Learn why food quality is more important than calories when it comes to fat loss and optimizing health. You can ditch the calorie counting for good, lose weight, improve health and feel your best by eliminating these three low quality foods - processed carbohydrates, refined sugars and vegetable oils.
Eat quality food to cut out processed carbs.
Processed carbs include breads, pastas, cereal grains, and white flour products. The body doesn’t need these and they provide little nutritional benefit.
Due to the lack of naturally occurring nutrients in these foods, they’re often “fortified” with synthetic versions of vitamins that aren’t optimally absorbed by the body.
To make matters worse, processed carbs are engineered to be overeaten. They lack nature’s built in brake systems; like fiber, chewing and digestion, that make us stop eating when because we feel full (think pancakes vs. vegetables).
High amounts of processed carbs, combined with a general lack of exercise is a recipe for fat storage and poor health.
Even if you can "get away" with eating processed carbs while staying lean, it doesn’t make sense for optimal health and performance.
The rapid digestion of these foods causes erratic blood sugar swings, energy dips, constant brain fog, frequent mood swings and more….
The best approach is to remove them as much as possible. Health markers, especially blood sugar, will improve and if the goal is weight loss - cutting out processed carbs will cause an immediate drop in energy intake for greater fat burning.
When you do eat carbs, choose real, whole, and minimally processed sources.
“Real food" carbs can be including as part of a balanced eating plan, without obsessing over calories too much. This is because they provide us with real nutrients, a variety of fiber types, and require thorough chewing.
They take longer to digest as well which helps us feel full for longer.
Bottom line: Real food carbs are more satiating. Quality carbs include potatoes, fruit, rice and beans. They're difficult to over eat, especially when part of a balanced eating plan focused on meat and lots of vegetables as part of the meal.
Eat quality food to eliminate refined sugar.
Refined sugar includes table sugar, cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Consider how quickly you could ingest 40g of sugar in a drink - and then do it multiple times per day.
It’s no wonder we’re fighting an epidemic. When we ingest sugar, it’s a simple molecule broken down rapidly by the body. Blood sugar elevates, the pancreas secretes insulin, and a dreaded “sugar crash” strikes!
You’re left feeling hungry, unsatisfied and craving more - it’s a viscous cycle.
Not only do refined sugars taste good, but they become easily addicting by hitting dopamine centers in the brain. Modern junk foods have figured out how to add way more sugar to a single serving than would ever occur in nature, and massive weight gain has ensued.
Attempting to count calories while still including these sugary foods in the diet is a losing battle. Weight loss and health is much easier if you cut them out - energy consumption decreases, body composition improves, and better health follows.
Note: we can't eliminate sugar completely, and it’s not possible. Most real food contains some sugar, especially fruit. However, naturally occurring sugar breaks down differently within the body due to the fiber content of the food, especially when it’s part of a mixed meal that includes protein.
Real food that contains naturally occurring sugar requires plenty of chewing, a long digestion process and provides a broad spectrum of nutrients - all regulating how much we actually eat at one sitting.
Bottom line: Cut out refined sugars for weight loss and health. Replace these items with quality meat and veggies paired with regular exercise to achieve long term results.
When you want a sweet treat, consider: berries, fresh fruit, a little honey, and even a dash of pure maple syrup. Moderation is key. Or use a natural sweetener like stevia or monk fruit for a calorie free indulgence.
*Note how you feel as you reduce added sugar. With my coaching clients, I’ve observed one truth: if you eat sugar, you crave more sugar. If you eat real, whole food, your body will begin to crave more real, whole foods.
"If you eat sugar, you crave more sugar. If you eat real, whole food, your body will begin to crave more real, whole foods."
Eat quality food to eliminate vegetable oil.
Refined vegetable oils include corn, peanut, soybean, canola or cottonseed oils. They’re high in omega 6 fats that play a role in fueling inflammatory pathways - bad news if weight loss and health is the goal.
A large part of a healthy diet means balancing omega 6s with a ratio of omega 3 fats, and the closer we get to 1:1 the better.
Unfortunately, it’s estimated most Americans are in the 20:1 range - our modern food system has blown the natural fat balance way out of proportion.
Not only are vegetable oils extremely high in omega 6 fats once refined, people consume much more than they should through regular consumption of processed junk.
Even worse, these low quality oils come with a host of chemicals used for the extraction process. To get a palatable product, you also get solvents and deodorants that increase the body’s toxic load.
Bottom line: vegetable oils create metabolic derangement and inflammation, making weight loss and health difficult. Our cells and hormones need good fats to build a strong system and refined vegetable oils are terrible building blocks.
Additionally, an increase in toxic load can contribute to cell mutations and hormonal disruptions.
Inflammation: It’s like a bunch of fires going on within the body and our system is trying to put each of them out. Ingesting low quality fuel feeds these fires and our system is constantly under attack.
It’s distracted with the fire fight and we simply don’t have the resources to focus on weight loss or health.
We can mitigate inflammation by eating quality foods that contain healthy fats, especially those with naturally occurring omega 3s - these fats provide a strong foundation for metabolic, hormonal and physiological health.
Choose quality oils like olive, avocado, macadamia nut, and coconut. Include additional omega 3s from quality foods such as nuts, wild caught seafood, pasture raised meats or grass fed butter.
Good fats, as part of a whole foods diet, can be eaten more freely, without negatively effecting health markers.
They also play a role in aiding weight loss by helping you stay full between meals while supporting a positive hormone balance for lean body composition.
Benefits of eating for quality, not quantity.
Beyond better health and weight loss, a focus on quality food has many benefits. Food is no longer a math equation, and you can enjoy meals without counting calories and plugging everything into an app.
Ahhh….now that’s freedom!
Plus, you’ll experience these great side effects:
- More home cooked meals. This creates more opportunities to eat together with family and friends. Create a better sense of connection, community and well-being that lowers stress.
- Processed/low quality food is typically consumed in the car, in front of the tv or at a computer. Eating becomes mindless, with very little connection to the food. If you cook quality food at home, you ignite your creativity in the kitchen! Then you can sit down at the table and enjoy your delicious creation with presence and mindfulness. Chew slowly, fully enjoy the tastes and textures and develop a healthier relationship with food.
- Healthy food in, healthy you out - mentally and physically. More energy, better mood, improved body composition and even better hair, skin and nails! Gain confidence and be more productive.
- There is tremendous freedom in the framework of eating meals focused on quality, real food. The shear number of food sources, cooking methods and spice combinations makes for endless variety.
- The opportunity to support local. The highest quality food is from local purveyors or at the farmers market. Purchase from these vendors to vote for quality food with your dollars, support sustainable agriculture, and promote organic growing practices.
When it comes time to lose weight and improve your health, focus on quality and not quantity for a major mindset shift that leads to faster results and long term success.
Nutritious, whole, and real food satisfies hunger, while providing the best environment for healthy hormones and a fast metabolic rate.
When you combine a focus on quality food with the fundamentals of exercise, sleep and stress management, you’re unstoppable in your health and fitness endeavors!
What do you think?
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
Written by Brett - Nutrition & Health Coach / Co-Founder of Moontower Matcha
Brett has worked for the last 10 years with thousands of individuals one-on-one to achieve their own health and fitness goals.
His mission is to share healthy habits, real-world solutions, and comprehensive strategies around nutrition, movement, sleep, and stress management to help guide individuals to the results they desire most.