Veganism, backed by the processed food industry, is becoming increasingly normalised as a lifestyle choice and there are some bold claims around health being made in support of it. On the other end of the spectrum, there is a trend towards very low carb, carnivore diets with the end results being that the average diet remains unchanged.
I wrote an exhaustive Calorie guide here, so I won’t repeat myself too much. However, it bears repeating that you must acknowledge the role energy balance plays in a healthy diet.
This doesn’t mean that you need to count calories.
It does mean that the calories count.
All diets succeed by placing you in a calorie deficit. Whether that is the explicit mechanism or not, it is certainly the underlying one
Note that I avoided saying unprocessed. Part of the reason that we have such large brains is down to the discovery of fire and its subsequent use in cooking our food. This gave our bodies the ability to outsource part of the processing required to extract nutrients from food.
Minimally processed foods require more internal processing in order to extract the energy from them. This will increase the thermal effect of food.
TEF- Thermal Effect of Food is typically far higher for unprocessed foods- which means we have to use more energy to extract the fuel from within them.
Take this example from Almonds:
Whole Almonds- we absorb roughly 60% of the calories.
Almond Butter- we absorb 100% of the calories.
When you consume minimally processed foods by default you will be eating less sugar, less processed flour and less seed oil.
You can confirm this by examining the back of any processed snack- the ingredients will almost certainly be a combination of processed carbohydrate, refined vegetable/seed oil, plus sugar/salt/sweetener for added palatability.
Minimally processed food will bias you towards fruits, vegetables, nuts, pulses, mushrooms versus pasta, bread, biscuits and cereal bars.
Note that when people are successful eating a vegan or vegetarian diet, the caveat is that they are typically consuming a minimally processed diet. They are not just excluding meat. Excluding meat, is not in and of itself healthy. Excluding meat leaves glaring holes in a diet that are hard to compensate for, this is made even harder is a large portion of dietary calories are being set aside for junk. Oreos are vegan for example.
Same goes in reverse for low carb diets- when people start off low carb they typically consume a diet of minimally processed food- meats, veggies, fruits etc. Once they get fancy with it they start to add in all sorts of low carb junk food which significantly impacts the healthfulness of the approach.
Diets lacking in protein, by which I mean falling lower than 0.6-0.8grams per pound of bodyweight, are harder to stick to.
They tend to not be as satiating as a higher protein approach and therefore compliance tends to drop off.
Here is an exhaustive overview of how much protein you should be eating and why:
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