The Quality of a Diet vs. The Type of Diet

Do you want to go on a diet, but don't know if it's right for you? Today, we'll tell you why the quality of a diet is more important than the type of diet you choose. Learn more here!
The Quality of a Diet vs. The Type of Diet

Last update: 19 August, 2021

The statement that the quality of a diet is more important than the type of diet does indeed have a scientific basis. For example, it’s not only about controlling the number of calories you consume to lose weight. You also have to select the healthiest foods within the caloric adjustment.

One study found that people on weight-loss diets increased the likelihood of premature death by consuming low-quality foods. However, the risk of premature death decreased when they avoided junk food and sweets.

As you continue to read this article, you’ll learn about the most recommended foods, the right amounts, and the importance of variation in your diet.

What foods contribute positively to the quality of a diet?

Within a certain type of diet, it’s not only the number of calories and nutrients you ingest that count. According to a group of experts, diets should consist of high-quality foods. That is, those that are less likely to promote weight gain.

In this group, we find the foods that are part of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which follow healthy dietary patterns.

Vegetables and fruits

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promote the consumption of vegetables and fruits for weight control and healthy eating. This decreases the risk of chronic diseases.

Fruits and vegetables provide a high water and fiber content, which reduces caloric intake. They also provide phytochemicals, such as polyphenols, with antioxidant action that offer a recognized positive effect.

Whole grains

Fiber has a satiating effect and takes longer to digest, as its structure requires more chewing. In general, it provides fewer calories for the amount you consume.

A group of researchers comments on the benefits of fiber for weight control. Wheat bran, found in whole grains, decreases the energy density of food and appetite.

Eating about 14 grams of fiber a day reduces caloric intake by 10%, and people lose almost 4.5 pounds of weight in 2.8 months of intervention. It’s also associated with good gastrointestinal health and the control and prevention of certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.

A variety of whole grains and their derivatives.
Whole grains provide quality fiber, which reduces appetite.

Read also: 7 Ways to Increase Your Fiber Intake and Combat Constipation

Healthy fats

The Spanish Society of Dietetics and Food Sciences, along with other societies that study the Mediterranean diet, emphasize the importance of the quality of fats, rather than their quantity. From this perspective, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (omega 3) are considered key for the prevention of chronic diseases.

According to the Iberoamerican Nutrition Foundation, the healthiest fats are provided by seed oils, olive oil, algae, and marine animals. The contribution of omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Healthy proteins

The inclusion of lean protein in diets to control caloric intake is vitally important. These proteins include lean meats, such as fish, seafood, skinless poultry, and legumes (beans, lentils, soybeans, peas).

From a nutritional standpoint, Quesada and Gómez recommend supplementing legume proteins with cereals. This improves amino acid quality and increases nitrogen absorption and utilization.

What foods take away from the quality of a diet?

Foods considered low quality are included in unhealthy diets. Increasing their daily portions is related to weight gain. Within this group are the following.

Refined and added sugar

Professor Claudia Cabezas points out that refined and added sugar in certain products, such as sweetened beverages, cakes, ice cream, and pastries, among others, is considered to be of concern within the diet. He argues that high sugar consumption is associated with various diseases, such as excess weight, obesity, diabetes. and cardiovascular disease.

They can also contribute to the development of psychological disorders, such as hyperactivity. That’s why their consumption is regulated in processed products.

Trans fats

Epidemiological studies link the consumption of saturated and trans fats to increased serum cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Given this evidence, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that less than 1% of the total calories ingested should come from trans fatty acids.

According to a team of nutritionists, we find them in hydrogenated margarine, commercial frying fats, high-fat baked goods, donuts, hamburgers, French fries, and high-fat cakes.

Refined cereals

Refined cereals are low in fiber and high in starch. They’re considered the main sources of energy in the population. However, the content of minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins is lower than in whole grains, as they’ve been lost during the refining process.

Processed foods

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) describes processed foods as those products composed of multiple ingredients developed industrially. Popkin and Reardon state that they contribute to excess weight, obesity, and other non-communicable diseases since they include additives, saturated fats, added sugars, and salts.

Processed foods include canned beverages, processed meats, nuts, smoked and cured foods, margarine, mayonnaise, and syrups, among others.

If you want to control your weight, the amount of calories always has an influence. By ingesting fewer calories than we expend, you’ll be able to reduce your body weight. But it’s not the only important thing. Even diets that are careful regarding the number of calories aren’t always the best.

A study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation reports that everything depends on the type of food you select within the dietary pattern you follow. For example, someone who eats 1500 calories of junk food will lose the same amount of weight as those who consume 1500 calories from healthy foods.

However, junk food can cause reactions. Foods high in sugars increase the release of insulin. This leads to increased fat storage and impending weight gain.

The number of calories you should ingest to lose weight should be calculated by a nutrition professional and distributed with healthy foods. Fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains make the body feel full and satisfied.

Although they’re healthy foods, it doesn’t mean that we can eat everything that we want. On the contrary, we must be careful with portions so as not to overindulge.

For example, according to the INCAP food composition table, a portion of 200 grams of plantain can provide 200 calories. If consumed 3 times a day, then it contributes almost half to an average low-calorie diet.

That’s why we need to be careful and measure the calories provided by the healthiest foods. This way, we guarantee the recommended intake and the variety of nutrients. Healthier doesn’t mean overeating.

Junk food, like pizza, chips, fries, and fast food.
Junk food isn’t always bad because of its calorie content, which can be regulated, but rather for its low nutritional quality.

The importance of variety in a quality diet

The variety in a diet guarantees the right supply of energy and nutrients quantities to cover your needs and prevent deficiencies. To achieve this, the healthiest foods from different groups should be included.

There’s no ideal diet, nor is there a complete product that provides all the nutrients in the necessary quantities. Oranges, for example, contain vitamin C, but not vitamin B12. This we find in meats. And if we need fiber, we must resort to legumes or fruits.

Any dietary intervention should be planned and conducted by a nutrition professional from the beginning. The number of calories to be ingested, the selection of foods, the adjustment of macro and micronutrients to ensure the requirements, as well as the evolution of the diet, must be approved by the nutritionist.

Science has shown that the quality of a diet is more important than the type of diet and has become a reliable indicator for achieving healthy nutrition. Weight loss plans should consider not only the amount of energy and nutrients but also consider the qualitative aspects of the food.

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