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Ultraprocessed Foods – A New Theory of Obesity (scientificamerican.com)
319 points by MattRogish 28 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 339 comments



I’ve been fascinated by the fact that I know several people who have become vegan, lost weight, and feel better. But I also know many people who have gone low carb, or even eat nothing but meat, and are also losing weight and report feeling much better. I’ve been wondering what they both share in common, and suspected that both forms of dietary restriction mean cutting out most hyper palatable ultraprocessed foods.

It’s an interesting article, I hope to see more research on the subject.


Another anecdote: I went completely vegan ~3 months ago. I don't really "feel better". It's always the first thing someone asks when I say I went vegan.. "Do you feel better?" - I feel basically the same.

Although my weight has been trending downward, slowly, which is great since that's happening without trying to limit the amount I eat at all. That's very different from when I wasn't vegan, my weight would always trend slowly upward unless I was making a deliberate effort to cut back on calories.

BUT: I think the real reason I'm slowly losing weight on a vegan diet is the simple fact that eating a restricted diet (ANY restricted diet) requires you to think about and analyze absolutely everything that enters your mouth. It introduces a level of mindfulness that just wasn't there when eating an unrestricted diet. For me, this has had the side effect of also cutting out most processed food (read: junk food) from my diet, even though most junk food is vegan. I'm convinced this is the biggest value of being vegan.. it just makes you think about everything you buy at the grocery store, everything you order when out to eat, etc.

Another commenter calls this "paying attention to what you eat" - I think that's right on target, however cliche it may sound.


I consider myself a seasoned dieter (meaning I can manipulate my weight +/-10kg fairly easily). Over at least a dozen weight cuts/bulks, the most effective practice I've found is writing a meal plan, and writing down everything you put in your mouth.

Many people have started losing weight just by doing this - without actively changing their diet. It has a really profound subconscious impact on what/how much you put in your mouth.

The psychological/hormonal aspect of food is fascinating.


my weight is probably going +/-6kg, on a semi-week basis. When I eat, I eat a lot (fruits at will, legumes, fish vapor-cooked, honey, Camargues rice living in France, lentils). I think it's useless to weight yourself, it's easy to feel how much fat you've built, you then need to consume it first before re-eating (I'm around 60-62kg, 1.83m, with a thin morphology so it's not underweight)

I feel really well with that "lower-frequency" diet cycle, it's of course easier when working remote.


+/- 6kg is basically water. 1kg of fat is 8800kcal - 4 days of average adult's caloric intake. There's no way to lose 6kg in a week unless what you've lost is almost entirely water.


It's not very likely to happen with water either. 6kg of water is 6 liters, which is probably more than the amount of blood in their body. I have to question the measurements on the 6kg fluctuations, going from 60kg to 54kg in a week is serious.


That's true, but there is a lot of water in the body aside from the blood.

While most people will feel physical effects after losing 5% of their body weight in water, many can lose up to 8-10% without significant adverse physical or mental impact. Loss over 10% is considered serious dehydration.

World champion marathon runner Haile Gebrselassie famously won the Dubai marathon in 2005 with a 10% body weight loss during the race:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22450589


It's pretty common to cut 5-10kg in preparation for wrestling/judo competitions.

A natural 6kg fluctuation isn't inconceivable. I'm fairly sure I could get there starting dehydrated/carb-depleted and pounding a carb-heavy meal with a lot of fluids.

It definitely wouldn't be accidental, though.


Cutting for competitions involves diuretics though. They literally piss out the weight to end up in their target weight bracket.


I've fluctuated about that much in 48 hours just going from eating a lot of food constantly -> fasting (no food, no water). Think about all the food and liquid you can pack into your stomach and intestines.

Seems crazy, but try it. I went from like 180lbs to low 160s. Of course, it comes back when you start eating and drinking again.


This isn't what people typically mean when they talk about weight loss, though. Which is why normally you hear recommendations for measuring your weight at the same time every day with an assumption that your eating patterns are roughly constant.


This, i find i can lose like around 2.5kg by fasting 2 days 1.5kg is usually water weight and 0.5 kg feels like food mass and the other 0.5kg fat loss. The water and food mass weight will come back once you start eating again.


- "I managed to strip 60kg off my race car"

- "Wow, how did you manage that??"

- "I just emptied the gas tank!"


I'll try to measure it, it's something like 58-59kg, after a long bike ride the sunday and 64-65kg after eating - I buy 10-12kg of fruits/legumes twice a week - so yes it's 80% water


Not to be gross but the colon can hold a lot of weight until you empty it. It could be a mix of that and water.


Completely agree - but as a counter point too, this for me also led to anorexia (not going vegan, but a restricted, over-analysed diet). I changed my diet and started monitoring and analysing everything, combined with what must've been a vulnerable mental state, meant I couldn't rationalise eating anything. I'm talking under 700 calories a day for months on end.

One minute you're being mindful about your intake, the next you're stood paralysed in the chilled aisle physically unable to choose a meal as they're all "so bad".

If you're in tip-top mental health, then restricted diets can work. But for anyone reading who's dealing with proper body image or any other food related issues - just be careful please.


I've heard this called orthorexia instead of anorexia. I hope you're doing better :)


About a year ago I started being hypervigilant on my food intake: Three meals a day, no snacks, take a picture of everything. No other restrictions. In the past year I've lost 75 pounds...


> BUT: I think the real reason I'm slowly losing weight on a vegan diet is the simple fact that eating a restricted diet (ANY restricted diet) requires you to think about and analyze absolutely everything that enters your mouth.

SO true. It's all about altering those marginal decisions that add up to something noticeable.


When I went vegetarian ~4 years ago I didn't feel noticably better either. But I eat meat when I go overseas - and after a week meat one or two meals a day I feel properly rubbish.

Being vegetarian has made my weight much easier to manage too - which is a helpful additional benefit.


How are you vegetarian if you still eat meat occasionally?


part-time vegetarian based on location (maybe has family overseas or something).

Sounds legit to me.


Yeah. I have cut my meat intake by 99%+ - and for simplicity I describe myself as a vegetarian. But if I am overseas I will order a vegetarian menu option if there is one but I'm not going to drag my friends across town to find somewhere I know will suit me, so sometimes it means ordering a meat dish, especially in east-Asian countries.

It depends on the country, and sometimes city, of course.


Paying attention to what you eat really goes a long way.

I remember watching a video of two women, one skinny, one overweight, who were good friends. They said that the skinny one always eats way more food, but doesn't gain any weight.

They had a camera crew follow them both around and it was true that the skinny woman ate larger meals. The difference was all the time in between. The skinny woman didn't eat anything, while the overweight woman was snacking regularly.

The total calorie counts for the day were much larger for the overweight woman.


I have found this is basically always the case.

In weight lifting you have this concept of "hard gainers," who are generally men who want to gain muscle mass / weight, but can't seem to, "no matter how much they eat." A common refrain from them is something like "I ate a whole pizza on my own, and still nothing!"

Well, the moment they start actually counting their calories, it's the same story you just told. Sure, they ate a whole pizza on Saturday, but also nothing much else that day, and they ended up short of their caloric needs, and then every other day that week was even less, minus the occasional splurge that also didn't bring their average up high enough.

This goes for people who "can't" lose weight too -- when they start counting calories they are surprised to find that they eat a shitload of calories they didn't know about, most of which are empty of nutrition.

One way to reframe the question of calories is to start considering calories per week, instead of per day. You start to get the picture either way--whether you're trying to gain or lose--when you're thousands off your goal by day 3 and realize what a big adjustment you'll have to make during the next 4 days to make your count right.


I have seen this so many times anecotally too. It’s not even “metabolism” so much as it is how hungry people naturally get. It varies so much from person to person. I could easily eat 4000kcal a day and feel hungry if I have anything less than 2200 or so whereas I know “hard gainers” who struggle to eat more than 1000kcal in a single sitting.

However I don’t think it’s purely genetic/intrinsic. At least personally I have seen that after a period of dieting my natural hunger reduced to about as much as I had been eating.

Anyway, I agree that these restrictive diets work in general by making it easier/necessary to count calories and eliminate some junk food. Really, eliminating dense addictive foods and counting calories is probably all the vast majority of people need to do to lose weight


I am pretty sure it has mostly to do with your blood glucose level. Keto and Fasting are all about getting your blood glucose levels low enough and when you reach it your hunger usually goes away. I suspect people who eat a lot of processed foods also snack a lot. Every meal raises your blood sugar and makes you more hungry.


I thought this was me. I started tracking calories, sure enough I just plain old wasn't eating enough. Actually eating the calories planned made all the difference, although I felt stuffed pretty much all the time.


My pet theory-without-evidence is that diets like keto or vegan succeed largely because they force people to radically reconsider every single thing they're eating. When you impose harsh restrictions like "no animal products" you have to pay very close attention to everything you consume, which likely leads to more mindful eating and less passive consumption/overeating.


It's plenty easy to find vegan junk food. Pretty much any potato chip that doesn't have the name of a dairy product featured prominently on the label is going to be vegan. Go to most natural food stores, including Whole Foods, and you'll find far more shelf space being devoted to processed and junk foods than food that's actually healthy. Most of it with labels that work very hard to imply that sugar only has calories if it's made from something other than sugar cane.

That said, you're not likely to find the vegan equivalent of Twinkies at your local bodega, and that is worth something. But I'm guessing that a bigger factor is that choosing to go vegan or low-carb or whatever is tantamount to deciding to join a food culture that places a much higher value on making better food choices, and there's nothing quite like peer pressure for changing one's behavior.


True I have noticed a lot of girls who are vegetarian / vegan and still quite fat. I found it quite strange as I am a bit skinny and when I tried going vegetarian I lost weight. Turns out they eat a lot of chocolate and other crap food.


> Most of it with labels that work very hard to imply that sugar only has calories if it's made from something other than sugar cane.

I like the ingredient listings that say "cane juice".


There's a whole bunch of ingredients that are effectively just sugar, including such wholesome-sounding gems as "fruit juice concentrate".


Is that really just sugar? As I understand it most orange juice is concentrated before transport then rehydrated.


It's not just sugar. There's the occasional vitamin in there, probably hunkered down in a bunker to hide from all the roving hordes of monosaccharides, like a sort of kindergarten health class film strip version of I Am Legend.

But, as far as its culinary purpose goes, I suspect it ends to end up in processed foods because it's an additive you can use to sweeten the food while still being able to prominently claim "no sugar added" on the front of the box. I think legally you do have to cross your fingers behind your back while you do it, but it's not enforced.

I wouldn't be surprised if it's a trick that even works well on people who like to hang out on the internet talking about how fructose is the devil.


Pear juice doesn't taste like much but sugar water, so it's often used as a sweetener in things that already contain fruit.


This is the frustrating thing about diet research. Almost every diet works to help you lose weight, even the really stupid and unhealthy fad diets, but when a study is released about some diet, the media often reports that it doesn't seem to work very well, even if the differences are driven entirely by compliance.

