Be Careful with the “Magic Foods” Concept

MagicFoods

This article was originally written for and posted in my column, The Fitness Corner, in The Macon Telegraph

There are several different foods that are purported to burn fat. Beans burn fat. Broccoli burns fat. Quinoa burns fat. Eggs, peanut butter, fatty fish (such as tuna and salmon) and whole grains are also among the foods that apparently burn fat.

Now, before you head off to the grocery store to load your refrigerator with broccoli, eggs and quinoa, let’s think about this a little bit.

All of the foods I’ve mentioned are supposedly good fat burners. In other words, if you consume them, properties in them will actually reduce the amount of fat in your body.

This could be true to an extent, but it could also be misleading. I call it the “magic food” concept.

“Magic Food?”

Let’s consider peanut butter, for example. Peanut butter is supposedly a good fat burner due to the amount of monounsaturated fat that it contains. Monounsaturated fats are healthier than trans fats and saturated fats. When consumed in place of those fats, monounsaturated fats can help a person lose weight. However, this is only true when peanut butter is consumed in moderation, because on the other hand, peanut butter is a high-calorie food.

If your desire is to lose weight, it would be a mistake for you to begin consuming a couple of jars of peanut butter each week to get in more monounsaturated fat. Why? Because at almost 200 calories per 2-tablespoon serving, the same peanut butter that could help you burn fat could cause you to gain it as well.

Another way the “magic food” concept is misleading is that when the focus is on consuming certain foods for fat burning, it is often at the expense of eating a balanced diet.

If I read, for example, that quinoa, a grain-like food that’s eaten like rice, will help me burn fat, I might be led to believe that I need to eat large quantities of it every day. Such an attitude toward food might lead not only to disappointing fat loss results, but it could also result in nutritional deficiencies.

While quinoa can provide, among other things, a significant amount of protein and iron to the diet, it may not supply your diet with beta carotene like carrots or sweet potatoes would, or with the vitamin K present in leafy green vegetables.

So before you head to the store to stock up on the latest fat-burning food that’s being discussed in health news, keep this in mind.  You will have your best chance at achieving successful fat loss by consuming a balanced diet. Such a diet would consist of mostly vegetables, legumes and fruits, low to moderate amounts of meat, a small amount of whole grains and starchy foods, and little to no processed foods.

Eating in this manner will result in sustainable fat loss and will also, more importantly, provide you with the nutrients your body needs to run properly. An example of a meal that complies with these guidelines is a large salad with many different types of vegetables and a baked sweet potato on the side.

The next time you read about another fat-burning “magic food,” remember that it most likely burns fat most effectively as part of a balanced diet. Find a way to incorporate it into your diet, but you might want to think twice about running to Sam’s Club to buy it by the pallet.

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