Diet diary: Ditch that low-fat diet, it may not help much in the long run

The search for the ideal weight-loss diet continues — from low-calorie to low-fat and high-protein to high-fat and low-carb etc. Since one size does not fit all, obviously, each one works differently. There is no formula which succeeds for all. Each approach has its strengths and limitations. The most important criteria, however, goes beyond weight loss. It is what follows weight loss, that is sustainability.

A recent meta-analysis, published in 2015 in the prestigious scientific journal ‘Lancet’, reviewed 53 published weight loss studies which studied nearly 68,000 adults and showed there was no significant long-term weight loss among people who were on low-fat diets compared to those who were on higher-fat diets, like the Mediterranean. In fact, high-fat diets are more effective with respect to compliance and sustainability when compared to low-fat diets.

The issue to be addressed is the quality of fat. Fats of inferior quality like hydrogenated fats, margarines, trans fat laden fried foods can be counter-productive and harmful. Good fats present in nuts, seeds, fatty fish, cold pressed oils and dairy are desirable and favour weight-loss, along with providing satiety and taste.

The Mediterranean, the French and the Spanish diets symbolise the benefits of good quality and high-fat diets. Mediterranean diets have been extensively reported to be associated with favorable health outcomes, better quality of life and longevity. Studies on Mediterranean diets have reported a reduced risk of major chronic degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, obesity and heart disease.

In fact, a low-fat diet works out to be high on carbohydrates which is unsuitable, specially for the Indian population, which is genetically predisposed to obesity, diabetes and belly fat. Switching from high carbohydrates and toxic fats in bakery products and oily namkeens to good fats through nuts and seeds can be a valuable part of a weight-loss diet. Many people believe that nuts are high in cholesterol and are bad for the heart, while others believe that they are bad for weight-loss as they are high in calories. Both these beliefs are untrue.

Nuts and seeds have a very low glycemic index and play a vital role in weight management. Their high satiety value makes them an ideal snack for weight watchers. They offer the easiest way to relieve hunger pangs and help prevent food cravings by regulating blood sugar levels and providing vital nutrients.

Sustainable dietary approach to weight management

Cut down on total calories.

* Follow the half-plate rule: reduce your grains and cereals in favour of vegetables.
* Include adequate protein through fatty fish, lean meats, eggs, dairy, pulses, lentils, sprouts, nuts and seeds.
* Reduce free sugars and salt.
* Switch to healthy fats. Say no to trans fats.
* Moderate alcohol, if you drink.
* Manage stress.
* Maintain an active lifestyle.

Author is a clinical nutritionist and founder of http://www.theweightmonitor.com and Whole Foods India

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