Although I don’t believe in calorie counting, I do believe it is essential to be wise in our dietary choices. If weight loss is a goal, then it’s also important to choose primarily foods that are less calorie-dense and to use higher-calorie foods in moderation. For example, as healthy as nuts are, they are a caloric-dense food, so I always recommend they be eaten in moderation, usually along with high-fiber foods such as fruits or vegetables.
To lose weight healthfully and sustainably, weight loss should average no more than one-half to one pound weekly. This requires reducing caloric intake by 250 to 500 calories a day. The best approach is to combine a small daily reduction in calories with an increase in regular exercise, both aerobic and strength training.
Choosing low-energy-density foods for the bulk of your diet and using high-energy foods as condiments or occasional treats creates a diet that is satisfying and sustainable for attaining and maintaining your ideal weight. By being aware of the energy density of foods, the emphasis is on positive dietary changes rather than restriction; this supports a beneficial mind-set that promotes long-term weight loss and weight maintenance.
What Are High-Energy-Density, Medium-Energy-Density and Low-Energy-Density Foods?
High-energy-density foods contain four to nine calories per gram. They tend to be high in fat and/or simple carbohydrates, e.g., butter, cream, ice cream, full-fat cheeses, candy, cookies, fatty cuts of meat, nuts, pastries, and vegetable oils.
Medium-energy-density foods contain one and a half to four calories per gram. They include carbohydrates and lean proteins, such as bread, dried fruits, legumes, lean meats, potatoes, poultry, rice, seafood, winter squash, and yams.
Low-energy-density foods contain zero calories to one and a half calories per gram. Most fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as broth-based soups, fall into this category. Eating plenty of broth-based soups is one of the most effective ways to lose weight. Choosing a greater proportion of low-energy-density foods such as fruits and vegetables will result in weight loss without the tedium of counting calories, carbohydrates, or fat grams.
Reduce Consumption of Calorie-Dense Beverages
Avoiding soda is an easy first step to reducing calories and junk food. I am also against diet drinks containing artificial sweeteners. They are not a whole-food item, consuming them comes with the risk factors associated with artificial sweeteners, and they simply are not effective for losing weight.
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I do think a fresh juice drink once or twice a day can be a good thing for many people, provided it consists of something like fresh green apple, celery, and parsley, with lemon and ginger — a nice weight-loss juice combo. Or a four-ounce glass of freshly squeezed orange juice can be a nice morning treat.
Replace simple sugars such as white sugar and fructose (high-fructose corn sweetener) with tiny amounts of raw honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, molasses, or organic unrefined raw sugar (not organic cane sugar, which is still refined). Naturally occurring fructose in fruit is safe. Avoid all artificial sweeteners, which are neurotoxic. If you want to safely sweeten beverages and have little to no calories, use stevia or Lo Han (sometimes spelled Luo Han).
Whole Grains versus Refined Grains
Eating whole grains in place of refined grains can help reduce the incidence and expression of chronic disease and promote weight loss. Whole-grain consumption is inversely associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.
Foods Conducive to Weight Loss
Apple cider vinegar
Artichokes are a nutrient-packed vegetable, a great food for the liver, gallbladder, bowels, and heart (they help normalize lipids).
Asparagus is an excellent source of glutathione, an enzyme used by the body for detoxification.Because toxins stored in fat are released when fat is burned, supporting detoxification is essential to preventing toxin overload.
Berries contain anthocyanins, colorful pigments that have been found to help with weight loss via their effects on fat cells.
Coconut milk and coconut oil are a rich source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) and will not oxidize at high temperatures, whereas other saturated fats will.
Dandelion greens: Dandelion greens are one of the most nutritious foods in the world, with an abundance of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, and minerals including iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and zinc. With potent redox-antioxidant activity, dandelion defends the liver against a wide variety of toxins. The mildly bitter flavor of dandelion stimulates liver and gallbladder function, making it a popular herbal remedy for improving digestion and to enhance the digestion of fats.
Fiber helps maintain a healthy body weight by providing a sense of satiety, which in turn aids in decreasing food intake. Foods rich in fiber are also generally lower in calories, fat, and simple sugars and tend to naturally be less energy dense.
Grapefruit is popular as a beneficial addition to a weight-loss plan. If you tend toward low blood sugar, then take a small handful of nuts along with it.
Milk: Research indicates that low-fat milk products are in fact associated with weight gain, while whole-milk products actually aid in weight loss. Whole-milk products contain conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid that helps stimulate metabolic rate, increase muscle growth, and decrease insulin resistance. Instead of milk per se, I recommend dairy products such as yogurt or cheese, which are generally more digestible because of the natural enzymes and bacteria that occur during processing. I suggest consuming the equivalent of one to two cups of organic, whole-milk dairy products daily (from grass-fed animals, including goats or sheep).
Nuts: Although nuts are high in calories, their consumption is associated with reduced body fat and healthy lipid profiles.
Pomegranates help reduce body fat. They also improve blood lipid profiles, and they have anti-inflammatory effects. Adding pomegranate seeds to a salad is an easy way to incorporate them into your diet.
Spices and seasonings: Be liberal with the use of herbs and spices and consume less salt. In general, all spicy herbs stimulate the metabolism and can be added liberally to foods.
Excerpted and reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Healing Arts Press, an imprint of Inner Traditions Inc.
©2013 by Donald R. Yance. www.InnerTraditions.com
This article is adapted with permission from the book:
Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism: Elite Herbs and Natural Compounds for Mastering Stress, Aging, and Chronic Disease... by Donald R. Yance, CN, MH, RH(AHG)
Weaving together the ancient wisdom of herbalism and the most up-to-date scientific research on cancer, aging, and nutrition, renowned medical herbalist and clinical nutritionist Donald Yance reveals how to master stress, improve energy levels, prevent degenerative disease, and age gracefully with the elite herbs known as adaptogens. Emphasizing spirituality, exercise, and diet in addition to herbal treatments and nutritional supplements, the author's complete lifestyle program explores how to enhance energy production in the body and subdue the proinflammatory state that lays the groundwork for nearly every degenerative disease, taking you from merely surviving to thriving.
About the Author
Donald R. Yance Jr., CN, MH, RH(AHG), is a clinical master herbalist and certified nutritionist. He has devoted his life to developing a unique approach to health and healing that elegantly combines his passion for the latest scientific research with the wisdom of ancient healing traditions. Donnie’s longstanding interests in botanical medicine, music, and Eastern Christian, Franciscan theology infuse his work, resulting in an approach to healing that is compassionate, creative, intelligent, and inspiring. He is the founder of the Mederi Centre for Natural Healing in Ashland, Oregon, the president and formulator of Natura Health Products, and founder and president of the Mederi Foundation. Visit his website at http://www.donnieyance.com