Expert: Just counting calories doesn’t help if you want to lose weight

If you want to lose weight or live a healthier life, you don’t necessarily have to count calories.
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If you want to lose weight, you should stop counting calories and focus instead on eating the right ingredients. That’s says Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology in London.

Processed foods can be less satiating than whole foods, which actually leads people to eat more than they are hungry.

“Deeply processed food is the enemy,” Spector said. The higher the list of ingredients, the more processed the product.

If you want to lose weight and live a healthier life, you should not count calories, but rather make sure to eat less processed foods. This is recommended by epidemiologist Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London.

Although a certain calorie deficit is needed to lose weight, this alone would be a wrong approach. It is also important to limit the calories eaten. According to Spector, nutritional information on labels is often inaccurate. Plus, you automatically burn fewer calories if you eat primarily whole foods without artificial additives.

“We need to stop talking about calories,” he told Business Insider. “Highly processed foods are the enemy.” Spector is the bestselling author, Spoon-Fed: Why Almost Everything We’ve Been Told About Food Is Wrong, and the scientific founder of Zoe, a personalized nutrition company that helps people control their reactions to understand their bodies’ response to food.

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Many foods are processed in some way, such as oatmeal, yogurt, or flour. However, processed foods are mass-produced and contain additives such as coloring and preservatives to achieve the desired taste or texture. These additives have been linked to various health problems in the past. Examples of highly processed foods include cookies, pre-baked cookies, and chips.

Research indicates that more than half of the foods consumed in high-income countries are highly processed foods.

One small study A 2019 US National Institutes of Health study found that people whose meals were high in processed foods consumed an average of 500 extra calories per day and gained more weight than those who ate fresh foods. Science has not yet agreed on the reasons for this. However, some suspect that our hormones may react differently to processed foods.

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annoying Study from 2020published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, highly processed foods may indeed be linked to higher risk of heart disease and shorter life span.

“It’s a myth that calories are good.”

Spector believes the biggest (and most harmful) myth is that calories are good. Its importance is “exaggerated”. Instead, people should focus more on the composition of the food, Spector said.

“We all have very different metabolic needs. So we can’t compare ourselves to others. And just because someone else is arbitrarily adhering to a calorie limit doesn’t mean we should.” Croissants, for example, have fewer calories than toast with avocado and eggs. However, the latter has a much higher nutritional value and will keep you full for longer due to the fiber, protein, and healthy fats.

According to Spector, counting calories often leads to eating more processed foods because they may appear lower in calories at first glance. He says many producers are now removing fat and sugar from foods to reduce calories and adding chemicals and sweeteners instead to preserve flavor.

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But they don’t satiate you for long. Research suggests that this eventually leads to eating a lot of low-calorie but highly processed foods, which can lead to weight gain in the long run.

On the other hand, whole foods are more filling because they usually contain more fiber and protein. As a result, energy from food is released more slowly, causing you to feel fuller for longer, according to Specter.

Nick Shaw, bodybuilder, personal trainer and nutrition coach at RP Strength, tells Business Insider that he encourages people to eat whole foods if they want to lose weight, even when less nutritious foods contain the same number of calories and macros.

“You should always keep food quality in mind when thinking about how much you’re eating each day,” he said. “If you stick to mostly whole foods like lean proteins (like sweet potatoes or whole grains), you can still lose body fat.”

Avoid foods with more than ten ingredients

Foods that are technically processed but not highly processed can also support a healthy diet. Examples include canned fruit, frozen vegetables and yogurt, Spector said. To find out if a food is highly processed, you should look at the length of the ingredient list. A general rule of thumb might be this: If a food has more than a dozen ingredients, you should probably stay away from it.

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This text has been translated from English. You can find the original over here.

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