One of the key lessons to achieving lasting weight loss is actually learning to eat more, instead of eating less. Many of my patients think that in order to lose weight they need to starve themselves. This is completely wrong! In fact, lowering your caloric intake may lead to weight loss in the first few weeks, only to find that you plateau early in the process. You might have experienced this phenomenon as January has come and gone: your first few weeks of dieting went great, but afterwards your weight loss has lessened to a trickle. In order to rev up your weight loss again, you might have to eat more.
It’s not only the quantity of your food that you need to monitor, but also the quality. The diet I’ve put together in my new book,THE YOUNGER (THINNER) YOU DIET concentrates on foods that are low in calories but are also nutrient-dense, so that you get the most out of every meal. One of the most important food groups that I focus on are foods high in calcium.
Researchers at the University of Knoxville have found that dietary calcium directly influence your weight loss efforts. High calcium foods, notably dairy sources, have been shown to increase body fat breakdown and preserve metabolism during dieting. High levels of calcium will also help your body get younger by building strong bones. This study suggests eating three servings of dairy products a day to get the most benefit.
Increasing your calcium intake can also directly reduce belly fat. A study presented at the Obesity Society Meeting of 2007 showed significant abdominal fat reduction following calcium supplementation. During the course of the seven week study, participants ate 3-4 servings of dairy foods each day. The data showed that an exercise program combined with a reduced calorie diet, and an increase in dairy consumption changed metabolism significantly enough to effect the amount of body fat burned.
You also want to focus on foods that are high in protein. Your body needs lot of protein so you will feel full and satisfied all day long, so you won’t binge on the easy-to-eat carbs you may crave. Protein also gives you the energy you need to keep up with an exercise program that will burn lots of calories.
Eating calcium and protein-rich foods together seems to be the best cocktail for weight loss. When combined, these two nutrient groups have been clinically proven to raise metabolic rate and improve digestion and bowel health.
One food group that is high in both these nutrient groups is dairy. However, dairy foods that contain lots of calcium, and lots of protein, are usually high in fat as well as calories, making them a bad choice for dieters. I’ve also found a correlation between eating large amounts of cheese and other high-fat foods to increased cellulite production. Because of these reasons, I find most people who are overweight cannot afford to increase their dairy consumption at all.
But yogurt is the exception to the rule. Yogurt is a low-fat food packed with calcium as well as protein. It provides all the benefits of dairy without the added fat or calories, and actually contains more calcium and protein per serving than other dairy product because of the way it is made.
Yogurt specifically has been studied as a calcium-rich food that helps burn fat and promotes weight loss. A University of Tennessee study in 2005 shows that dieters who ate three servings of yogurt a day lost 22% more weight and 61% more body fat than those who simply cut calories and didn’t add calcium to their eating plan. Those that lost the most weight were also able to protect their lean muscle mass, which is critical when dieting, because the muscle mass is essential for maintaining high metabolism.
Eating yogurt every day can also support your immune system, reducing overall inflammation. It is also know to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. Lastly, many adults have problems digesting milk products because their bodies do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase. Yogurt naturally contains lactase, making it a healthy alternative for those who can’t tolerate other milk products. For all these reasons, I suggest that you make yogurt a part of your new diet every single day.