Three major factors in a healthy diet are protein, carbs and fiber. People tend to be so focused on low fat, low carb or low sugar that they forget about these other very important components. Protein, carbs and fiber all affect weight loss and by understanding them can help you to make better food choices that will positively affect your health.
Each person is different! There is no one size fits’ all guide to any of this, but I’m going to give you some suggestions to help you put together a mix of foods that works for you.
How Protein Affects Weight Loss
Protein is extremely important when it comes to weight loss. To the uninformed, eating a lot of protein is just tied to gaining a lot of muscle mass but this isn’t the case.
Protein affects weight loss by boosting your metabolism. Studies have proven that diets with health protein spark and support fat loss. Protein is also essential for those leading active lifestyles as it is responsible for rebuilding muscle.
“One of the key researchers in this area, Donald Layman, Ph.D.6, from the University of Illinois, has published many papers on the subject. He has found that the high protein, leucine rich diet, in combination with lower carbohydrates (150 grams or 600 calories per day) is effective to support weight loss, blood sugar metabolism, and a variety of factors that have an impact on cardiovascular health.
His research points out that during weight loss our bodies can easily lose muscle mass (and bone for that matter). Leucine has a direct signaling effect on muscle that prevents muscle loss during weight loss. This means that on a high protein diet, the weight that is lost is mostly fat, not muscle. Whereas on a high carbohydrate weight loss diet, much more muscle is lost.
Leucine directly communicates to insulin, instructing it to work efficiently in muscle. This not only helps preserve muscle mass, but also helps muscles use glucose as fuel, in turn supporting healthy insulin function.” – Wellness Resources
Vegetarians and vegans will need to eat alternative sources of protein since meat isn’t an option. Beans, lentils, soy products, vegetable gluten and some grains are very high in protein as are leafy greens. Regardless of whether you eat meat or not, if you find yourself struggling to eat enough protein, consider a high-quality protein shake. It is recommended to consume about ¾ of your ideal weight in grams of protein daily as a guide or you can check out a macro calculator, like iifym.com, to get an idea of how much protein you could be eating for weight loss.
- Healthy Protein Options
- Greek yogurt
- Cheese (cow and goat)
- Lean cut red meats
- Beans and lentils
- Meat-less/meat substitute products (Seitan, texturized vegetable protein, etc)
- Soy and Tofu (yes, I know that many people believe that soy products are problematic, but many don’t believe that. Do your own research.)
- Leafy Dark Greens
How Carbs Affect Weight Loss
Carbs are quite a controversial subject when it comes to diets. Some people thrive and melt fat right off on high carb diets while others are equally successful on low carb diets. Either way you look at it, carbs are a very important part of your diet.
Carbohydrates are essentially the energy our body is fueled with. However, not all carbs are created equal. There are simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbs often come mainly from sugary foods and break down into insulin very quickly. The main source of these in the American diet are processed foods, like ice cream, candy and white bread. Complex carbs break down more slowly and also contain more nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Examples are unbleached, whole wheat bread and various vegetables. Bottomline: Simple carbs tend to cause people to gain weight because they break down quickly, spike insulin levels and if they are not burned off they are stored as fat in the body. You can eat carbs and lose weight…but junk food carbs, white bread (and other bleached foods) and any highly processed carbs should be avoided as much as possible. If you absolutely want to be able to indulge in these foods, you’ll need to use portion control/moderation or count macros.
Even if you choose to limit carbs from grains, be careful that you still consume enough carbs in the form of vegetables and fruits.
- Healthy Carb Examples
- Wheat berries
- Whole wheat pasta
- Brown rice
- Sweet potato
- Whole wheat, unbleached grain bread
- Fruits (Worried about high sugar fruits? Check the Glycemic Index)
- Veggies of all kinds
How Fiber Affects Weight Loss
Pretty much everyone knows fiber is important in digestion, but did you know it also affects weight loss?
Fiber is simply the part of a food that isn’t able to be digested. There are both soluble fibers and insoluble fibers. It is the insoluble fibers that help our digestive system, fight fat and also help lower cholesterol. Fiber is also important for a healthy heart since it lowers blood pressure by increasing blood flow.
Experts recommend that you eat between 30 and 40 grams of fiber on a daily basis. If you have a difficult time eating enough fiber or find you have digestive issues you may need to drink a natural fiber supplement. Visit your doctor if you are eating plenty of fiber but still have issues like constipation as you might have a health issue, like IBS.
- Healthy Fiber Options
- Grains and whole wheat foods
- Beans, peas and other legumes
- Whole nuts
- Leafy greens
- Fruits and Veggies
A healthy diet is one that consists of healthy proteins, carbs, fiber and fats. Regardless of what particular diet you follow, base your meals around whole, REAL foods. The less chemicals and processing, the better. Try to eat raw vegetables and fruit as often as possible and don’t be afraid of healthy fats. Organic produce and grass-fed meats are a little more expensive but are packed with nutrients and have higher levels of healthy carbs, protein and fiber. Do what you can. You can eat healthy in many situations.
If you are looking for a new diet, it is a good idea to consult your doctor or a dietician. Otherwise, use good judgment when reading books or using online resources. Be wary of diets that exclude major food groups or seem too good to be true as they often are. Not all diets work for every person so you may need to experiment a bit. Regardless of what way you chose to eat, protein, carbs and fiber should all be present at the recommend grams for daily consumption.