Dr meeting with patient about nutrition

The Importance of Quality Nutrition

It is no secret that the number of calories people eat and drink has a direct impact on their weight, but do not discount the importance of quality nutrition. Consuming the same number of calories that a body burns keeps weight stable. Eating fewer calories than the body burns results in weight loss. Consuming more than a body burns results in weight gain.

But research indicates that some people have genetic and hormonal traits that make them more susceptible to obesity, meaning that dieting or exercise may not be helpful for long-term weight loss.

National Institutes of Health obesity researcher Kevin Hall notes that changes to the food landscape, such as easy access to highly processed foods and sedentary lifestyle, has increased the possibility for obesity-related genes and traits to have greater impact.

Quality of calories can be as important as the quantity of calories. For example, high sugar foods cause a release in insulin, which encourages fat storage and weight gain. Nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, lean proteins and dairy are more filling.

Unhealthy foods are also bad for the body, as they are void of nutrients and antioxidants that fight off many chronic conditions. Empty calorie foods like candy and potato chips are not a successful way to build muscle and strengthen bones.

Improving the quality and quantity of food helps improve one’s health while helping one lose or maintain weight.

The Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery and Post-Surgery Diet

For some people, bariatric or weight-loss surgery is the best way to improve health by losing weight. People who have a significant amount of weight to lose have only about 5% chance of losing weight and keeping it off with diet and exercise. However, with bariatric, or weight loss surgery, chances increase to 80% of successfully keeping weight off long-term.

Bariatric surgery helps get the weight-loss process started, but even sustainable weight-loss from surgery requires changes in diet, behavior and understanding of nutrition for long-lasting results.

Elements of a post-bariatric surgery diet can be helpful for others to improve health or lose weight. Here are some tips:

  • Eat three meals a day with protein and a complex carbohydrate at each meal.
  • Eat the protein first, taking at least 30 minutes to finish each meal.
  • Chew food to a pureed/mush consistency. This takes 20 to 30 chews per bite.
  • Eat nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, whole grains, fruits and lean meats.
  • Avoid calorie-dense foods such as chips, cookies, crackers, ice cream, fried food, candy, hot dogs, bratwurst and bologna. Do not eat non-nutrient-dense foods such as pretzels, rice cakes and animal crackers.
  • Drink 8 ounces of skim or soy milk, light yogurt or Greek yogurt for a snack three times a day.

The Importance of Quality Nutrition: Protein

A key component to nutritious eating is protein, which is named after the Greek word “proteios,” meaning “of prime importance.” However, just like calories, not all proteins are alike. Look for sources high in protein and low in calories, which help you feel full longer and are more satisfying than fat or carbohydrates.

The best proteins have nine essential amino acids. High-quality proteins with all nine include beef, poultry, pork, seafood, eggs and dairy, soy and Lupini beans. The body cannot absorb more than about 30 grams of protein at once, so protein needs to be eaten throughout the day.

Here are several reasons why protein is an important part of a healthy diet:

  • Protein helps people keep lean muscle during weight loss, while boosting fat burning. More muscle means higher metabolism.
  • Protein helps build and repair body tissues, including skin, muscle and organs.
  • Metabolizing protein uses more energy, increasing the energy burned each day and reducing calories in the body.
  • Higher protein with fewer carbohydrates can help improve the lipid profile, including cholesterol, triglycerides and metabolic markers.

The Importance of Quality Nutrition: Carbohydrates

While carbohydrates are part of nutritious diets, they are also not alike. Foods made from refined and milled grains like white bread and white rice contain rapidly digested starch. This can result in increased blood sugar and hunger. Diet sodas have the same effect.

Complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits and legumes are best to maximize nutrition and legumes have the bonus of protein. Nuts and seeds are rich sources of energy, heart-healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. They are also high in fat, so they need to be consumed sparingly.

Most people who succeed in losing weight and improving their health make changes in both the quality and the quantity of food they eat. The adage “you are what you eat” is still true. Nutrition matters!