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5 Food Synergy Secrets for Weight Loss

Healthy food habits that can give you a weight loss edge.

Food Synergy Secrets for Weight Loss continued...

Eating a less calorie dense diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables helps make meals more satisfying, while cutting calories. A recent study indicated that eating more fruits and veggies along with cutting down on fat is a particularly smart strategy. In the study, Penn State University researchers divided obese women into two groups. One group was given counseling on reducing fat intake. The other got counseling on reducing fat intake plus increasing water-rich foods (mainly by eating fruits and vegetables). Both groups then made their own choices about how much to eat. Although both lost significant amounts of weight, the group that was counseled to reduce fat and add fruits and veggies lost an average of 3 pounds more. Perhaps most importantly, this group reported less hunger.

3.Eat Vegetarian Meals More Often. People following vegetarian diets tend to weigh less than meat-eaters, according to one review study. The researchers, who looked at data from 87 studies, found that the body weight of vegetarians is, on average, 3% to 20% lower than that of meat-eaters.

Switching to a low-fat vegan diet (one that includes no animal products) could result in a loss of about a pound a week, even without extra exercise or limits on calories, says study author Neal Barnard, MD, founder of the advocacy group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

But even going partially meatless can help. Women who are semi-vegetarian (who may include poultry and fish in their diets, but no red meat) or lacto-vegetarian (those who include milk products in their diets) had a lower risk of overweight and obesity, compared with omnivorous women, according to a Swedish study.

4. Include Low-Fat Dairy or Soy Milk in Your Diet. A healthy diet that includes 2-3 servings a day of low-fat or nonfat dairy may help promote weight loss, perhaps even in the midsection. High-calcium, low-calorie diets have been shown to help reduce body fat and preserve muscle mass, but some experts suspect that other components in dairy foods may also contribute to this effect.

In recent studies of people following similar low-fat diets -- one with calcium from dairy products and the other from calcium supplements -- those taking the supplements tended to lose LESS weight and body fat than the dairy-drinking group. Could food synergy be at work here?

Researcher Judith Lukaszuk, PhD, RD, from Northern Illinois University, wondered if this weight loss effect was due to the milk protein, or whether any source of protein fortified with calcium would have a similar result. She and colleagues tested the weight loss effects of lite soy milk and skim milk on 14 overweight or obese women who followed an 8-week, reduced-calorie diet. One group consumed 3 cups of lite soy milk per day; the other consumed the same amount of skim milk. The preliminary study showed that both groups lost similar amounts of weight and body fat, and also had similar decreases in waist size.

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