I get that the research is often done from a medical or public health perspective, not a biological one, so compliance is an important factor to consider, but when I talk to people, I find the conclusion they draw from reading these results in the media is not that most people in these studies fail to follow the diet. The conclusion they draw is that a lot of people will not lose weight if they follow the diet successfully. This happens over and over again every time a new study comes out, and the belief a lot of people internalize from it is that we really have no fucking clue what the connection is between what people eat and whether they're overweight, and we don't know what if any change in how they eat will result in them losing weight.

That leaves them vulnerable to unscrupulous and/or unwitting opportunists hawking diet systems backed by complicated theories about toxins or hormones or genetic types.


That's right.

Simply writing down your calories consumption - with no limitations whatsoever - helps to lose weight.


Fructose. That's what's missing.

It's much healthier when it's bound up in a lot of fiber, as you find it in unprocessed fruit. The soluble and insoluble fiber form a protective barrier that reduces the total amount and rate at which it is absorbed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yda8RtOcVFU


I wonder why all the allusions to sugar are downvoted in these comments ?

Anecdotal, but moving to the US, the insane amount of sugar that is put in every form of food is very scary.


I've been here (in the US) 3 months now, working in a near identical environment.

1) Sweet things like muffins or cakes are generally unbearably sweet to me in comparison to what I expect in similar products in other countries (Australia, EU)

2) The cultural integration of the consumption of these foods appears to be higher in the USA; donuts at morning meetings, krullers and bearclaws on desks and tables for all-hands, quarterly meetings, etc - feels very high given that I am working in a culturally and socio-economically comparable environment relative to my home countries.

Of course, commonwealth and european countries have their own culture-driven consumption patterns (cakes for birthdays, croissants, scones for morning teas in Australia/NZ/UK) - but it doesn't appear to reach a similar level of 'saturation' as in the US.

Just another limited anecdote, of course.


> Sweet things like muffins or cakes are generally unbearably sweet

I have that problem eating some items here even as a native. For some items you risk buying something lethally sweet I don't want to eat. Things like lemon cake seem basically guaranteed to be inedible (I assume making even sweeter to offset lemon).

That said, the bigger issue just seems to be serving size. A traditional British cookie/biscuit is fairly small. American cookies have grown larger and larger.


I think that's changed here in Australia too; in that a lot of the recipes you find online are much sweeter than they used to be back 20-30 years.

When we bake at home we regularly only use 1/4-1/3 of the sugar recommended, and sometimes that still ends up too sweet for our palates.


>Sweet things like muffins or cakes are generally unbearably sweet to me

Seriously!! Sometimes I go to the bakery of my local grocery store and check out the muffins, they tend to have more sugar than I'd expect cupcakes to have.


> Sweet things like muffins or cakes are generally unbearably sweet

It didn't used to be like this. Back forty years ago, muffins and cupcakes were pretty different things. Now it's just a matter of how much frosting is on the top.


As an American raised on typical things you find at an average grocery store, I had to kick sugar like an addict as an adult. Now I can't bear pretty much any kind of soda or processed food without tasting an overwhelmingly gross level of sweetness. I can't believe I liked this stuff as a kid, but I just was never exposed to anything else.

As a kid you grow very tolerant to high sugar intake, to the point that even a Coke or Pepsi tastes only very mildly sweet. You don't really realize just how much sugar you're consuming. Most of the cheap food is loaded with sugar (to hide the fact it otherwise tastes bad, maybe? I don't know why), and many families avoid paying for anything more natural because they can't afford it; or even if they can, they feel it's a rip-off compared to the plentiful, cheap food at their local grocery store. Generations are being raised on that garbage. It certainly beats malnutrition for families who would otherwise just go hungry, but it ingrains such awful tastes and habits.


Agreed! After moving to the US I particularly remember how hard it was to find sausages that do not contain any sugar (I can't stand the taste of sweet grilled meat, yuck!). We looked at what must have been 30+ different types of _packaged_ sausages until we found some "kosher" product that indeed didn't list any sugary ingredient. It was eye opening!


That is not just the US. Over here in the EU if you go through the ingredient list of prepared meat products, you will discover that 98% of those have some sugar added.

That is not to say there is no difference. When I travel to the US I find most if the food really unbearably sweet. Strange exception is fresh fruit, which seems to be a lot less flavorful in the US than over here.


What brand would you buy at home?


Bread in the USA tastes like cake in the rest of the world!


I agree, was in the US recently and so many foods are much sweeter than in other countries. USA is really good at sugar. Even the ice cream was much sweeter - looking at you Ben and Jerry's. I bought some organic almond butter, and it had sugar in it! Why?!


It was the "war on fat" that sweetened the cake.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-in...


> I agree, was in the US recently and so many foods are much sweeter than in other countries.

I wish there was an easy way to compare foodstuffs across countries. Too many of these discussions turn into anecdote battles with little hard data.

> I bought some organic almond butter, and it had sugar in it! Why?!

What brand? I know sugar is fairly common in peanut butter, but I don't know much about almond butter. I did a cursory search, and the three brands I checked (Justin's, Barney's, and 365 Organics) do not use any kind of sweetener.

That said, I can barely stand sweetened peanut butter now that I have switched to Smucker's Naturals (which is just ground peanuts and salt). I can only guess that the sugar is added to increase appeal.


Cause they'll sell more units if they put sugar in it. Economics 101: Step 1) take healthy food Step 2) add sugar Step 3) Profit


Supposedly, in the 20s and 30s, some of the immigrants thought the white bread they were given in immigration was cake, as they'd only eaten black bread.

I believe that considerably predated the fluffy wonderbread style of white bread.


I'd guess it's because the sugar comments all seem to be going "nah, it's sugar" and dismissing the rest of the points the article is considering.


Sometimes I make an oatmeal cookie that is traditional in my family. It can be considered a healthy cookie, not very sweet, but I'm always impressed with the amount of sugar that goes with it. I wonder how much goes in the really sweet ones.


because the article is specifically about it not being just any one food type.


In the US, sugar consumption is down but obesity is still trending upward. If anything, it's the added oils and fats that have gone up.

https://www.cato-unbound.org/sites/cato-unbound.org/files/im...


Some ideas about what might be going on:

Confirmation bias: people who try new diets and hate them probably talk about it a lot less.

Placebo: people getting caught up hearing about how everyone with their diet feels so much better are convinced they feel better too

Gut fauna: any change, regardless of what it was, causing a population shuffling inside the gut

Avoiding "something": any change, regardless of what it was, involved exclusion of one specific thing which was a sensitivity/allergy/poorly digested/feeding a particular gut bacteria

Thoughtfulness: any change required people to be much more conscientious about what they ate which led to different habits, one of which was critical to feeling better

Lies and exaggerations: diet and nutrition has become a kind of religion replacing God in an increasingly atheist society, some people act with strange quasi-religious zeal for their personal health belief set

I tend to not believe anything anybody says about nutrition. Evidence for anything fits into three categories: guessing, anecdotes, extremely specific cause-and-effect studies without real-world conclusions. The fourth category of believable, properly blinded, controlled, long term human studies does exist but the volume is very low.


I also read the point once that sort of by definition, if a person is overweight, then the person's current diet is not working. So changing to basically anything else is likely an improvement.


Fwiw, I'm a big proponent of the thoughtfulness theory.


There's a simpler explanation: processed foods are more caloric per weight and/or they tend to increase portion size as well.


What exactly is a processed food? That's a name thrown around like a bad word by nutrition fans everywhere but it seems to mean "food we don't like".


I think scientists use something called the NOVA food classification. If you do some google searches, you can find information, but I haven't found anything that feels really definitive.


You can argue that processing food doesn't change anything about it, but it seems a ridiculous position to take that "processed food" might not exist.

Do you really see no possible difference between a potato, and Pringles, because "picking potatoes is a process"?


I'm challenging it as nonspecific, unhelpful name-calling.

What is the difference between "processed" and "cooked" food?

Can you really draw a non-arbitrary line between the two?

Does it just have to be cooked by someone else? Are there techniques which are kosher and are just "cooked" while others make it "processed"? Is it a set of ingredients which make the distinction?

Does baking soda make a food processed? Sodium citrate? Soy lecithin?

Could you go through Modernist Cuisine and classify each recipe as "processed" or not?


So you are doing that?

> Can you really draw a non-arbitrary line between the two?

No, I can't. That doesn't mean there is no distinction between the two. I cannot draw an arbitrary line where "low altitude" becomes "high altitude", but there are many differences between them.

> What is the difference between "processed" and "cooked" food?

Cooked is food you would make yourself. Processed is what a company would make to sell to maximise money.

Cooked is heating to make digestible and tasty. Processed is trying to find a hyperstimulus to make more-ish.

Cooked is food taken as a whole. Processed is treating food as resource to be refined into separate components, then ignore all the non-profitable components and concentrate the obviously useful ones.

Cooked is food you bought fresh yesterday and eat leftovers of tomorrow. Processed is food that entered the supply chain two weeks ago and is best before two weeks away.

Cooked is food that you trimmed the manky parts off while peeling. Processed is 5 tons of tomatoes dumped onto the ground by a truck.

Cooked is food with color. Processed is yellow and white crunchy flour.

Cooked is stuff a human can make. Processed is filtered by what fits in a factory process.

Cooked uses whatever ingredients are available now. Processed uses only ingredients are available in bulk year round.

Cooked is food of different varieties and textures. Processed is the same experience every time.

Again, I'm not saying this is automatically bad, I'm saying there is clearly some distinction between "chicken breast bought from a butcher and grilled" and "mechanically recovered processed chicken style textured sandwich filling packaged in a protective atmosphere in plastic with a weird smell to it use within 24 hours of opening", even if I can't pinpoint a non-arbitrary line.


> No, I can't. That doesn't mean there is no distinction between the two. I cannot draw an arbitrary line where "low altitude" becomes "high altitude", but there are many differences between them.

"Altitude" refers to height above sea level. It is measured with an altimeter. The unit it is measured at is feet (or a convertible unit, like meters). Based on the context being discussed, "high altitude" represents an altitude in the upper portion of the distribution of altitudes; for example, very few cities on earth are above 5,000 feet, but Boulder CO is, so it is high altitude. Humans might consider any flight in a plane high altitude, but if we're comparing many flights, a high altitude flight implies a flight above the regular cruising feet of 30,000-ish feet.

I can't personally think of an answer similar to what I said above about processing. There's some notion that processed foods involve a lot of sugar, and salt, and fat, and calories, and maybe artificial sweeteners (themselves a class of many unrelated products), and also sometimes it means GMOs, and sometimes it seems to mean "includes stabilizers or ingredients normally used only at scale like xanthan gum", but it's also a non-biological statement about the way the food was produced or sold. I don't know how to relatively measure the importance of those components in "processing". If I have a bunch of data in a matrix and apply PCA or something, will the first principal component be a latent measure of processing?

