Weight Loss: Study Finds Best and Worst Foods

weight loss best foods

When aiming for long term weight loss, decreased consumption of specific foods and beverages may be more beneficial than cutting calories alone. In a new study released today Harvard researchers identify the best, and worst diet foods for your waistline.

Potato Chips Are The Worst, Yogurt the Best

The food that caused the biggest weight gain? Potato chips. According to the researchers people who increased their consumption of this unhealthy snack had the largest weight gain over time followed by potatoes (french fries, boiled, baked or mashed), sugar-sweetened beverages and red meat.

For those looking to loose weight the researchers said that yogurt was the food that had the strongest correlation along with nuts, fruits, whole grains and vegetables.

The standard weight loss formula of “eat less and exercise” is important, says the study authors, but it may not be enough. This is because long-term weight gain usually occurs with time (a about a pound a year for adults) making it very difficult for people to identify the cause.


According to results of the study, over a 4-year period those who increased their consumption of potato chips gained an average of 1.69 lbs. Those who ate more potato products in general gained 1.28 lbs, sugars-sweetened beverages gained 1 lb and red meats 0.95 lbs.

However, the authors caution readers not to take the small increases in weight gain lightly as they can accumulate rapidly over time. “Even modest increases in weight have implications for long-term adiposity-related metabolic dysfunction, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer,” they wrote.

Whats Wrong with Potatoes?

Although the authors don't clearly state why potatoes are so bad for weight loss, they do say that starchy foods such as potatoes don't make us feel full. As a result we tend to eat more that we would if we were consuming a highly-filling food such as vegetables, nuts or whole grains. Highly filling foods usually contain large amounts of fiber which slow down food absorption in the intestine, telling our brains that we don't need to eat more food.

Yogurt, on the the other hand, was a bit surprising as it is not a high-fiber food. Furthermore, in the study there was no difference found between whether or not people were eating low-fat or full-fat yogurts. The Harvard researchers suggest that perhaps it is the bacteria contained in these products that protects against weight gain. However, the reason remains unclear.

Overall the lesson to be learned from this study is that simply watching calories may no be enough to achieve weight loss over the years. Even modest increases in unhealthy foods can lead to disease-promoting weight gain and sabotage your weight loss goals.

Mozaffarian, Dariush, et al. Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-term Weight Gain in Women and Men. N Engl J Med 2011



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