Most weight loss studies take a group of obese participants and put them on very restrictive diets. However, most people aren’t obese, and many aren’t willing to go on a very restrictive diet. So, one study looked at which specific foods cause the most weight gain in non-obese participants.
What Are the Best Foods For Weight Loss?:
The study analyzed the diets of 120,877 non-obese participants from 3 separate long-term studies for 12+ years. Questionnaires were sent to the participants every 4 years, asking for detailed information on their diets (among other questions). The average weight gain for the participants was 3.35 lbs every 4 years, so the average participant gained 16.8 lbs over 20 years (it can creep up on you!). The foods that were associated with the most weight gain per 4 year period were potato chips (1.69 lb), potatoes (1.28 lb), sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 lb), unprocessed red meats (0.95 lb) and processed meats (0.93 lb). The foods that were associated with the most weight loss were vegetables (−0.22 lb), whole grains (−0.37 lb), fruits (−0.49 lb), nuts (−0.57 lb), and yogurt (−0.82 lb). (See chart)
The researchers suggest that refined grains, processed foods and starches could be associated with weight gain because
consumption of starches and refined grains may be less satiating, increasing subsequent hunger signals and total caloric intake, as compared with equivalent numbers of calories obtained from less processed, higher-fiber foods that also contain healthy fats and protein.
Other reasons could be portion sizes and patterns of eating associated with these foods. The researchers didn’t fully understand the weight loss benefit of yogurt, hypothesizing that it could be due to colonic bacteria.
The biggest surprises were potatoes being associated with the most weight gain and yogurt being associated with the most weight loss. Overall, though avoiding refined, processed foods and eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and yogurt should keep you healthy and trim.
Mozaffarian, Dariush, et al. “Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men.” New England Journal of Medicine 364.25 (2011): 2392-2404.