Beginning dieters are often told to limit harmful, fatty and high-calorie foods – reasonable advice for sure. Yet sometimes this path just doesn’t seem to yield that desired result – you have switched to healthier options, but the pounds still persist. In addition to this you may feel some unpleasant effects that you’ve never experienced before. There may be various reasons behind the problem, and one of them could be that you simply eat too much healthy food. Yes, this is perfectly possible – the general healthiness of any product does not preclude one of unwanted effects after it’s over consumed. Weight gain is one of the most widespread ones. Will eating too much healthy food make you fat? Let’s clarify that right now.
The Basics Of The Healthy Diet
A balanced diet is one that provides you with all vitamins, macronutrients, vitamins and minerals necessary for your body to function correctly. A healthy diet helps you stay active and energized, it boosts your immunity, and improves your looks. A balanced diet is the cornerstone of any weight loss effort. Scientific studies connect a balanced diet with the reduction of obesity, as well as the decreased risk of chronic diseases tied to obesity, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cancer (11, 8).
The following products should make up the foundation of your balanced diet:
Leafy greens like kale, collard or spinach serve as a shield from dangers like heart disease, cancers, macular degeneration, and type 2 diabetes (5).
Nuts like almonds, walnuts, or macadamia are immensely beneficial for your whole body. Most importantly, however, they are a source of crucial polyunsaturated fatty acids omega-6 and omega-3, and can also protect you from cancer (1).
Dairy products: sugar-free yogurts, kefir, low-fat cottage cheese provide the calcium essential for your teeth and bones and promote better digestion.
Sea fish is an essential source of omega-3 fatty acids, and is one of the best sources of protein. Seafood supports your vision, improves your skin condition, boosts your intellectual performance, and even lowers the risks of depression (6).
Now, what if you’ve changed your diet, but the pounds are being stubborn? What if you even notice an increase on the scales?
Why Eating Too Much Healthy Food Can Cause Weight Gain?
The cause is, most likely, calories. Whichever food you eat, you still need to count your calories. And, while healthy foods are beneficial for your health, they still contain calories. That’s why you’re perfectly able to consume more calories than you spend by overeating healthy foods, and consequently gain weight.
For example, while nuts are extremely beneficial for your health, they are also a fairly high-calorie item. One cup (132 grams) of macadamia nuts, for instance, contains as much as 950 calories! (14). So, if you’re a nut lover, it is quite easy to overdo them, thinking you can chew an unlimited amount throughout the day. Eventually, your cherished weight loss is nowhere to be found as a result of eating too many nuts.
Some foods are indeed difficult to overeat – for instance, nonstarchy vegetables contain a lot of fiber and water, and are largely low-calorie. On the other hand, it is wise to track the consumption of starchy veggies like potatoes and corn. So, can you eat too many vegetables? This depends on the type.
Another problem is the foods labeled “low-fat” and “fat-free”. These may have low fat content, combined with a ton of sugars. So it is imperative to watch the calorie content of such foods and consume them in moderation.
How To Know If I’m Eating Too Much Healthy Food?
The best way is to track your calorie consumption and caloric expenditure. It is important to choose your calorie limit in accordance with your daily energy requirements. To do that, you can use the calories burned calculator. You can calculate your caloric expenditure as adjusted for your age, weight, gender and level of physical activity. This will help you to stick to the calorie limit that would be effective, but not too restraining. Sticking to a healthy calorie limit would spare you from some of the unpleasant consequences of unbalanced weight loss dieting like fatigue, weakness, and debilitating hunger cravings. You really don’t have to suffer to lose weight.
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Why Is Eating Too Much Healthy Food Bad?
You already know that eating too much healthy food can cause weight gain. However, in case of some particular, incredibly healthy foods, you may face other negative consequences related to specific features of those foods.
For example, too much essential omega-3 found in fish can be harmful. The dose of 1-6 grams per day is normal, but 13-14 grams can have negative blood-thinning effects (12). Furthermore, too much fish oil can trigger vitamin A toxicity due to overconsumption (9).
Another example is tuna. Because of ocean pollution, tuna accumulates methylmercury – a toxin that can cause multiple negative consequences including vision impairments and lack of coordination (10). As a result of the low maximum limit of this toxin, a 25-kg child can consume only one 75g (2.6 oz) serving of tuna in 19 days (!) without exceeding the limit (2). Other fish are not so likely to be contaminated with this element.
The final example is liver. Liver is one of the most nutritious parts of animals. Just a 100-gram portion of beef liver contains 6 times of RDI of vitamin A and 7 times of RDI of copper (13). This is simply too much for a human body, and can lead to various negative health consequences (4). That’s why it is not recommended to eat liver every day. Once per week is more than enough.
To sum up, eating too much healthy food can cause weight gain because of caloric excesses. That’s why tracking your calories is essential even when your diet consists of healthy products. Besides this, particular nutritious foods can be harmful in large amounts because of their chemical composition.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility.
Reviewed by: Soraya Ziou
- Almond consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in adults with prediabetes (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- An evaluation of mercury concentrations in three brands of canned tuna (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Cereal grains and legumes in the prevention of coronary heart disease and stroke: a review of the literature (2006, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Copper toxicity, oxidative stress, and antioxidant nutrients (2003, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables (2013, ars.usda.gov)
- Dietary fish, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid consumption, and depression risk in Japan: a population-based prospective cohort study (2017, nature.com)
- Ellagic and tannic acids protect newly synthesized elastic fibers from premature enzymatic degradation in dermal fibroblast cultures (2006, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Healthy lifestyle factors in the primary prevention of coronary heart disease among men: benefits among users and nonusers of lipid-lowering and antihypertensive medications (2006, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Hypervitaminosis A following long-term use of high-dose fish oil supplements (1990, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Low level methylmercury exposure affects neuropsychological function in adults (2003, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes: a common agenda for the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association (2004, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- There’s something fishy about this bleeding (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Toxic and trace elements in liver, kidney and meat from cattle slaughtered in Galicia (NW Spain) (2000, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- What are macadamia nuts good for? (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Whole grain intake and cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis (2008, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)