What foods make you eat more and gain weight

What food contributes to weight gain

You can often hear that in losing weight and maintaining weight, the main thing is the total number of calories, and not their source. In other words, you can eat even lettuce, even ice cream, just to fit into the daily norm.

The calorie intake really determines how much weight you gain or lose. But the ability to maintain energy balance without calculations and restrictions directly depends on where the nutrients will come from.

This was clearly demonstrated in a 2019 study published in the scientific journal Cell Metabolism.

Scientists have compiled two diet options that are the same in terms of calories, sugar, fat, fiber and macronutrients. Only one of them consisted of super processed food, and the second consisted of whole foods.

The first included canned meat, vegetables and fruits, breakfast cereals, nuggets and other ready-made meat dishes that only need to be warmed up, sausages and bacon, baked goods – white bread, cookies, croissants, donuts. Of the drinks, lemonade was most often served, and in order to gain the right amount of fiber, they added it to various dishes or drinks.

The whole food diet included meat and fish, fresh or steamed vegetables and fruits, nuts, eggs, and whole grains. Even snacks were served fresh fruit, raisins or nuts.

The scientists then recruited 20 adult volunteers and provided them with food from one diet or another for two weeks.

Moreover, they controlled only the content of meals, but the amount of food was left at the discretion of the participants – they were allowed to eat as much as they wanted.

As a result, people in the processed food group consistently ate about 508 kcal more and gained about 1 kg by the end of the experiment. In the second group, the situation was reversed: despite the fact that they ate as much as they wanted, after two weeks they lost an average of 900 grams.

Why Processed Foods Make You Eat More and Gain Weight

You might think that people ate more processed food simply because it was tastier or more familiar.

To test if this was the case, the researchers asked the participants to complete a survey and found that the level of enjoyment of eating was the same in both groups. There was also no difference in hunger and satiety levels.

So people didn’t eat more because the processed food was tastier or less satisfying. After checking for differences in other indicators, scientists found other reasons for overeating and weight gain.

Processed food is eaten faster, and this affects its quantity.

An interesting feature was found in the experiment. Because processed foods are softer than whole foods, they are eaten faster—about 7.4 grams per minute. As a result, the time of eating is reduced.

Compare, for example, a croissant and an apple – chewing the second is much more difficult, even if you have completely healthy teeth.

At the same time, the rate of consumption is directly related to the portion size. Several experiments at once confirmed that by stretching the meal, you can reduce calorie intake by 10-13%.

Having swallowed lunch in 10 minutes, people simply do not have time to feel full and continue to eat, even if they have already received enough food.

The need for protein makes you eat more

According to the theory of protein leverage, a person tends to consume a certain amount of protein, not taking into account fats and carbohydrates.

In other words, if there is only ice cream available, he will eat a whole bucket to get the required amount of protein. If you can dine with chicken breast, 100-150 grams is enough – and you won’t want to anymore.

In a two- diet experiment, they found that the processed food group got their surplus calories from carbohydrates (about a 280 kcal surplus per day) and fat (230 kcal per day). But the protein intake in both groups was about the same.

Scientists have suggested that people have to eat more to catch up with their norm, because processed food contains less protein than whole.

Insoluble fiber requires more energy to digest

Since processed foods contain significantly less fiber than whole foods, scientists supplemented the food with soluble fiber supplements. At the same time, insoluble fiber was practically absent.

Since the latter is not digested and does not provide energy, each gram of it takes about 7.2 kcal per meal. But soluble fiber does not have this effect.

Considering that 77% of all dietary fiber in the whole food group was insoluble, people got about 330 kcal less energy per day than those who ate processed foods.

This may be why early participants found more of the appetite-suppressing peptide PYY and less of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, as well as insulin and fasting glucose.

The same changes were observed in another experiment. True, there fiber was obtained from psyllium, a concentrate of soluble dietary fiber from psyllium seeds.

How to cut down on processed food in your diet

Scientists have noted that it is not always possible to completely give up processed food. It saves cooking time, keeps for a long time and is cheap.

The experiment calculated that it took $106 to buy the ingredients for a week of nutrition that provides 2,000 kcal per day. But for the purchase of whole foods, from which you can get the same amount of energy, you needed already $ 150.

Still, it is worth trying to at least reduce the amount of processed food in the diet. Especially if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight without counting calories.

Try the following methods:

  • Bring a container of food to work and plan snacks. If you have with you not only a full meal, but also a handful of nuts and fruits, the risk of going over with office cookies or buying a bar from a machine will decrease.
  • Plan your menu for the week and stock up on all the ingredients you need on the weekend if you have a busy schedule.
  • Try cereals packaged in bags. They are easier to cook, but they are whole, not instant.
  • Try to eat more fruits, vegetables and greens. If you have a large freezer, try stocking them up for the winter so you don’t overpay for groceries.
  • Cut down on fast food trips. If you really love burgers, nuggets, and fries, plan this meal once a week, and cook at home or go to places that serve whole foods the rest of the time.

If you can’t eliminate processed foods, try stretching out your meals. Chew slowly and thoroughly to clear your plate in 20 minutes. Also try to add more high-protein foods to your diet – meat, eggs, low-fat dairy products. This will help you feel fuller and eat less.

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