who reported a positive change in their relationship with food had the most success.
In addition, the researchers found the genetic differences in fat and carbohydrate metabolism did not predict success with low-fat and low-carb diets. This means diet quality is more important for weight loss than any genetic predisposition.
While the science may have not yet arrived to support DNA-driven diets, at least when it comes to losing weight, a meal plan that focuses on consuming nutrient-dense whole foods can certainly help you eat better and even lose weight.
Here are some ways you can build a high quality diet to help shed pounds without the fuss of counting calories:
• Aim to eat whole grains such as oats, brown rice, quinoa, and 100 percent whole wheat products instead of refined, processed white flour.
• When choosing packaged foods, select items with fewer ingredients listed on the label and look for ingredients with familiar names.
• Eat nutrient-dense nuts, nut butters, seeds and beans daily.
• Limit foods and beverages with added sugar.
• Limit processed meats and fried foods.
• Choose whole fruit instead of juice and fruit drinks.
• Avoid saturated fats like margarine, hydrogenated oils and vegetable shortening, often found in processed snacks and commercial baked goods.
• Consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, sardines, avocado, olives and olive oil.
• Balance your plate with complex carbohydrates from starchy vegetables like beets, carrots, yams and winter squash.
• Opt for pasture-raised and grass-fed animal products, which have omega-3 fatty acids and higher levels of antioxidants than industrial meat and dairy.
• Plan ahead to prepare more meals at home using whole foods recipes and nutritious ingredients.
LeeAnn Weintraub, a registered dietitian, provides nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and businesses. She can be reached at RD@halfacup.com.