This is a definition sufficient enough for me to tell you the steak I ate last night is not processed but the Hungryman at the grocery store is, but not sufficient for me to understand the causal link between processing and obesity, which is what the article is proposing. What about the Hungryman makes people fat?

I personally would like to understand -- are you arguing that a food being yellow makes people obese? That fresher food is metabolized different than less fresh? That the blade of the mechanical separator affects how nutritional the meat is? That the company's profit margin drives obesity? I don't think so. It's not quite that, right?

This speaks to the fact that processing here is a bit of an nebulous concept, and that's probably why the article seems unsatisfying to the parent comment you're replying to and to me. In part because one of the best definitions of processing seems to be "food that's high in calories but doesn't make you feel full so you eat more", which is sort of tautological -- yes, food that makes you fat makes you fat. So let's try to come up with a definition that lends itself more to the kind of proposal the parent article is making.


Someone says "I like oak tables, but I don't like processed wood like MDF or cardboard".

And the parent commenter is nitpicking that oak tables are processed, with the implications that a) there is no distinction between oak tables and cardboard, and b) the important thing is to beat the person down on precise word use to win internet points. "But they're all processed! Ha! Gotcha!", yes yes Mr Intelligent you win for being technically correct, the best kind of correct.

We can all agree that oak tables are processed wood, but we can also see clearly that there is a scale of processing which takes wood further and further away from things we typically know as 'wood', despite still having the same plant cells in the construction somewhere. We can see that the use cases, costs, strength, texture, appearance, changes. We know from life experience that things cannot be repaired back to original condition, and that more repairs deteriorate condition more over time, and similarly wood cannot go through infinite 'processes' and stay like new.

It is easy to argue that sliced, dried, planed, mortice-tenon joined wood is processed, and that anyone calling it 'unprocessed' is being deceitful. But to do that and focus on that, to imply that MDF, cardboard, papier mache, 1-ply toilet roll are all the same because 'processed' must be just one binary thing, is way more disingenuous.

Am I arguing that toilet paper being bleached is what makes it less-nice for a table material than oak is? No. But bleach is part of what makes it toilet paper instead of oak planks.

Yellow aspect is not something which makes people obese, but it's pretty clear from a glance at many cooked food selling places that chips/chisps, pastry, pizza dough, pasta, noodles, bread buns, in the yellow-pale-brown-white colour range show up enormously more often than cabbage green does, and the reason why they show up more often is that flour is easier to fit through a repeatable process, more shelf stable, easier to preserve, easier to get a consistent result every time with simple procedures, cheaper to work with, and hooks taste buds more strongly than fresh mixed fruits and vegetables.

> That fresher food is metabolized different than less fresh?

Dead things decay and denature, cabbage leaves taken from the cabbage and left on the side will wilt and then rot in days. The fact that you get Little Debbie Cakes in a box with a three month use by date, but you don't get Little Cabbage Cakes with fresh cabbage leaves in a box for three months, says something about the ability of preservatives. If it didn't matter what was in the cabbage leaves and denaturing, we'd simply eat six month old cabbage leaves through the non-growing season without bothering about preservatives. Since we do have to preserve food, there must be things in it worth preserving, and refining plants as if they were only made of 3 things which can then be kept and combined into foods must have some effect on what is and isn't preserved.

> In part because one of the best definitions of processing seems to be "food that's high in calories but doesn't make you feel full so you eat more", which is sort of tautological -- yes, food that makes you fat makes you fat. So let's try to come up with a definition that lends itself more to the kind of proposal the parent article is making

But it's only tautological because you're refusing to see that it's not "food which is high in calories" which people on My 600lb Life TV show are gorging on. They are never eating beef dripping on pure starchy sweet potatoes and drinking buttermilk - all high calorie food. They are always eating take-out pizza, chips, candy bars, cake bars, ice cream - all food which has been built to be the equivalent of clickbait. They all have things in common - longer path from food to mouth, more processing, adjusted to be tuned to maximise hooking people in order to maximise profit, lack of things which are hard to fit through industrial processes like interesting vegetable colour and fresh leaves.

Since there is no single thing in common, and there is no word for the distinction between a potato and Lays potato chips, and frozen potato starch dinner accompaniements, the word 'processed' fits as well as any word. English is fine with a lot of word overloading.

> I don't know how to relatively measure the importance of those components in "processing"

I don't either. Therefore I must conclude that they are the same, and that apples from the market and McDonald's apple pie are no different?


> Cooked uses whatever ingredients are available now. Processed uses only ingredients are available in bulk year round.

So if I make tomato sauce in the winter out of imported tomatoes from south america, is it processed?

>Cooked is stuff a human can make. Processed is filtered by what fits in a factory process.

If I build a robot to make me breakfast, is the food going to be "processed" instead of cooked?

>Cooked is food that you trimmed the manky parts off while peeling. Processed is 5 tons of tomatoes dumped onto the ground by a truck.

I once went to a super foodie restaurant and ordered something like a $20 appetizer which included some kind of braised carrots that were not pealed and still had the stems and a bit of grit from the soil on them. Were my disappointing carrots "processed"?

>Cooked is food taken as a whole. Processed is treating food as resource to be refined into separate components, then ignore all the non-profitable components and concentrate the obviously useful ones.

If I go to a restaurant and get some food prepared by ordinary line cooks that don't give a shit about their job besides just getting it done, is that food processed?

>Cooked is food you would make yourself. Processed is what a company would make to sell to maximise money.

If I get really good at making cookies and start selling them do they automatically become "processed"?

What would I have to do to avoid that "processed" label?

What would I do that would tip me over from delicious home-cooked cookies to worthless processed cookies? How big the ovens and mixers are? Where I source my ingredients? A specific kind of oven? Cooking machinery?


I've explained what I see and what I think many people see when they talk about 'processed foods' in a way that makes a fuzzy but usefully coherent classification.

If you think there is no worthwhile distinction to be made between a boiled egg and a Cadbury creme egg, say that.

If you think there is a potentially meaningful distinction to be made, choose a word which you like instead of 'processed'.


> I've explained what I see and what I think many people see when they talk about 'processed foods' in a way that makes a fuzzy but usefully coherent classification.

No you haven't and you won't because their isn't one.

You made hand-wavhing non-explanations that revolved around ambiguous feelings about the person making the food that you couldn't possibly turn into a system to classify food as processed or not processed.

I asked many many questions about what your definition of processing was or if it applied in specific scenarios and you wouldn't or couldn't answer.

It's past the point where I'm interested in continuing, I don't see anything coming of this.


You asked a lot of obviously trap styled bad-faith questions to try and force a clear edge boundary which I already said I cannot provide.

I also cannot provide a clear boundary between 'delicious' and 'disgusting', and those are also hand wavy and ambiguous and guided by risible feelings, but there is still merit and usefulness in describing them.

I, too, can ask tons of careful trick questions about "if I take a delicious cookie, then put a drop of pig blood in it, but you don't know it's there, does it THEN become a disgusting cookie? What if it was three drops and a snail but they were boiled and minced first? AH GOTCHA you can't draw a clear precise measurable line between delicious and disgusting, so there can't be a difference".

It's past the point where I'm interested in continuing, I don't see anything coming of this."

If it was true that you were past the point of continuing, you wouldn't have continued. Guess you do understand the idea of a fuzzy boundary after all.


And yet distinctions made based on the average of feelings about a bunch of related things are used every day, to great avail, and are absolutely critical to everyone--and I do mean everyone--'s decision-making ability and common sense.

Just because it cant be rendered into a perfect line in the sand or measurable, objectively-defined system of classification doesn't mean it's not useful.


It seems to me that the relevant distinction between a boiled (chicken) egg and a Cadbury creme egg lies in its nutritional content -- grams of sugar, starch, fat, and protein -- rather than in the mechanism by which they are produced.

If chickens laid Cadbury creme eggs, they would still be just as unhealthy.


And yet a raw egg and a cooked egg have the same grams of protein, but different amounts of human-usable protein if eaten. Trans fat is associated with an increased risk for heart disease and the FDA says that it is no longer "generally recognised as safe". Two grams of trans fat vs two grams of other fat is "the same quantity of fat" but not the same effect on human health[1]. If we reduce the amount of sugar in a creme egg, so it has the same mass of fat and protein as a boiled egg, is it then equally healthy as a boiled egg?

The reduction of food to a quantity of sugar, starch, fat, and protein, is part of what I am objecting to; as if you could say that all products containing 20 grams of metal, 12 grams of plastic, and 2 grams of glass are the same product, or that all programs with 147k lines of code are the same program. "fat" isn't one thing. "sugar" isn't one thing. Fat and sugar are not the only classes of things in plants and animals.

The relevant distinction is all the things which are different, which is a lot more things than people casually talk about. Is it the quantity in grams of saturated vs unsaturated fat? Mono or polyunsaturated? Omega 3 quantity? Ratio of omega 3 to omega 6? Quantity of EPA, DHA or ALA fat overall, or ratio between them? Trace quantity of magnesium, or trace quantity of bio-available forms of magnesium in balance with an amount of medium chain triglycerides? And what about all the countless other potential distinctions with macronutrients and smaller trace compounds, each also denaturing in different ways over different time periods? Many words I don't understand, but understand enough to know that they describe differences which are measurable and worth naming.

There are enough potential distinctions which could be made, that saying "you can crush fresh almonds, extract the oil, put it in cookies, leave them in a box for a month, and as long as there is an equal quantity of oil in grams to the original almonds then they are exactly as healthy as eating the original fresh almonds" is very suspiciously simplified.

If we had an exhaustive list, or if we had a known complete understanding of the effects of all compounds in all combinations, it would be a lot more convincing. "It doesn't kill you, your body can survive on it for a bit longer" is not the same as "optimal thing to consume for optimal long term health".

> "rather than in the mechanism by which they are produced."

The things chickens lay must promote the growth of healthy chicks - if chickens laid creme eggs, we'd be in a world where creme eggs were healthy. But the use of 'healthy' as a boolean toggle property which food has or does not have, and which a behaviour is or is not, is something I grumble about as well.

[1] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-ch...


That's exactly it.

You cannot classify food as processed or cooked without handwaving and saying it's some "other" without any real way to decide what to label a food. It's nonsense virtue signaling adjective soup.

And it is still unclear if I make meatloaf to freeze and am in a bad mood whether or not that food is processed. Maybe I have to use a really big oven to make sure it's processed instead of cooked.


You've now gone from "everything is processed" to "processing is not real" to "maybe processing depends on my mood" to "whether it's processed is unclear".

And you say I'm talking nonsense.

It is unclear whether your meatloaf is processed or not. Welcome to the world, lots of things are unclear, but still exist.


