Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Best Foods to Eat for Weight Loss

If you want to lose weight, exercise and eat protein.

A high-protein diet seems to enhance the benefits of exercise, helping you to lose fat without losing muscle, according to researchers from the University of Illinois. The best foods to eat for weight loss are meat, dairy products, eggs and nuts.

The study: In this four-month study, 48 obese female volunteers were divided into two groups. One group ate a protein-rich diet designed to contain specific levels of leucine, one of the essential amino acids. A second group consumed a diet based on the food guide pyramid, which contained higher amounts of carbohydrates. Both groups consumed the same number of calories, but the first group substituted high-quality protein foods, such as meats, dairy, eggs and nuts, for foods high in carbohydrates, such as breads, rice, cereal, pasta and potatoes. The study included two levels of exercise. One group walked two to three times a week, but less than 100 total minutes. The others participated in five 30-minute walking sessions each week, as well as two 30-minute weight lifting/stretching sessions.

The results: The obese women who exercised most days of the week and consumed a reduced-calorie diet of 1,700 calories that was high in protein, lost more fat and less muscle than the women who ate a diet high in carbohydrates. "Both diets work because, when you restrict calories, you lose weight. But the people on the higher-protein diet lost more weight," researcher Donald Layman, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois, said in a news release. They also lost more weight in the abdomen.

"There's an additive, interactive effect when a protein-rich diet is combined with exercise. The two work together to correct body composition; dieters lose more weight, and they lose fat, not muscle," says Layman. The higher-carbohydrate, lower-protein diet based on the USDA food guide pyramid actually reduced the effectiveness of exercise, Layman said.

While this protein-rich diet works for everyone, it seems to be even more effective for people who have high triglyceride levels and carry excess weight in their midsection--a combination of health problems known as Syndrome X. "The protein-rich diet dramatically lowered triglycerides and had a statistically significant effect on trunk fat, both risk factors associated with heart disease," Layman said. "Exercise helped dieters lose an even greater percentage of body fat from the abdominal area."

The study findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition.

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