Micronutrients: The Secret of Long-Term Weight Loss
Has all that over-indulgence during the festive season caused you to gain some extra weight? Many of us gain some extra pounds over this period and come January we seek to redress that and shift the extra weight. Our thoughts turn more towards health and what we can do differently this year to lose some weight and keep it off. You may have tried many different diets over the years from specific diets to fasting or juicing or very low calories. And some of these may have worked for a short period. But there is one thing that all restrictive diets have in common that cause you to break the diet........HUNGER! This is the number one reason people give up restrictive diets.
But what if I told you that there is a way to keep this hunger at bay? Because there is. And it relates to the quality of your food and not the quantity. By quality, I mean natural unprocessed foods that are high in micronutrients, which are vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (plant nutrients). These are nutrients essential to your body but needed in much smaller quantities than proteins, carbohydrates and fats (collectively called the macronutrients). Most diets focus on manipulating the intake of one or more of the macronutrients. The diagram below shows how different diets can manipulate these:
Yet a fascinating 2010 study found that a diet high in micronutrients reduces the feelings of hunger (after an initial phase of adjustment) even where there are lower calories. And it's this blunting of the hunger response that can lead to a sustainable eating pattern that leads to weight loss as well as providing benefits for long-term health. So why are these micronutrients so important? Because every system in your body works through a series of chemical reactions that require these nutrients as co-factors. Being overweight can indicate that your metabolic functions are out of balance. Give your body what it needs so that it can bring back metabolic balance and the weight will start to fall off.
Which foods contain micronutrients?
All natural whole foods contain micronutrients in different quantities, with a high density found in plant foods. Think unprocessed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish and meat. Beware of processed food, as many of these micronutrients are processed out leaving you with empty calories. Your body needs these vitamins and minerals to digest your foods - if they don't come in the foods that you eat, then your body will need to draw on its reserves for digestion, which can leave you short elsewhere. The easiest way to start is by thinking in terms of colours and aiming for a rainbow diet. The different coloured foods contain different nutrients, so by aiming to eat the rainbow, you will be eating a wide array of nutrients that will help to satiate your hunger and help you to lose weight. Here's a great diagram on rainbow foods from BANT (British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine).
My Top 10 Tips for Getting Started
Start by clearing out your fridge. Finish off or get rid of any junk food.. Make space for your fresh rainbow foods. This gets you into the right mindset.
Focus on food quality and not quantity. When you eat unprocessed foods they are naturally lower in calories so you will be reducing your calorie intake at the same time.
Your rainbow foods can be eaten over the course of a day and do not all need to be eaten at each meal. This makes it so much easier to implement at the start.
Think in terms of colours. When you go to the supermarket for your new goodies, let your eyes guide you to the different colours.
Buy one food from each of the 7 colour groups: white/tan; yellow; orange; red; green; and blue/black/purple.
Start to experiment with your meals by including the colour groups. It may be difficult to include all colours at first, so try to focus on 2 or 3 colours per day and alternate the colours each day so that you get the variety. It won't take long for you to get the hang of it.
Aim for 2 fruits and 5 vegetables per day. Don't be afraid of the sugar content of fruits. They come with high fibre, which slows down its absorption so it behaves differently from the sugar in processed foods, chocolates and cookies. And fruit is packed with nutrients.
Quick start - smoothies are a great way to get started with this as you can include many of these foods all at once.
Herbs and spices count too. So, these are easy quick wins to include.
Think of the 80:20 rule - aim to eat healthily 80% of the time. The other 20% you can still eat your treats. This prevents cravings and allows you to enjoy your food.
Here's to a healthy and happy 2023!
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