*This post summarizes a recent study finding that people who replace ultra-processed foods with natural, whole foods improve both their overall health and chances of lost weight.
There’s nothing better than validation you’re on the right track!
A new NIH study supports what we on the Cooking Light Diet team have been recommending for years. Replacing ultra-processed foods with more real, whole foods is the key not only to improved health, but also weight loss. We’ve always built our menus around lots of whole, less-processed foods. So, this is a big pat on the back!
Cutting back on foods like frozen pizzas and chips may seem like a no-brainer for weight loss, right? But, there’s a reason why the findings in this study are such a big deal.
There is lots of scientific data to support that eating a diet of less processed foods is best for overall health. While we’ve always felt this applies to dieting success as well, there’s never been scientific proof—until this study.
These new findings suggest that eating less-processed foods is not only best for health, but also best for weight loss.
Wondering exactly how the study worked and what it found? Here’s a quick overview:
- Researchers recruited 20 individuals to participate, which involved staying onsite at the research facility for two weeks.
- At each meal and snack time, participants were offered foods that contained the same calories, macronutrients, sugar, sodium, and fiber. However, the foods that made up those calories and nutrients is what varied. Half got an offering made up of highly-processed foods, while the other half got one made up of minimally-processed foods.
Some of the items on the ultra-processed foods list included:
- Blueberry yogurt, turkey sausage, frozen pancakes, baked potato chips, prepared chicken salad on white bread, frozen chicken tenders, refrigerated mashed potatoes, canned green beans, packaged blueberry muffins, diet lemonade, and low-fat chocolate milk
Some of the foods on the less-processed diet included:
- Plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and walnuts, freshly scrambled eggs, oatmeal, grilled chicken, fresh spinach salad, basmati rice, stir-fried steak, quick homemade dressings with olive oil and vinegar, frozen green beans, apple slices, and skim milk
Individuals could then choose how much they wanted to eat based on hunger, appetite, and satiety. Researchers recorded the total food consumed after each meal and snack.
- At the end of the two weeks, the results were tabulated. Data suggested that those receiving the ultra-processed foods consumed approximately 500 more calories, 70g more carbohydrates, and 25g more fat than those receiving the less-processed foods.
- The processed diet resulted in an average 2-pound weight gain, while unprocessed resulted in an average 2-pound loss. Individuals eating the highly processed diet were also found to eat at a faster rate.
Highly processed foods appeared to affect behaviors around food. What’s more, they appeared to stymie internal body cues for satiety and fullness. Researchers say the overall takeaway is that eating a less processed diet is not only healthier, but is also conducive to the body better supporting healthier eating habits.
So, what does all this mean?
While there’s still a lot of science to understand when it comes to weight loss, it’s clear that reducing processed foods and increasing intake of minimally-processed foods or ingredients is key. The Cooking Light Diet combines real ingredients with quick prep work to deliver amazing flavor and freshness. And this new study is proof that it’s the best way to weight loss—and lifelong health!
Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, is the James Beard award-winning lead dietitian for the Cooking Light Diet and author of Meals That Heal: 100+ Everyday Anti-Inflammatory Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less.