Except going vegan often involves massive increases in ultraprocessed foods. Realistically, vegan food prep takes a long time, so meat substitutes end up in the diet for convenience if nothing else - and meat substitutes are pure processed food.

I mean we have one group handwriting about gluten and meanwhile one of the tastiest vegan foods is pure gluten.


10 weeks vegan here. Easiest diet ever, no cravings. I'm down 19 lbs (193-174, 6' tall). Dropping the chips and oreos took a few weeks, I just thought anything vegan was ok until I realized junk food is junk food. I cook twice a week and make enough to last a few days. It takes about an hour to cook. I sautee vegetables and put them on rice and quinoa or pasta. For breakfast I have a banana and a Larabar. For dessert I have grapes or watermelon. Before this I rarely ate healthy food. Chipotle is decent fast food when you aren't cooking.


This seems like a good diet, but it also doesn't seem like the vegan part is what is helping you out here, if you had ceased eating junk food and still ate meat you probably would have seen similar/the same results.


Stick with it! A vegan diet like you're eating has benefits far beyond weight loss -- you're less likely to get heart disease, cancer, and a whole bunch of other chronic diseases than omnivores.


Oreos are vegan fwiw.


I think they were saying that, despite being vegan, they took a bit to cut them out after realizing they wouldn't help with weight loss, since they are still junk food.


Rereading that again, I see how that could be the take-away now.

My first go through was how some people switching to a vegetarian diet say things like 'quitting bacon was the hardest, I kept going back to it for the first month".


Coming up to 20 year vegetarian. If you haven't, think about getting a pressure cooker. Beans / lentils chickpeas just became viable and quick. Soups / stews can be cooked in a few minutes and can be frozen and last forever


Second the pressure cooker. I can go from zero to an amazing lentil soup on the table in about 15-20 mins. I'm super lazy so for flavoring I use bouillon and dry seasonings. Everyone loves it.


> Realistically, vegan food prep takes a long time,

I don't think vegan food prep takes significantly more time than other food prep from raw sources, at least on average over a varied diet, though I guess "becoming vegan" might be the impetus for a lot of people to start making their own food for the first time.


Anecdotal: The difference between being able to buy a pack of chicken breasts at Costco vs having to make my own seitan is definitely a huge difference in time.

My wife and I tag-team the parts we hate most (I don't like working with dough, but she hates steaming it) and we end up with enough for a week to cook into actual recipes without too much headache, but I can't just buy a protein ready to go like I used to be able to.


I hear you and I do think there are more "shortcuts" (on the other hand, breaking down a chicken is work too but probably an improvement for the meat eater over packaged breasts).

But beans and legumes are very little work and store for ages, etc. Quinoa and the like too, easy/ Depending where you live you may have good sources of fresh tofu & seitan, etc.

If you are looking for "same meal, but X instead of chicken" it's more work, granted. That's hardly the only option though, and learning a range of dishes from traditionally vegetarian or near vegetarian cuisines can help generate a list of easy & tasty alternatives.


I agree with you on beans and legumes! I'm currently trying to maintain a calorie deficit while hitting a protein target that seitan makes very convenient (though I also have been using some protein powders that help recently, and gave in and started buying that new Silk protein milk as a shortcut). Beans and Legumes are great, and we cook a lot of indian, thai, and mexican dishes with them, but the combination of calorie deficit and protein target make it a bit tough to do without some almost-pure-protein foods. Seitan is also delicious.


Fair enough, but that's a pretty restrictive target even without adding "vegan" to the mix!


All too true. I'd guess that short of relying on protein shakes, 70% of my meals are based around legumes, it should definitely be a go to for more people, regardless of whether they keep a vegan diet or not.


on the other hand, breaking down a chicken is work too but probably an improvement for the meat eater over packaged breasts

The provenance of the chicken is going to be much more important than whether is broken down at a factory, by the butcher, or at home.


True, I just meant buying whole birds is usually a good way to get a better handle in provenance. Should have been more specific.


I'm not vegan, but I think that going vegan just to eat seitan sounds really awful. There are plenty of foods that are completely vegan that would make a great main entree. Obviously, you're going to have to eat processed stuff if you are trying to imitate something that is not actually part of the set of foods you are willing to eat. That's like if I wanted to give up potatoes for beef but still eat tater tots -- I'm going to have settle for something heavily processed.

On the other hand, if you just ate food that was naturally vegan, like lentils and rice. You would do just fine, and it is actually much easier to cook than chicken, since you don't need to worry about contamination, etc.


I don't just eat seitan at all, in fact we have it maybe 2 weeks out of every 4, tops, partially because of the effort to prep it.

I also didn't really specify, but there's times we cook with nutrition and health as the main factors, and times we cook for indulgence or for cravings, and I definitely blurred the line some in my original response.


This seems odd to me. I mostly eat vegan just because my wife can't have dairy and I try keep my meat consumption low and I don't notice a difference in time cooking vegan vs non vegan. There are plenty of vegan sources of proteins like beans that don't take any extra time.


Some vegan meals can take best part of a day to prepare. Some can be knocked out in 15 minutes.

Some meat dishes can take all day to prepare. Some can be knocked out in 15 minutes.


The comparison is nonsensical.

To counter, I can make a vegan soup in a pressure cooker in 5% of the time to make a meat pie from scratch.


It wasn't captured very well in my original comment, but I was just talking about a subset of our cooking, and I was more comparing like-to-like as far as imitating a dish, chicken vs seitan, and less so all vegan cooking.

It was meant to be one example, we cook bean and lentil dishes a hefty majority of the time and usually those I can set and forget in an instant pot.


> tastiest vegan foods

Not by itself, but when properly seasoned. Hail Seitan!


> Except going vegan often involves massive increases in ultraprocessed foods.

err no it doesn't.

> Realistically, vegan food prep takes a long time

err no it doesn't. If you are cooking actual food, then it takes no more time than cooking food that you are add meat to.


In my experience cooking (which I do a lot, for a large family), it's generally faster to produce a high umami meat-based meal than it is to create a vegetarian or vegan one. The main reason I find is that I have to cook vegetables for much longer (with sauces, etc.) to develop the rich flavors that are "built-in" to something like a steak (which I can cook in 10 minutes).


If you are vegan, you aren't eating meat substitutes at all. That's more of the line along a vegetarian don't you think? A vegan is against using animals for consumption, therefore does not want to eat meat or eat fake meat that tries to taste like meat. At least this is my experience with vegans.


> If you are vegan, you aren't eating meat substitutes at all.

That's not my experience at all. I'm not one but I've known vegans to like various meat substitutes, from Buddhist style proteins/meals to fake-meat burgers and hot-dogs. Others don't want anything do with them.

FWIW most vegans I've met more broadly object to the use of animal products or labor too, hence it's not just steaks but leather and honey, etc.


People do not go vegan because they do not like the taste of meat. Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

Some people miss the taste of meat and the dishes prepared from it; that's why they buy meat substitutes.


That's crazy talk. Vegans love meat substitutes in my experience, as long as they're vegan compatible.


Is this the food equivalent of "avoiding the appearance of evil"?


This is not correct.


I’ve followed a vegan diet for 6 weeks now, and it’s really obvious why I’m losing weight: because I’m no longer eating all the junk that is on offer everywhere - cakes, biscuits, chocolates... I would previously have eaten these things mindlessly, but now I have a simple rule that cuts them out.

To reinforce the overeating-junk-food theory, my weight loss has slowed as I have discovered alternative vegan treats and snacks.


as the free market starts to leverage more and more vegans in the world, they will start offering more vegan garbage too. so stay vigilant!


I am eternally fascinated by this. A couple years back paleo diets were all the rage and I started hearing people talk about things like "paleo waffles" and "paleo brownies". I never said anything, but I could not believe how much work people would put into "eating healthy" only to reconstruct the same unhealthy things that made them say, "man, I really need to start eating healthy!"


Most of the paleo junk food I've seen has been variations on a theme of dark chocolate and coconuts. I don't have any nutrition labels to hand (paleo junk food is expensive), but I wouldn't write it off as unhealthy without seeing what's in it.

Then again, the reason I can't stick to paleo is the slippery slope from 95% dark chocolate to Toblerones, so maybe it's better to cut chocolate out altogether.


They are trying to reconstruct tasty food (who would have thought?) in what they perceive to be a healthy way (which it might be, you've just assumed "paleo brownies" are unhealthy without any supporting argument).


No, there are plenty of paleo recipes that are tasty. They're trying to reconstruct junk food.

And you've only assumed that I've assumed they're unhealthy. But don't take my word for it; if you'd like supporting arguments, I'd suggest you read paleo devotees who criticize the practice. E.g., the Whole 30 folks: https://whole30.com/sex-with-your-pants-on/


That article argues that paleo reconstructions of junk food are not tasty and therefore not worth it, not that they are unhealthy. So will you now change your mind, since the article yourself provided doesn't even support what you claimed?


If that's really what you got out of that, I'm afraid I can't help you.


Some treats are already pretty much vegan, like Oreos, which are so artificial they're vegan.

(Oreos are not truly vegan because they are processed in a factory with dairy products, but outside of allergies this shouldn't be that concerning.)


It also makes sense why stringent reading caloric information and then calorie counting (not just guessing, but weight scale & knowing the calories) would lead to weight loss as well - if you are cognizant of the hyper palatable foods it'll be harder (you'll want to), but it's not due to the food being magic, it's due to the disconnect between sensation and calories.


Counting calories/meal tracking has been the best thing to ever happen to me. When you just "try to eat better" or "don't drink this month", or whatever, there's a disconnect between the input and the result.

When I was able to see, in realtime, for example, I had a 500 calorie deficit today, and should hence lose 1lb in 1 week at this rate, and see it actually HAPPEN, it created a positive feedback loop. For the first time in my life, over many types of eating, some vague diet attempts, some periods working out more, some periods working out less, I could FINALLY see a direct result from my activities.

I had avoided it for a long time because I thought it would be miserable and tedious to track what I eat, but it's actually made it much easier to be disciplined, and see which foods are 'worth it' and which aren't.


Absolutely. Calorie counting was hard for the first bit, but pretty soon you determine your "regulars" and just go off those. I also found that it was nice to know "ok, I went light today, so I can have some extra dessert" and know that was an option because I had the calories, instead of experiencing guilt with the assumption that dessert and losing weight couldn't exist together.


> I’ve been wondering what they both share in common

It's pretty simple really: they're paying more attention to what they eat, meaning they take in more reasonable amounts of calories as a side effect.

Ultimately it is all about calories. Source: lost and kept off 150lbs, no thanks to fad diets.


> they're paying more attention to what they eat, meaning they take in more reasonable amounts of calories as a side effect.

That doesn't necessarily follow. The vegans could end up eating huge amounts of soda and potato chips, and the low-carb people could go crazy on bacon.


The difference is that if all you ate was 4,000 calories of bacon a day, you’d lose weight. That many calories of soda and chips and you’d get ill fast.


