Healthy weight loss nutrition
Planning your eating strategy for healthy weight loss should start with balancing your meals in terms of macronutrients. Our article on creating the best diet for healthy weight loss explains a simple strategy of arranging meals around a protein-rich food (such as meat, eggs, fish, tofu or quinoa) and making sure to include a selection of vegetables.
Meals high in protein and vegetables are a good way to obtain a range of useful micronutrients – the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other plant compounds our bodies need to function well. Supplying our bodies with these nutrients can help support the mechanisms that lead to healthy metabolism – including blood glucose regulation and the calibration of thyroid, adrenal and reproductive hormones.
Here are some key nutrients seen in studies to support healthy weight loss:
Chromium supports the regulation of insulin and the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It is found in certain foods, including tomato, black pepper, liver, poultry, shellfish and pulses, but quantities can vary. Research into insulin resistance – the driver of metabolic conditions such as type two diabetes and obesity – has focused on supplementation with chromium picolinate. A supplement containing this nutrient can support better blood glucose and appetite regulation and might help the loss of excess body fat while preserving muscle.
Magnesium is crucial for optimal function of the body’s biochemical processes and plays a critical role in the health of the cardiovascular system and the body’s insulin response. Insulin is key to the regulation of blood glucose and the ability of the body to store or burn body fat. Magnesium-rich foods include dark green vegetables, quinoa, nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and lentils.
As gut bacteria are known to play a role in weight management, it can be helpful to support the diversity of beneficial bacterial so that the intestinal environment can be re-balanced towards a healthy state.
Consider these ways to boost your beneficial gut bacteria:
- Probiotic supplements can provide microbial strains commonly found in a healthy gut or may be formulated with strains that specifically support weight management
- Include prebiotic foods in your diet – these are the foods that feed the probiotics. Fibrous foods, especially onions, garlic, leeks, green vegetables and apples are particularly rich in prebiotics
- Include some probiotic-containing, fermented foods in your diet – for example, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi or kombucha
- Start slowly with any of these probiotic-promoting tips – adding these foods into your diet too quickly or at too high a quantity can cause uncomfortable digestive disturbances!
Iron is important in the body’s metabolic pathways and helps ensure the creation of active thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone function is essential to weight loss and weight management.
Consider how to include iron-rich foods in your diet:
- The most bioavailable iron – heme iron – is found in meats such as liver, beef and lamb. These double up to provide a good source of protein in your meals
- For vegetarians, iron-rich foods include beans, peas, dried apricots, spinach, chard and chickpeas. Team them with vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits to boost absorption
Plants contain compound substances, known as polyphenols, that are not essential in the human diet but which may offer multiple health-giving benefits. One class of polyphenols is the flavonoids. Like the rest of the polyphenols, flavonoids act as antioxidants in the human body, helping to prevent cell damage. Flavonoids may have an extra use, though: they appear to support regulation of the metabolism, helping with weight management. Fruits, vegetables and cocoa are often rich in flavonoids. Look especially for purple, red or blue produce such as berries, which are rich in anthocyanin flavonoids that have powerful antioxidant/anti-inflammatory effects and may help the body to regulate fatty acid metabolism.
Aoun, A., Darwish, F. and Hamod, N., 2020. The Influence of the Gut Microbiome on Obesity in Adults and the Role of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics for Weight Loss. Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, 25(2), p.113.
Hummel, M., Standl, E. and Schnell, O., 2007. Chromium in metabolic and cardiovascular disease. In: Hormone and Metabolic Research. Horm Metab Res, pp.743–751.
Morais, J.B.S., et al., 2017. Effect of magnesium supplementation on insulin resistance in humans: A systematic review. Nutrition.
O’Kane, S.M., et al., 2018. Micronutrients, iodine status and concentrations of thyroid hormones: a systematic review. Nutrition Reviews.
Sandoval, V., et al., 2020. Metabolic Impact of Flavonoids Consumption in Obesity: From Central to Peripheral. Nutrients, 12(8), pp.1–55.
Tsang, C., et al., 2019. A meta‐analysis of the effect of chromium supplementation on anthropometric indices of subjects with overweight or obesity. Clinical Obesity, 9(4).