This is one of the foods that is linked to weight loss.

A Harvard School of Public Health study provides  lots of information that could help you eat healthier and gently lose excess pounds. The study covered a 20-year period and involved over 120,000 people, so these were not conclusions based on skimpy data. One goal of the study was to analyze specific foods and activities that seemed connected to long-term, gradual weight gain–or loss.

After the data was crunched (pun intended), it seemed that participants on average gained about a pound a year–a small amount, but in 20 years, that’s 20 pounds that “mysteriously” appears. Yet some people did lose weight, and their eating habits revealed some interesting secrets.

First, what were the foods that piled on the pounds? Unsurprisingly, the top foods that promoted weight gain were a round-up of the usual suspects. Here they are in approximate order, with the worst offenders first:

  • Potato chips
  • Potatoes, especially French fries
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages (soda and fruit juices)
  • Unprocessed red meats
  • Processed meats
  • Sweets and desserts
  • Refined grains

Unless your goal is to gain weight, these “Seductive 7” foods should be eaten in moderation.

As for foods associated with weight loss, I was surprised–and, yes, a bit shocked–to learn the identity of the Top 2. Clue: They were not fruits or vegetables, although fruits and veggies did make the Top 5.

OK, here are the winners. The two specific foods that were linked to greatest weight loss were: (1) yogurt, the gold medalist, and (2) nuts, the silver medalist (and this category included one of my personal favorites, that luscious legume, peanut butter). Fruits took the bronze medal, followed by whole grains, and then vegetables. Let’s call these five healthy foods–yogurt, nuts, fruits, whole grains, and vegetables–the “Fab 5.”

Surprised? So was I. Nuts are a high-calorie food, and good yogurt tastes like dessert. What is the “why” behind these results?

It turns out that satisfaction is the key. All five weight-loss-related foods cause people to feel more satiety (fullness) because of higher fiber content and slower digestion. When people feel fuller for longer, they will consume less of other, less wholesome foods, like those potato chips and sugary snacks above. Plus, yogurt and nuts contain lots of protein, designed to keep your energy higher for longer.

Of course, consuming more of the Fab 5 without reducing your intake of the Seductive 7 will NOT lead to weight loss! The Fab 5 foods are not magic. You still need to watch your portions. Still, the idea that the five healthy foods/food groups might help control appetite is a helpful insight.

If your goal is to maintain or lose weight, increase your consumption of the Fab 5 foods and reduce your intake of the Seductive 7. What foods might you willingly reduce? Which foods would you gladly increase? Small changes will make big differences over time.

Via Psychology Today