In what world do you lose weight by eating 4000 calories a day?


One where your at stable weight and your regular diet is 4500 ?


I assume OP did not choose 4000 randomly, it is meant to be a _high_ number (about 2x what an average person needs). Implying that you could eat twice as much calories and stay lean _if the calories came from bacon_.


When your basal metabolism is 4500 calories a day.


Just because it goes in your mouth doesn’t mean you metabolism and store it.


> The difference is that if all you ate was 4,000 calories of bacon a day, you’d lose weight.

> Just because it goes in your mouth doesn’t mean you metabolism and store it.

I don't think that logic follows.


I wouldn't discount the impact of the variety of food. I think it has just as much to do with its palatability. We know that people will consume substantially more calories when served multiple types of food, rather than just one dish[1].

I suspect this also works across meals as well. For example traditional Thai, Mexican or Italian food tends to be very caloric and palatable. Yet traditional societies in Thailand, Mexico and Italy tend to be much thinner than their counterparts that start consuming a typical American diet.

I think the explanation is that if you have lasagna on Monday, tacos on Tuesday, and curry on Wednesday, each meal is novel and delicious. In contrast if you eat tacos on Monday, tacos on Tuesday, and tacos on Wednesday, well tacos start to lose some of their appeal.

This suggests a diet, that I've yet to hear of. First cut out side dishes in favor of one-pot meals. You can still have a lot of variety of ingredients, but they're blended together in a homogenous, so that every spoonful is nearly identical. That eliminates the buffet effect.

Second, do something like meal-prep Sunday. Give yourself fairly wide latitude when picking out your meals. However, whatever you pick out, you're going to eat that same dish for pretty much every meal for a week straight. Even with your favorite your dish, my guess is that by the end of the week you'll find it barely appetizing.

A less drastic approach might be using variety as a pump to shift consumption across food groups. Strictly restrict variety in the least healthy food groups, while allowing it for healthy food. People who love desert can still eat their favorite desert, but you pick one single desert dish and that's the only desert you can have for a month. In contrast give yourself unlimited freedom to enjoy whatever green vegetable strikes your fancy.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4376392/


There are important differences. Losing weight is almost always a good thing, however you also have to look on the inside of the body. What makes ateries clog? And here comes meat and diary into play. Ppl tend to look on a lean muscular body but do not consider what makes the body work.

Pls have a look into Michael Greger's How not to die, or Colin Campbell China Study.

Vegan is not always healthy. Plant based, unprocessed food does the trick. Fatty and salty french fries are technically vegan. There is a lot of junk food on the vegan side, which is also highly processed and features lots of sugar. It is not enough to stop eating dead animals, drinking milk or eggs.

However dismissing meat is inevitable for a healthy diet.


> However dismissing meat is inevitable for a healthy diet.

I dont think this is true. There seem to be many people that have (in some cases greatly) benefitted from a carnivore diet. Take Mikhaila Peterson as an example (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znGkfrl_F5s).


>However dismissing meat is inevitable for a healthy diet.

On what do you base this bold claim?


You're 100% right.

> Vegan is not always healthy. Plant based, unprocessed food does the trick. Fatty and salty french fries are technically vegan. There is a lot of junk food on the vegan side, which is also highly processed and features lots of sugar. It is not enough to stop eating dead animals, drinking milk or eggs.

I've been a junk food vegan for long enough (in a city that makes it easy) to prove to just about anyone that being vegan won't automatically make you healthier. It's way too easy to scarf half a bag of oreos in a day.


Meat only diets are exceptionally good at weight loss, because your body gets into ketosis (it takes anywhere from 1-2 days to weeks, usually with hangover-like symptoms to adapt fully, but it takes no time to snap out of it), and naturally you cut out most of the calorie sources from your diet.


> because your body gets into ketosis

For what it's worth, this mostly doesn't actually happen. There is some good science behind maintaining ketosis in children under careful monitoring by a physician. Most of the empirical evidence in adults is that it's hard to achieve and harder to maintain. The weight loss some people achieve on "keto" diets is mostly just due to caloric restriction when it's been measured carefully.

The upside is you don't really want to have your body in ketosis anyway.


I haven't heard this before, that it doesn't actually happen. Are those ketosis test strips you pee on not accurate?

I've ketoed before for weight loss (and am starting again soon) and when I was quite strict with it I'd be well into the ketosis range on those pee strips.

If it's not a sign the body's in ketosis, what is it a sign of?

Also, fwiw, I lose significant weight on keto without moderating my calorie intake at all; fatty meats, cheeses, butter, oil, etc., plus a lot of vegetables. If it's not ketosis, what is it?


> Also, fwiw, I lose significant weight on keto without moderating my calorie intake at all; fatty meats, cheeses, butter, oil, etc., plus a lot of vegetables. If it's not ketosis, what is it?

Unless you were very carefully tracking calorie intake before and on the keto diet, it is not justifiable to assume same caloric intake, even if keto food seems very calorie rich.


It absolutely does happen. If you stop eating carbs for several days, you will go into ketosis. You can tell because your glycogen will be depleted, temporarily dropping your weight by a few pounds in a short time period. Also, your breath and urine will start to smell. If this isn't ketosis, then what is it?


There's a little bit of a disconnect on the definitions people use. Usually when people talk about ketosis, they are implying the body has some kind of "fat burning" mode where you will burn the fat you have stored, and that you can trigger this mode without changing the number of calories you eat just by getting rid of carbs. This is for all intents and purposes a myth.

Of course you're right, in the other sense, that if you don't eat any carbs your body will be burning the fat you ingest instead, and that this will show up in your bloodstream. You also won't burn any weight this way unless you have a calorie deficit (as you note, it's "temporary").

Note that when OP said that "it doesn't happen", they didn't mean ketosis doesn't happen. They meant that meat-heavy diets don't result in weight loss because of ketosis.


It’s not a myth. Do you lift weights? Do you know about calorie partitioning and glycogen restoration?


Indeed, it's complicated, because urea is toxic, so long term living on protein is not that amazing for your health, plus slipping into ketoacidosis is a small risk (high ketone and high blood sugar levels at the same time) if people are not strict about their diet (and we know strict dieting is hard anyway).

But the basic idea is simple and works.


Keto also means no Insulin spikes. Easy to skip a meal and not go insane.


You can't neglect reversion to the mean here. People with below-average diet end up with below-average results. If you stop eating your below-average diet and replace most foods in it with anything else, it'll probably be a closer-to-average diet and give you better results.


Personally I went on a diet of mostly pasta and eggs, lost weight and feel better. (Lots of processed meat like pancetta, guanciale, or speck in those pasta dishes.)

I think you need to look at people on an individual basis. I start to get skeptical that what turned out to worked for me can work for everybody else. For me I think portion size and increased physical activity were big.


For me if I eat pasta I’ll feel kinda foggy and tired. Happens every single time. I’ll generally take a nap for an hour or two, even if I just woke up. Same if I eat biscuits and gravy.

I can eat a big 2 pound ribeye and not feel like that at all. I definitely am starting to think that the only way to lose weight is to figure it out yourself. I lost 75 lbs eating sauerkraut and Johnsonville brats for 5 months, kept at that weight for several months, then went back to eating “normally” and gained back 50 over the course of the next year.


Try and get some whole-wheat pasta, it's much healthier than plain old white pasta, and it does not make you feel so tired after. You'll probably eat much less of it too since it's much more filling.


I never eat more than 2 oz of dried noodle. Even Italian recipes call for more than that. But here in the US, when people eat pasta, they tend to do much more of that.


Recent studies (citations not handy) have shown that high-carb or high-fat diets don't lead to weight gain, but high-carb AND high-fat diets do (at least in mice, a big caveat).

One thing to consider is that fructose is a metabolic poison that is poorly regulated by metabolism. Fructose bypasses all of the controls that glucose is subject to and forces lipid biogenesis in the liver (by mass action for the chemists). Consuming fat and fructose is large amounts is nearly guaranteed to give you a fatty liver.

On the other hand, anyone choosing to follow an "extreme" diet is likely to be more aware of their food intake than the average person and adjust behavior in various ways.


> Recent studies (citations not handy) have shown that high-carb or high-fat diets don't lead to weight gain, but high-carb AND high-fat diets do (at least in mice, a big caveat).

I thought it was agreed upon that if you consume more calories than you burn regardless of their fat/protein/carbohydrate profile, you were going to gain weight?


On their own fat or sugar aren't very palatable. Imagine trying to eat a pot of cream or a bowl of sugar with nothing else. Mix them together to make ice cream and it's the complete opposite.


It annoys me to no end that nearly all dietary advice boils down to "losing weight". I have this metabolism where I can eat literally anything, or nothing at all, and my weight maintains exactly the same. I've never gained any, I've never lost any.

The way I've developed my diet is by observing energy level, mood, ethic, cost, convenience, and allergic-ish reactions, which my skin is prone to.

But there is near zero actionable advice on diet available to me, because weight is never an issue.


Check out wellness, sports and bodybuilding forums for some insight on diet improvement not specifically concerning weight. Much will focus on optimum protein levels, glucose-influenced insulin levels, and hormone precursors. Many discussions can delve down in to the minutae of the actual metabolic processes that govern the conversion of interesting or problematic compounds. Your 'metabolism' is actully just a very smart management of cravings, coupled with an ability to regularly break down many things in the body.

Curious what foods seem to boost or depress mood and reactions that you have discovered.


Thanks, will look into that. Expanding on my findings:

Grains -- Wheat, barley, oats, rye and spelt cause mild depression and psychosis. Yeast causes skin infection. These combined, rule out all bread. Maize, rice and maybe teff seem ok so far.

Meats, red and white, feel like falling into a coma for hours after consumption, simply for being so tough to digest. In contrast, plant foods give an energetic feeling -- there's no immobilizing digestion period.

Milk and cream products cause a kind of.. tension in my head. Like a silent headache. I feel much clearer not consuming these. Includes organic and lactose-free varieties. Experiments on cheese still ongoing.

Sugar appears harmless, but I've noticed it eats a significant portion of my food budget if I permit myself to buy any. Super addictive. Hard pass all food that contain any added sugar whatsoever. It's a food industry dark pattern designed to make you crave their product. Can get rid of sugar addiction by substituting it entirely for honey.

Similar to sugar, I vehemently avoid all food products containing any artificial flavorings and additives whatsoever. These are designed to fool your body into thinking you're eating something you're not. Some of them are downright dangerous -- sodium laureth sulfate, an additive to toothpaste that makes it foam, causes lacerations in the mouth. After I switched to a toothpaste without it, all spontaneous wounds of the mouth stopped appearing completely.

Of course, the effects of diet is very sensitive to your gut microbial environment. If you're used to eating certain things, their effects are... hidden, at least, if not lessened. And it takes time to adjust, time to experiment.

