Let’s Talk Weight Loss: The Best and Worst Diets for Gut Health According to Functional Medicine Experts
Weight loss is ALWAYS a hot topic. It seems like there’s a new diet, supplement, or workout every other day, most often a variation of the traditional advice “eat less, move more.”
As functional medicine experts and dietitians, we’ve seen it all! We’re here to tell you that it’s NOT just a matter of being disciplined about what you eat and forcing yourself to burn countless calories.
For most people, healthy, successful weight loss isn’t achieved through the fad diets that circulate the internet. These diets actually might do more harm than good!
Using current science-backed info, here’s a list of the BEST and WORST diets for gut health and weight loss!
How Gut Health Supports Weight Loss
First, let’s get a little bit of background on why having good gut health is important when trying to lose weight.
Your gut is the center of SO many aspects of your health.
Having a healthy, balanced gut allows you to get the good stuff from your food, leaving you feeling satisfied and giving your body the energy and nutrients it needs to function.
Gut imbalances cause alarm bells to ring throughout your body. This triggers your brain, immune system, and hormones that something isn’t right!
These alarms cause less than optimal functioning of different body systems and your body gets stuck in survival mode!!!
An unhappy, inflamed gut creates an environment throughout your body that forces it to hold onto stored energy (excess weight!) and slows down your metabolism!
Popular diets might actually be causing your gut health to suffer, which makes it SO much harder to meet those weight loss goals!
Worst Diets for Weight Loss and Gut Health
Diving in head first, we’re going to talk about why some of the most restrictive “healthy” diets are actually pushing you further from your goals.
Let’s talk about low carb diets.
The keto diet is a super popular low carb, high fat diet. But keto, as well as every other carb-eliminating diet, takes away a ton of the fiber in your diet.
Not having fiber in your diet can starve the good bacteria that lives in your gut.
This creates an imbalance that can lead to those alarm bells sounding!
Low carb diets, like the ketogenic diet, are also linked with many other risks, because they are consistent with an increase in cholesterol levels and the risk of multiple chronic diseases.
Also, carbohydrates are made of glucose, which is the only energy source that your brain can use.
Restricting carbs to extremely low amounts can impair your brain function and leave you feeling super low energy.
Any diet that recommends eliminating an entire food group for no reason other than weight loss is probably not your best bet for healthy weight loss.
In fact, any extremely restrictive diets can be harmful for your gut health AND mental health.
Extreme restriction can create lower diversity in your gut bacteria, which is harmful to gut health.
Creating an unhealthy relationship with food through restrictive diets can lead to serious consequences, including eating disorders.
Best Diets for Weight Loss and Gut Health
Recognizing that restrictive diets aren’t doing much good for your gut health is one thing. But what is the focus of a diet that supports a healthy gut and promotes weight loss?
Diets that focus on giving your body what it needs to feel energized and get out of survival mode!!!
You can NEVER go wrong with a diet that focuses on whole foods, healthy fats, lean proteins, and fiber-rich carbohydrates!!
One of the most popular diets that fits this is the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet focuses on fish, unsaturated fats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts!
Whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables also contain fiber, which feeds your healthy gut bacteria and keeps them happy! These are all great carbohydrates that keep you energized and get your brain its fuel!
And while we aren’t for super restrictive diets, there are definitely some things you can limit when you’re focusing on weight loss and gut health.
Limiting added sugar is great for weight loss and gut health.
Added sugar doesn’t add anything helpful to your diet nutrient-wise and it also feeds the less-friendly bacteria in your gut that love to cause inflammation.
Sugar is also calorie dense, meaning it contributes a lot of calories in even a pretty small amount. While there’s nothing wrong with sugar, cutting down can help you limit calories without limiting any of the important nutrients that your body needs!
Another thing to be mindful of – extremely processed foods often have the important nutrients taken out of them!
This leaves the calories, but takes out the nutrients that your body also needs. Eating a lot of processed foods can result in calories adding up super quickly without many nutrients being absorbed.
Overall, the best diet is a balanced diet that makes you feel good!
Being mindful of what your body NEEDS (fiber, healthy fats, carbs, and protein!) and what your body WANTS can help you find a balance that works best for you!
It’s Not Just About Weight Loss!
Even though weight loss isn’t an unusual goal, it might not be the most complete goal!
Think about WHY you want to lose weight. Is it to be healthier? To feel better and more energized?
Focusing on goals that coincide with weight loss can help you be successful! Examples of these could be balancing your blood sugar, getting in daily, healthy movement, stress relief, optimizing your nutrition, and so much more.
Giving your body support and practicing healthy habits can support weight loss. Feeling good and loving yourself is the BEST way to start feeling great.
Find ways to celebrate YOU!!!