Food Quality

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Introduction

What is more important, food quality or food quantity? This NutriWiki will answer this question once and for all.

Summary

When it comes to food quality, it matters, but it is less important than food quantity (total calories) for weight loss. In fact, food quality per se has very little impact on weight loss, outside of the effect it may have on satiety and total calorie intake

Discussion

There is no doubt that quantity (total calories) is substantially more important than food quality for weight loss. Literally, every single study that has examined this has shown this to be the case. No matter what dietary intervention you use, the amount of calories people consume is always more important than the type that they consume.

Now there are some caveats. Typically foods that are considered higher quality can promote greater satiety and are less likely to be consumed in high volumes (think about how many pieces of broccoli you could eat in one sitting vs french fries). In fact, whenever you do not track calories, focusing on certain aspects of foods can help you reduce your overall caloric intake. These aspects of foods might be their fiber content, their energy density, their nutrient density, and where they rank on the satiety index.

There is one study that can help us understand this concept in more detail. If you allow people to consume as much food as they would like and you provide them with higher-quality, lower-processed foods, they will consume less total food and calories than if you give them lower-quality, higher-processed foods [1]. This excess calorie intake (food quantity) explained almost all of the weight gain.

Food quality

When we think about food quality and dieting and weight loss, here is a good rule of thumb to go by, “a balanced diet is key to a healthy life.”

We generally recommend that, for most people, your diet should consist of:

  • 80% Whole & minimally processed foods that you enjoy the taste of.
  • 20% Foods that you enjoy but might not have a great nutritious value

References

  1. Ultra-processed diets cause excess calorie intake and weight gain: an inpatient randomized controlled trial of ad libitum food intake.
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