How I perform my food experiments: I eat the same thing for a month, almost to exclusion of everything else, to see how it makes me feel. I stop eating something completely for months, to see how going without it makes me feel; then see what happens when I do eat it again periodically.


I've been thinking the same thing from those around me who have started diets and "felt better" or lost weight.

From my observation, it seems that people go on a diet because they know what they're eating isn't good for them or its too high in calories or it goes against their beliefs or something. So people are already suspicious of what they're eating but aren't overly thinking about what they're eating. By going on a diet you now need to think about what you're eating in order to meet the requirements of the proposed diet and therefore you are being more conscious about what you will and won't eat.

By doing this you are already a step ahead of people who might eat whatever they feel like which may include lots of highly processed high fat and/or high carbohydrate foods every now and then or more than they realise.

So when people say they went keto, or went paleo, or cut out sugar, or cut out fat and lost weight and/or felt better. I always ask them was it actually the diet, or was it because you were simply conscious and considerate about what you were eating due to the fact that you were trying to fit to a particular diet.


The answer is always that someone has found some sort of program to follow that helps them eat less calories. I've not seem anyone ever try the approach of "avoid foods that taste good" but its not a bad idea probably. Just never ever bring good tasting, easy to prep food into the house.

Now you gotta work for food you don't really want.


This is also related to replacing simple sugars with more complex metabolites. Having your blood sugar go way up and down leads to metabolic stress and feeling hungry all the time. On the other side are fats and fibers which have a comparatively high capacity to sate hunger per calorie. Eating 2000 calories of donuts every morning may be correct from an energy balance perspective (and indeed you won't get fat doing it), but that's clearly a very painful way to live.

Insulin and blood glucose drive obesity and metabolic damage, but they don't make it hard to stay on diets. The difficulty of staying on a diet is due to a separate system in your brain that takes other factors in to account to decide if you should eat. Every successful diet boils down to finding foods that make your brain happy while keeping excessive levels (and durations) of sugar and insulin out of your blood[0].

If you had access to unlimited candy, you might eat too much and damage your body - and indeed many people do just that. If you had access to unlimited non-starchy vegtables your stomach capacity probably wouldn't be enough to maintain obesity. If you had access to unlimited sticks of butter, you would probably get sick of the very concept of butter before you ate an unhealthy number of sticks. Vegan and carnivorous diets largely rely on the last two facts.

[0] There are other things involved in your body's metabolic signaling system, but blood glucose and insulin are especially well-researched and easy to measure.


I think the question for me is how these various things help people eat less calories. E.g., my mental model of hunger used to be like the "E" light on a car dashboard. But through various experimentation, I've noticed that the nature of hunger is very different for me depending on things.

E.g., if I avoid eating refined carbs (sugar, white flour, etc) for a month or so, suddenly hunger is this mild, easily tolerable sensation. I just end up eating less. If I go back on them for a while, hunger returns to being MUST EAT NOW.

I used to hear people talk about forgetting to eat, and I would always think, "How is that even possible?" But now I know: we might use the same word, but the experience can be very different.


I've had similar experience with trying intermittent fasting, I expected that fasting was supposed to be a challenge to put up with a mildly unpleasant experience because it's good for you.

But no, the fasting periods were merely times when I wasn't eating, and that includes pushing them out to 30+ hours and going a day without eating and without much hunger on a couple of occasions.

Occasionally, I've had experiences where running was light and energeising and fun, during that intermittent fasting time. I suspect now that the people who say they can't live without exercise and "exercise should be a celebration of what you can do" feel this the majority of the time. In the past, almost always a drag to push through.


I've been on a 16:8 IF schedule for around 10 months now and I have lost around 10 kgs, without any exercise. I don't feel stuffed all the time now and my mind has become clearer. But that could also be because I replaced alcohol with weed and started meditating. I haven't done any checkups but I think my health has improved vastly.


I worked with a woman at a medium sized food service company who was responsible for labeling items as “good” and “bad” on all our products to help people to eat “healthy”. (Hard boiled eggs bad, high carb high calorie roasted peas good that kind of stuff) We chatted a lot but she told me one day that her diet strategy was just eating the blandest foods possible. I mean I guess it worked, she wasn’t overweight. Explains why everything she rated healthy tasted like cardboard, I guess.


Michael Pollan has a funny food rule: you can eat all the sweeties that you cook your self. You can eat a lot of chocolate cake, but you must bake it.


> I've not seem anyone ever try the approach of "avoid foods that taste good"

This is what I do, or try to do. This seems high on the self-denial scale but in my case I noticed that simple foods taste better than you think they as you learn to appreciate them, especially if you let yourself get hungry first. I tend to not over-eat such food as much.


I recently took it upon myself to research the origins of calories, macros, and all those things from nutrition science. https://blog.jumpycatapp.com/calorie-counting-weight-loss-hi...

In truth, science seems to be still very far from understanding the complexity of how our bodies process food.(One recurring constraint seems to be the difficulty in controlling for "real life eating").

Learning from "traditional" diets and cuisine might be the best practical way to go about eating healthy. A bit of a black hole approach, but practical for most people.


> I’ve been fascinated by the fact that I know several people who have become vegan, lost weight, and feel better. But I also know many people who have gone low carb, or even eat nothing but meat, and are also losing weight and report feeling much better.

I have had a similar experience, but I've also known several people who have tried various diets and quickly dropped off them because it wasn't working for them. So while it's true that if you ask all your vegan friends if they enjoy being vegan, they'll probably mostly say yes, there's a huge possibility for selection bias/survivor bias.

The lesson I've drawn is not "pick a restrictive diet and you'll feel better", but more "some things work for some people but not others, and we have no idea why". :-/


>I’ve been wondering what they both share in common, and suspected that both forms of dietary restriction mean cutting out most hyper palatable ultraprocessed foods.

It can also be combination of the two food categories that causes issues. Insulin spikes from carb intake and dietary fat are not a good combination. At least according to diets like "Keto". Both of those diets tend to have lopsided intake of fats and carbs.


> I’ve been wondering what they both share in common, and suspected that both forms of dietary restriction mean cutting out most hyper palatable ultraprocessed foods.

I'm back on the weight loss train (lost 60 pounds about ten years ago, and have to take 40 off again that I put back on slowly) and like last time, I mostly avoid these ultraprocessed foods simply because they're all way over my calorie budget.


Ever since Taylors time and motion studies (if not earlier) we've known that if people are being observed they tend to behave differently. I don't see why that wouldn't also apply to diets also. That could involve avoiding ultraprocessed foods, or it could involve having a healthy drink with your meal, having a salad or whatever.


>I’ve been wondering what they both share in common, and suspected that both forms of dietary restriction mean cutting out most hyper palatable ultraprocessed foods.

I would suggest that it's rather about setting a goal, working hard towards achieving it, and seeing measurable results of your work.


Just another anecdote, but I lost a lot of weight and felt a lot better after switching to low-carb, without ever eating a lot of processed food before.

My pet theory is that all these diets make you way more conscious of what you are eating and all you need to do is find one you are happy with.


I would be surprised if those who go vegan and lost weight did not go low(ish) carb (whether intentionally or not) e.g. mostly nuts/plants/fruits and not filling up with a lot of chips or bread.


> I’ve been wondering what they both share in common

Both groups cut a significant fraction of their intake calories and lost weight as a result?


Most the vegans I know are overweight if not obese, and not at all models of healthy lives.

They tend to eat a lot of bread.


> I’ve been wondering what they both share in common

confirmation bias about "feeling better"?


All the diets of exclusion manage to exclude the most calorie dense foods.


In general restrictive diets simply end up restricting calories vs. previous eating habits. Hence losing weight.


Doesn't matter what you eat. As long as you follow a simple formula you will lose weight: Calories In < Calories Out.

I can eat McDonalds everyday for a month and still lose weight.. how?

Order a small fries and a double patty cheeseburger. Eat nothing else during the entire day, drink plenty of water, and exercise for at least 30 minutes.


It does matter what you eat. Not in the sense of "calories in, calories out" - which, as you mentioned, is simple biology.

But it is important in the sense of "which diet is easiest to follow?".

That will vary person to person. But for many people, the answer is low-carb/intermittent-fasting. It eliminates the blood sugar/hormonal response, requires less effort than regular eating, and still lets you eat palatable food.


High carbs high protein works just fine for me. Hell, there was the time (in college) where my diet consisted of ramen and chocolate and it still worked. I am with the op, as long as your weight dynamic is acceptable, you can eat whatever you want.


That's not really the point. Your diet works for you - great! Noone's saying it's biologically impossible.

But most people won't find it easy to regulate their caloric intake eating ramen and chocolate. They will find it much easier with vegetables, lean protein and high fat.


Why is whole milk considered ultraprocessed and skim milk considered unprocessed? Whole milk is literally what you would get if you didn't process milk.

Why are canned corn and green beans ultraprocessed? They contain nothing but corn/beans and a touch of salt. If the salt is the problem, why do the unprocessed meals have added salt?

It looks like for the unprocessed meals, they chose a bunch of high in vegetables and whole grains, high fiber meals and chose a bunch of high calorie foods for the ultraprocessed meals [1]. No surprise people ate more calories when given the high calorie foods.

They say "dietitians scrupulously matched the ultraprocessed and processed meals for calories", but also that people were told to each as much as they like. What does that even mean? The calories can only be the same if you fix the quantity.

They don't define "ultraprocessed" or provide any mechanism for weight gain that would apply to their very varied selection of "ultraprocessed" foods.

The term "processed" is used to scare people about food, but the term is so broad that there can't possibly be a single mechanism by which various processed food would be unhealthy. Processing includes cutting, grinding, heating, cooking, mixing, adding ingredients, drying, deboning... basically anything you do to food. It's one thing to say a specific process, like adding sodium nitrite, is harmful. Making a blanket statement that all cutting, cooking and combining of foods is bad should raise a bit more skepticism.

If the article has a more specific definition of processed, they should mention it because their choices seem pretty arbitrary.

[1] Study meals: https://www.cell.com/cms/10.1016/j.cmet.2019.05.008/attachme...


>They say "dietitians scrupulously matched the ultraprocessed and processed meals for calories" but also that people were told to each as much as they like. What does that even mean? The calories can only be the same if you fix the quantity.

It looks like they were going for energy density (and composition, for that matter). BUT: They absolutely botched that one. While overall density was the same between the two groups, the energy density without beverages was almost twice as high in the ultraprocessed group. TBH, I'm a bit baffled how this huge discrepancy managed to remain in there.

I mean, they even admit as much:

  However, because beverages have limited ability to affect satiety(DellaValle et al., 2005),
  the ~85% higher energy density of the non-beverage foods in the ultra-processed versus unprocessed
  diets (Table 1) likely contributed to the observed excess energy intake (Rolls, 2009).
Edit: Looking at the referenced paper (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4182946/), it directly supports both these points: that food energy density quite significantly impacts total intake, and that using beverages instead doesn't (even in contrast to using liquid ingredients which _does_ work). Hoo boy.


edit: referenced article includes daily menu and in ultraprocessed menu you can find "Whole milk (Cloverland) with NutriSource fiber". I think it's not the milk, it's the addition of fiber what makes it ultraprocessed.


