Written on March 19, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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The prevalence of obesity in the United States was 41.9% from 2017 to 2020 . This staggering statistic shows how common obesity is in the US population. Obesity affects people of all ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomics . Being overweight or obese is typically the result of calorie imbalance from overeating or a sedentary life . This leads to the unhealthy accumulation of excessive fat. Healthcare providers will measure a person’s body mass index (BMI) to classify and determine if their weight is healthy or unhealthy. You can be considered overweight if you have a BMI greater than 25 and obese if your BMI exceeds 30 .
What you eat and how you manage your weight remarkably affect your overall health. People who are overweight or obese will be at a much higher risk of developing chronic health conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, or diabetes . Understanding the role of nutrition and weight management can help you stay healthy and decrease your disease risks.
Your body is a complex living machine with various nutritional requirements to keep all the parts in healthy functioning order. At the most fundamental dietary level, your body requires macronutrients and micronutrients to keep your body healthy [4,5]. Macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that your body uses in large amounts. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals that your body uses in small quantities. A balanced, nutritious diet helps to ensure you are getting a variety of macronutrients and micronutrients from various foods you eat.
When trying to manage a healthy weight, some people consider ditching carbohydrates. While limiting carbohydrates may feel fine for a time, when you eliminate carbohydrates from your diet it can have potentially harmful effects. Eliminating or severely reducing carbohydrates can increase your risk of bowel problems, weight gain, or kidney problems [5,6]. Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for your body after they’ve been converted into glucose.
Carbohydrates are essential for a well-balanced diet and offer many health benefits that can help you manage weight . Carbohydrates are found in various healthy foods such as fruits, nuts, beans, whole-grain bread, and pasta. Many of these foods have carbohydrates that are rich in fiber to keep you feeling fuller [5,7]. When your body feels full, you are less likely to want to snack or overeat. Foods with healthy carbohydrates also supply your body with essential micronutrients. These complex carbohydrates can help you lose weight, prevent weight gain, and help your body regulate energy use .
A protein-rich, balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight. Proteins help build lean muscle and burn more calories when combined with exercise. In controlled studies, participants who ate more protein felt fuller, preserved lean muscle mass, lost fat mass, and experienced weight loss . A diet with healthy proteins enables better appetite control, making you feel fuller by reducing the unnecessary intake of additional calories . Lean meats and eggs are a great source of rich protein. Healthy plant proteins can be found in lentils, beans, quinoa, and soy. However, it is critical to be mindful of how much protein you eat because consuming it in grossly large quantities can cause acidosis .
Including healthy dietary fats in your meals can play a significant role in helping you manage weight. Fat is a type of macronutrient, just like proteins and carbohydrates. Your body needs some fats to help you absorb micronutrients and protect your heart and brain . For years, fats have been characterized as bad in addressing weight loss and keeping a healthy waistline. Large amounts of trans and saturated fats in your diet can have a negative impact on your weight and heart disease risks . Healthy levels of unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids are essential in keeping you healthy by reducing cholesterol, lowering heart health risks, and promoting healthy brain function . You can include foods rich in healthy fats in your diet to help manage weight, and they can be found in fatty fish, nuts, eggs, avocados, or olive oil. If eating fish is difficult, consider taking omega-3 fatty supplements to help provide healthy essential fats to your diet.
Although your body only requires small traces of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, they are essential to keep you healthy. The six essential micronutrients are iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, iodine, folate, and zinc . Eating foods that provide your body with adequate micronutrients is vital to preventing diseases and promoting healthy development and overall well-being . It is essential to eat foods rich in micronutrients because your body does not produce them. Deficiency in micronutrients can affect the immune system, impair development, and cause metabolic disorders . Research studies have shown that obese individuals are at higher risk of micronutrient deficiencies [14,15]. These studies demonstrate that micronutrient deficiency may be associated with an unhealthy diet that is poor in micronutrient intake.
Before starting any weight loss therapies, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider. Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet consisting of essential nutrients is part of a good weight management plan. At Everlywell, you can partner with a clinician to discuss your weight management goals through our online weight management option.