Key to Losing Weight and Keeping It Off

If you want to lose weight quickly, eat a high-protein diet. But if you want to keep it off, eat carbohydrates.

While the high-protein, low-carb diets may help shed pounds fast, you need to do just the opposite to keep the weight off for good. Of course, it has to be a diet rich in the right kind of carbohydrates. Think fruits and whole grains. Forget white bread and white potatoes.

According to a new study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, those lost pounds are more likely to stay off for good when you eat a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as wheat bread, barley, and brown rice, with smaller portions of lean meats, poultry, and fish. In addition to keeping your weight steady, eating these foods will make you healthy and strong.

Why carbs? USDA nutritionist Shanthy Bowman, who was the lead author of this study, stated that to maintain your weight, you need to keep the calories you eat and the calories you burn in balance. Carbohydrates contain fewer calories than foods that are rich in protein or fat. So by eating carbs, you can eat more food and take in less calories at the same time.

The study:

The researchers culled data from the USDA's Continuing Survey of Food Intakes By Individuals 1994-1996, which includes self-reported food consumption information from 10,014 adults nationwide who weren't on diets. For the study, the researchers divided these people into four groups, based on the amount of carbohydrates they ate daily:

The results:

Those whose diets consisted of more than 55 percent carbohydrates ate about 200 calories less per day while eating the same amount of food as the others. This group's average daily calorie intake was 1,840, compared with the 2,031 calories eaten daily by those whose diets were less than 30 percent carbohydrates. And that's not all. In addition to eating a more nutritious diet, the high-carb group also boasted the lowest body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height.

"The high-carb group ate more fruit than the other groups," Bowman explained to HealthScoutNews. "Their strategy was to choose foods high in water content and dietary fiber and also choose foods that are low in fat. That way they were able to eat more food without sacrificing variety."

One fascinating footnote: No matter what their carb intake, people in all the groups consumed about 10 percent to 14 percent of their daily calories from beverages, including alcohol, soft drinks, and sweetened fruit drinks. If you're trying to lose weight, cutting back on high-calorie beverages is a great way to start.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

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