Yes, but still: how much of the fiber makes the milk "ultraprocessed"? 10% in weight? 1%? One part in a million?

To be scientific, how do you measure the ultraprocessed-ness of foods?


Along the same lines, they include pasta as an unprocessed food. Isn't that the very epitome of a highly processed food?


(standard disclaimers apply; I am not a dietician or otherwise formally qualified to have any opinion at all on this topic)

It looks like they're using the NOVA classifications[0]; there have been a couple of other articles relating to the same system posted here recently, e.g. [1].

The NutriSource in "Whole milk (Cloverland) with NutriSource fiber" is apparently 100% partially hydrolyzed guar gum[2], which I believe would qualify the combination as ultraprocessed under this part of the definition from [0]: "Substances only found in ultra-processed products include some directly extracted from foods, such as casein, lactose, whey, and gluten, and some derived from further processing of food constituents, such as hydrogenated or interesterified oils, hydrolysed proteins, soy protein isolate, maltodextrin, invert sugar and high fructose corn syrup.". By contrast, skim milk (as used in the unprocessed menu) has nothing added, only removed, and so would fall under their Group 1 "unprocessed or minimally processed foods".

As for whether this is actually a useful classification system, I don't know. I have no reason to believe any of the studies are bogus, but taken as a whole, it does seem like an attempt to launder the naturalistic fallacy into some scientific respectability.

[0] http://archive.wphna.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/WN-2016-...

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19930970

[2] https://www.nestlehealthscience.us/brands/nutrisource/nutris...


Ah, that makes sense for the milk, and clears up how they're classifying ultraprocessed. Like you, I'm skeptical that this classification system is useful for determining healthiness. I can't see why you'd expect, for example, adding casein to a food to have similar health effects as adding soluble fiber or corn syrup or any other unrelated substance.

I have a personal theory that to me seems like the simplest explanation for why junk food is fattening. It's not processing per se. It's simply that people will eat more calories when offered delicious, high-calorie foods. Put a bunch of bland highly processed tofu in front of me and I won't eat many calories. Give me some mostly unprocessed peanuts and raisins to munch on and I'll eat much more. Raw, unseasoned ingredients aren't optimized for taste and convenience, while processed foods often are. I'd also expect people eat more calories at a fine French restaurant (or any restaurant) for the same reason: they design their meals to be delicious. But no one is going to write an article saying delicious and convenient calorie-dense foods cause weight gain.


Have you ever milked a cow? That milk doesn’t look at all like the “whole” milk you get at the shop. Besides pasteurization they put it through filters and other industrial procedures. Dairy plants are very complex.


To OP's point, neither does the skim milk. The question is: which is more or less ultraprocessed? Intuitively you'd think the whole milk is closer to the real thing by any measure, even if both varieties are processed. Nonetheless I tend to agree with your point that there are probably better examples of food that are closer to ground truth in nature.


Your point is well taken, but OP's complaint is still valid. At the very least, whole milk from your local store is less processed by definition than skim milk from your local store...


anecdotally - non-homogenised milk (that is, milk with the cream at the top still present) is a nice treat when I can find it.


One experiment [1] with rats, which made sense to me, went like this: Some rats got a lot of sugar and did not gain weight. Another group got a lot a fat and gained some weight. A third group got a 50:50 ratio of sugar and fat and gained a substantial amount of weight.

This is one of the reasons why some people (like me) can eat cake made of 50% sugar and butter nearly endlessly. It's an unnatural combination and somehow transitions our brains into zombie mode where we never feel satiated.

For that reason you can find that combination in a lot of processed food...

[1] https://biology.stackexchange.com/questions/43673/5050-sugar...


Put a bag of sugar in front of me, meh. Or a stick of butter, meh. Those sugar-butter coated cashews from Trader Joe's (or just caramel) and I'll eat half the bag.


Rat metabolism and human metabolism aren't 1:1 There's fundamental differences between those two species in liver function and other organs.

And that study conflicts with this study, which shows a high-carb diet does have an impact on rat obesity: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4497311/


Sugar in isolation makes me feel lightheaded and a bit nauseous. Fat in isolation fills me up immediately. But together... yeah, I'll take that second (and third, and fourth) slice of cake.


I'm not an expert, but my understanding is that eating lots of sugar and fat is a worst-case metabolically for gaining bodyfat. Your body will prioritize sugar for energy while it's in your blood stream, so if you have lots of both, your body will just store the fat.


Mother's milk contains ~4.5% fat, ~7% sugar and ~1% protein. It's not exactly 50:50 sugar/fat ratio, but it's pretty close, so I wouldn't call the combination unnatural. Maybe we've been "trained" from birth on what the "optimal" combination is...


As a general rule, for mammals, the natural period of milk consumption is one where the recipients weight increases by several hundred percent.


isn't it intended that mother's milk helps the newborn put on weight (fat) and grow?

That macros ratio of carb and fat is indeed interesting


That, and support rapid brain development (based on glucose).


I'm not sure how representative an infants metabalism is. Humans are already unique in keeping our ability to digest milk into adulthood (an adaptation that has not spread to the entire population)


One (older) theory to support this is the Randle cycle [1], according to which, glucose and fatty acids can not be metabolized simultaneously. So, the presence of glucose will lead to any available fatty acids to be stored away.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randle_cycle


That doesn't quiet work for people though - Marshmallow is nearly 100% sugar and Cotton candy is 100% sugar and I will happily eat either of those.

I also won't eat a 50/50 lard/sugar mix. It's the fact that processing the food made it more palatable.


Buttered, salted popcorn is "unprocessed" by the standards here. It's a whole grain, mechanically churned cow's milk, and a mineral you can scrape off the ground in many places. All three ingredients have been consumed for thousands of years and over that time have only been altered by selective breeding (assuming you buy the non-GMO stuff.)

Despite being "unprocessed," it provides poor nutrition and hits the right buttons for compulsive overconsumption.


You're right, but in their raw, raw format it wouldn't work. The only piece of that that's an issue is the butter. I doubt you could eat enough salt or popcorn to get fat off either. It's the processed animal milk that's the real winner. Now this doesn't meet the "ultraprocessed" spec at all, but the processed bit is the one that's the actually an issue, especially when combined with the salt. I doubt cow's milk and popcorn would have that effect.


> I doubt cow's milk and popcorn would have that effect.

Butter is just churned milk. If that is "processed" then everything is processed. Sea salt is processed too by that standard.


Like, I said, it's not terribly processed, but it's churned milk whose fat has been pulled out - it's not just churned milk - it's not the raw food stuff, it's a mildly processed deriviative.


Popcorn is full of grains, which are rather energy dense, even if after popping they gain volume.

Just as eating whole cobs of corn will make you full fast (partly due to the water content).

Salt makes things tastier (works for the traditional corn too), which leads to eating more.



This seems to make a lot of sense, and removes that ridiculous notion that somehow removing a single element from our diet is what will lead to weight loss - the foods that people gain weights on are the foods that give us mixed signals to their quality and quantity of calories. It's hard to not feel you've eaten a lot of calories roast beef when you've eaten a lot of roast beef, but it's much easier to lose track of how many chips you've eaten, and harder to match that to the relative amount of calories consumed.


> This seems to make a lot of sense, and removes that ridiculous notion that somehow removing a single element from our diet is what will lead to weight loss - the foods that people gain weights on are the foods that give us mixed signals to their quality and quantity of calories. It's hard to not feel you've eaten a lot of calories roast beef when you've eaten a lot of roast beef, but it's much easier to lose track of how many chips you've eaten, and harder to match that to the relative amount of calories consumed.

It doesn't make sense at all.

There is quite a bit of research on satiety - how full foods make you feel. It's actually quite straight forward: Protein, water and fiber make you feel full. Carbs do not. Mostly fat does not (you need a certain minimum amount of fat in your diet).

You feel full after eating a lot of roast beef, because it's got tons of protein in it, not because it's not "processed".

You can gorge on chips because they are carbs and fat and have almost no protein, not because they the process of creating the chips confuses your body.

Guess what? You can gorge just as heavily on homemade 4-ingredient bread (technically slightly less if you use bread flour, which is high in protein).


Go read the study. The data from this study doesn't support your statement. They matched the carb content (and sugar, fat, etc) of the "highly processed" and "less processed" groups' food offerings. The highly processed ate significantly more, even though both had plenty of carbs available.


> The data from this study doesn't support your statement.

I think you're wrong.

> The increased energy intake during the ultra-processed diet resulted from consuming greater quantities of carbohydrate (280 ± 54 kcal/day; p < 0.0001) and fat (230 ± 53 kcal/day; p = 0.0004), but not protein (2 ± 12 kcal/day; p = 0.85) (Figure 2B). The remarkable stability of absolute protein intake between the diets, along with the slight reduction in overall protein provided in the ultra-processed versus the unprocessed diet (14% versus 15.6% of calories, respectively) (Table 1), suggests that the protein leverage hypothesis could partially explain the increase in energy intake with the ultra-processed diet in an attempt to maintain a constant protein intake (Martı´nez Steele et al., 2018; Simpson and Raubenheimer, 2005).

https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/pdf/S1550-4131(19)30248...

Yes, they matched the meals, but the meals weren't made of homogenous goo. Participants could eat as much as they wanted of the parts they wanted.


Yes, exactly: there were plenty of carbs available to both groups, but those with the highly processed variety ate more of those carbs than those without, suggesting that it's not the availability of the carbs but rather the degree of processing that makes the person eat more of what's available.

Though I would agree that this evidence leaves the possibility that carbs in general are less sating, but that highly processed carbs are even worse, and so the degree of processing would still be linked to weight gain.

It's not clear if that's because there's some sort of stomach-brain "signal" that's getting confused, or because highly processed foods are designed to taste maximally good versus less processed and so people eat more.


Makes sense. I'm on a low-carb diet for almost 10 years, it was the only one that worked for me, as has worked for my dad (he follows it since he was 33, now he is 73 and strong as an ox). One side-effect of this diet is look for better food - most if not all processed foods have carbs, so you are forced to eat vegetables, different meats, etc. to avoid food boredom. I ate more fish and lettuce in the first year of diet than in my whole previous life.


And I had luck with calorie counting - by actually weighing and recording everything I didn't overeat (though I was hungry), even though the food I ate was partially ultra processed.


I know that the net calories consumed/burned is what determines my weight, but the benefit of a low carb diet (only speaking for me) is that I am not hungry. I lost 50 pounds in the first six months and have been at the same weight for 18 months.


There's a bit more to it than that.

