Losing weight is a subject on the minds of many. Our eat on the run, tv watching lifestyle has led many of us to have bigger waistlines than we’d like; and bigger waistlines than are healthy for us. In fact, the US Centers for Disease Control estimates that over 60 million Americans, or 30% of the adult population, are obese.
Obesity related illnesses are going to lead the pack as causes of death in our country very soon if we don’t get ourselves back on track. Obesity leads to heart disease, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes and increases your risk for some forms of cancer. As our weight increases, so do our risk levels.
So, how do we go about losing the weight? Well, most of us are aware that we need to eat less and exercise more. Putting more calories into our bodies than we burn off in a day leads to weight gain. Cutting calories and getting exercise can help you get your expenditure and intake in line. There’s certainly no getting around this basic weight loss principle.
But, research is showing that there are some foods that can help you lose weight, and other foods that will pack on the pounds faster than you can say “calorie”. I’m not talking strictly calories here – I’m talking about foods that help you burn fat or stay full longer versus foods that cannot be used by the body as energy, so they automatically turn to fat.
Let’s look at foods that can help you. You might be surprised at some of these – they’re not all low calorie. However, they’re known to help you feel full longer or burn fat.
Nuts – Nuts, especially almonds, have been found to be helpful at losing weight. Now, nuts are not exactly a low calorie food, and they must be eaten in moderation. However, they are very nutritious.
Nuts are high in fat, but it’s HDL fat, which is the kind that promotes good cholesterol in the blood. HDL cholesterol helps rid the body of LDL cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol that clogs arteries and leads to heart attacks and strokes.
Nuts are thought to make us feel full longer. In addition, they contain protein that seems to burn a lot of calories during digestion. Doctors are somewhat unclear as to how nuts work, but they do seem to have an effect on weight loss.
Milk – Research has shown that those who drink 24 ounces of low fat milk every day tend to weigh less than those who do not drink milk. Again, the reasons are not clear, but low fat milk does seem to speed up the metabolism. One study showed that women who ate a reduced calorie diet that included 3-4 servings of low fat dairy products and exercised lost more weight than those who ate a reduced calorie diet with fewer servings of dairy and exercised.
Green Tea – In recent years, green tea has gained a lot of attention for its ability to protect health and prevent disease. Green tea has been shown to prevent heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and even Type II diabetes. But, more and more, we’re finding out that green tea may have lots of potential to help weight loss, too.
First, let’s talk about what’s so special about green tea. The magic is in the anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants are important because they fight free radicals in our bodies.
Free radicals are damaging molecules that are created as we convert the food we eat into energy. Free radicals damage cells and DNA, leading to disease, if left unchecked. That’s why it’s so important to get anti-oxidants in our diets each day. Fruits and vegetables are also good sources of anti-oxidants.
But, some of the most potent anti-oxidants around are those found in green tea. Tea anti-oxidants are known as catechins, and they make up about 25% of the weight of a dry tea leaf. Tea contains four main catechin substances: epicatechin (EC), epicatechin gallate (ECG), epigallocatechin (EGC) and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most abundant catechin in tea.
Health professionals favor green tea over black tea because it retains more of these catechins in their natural form than black tea. Black tea goes through a fermentation process that changes some of these catechins from their original state into one that is less healthy. It’s these catechins that seem to have the ability to help us lose weight.
One particular study looked at Japanese men. All of the men were fed the same healthy diet for two weeks before the actual study began. Then, a 12 week study period began, in which some of the men drank one bottle of tea that contained 690 mg of tea catechins each day. The rest of the men were fed one bottle of tea that contained just 22 mg of catechins each day. All of the men continued on a healthy diet.
At the end of the study, the men who ingested 690 mg of tea catechins each day had significantly lowered their BMI, body weight, waist circumference and body fat mass, when compared to the men who consumed fewer tea catechins. The study concluded that the catechins in tea can help to reduce body fat when part of a healthy diet.
So, while we know that to lose weight we have to reduce our calories and get regular exercise, it’s nice to know that there are foods out there that can help us meet our goals more easily. So, add some nuts, milk and green tea to your healthy diet, and watch how your body changes!