It’s no coincidence that the rapid rise in obesity happened around the same time highly processed foods became more available.
Although highly processed foods are convenient, they are packed with calories, low in nutrients and increase your risk of many .
On the other hand, real foods are very healthy and can help you lose weight.
What Are Real Foods?
Real foods are single-ingredient foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, lack chemical additives and are mostly unprocessed.
Here are just a few examples:
- Chia seeds
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown rice
- Whole Eggs
- Unprocessed Meat
There are lots of real foods in every food group, so there’s a vast array of real foods you can incorporate into your diet.
Here are 11 reasons why real foods can help you lose weight.
1. Real Foods Are Nutritious
Whole, unprocessed plant and animal foods are packed with vitamins and minerals that are great for your health.
Conversely, processed foods are low in micronutrients and can increase your risk of health problems (1, 2).
Processed foods can slow down weight loss in several ways.
For instance, a diet of processed foods that doesn’t provide enough iron could affect your ability to exercise, since iron is required to move oxygen around your body. This would limit your ability to calories through exercise (3).
A diet low in nutrients may also prevent you from losing weight by making you feel less full after eating.
One study in 786 people compared participants’ feelings of fullness when they were on a low-micronutrient diet versus a high-micronutrient diet.
Nearly 80% of participants felt fuller after meals on the high-micronutrient diet, even though they were eating fewer calories than on the low-micronutrient diet (4).
When you’re trying to increase your intake of nutrients, eating real foods is the way to go. They contain a variety of nutrients difficult to find in a single supplement, including plant compounds, vitamins and minerals.
Nutrients in whole foods also tend to work better together and are more likely to survive digestion than supplements (5).
Summary: A diet rich in nutrients may help with loss by improving nutritional deficiencies and reducing hunger.
2. They’re Packed With Protein
Protein is the most important nutrient for loss.
It helps increase your metabolism, reduce hunger and affects the production of hormones that help regulate weight (6, 7, 8).
Your food choices for protein are just as important as how much you eat. Real foods are a better source of protein since they aren’t heavily processed.
Food processing can make several essential amino acids to digest and less available to the body. These include lysine, tryptophan, methionine and cysteine.
This is because proteins easily react with sugars and fats involved in processing to form a complex combination (9).
Whole sources of protein are typically higher in protein and lower in calories, which makes them better for loss.
For instance, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of pork, a real food option, has 21 grams of protein and 145 calories (10).
Meanwhile, the same amount of bacon, a processed food, has 12 grams of protein and 458 calories (11).
Real food sources of protein include lean cuts of meat, eggs, legumes and nuts. You can find a great list of high-protein foods in this article.
Summary: Protein is the most important nutrient for loss. Real foods are better sources of protein since they are less processed and typically have more protein and less .
3. Real Foods Don’t Contain Refined Sugars
The natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables are not the same as refined sugars.
Fruits and vegetables contain natural sugars, but also provide other nutrients like fiber, vitamins and water, which are needed as part of a balanced diet.
Refined sugars, on the other hand, are often added to processed foods. The two most common types of added sugars are high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar.
Foods higher in refined sugars are often higher in calories and provide fewer health benefits. Ice cream, cakes, cookies and candy are just a few culprits.
Eating more of these foods is linked with obesity, so if weight loss is your goal, it’s best to limit them (12, 13).
Refined sugars also do little to keep you full. Studies show that a high intake of refined sugar can increase production of the hunger hormone ghrelin and dim the brain’s ability to make you feel full (13, 14).
Since real foods don’t contain any refined sugars, they are a much better choice for weight loss.
Summary: Real foods don’t contain added sugar and have other nutrients that are great for your health. Foods high in added sugar are typically higher in calories, aren’t as filling and increase your risk of obesity.