First, it's calories absorbed, not consumed. That is, if I eat calories in a form that's harder to digest, my body may not get all the calories out of it that are in the food. I think that this is one of the deals with processed food - the processing makes it easier for your body to extract the calories from the food. The calories were already there, but they're processed into a form that your body can use more easily.

Second, some foods (at least for some people) have some effect on metabolism, so that calories consumed is not totally independent of calories burned.


Well, you are "anti-conflating" the latter and former. They are describing the same mechanism, not two separate ones.


The point is that carbohydrates are calorie dense. You don't need to eat a lot of them to get a lot of calories.

Fish is one of the least calorie dense meats. Vegetables and fruits are some of the least calorie dense foods. It's nearly impossible to eat enough lettuce in a day to go over your daily recommended calories. It just won't fit.

So, in a lot of ways, keto, paleo, vegan, Mediterranean diets are all sneaky ways to cut out a major source of calories. You don't have to count them because just the way you're eating is taking care of that aspect.

But if you want to eat Twinkies exclusively, you can do that as long as you eat only so many.


Fat is more calorically dense than sugar, and your examples are all low in fat as well - vegetables and fruits have more carbs than either protein or fats - and the high calorie examples (ie. Avacado) of those categories are high in fat. Fish has few fats and no sugars. The most calorific cuts of meat aren't that way because they are sugary, it's because they are fatty. It's just that fats lead to satiety quicker than carbs, but I'll bet if you ate pork belly for every meal you'd find that you could and would get fat on that.


I didn't say they excluded all major source. I said a major source.

Yes, paleo and keto (I think) don't exclude fat, but they are excluding a major source of calories. Because we do need some fat in our diet or else we go into rabbit starvation.

There's nothing really in bread or refined sugar that we need that we aren't getting from somewhere else.


Fat is 2.25x as calorie dense (Cal/g) as carbs.


And? We already eat fat pretty sparingly. Whereas with sugar, you can color it and fluff it up and people will eat a giant cloud of it.

So, when you point out where I said those diets cut out all major source rather than a major source, feel free to continue.


So would you say it's the low carbiness of the diet, or the high variety of healthy thinginess of the diet that led the weight loss/ whatever?

Perhaps your current diet + healthy carbs would still help you achieve your goals?


Not the op here, but I have been doing low-carb off and on (i get into deep ruts of depression frequently enough that messes with it and I occasionally fall off the wagon) for the past 2 years, and for me personally the strictness of the carb count works for me better than the healthiness of the food I am eating.

I limit myself to 30g of total carbs (minus fiber) a day so it forces me to be more honest with myself. If I am at 25g for the day and I need to make dinner for instance, it basically forces me to always pick the low carb version of a meal (veggies + meat).

I hope to one day be able to transition to a diet with more healthy carbs, but in the process I am focusing on working on better habits and losing weight.


That's something like under 5% of your calories from carbs, assuming a 2500 calories per day diet. Have you tried other amounts between that and 60% or so that is typical in the United States?

Personally, I found that about 35% gave me most of the same benefits people claim for the much lower carb diets, without the hassle of having to put a lot of work into food choice to achieve it.

At 35%, a lot of "ordinary" foods can be tweaked easily to fit. Sandwich is 50%? Get it with regular mayo instead of lite mayo, or make it double meat, or both...and you can get it to under 35%.

At 5%, that sandwich is right out. As are burgers, pizza, pasta...basically most of the mainstream diet is out, and since most food infrastructure is geared toward serving people on the mainstream diet, that can be a big pain.


I have played around with the amount of carbs, right now my level is where it's at for weight loss, but I am planning on scaling up once I get closer to my goal weight.

But yes, food can be a pain (I have been craving pizza and fries for the longest damn time). My other goal aside from losing weight is learning what foods I _do_ like since having been a picky eater, means I defaulted to the mainstream diet and never strayed far from it which was negatively impacting my health and weight.

On the plus side, while it can be slightly more expensive grocery wise, it basically closes any eating out for the most part, so I can save money.


Not OP but my own experience with being low-carb for years is that for me, there is no such thing as healthy carbs. Fruits and whole-grain breads and other things that the mainstream nutritionists regard as "healthy carbs" still spike my blood sugar and cause food cravings for up to 48 hours even after a single tiny serving.

If I stick resolutely to a high-fat, medium-protein diet, I am almost never hungry and have plenty of energy. And after 7 years, it has kept 45 lbs of excess weight off me. I was never truly obese, but others have shed hundreds of pounds permanently doing the same thing.


> still spike my blood sugar and cause food cravings

How do you know that it spikes your blood sugar? Are you diabetic and actively monitoring?

Do you not have any food cravings on your regular diet? What marks the carb-induced ones out as different?


Not the OP, but I've ketoed for months at a time in the past, also for weight loss, and I can describe the lack of cravings like this: when I get hungry on keto, it doesn't demand my attention. It's something I know I can take care of at some point soon, but it doesn't make me distracted, give me pangs of hunger, or make me feel weak or irritable. I don't get "hangry." Eating a regular diet, hunger takes over much more of my conscious experience. It's something I need to address. Keto breaks that, and it's actually a wonderful experience.


The only 'violation' I allow is the high-fiber carbs, which do strike a note with your opinion.


If he’s eating vegetables he’s likely eating all the healthy carbs there are.


A category of food that had escaped me as highly processed was food at specific kinds of restaurants. David Kessler has an eye opening chapter "A visit to Chili's" in his book, The End of Overeating.

Everything they serve at chili's, even seemingly innocuous things like a chicken breast meal have been made or modified to make them hyper-palatable, easy to chew, swallow, and overeat.

For non-American's, chili's is a sit down chain restaurant where you order off a menu. Other comparable restaurants are Applebee's, and TGI Fridays.

https://www.chilis.com/


I'm curious as to how fast food being highly processed escaped you. It's fairly obvious just by the texture and taste of most food at those places that it's highly processed into some form far from what it originally was. If you take a bite into just about any chicken Burger, nugget, strip, boneless wing, whatever, from any fast food place and inside is just a formless, whitish pinkish mush. That's not what chicken's supposed to look like. It's also something that's been repeatedly said in media and other places since at least I was a kid in the 90's.

Most things in fast food places come premade and frozen from some factory somewhere and usually just fried up either in oil or on a 'grill'. Almost nothing is actually prepared in those places.

Though, if you're in Canada, A&W serves real eggs and Bacon and stuff for breakfast and their onion rings are actually cut and prepared in store(though the batter and breading aren't). Everything else though came preprepared.


> I'm curious as to how fast food being highly processed escaped you.

I'll read this as a genuine question and you not just calling me out for being an idiot.

I of course, saw A&W/McDonald's/Wendy's as highly processed junk.

1) But a Chili's or an Applebee's where I can order a chicken entree that looks like chicken, that I can get with a side of vegetables, that comes on a real plate, with real silverware--I guess my mind put that in a different category with expectations that it was more like 'real' food.

2) I hadn't seen how the "sausage was made" so to speak. Yes, I know food is processed, frozen, prepared off site, but the book I referenced peeled back so many curtains on just what that looks like, even for that seemingly benign chicken breast I talked about in my first point.

Here's one excerpt pulled from a sea of them:

The uncooked chicken had been in a marinade that combined orange juice, tequila, triple sec, sweet-and-sour mix, and artificial color, thereby including sugar, two kinds of oil, and salt. It was shipped frozen in twenty-five-pound bags, each containing about fifty pieces of meat, plus whey protein concentrate and modified tapioca starch. Nick Nickelson, a chief scientist at the Dallas-based Standard Meat, a supplier to Chili’s, said that the chicken and marinade were tumbled together in a piece of equipment that resembled a cement mixer. “It pulls the marinade into the muscle,” said Nickelson, breaking down the cellular structure of the meat and tenderizing it in the process. Another common way to get marinade into meat is through needle injection. Hundreds of needles are used to pierce the meat, tearing up the connective tissue. “It’s been prechewed,” said Billy Rosenthal, former president of Standard Meat. For all that, very little in the appearance or flavor of Chili’s food suggests how much sugar, fat, or salt it contains, or how easily it goes down.


It was a genuine question, sorry if it came off as insulting. I dunno, I've been learning to cook my own food since I was a kid, so I've got a pretty good idea of what meat and other food should look and taste like, to the point where most processed food doesn't really look or taste like 'real food' to me and I don't even look at it as food. Even those bottom tier just above fastfood style restaurants. I've always thought people realized this but just didn't really care. It's just never really came to mind there are people who just never realized.


I didn't notice either until my 30s. The reason for me is that I grew up on highly processed and packaged foods, and places like Chilis seemed to serve more "whole" foods in comparison to a lot of the junk I was eating. It wasn't until I did a lot of reading and cooking that I understood the difference.


> have been made or modified to make them hyper-palatable, easy to chew, swallow

Isn't this just a very scary way of saying "delicious"?


The book sounds really interesting, thank you for mentioning it!


And that's why you gotta look up the nutritional information if you want to make good choices. A salad isn't just a salad at a restaurant.


Indigenous people of South America chewed on coca leaves for 1000s of years. Then humans started processing it into cocaine. It became a problem then. We have effectively done the same thing to foods. Extracted the sugars and fats into refined form and combined them to create tasty but energy dense food with not much other nutrition.


Agreed. Seems to me the simplest explanation is that our bodies were calibrated over years of evolution eating "real" foods. Processed foods of any kind are significantly less likely to have the correct energy/satiety ratio.


It is not the weight loss alone. Look on the inside of the body. Ateries clog - and this is due to animal food.


Lab animals are getting fatter too, even though they're on a very controlled diet[1]. I think there is some factor we don't understand yet.

[1] https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.201...


Would be interesting to see if these animals were located only in the US or if this is a worldwide phenomena


It's very likely climate change-related: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/07/climate-...


Industrial farming also produces less nutritious food generally. Plants can uptake 20+ minerals from the soil, but industrial farms only add the 3 that directly fuel growth - Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus. You get taller, faster, less nutrient-rich crops.


> industrial farms only add the 3 that directly fuel growth - Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus

Source? I don't industrial farm, but I highly doubt that as plants suffer significantly when they lack micro-nutrients.


Gabe Brown mentioned it in this lecture on regenerative agriculture. Sorry, but I don't have a timestamp, it's been a few weeks since I watched it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUmIdq0D6-A

I'm not an expert in farming, but I do know a little bit of plant biology. My understanding of what he said was that the combination of atmospheric CO2 and fertilizer increases the growth rate of the plant, but the plant doesn't uptake a proportionately larger amount of other micro nutrients, either because it is biologically rate limited or doesn't have access.

Other Googling suggests that it could be a result of selective breeding picking crops that grow faster but are less nutritious, but that would seem to be a correlated problem. Those crops tend to be selected for their ability to grow with synthetic fertilizer and *-cides, with the lack of nutritional value being an unintended consequence.


This is an aspect of climate change I had never even considered. Thanks for the link!


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