With all the weight loss diets and varying opinions out there, it’s no wonder many of us get confused and caught up by new fads and weight loss schemes, that in the long run, don’t actually work.
That’s why Patrick Holford says that it’s worth going back to the basics – to remind ourselves that we are what we eat, that the foods we choose and the way that we cook and prepare them, play a huge role in how we maintain our weight and our health.
By adding these eight foods to your diet, you will be taking the first step towards healthy weight loss;
- Oats Rule
Oats are a superb food choice for weight loss and blood sugar control. You can eat them as oat flakes (cold) or soak or cook them to make porridge. Oatcakes are a good alternative for bread, for example, with your scrambled or boiled egg, or as a snack during the day with a high-protein spread such as hummus. The best oat choices are those highest in the soluble fibre called beta-glucans. Patrick recommends choosing a ‘rough’ oatcakes rather than ‘fine’.
- Rye or barley instead of wheat
The rye grain is also an excellent low-GL (Glycaemic Load) choice. The best choice of all would be the slow-cooked German-style breads called pumpernickel, sonnenbrot or volkenbrot. As is whole rye sourdough bread. These breads will be denser and heavier than regular wheat bread – so make sure you have thinner slices.
Barley is another healthier grain to use and studies show it makes you feel less hungry. You can buy wholegrain pearl barley, which boils like brown rice. It is also full of beta-glucans and soluble fibres.
- Eat more lentils and chickpeas
This food group, known as pulses, is a staple in countries with low rates of obesity, but we just don’t eat enough of them in a typical Western diet. Pulses are gluten-free and are a great source of protein, helpful for those looking to reduce weight, lower cholesterol and manage diabetes. Including a serving of lentils, or beans, for dinner actually has a knock on effect on breakfast, quite substantially reducing the blood sugar spikes of breakfast the next day.
- Quinoa – the South American secret
Quinoa has been grown in South America for 5,000 years and contains protein of a better quality than meat. Quinoa is also one of the highest protein sources in the vegetable kingdom, with 16 per cent of its calories as protein (soya has the most, at 38 per cent protein).
Quinoa can be used as an alternative to rice. To cook it, rinse well, then add two parts water to one of quinoa and boil for 15 minutes. It is also gluten-free and is a much lower GL than rice.
- Chia seeds, walnuts and almonds
Chia seeds are very high in soluble fibres which help fill you up, as well as omega-3 fats and protein, all of which are good news for weight loss and blood sugar control. Chia has more than double the soluble-fibre content of oats, but it’s difficult to eat the same quantity. Adding Chia seeds to your oats is a good way to increase your soluble fibre intake. Other good nuts for weight loss are walnuts and almonds.
“Try to have a small handful of nuts or a dessertspoon of seeds, every day, either in your food or as part of your daily snack,” says Patrick.
Another good tip is to buy almond butter or pumpkin- seed butter to replace regular butter or margarine. Peanuts and sugar free peanut butter are also an excellent source of protein but won’t provide the other benefits of omega-3 fats and soluble fibres that walnuts and almonds do.
- Squashes, including zucchini or courgettes
The vegetable family, which includes courgettes, marrows, pumpkin, butternut squashes and other varieties of winter squash are all very low-GL vegetable, which make them a great choice to add to your main meal.
- Berries, cherries and plums
The main sugar in most berries, cherries and plums is xylose, which is a low-GL form of sugar. The Montmorency cherry is exceptionally high in antioxidants and a concentrate called Cherry Active, as a cordial, is the only fruit drink that Patrick Holford recommends. Other fruit juices like grape juice, contain high volumes of pure fast-releasing glucose or fructose.
Plums, when in season, are a great fruit snack, together with some protein such as a few almonds or pumpkin seeds.
The next best fruits are apples and pears, but the kind of apple or pear you choose makes a difference. The harder and less sweet conference pears, for example, have the lowest GL.
For baking or as an added sweetener to your choice of hot drink, you can use a crystallised xylose, called xylitol. You can use the same amount as you do of normal sugar but it has much less effect on your blood sugar.
- A spoonful of cinnamon
Cinnamon is a safe and inexpensive spice that helps to balance blood sugar and has been used for many years in traditional herbal medicine for the treatment of type-2 diabetes. The active ingredient in cinnamon, MCHP, mimics the action of the hormone insulin, which removes excess sugar from the bloodstream, so it can really help when you are trying to lose weight. You need three to six grams a day for a good effect. Some supplements use a concentrate of cinnamon high in MCHP for those of us who find two teaspoons of raw cinnamon too much to swallow.