June 07, 2007
Low Calorie Density Foods Key To Weight Loss

Time for another chapter in the on-going saga on which diet - if any - works to lose and keep off weight. Foods that provide lots of weight but few calories probably make weight loss easier.

Eating smart, not eating less, may be the key to losing weight. A year-long clinical trial by Penn State researchers shows that diets focusing on foods that are low in calorie density can promote healthy weight loss while helping people to control hunger.

Foods that are high in water and low in fat – such as fruits, vegetables, soup, lean meat, and low-fat dairy products – are low in calorie density and provide few calories per bite.

“Eating a diet that is low in calorie density allows people to eat satisfying portions of food, and this may decrease feelings of hunger and deprivation while reducing calories” said Dr. Julia A. Ello-Martin, who conducted the study as part of her doctoral dissertation in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State. Previously, little was known about the influence of diets low in calorie density on body weight.

Whole grains lower calorie density because they have more fiber. Ditto lots of vegetables. These foods which are already considered better for other reasons are also better for weight loss.

The researchers compared the effects of two diets – one reduced in fat, the other high in water-rich foods as well as reduced in fat – in 71 obese women aged 22 to 60. The participants were taught by dietitians to make appropriate food choices for a diet low in calorie density, but unlike most diets, they were not assigned daily limits for calories.

At the end of one year, women in both groups showed significant weight loss as well as a decrease in the calorie density of their diets. However, women who added water-rich foods to their diets lost more weight during the first six months of the study than those who only reduced fat in their diets – 19.6 pounds compared to 14.7 pounds. Weight loss was well maintained by subjects in both groups during the second six months of the study.

I am guessing fiber will work as well or better than water as a substance to increase the weight of what you eat. The water-rich food eaters ate 25% more food by weight.

Records kept by the women showed that those who included more water-rich foods ate 25 percent more food by weight and felt less hungry than those who followed the reduced-fat diet. “By eating more fruits and vegetables they were able to eat more food, and this probably helped them to stick to their diet and lose more weight,” said Ello-Martin.

Yet another reason to eat more fruits and vegetables in place of other foods.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 June 07 10:39 PM  Brain Appetite

Bob Badour said at June 9, 2007 7:35 AM:

I think you are mistaken when it comes to high-fiber grains. Grains just plain old have high glycemic indexes and high glycemic loads. As you can see from the table at the link provided, no grain pasta has a low glycemic load and breads are at best borderline low glycemic load, and I think that assumes eating a small portion of bread -- probably one or two slices.

Consider that honey often compares favorably with breads and pasta above and that honey is basically just sugar.

While I could not find glycemic load values for many of these foods, compare asparagus, broccoli, summer squash, snow peas, and tomatoes with the grains above. Often, their glycemic index values are lower than grain's glycemic load values, which says a lot.

Randall Parker said at June 9, 2007 10:50 AM:


But pasta has low glycemic index. The glycemic load depends on serving size. The type of grains used to make pasta have lower glycemic index than those which are used to make bread. A whole grain pasta would have a fairly low glycemic index.

Granted, people tend to eat substantial servings of pasta. But if you switch from bread to pasta and also switch to whole grain pasta you will reduce your glycemic load. Fruits and vegetables are even better. But most people aren't willing to give up grains entirely. Might as well as eat grains in their healthiest forms if you are going to eat them.

Brett Bellmore said at June 9, 2007 12:27 PM:

A good solution I've used dieting is to use grain based bread, (In my case a cornbread) as a binder for bulky, low glycemic index vegetables such as cellery. Add a bit of meat and cheese, bake it as muffins for easy portion control, and you've got my diet. Here's the current recipe for 24-30 muffins:

Hot talmale muffins

2 lbs chopped onion
24 oz chopped cellery
2 lbs ground beef
1 lg can tomatoes, diced or crushed.
1 lg. can corn
1 reg. can hominey
1 lb. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
several garlic cloves, diced.
1/2 can chipolte chilies in adobo sauce, chopped.
1/2 can curry paste.
2 (Red, for color) bell peppers, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
4 cups (About) massa (Corn flour)

Fry and drain hamburger, dump in large pot.
Dump 3 cans in, including liquid
Dump in chipoltes.
Dump in stock.
Dump in cheese
Fry onions, pepper, cellery and garlic in olive oil, dump in.
Add enough of the massa to get semi-solid sticky mass.
Mix by hand.
Form into 24-30 balls.
Use cooking spray on muffin tins.
Place in muffin tin,

Bake in 350 oven for 1 hr 15 minutes.

Each muffin is about 250 calories, and a complete meal.

This recipe was a collaboration between me and Keith Henson some years ago. I've mutated it a bit since. (It keeps getting hotter as my tolerance increases. ;) )

Bob Badour said at June 9, 2007 3:12 PM:
But pasta has low glycemic index.

By whose definition? The lowest GI grain based pastas are two or three times as glycemic as tomatoes, and tomatoes are more glycemic than many of the vegetables I mentioned.

If someone wants to lose weight, forget the bread and the pasta -- pig out on low calorie density veggies. Once someone is already or has been obese, pasta is poison. It really is.

crystal said at June 11, 2007 2:04 PM:

From my own experience, I am much more satiated after a 500-calorie serving of food that is high in fats (e.g., walnuts, fatty cuts of meat, avocados, etc.) than I am after a 500-calorie serving of carbohydrate-rich food (potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.).

I end up eating fewer calories overall when I eat nutrient-dense foods than when I eat empty calories.

Mike said at June 11, 2007 8:28 PM:

Excellent article, The American diet is riddled with poor quality and non-life sustaining substances. Getting back to basics, while simple in concpet is in fact the key to feeling better and losing the pounds. I myself am a vegitarian and can say I don't miss the meat, fat or protein.

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