Food Synergy Secrets for Weight Loss (cont.)

But even going partially meatless can help. Women who are semi-vegetarian (who may include poultry and fish in their diets, but no red meat) or lacto-vegetarian (those who include milk products in their diets) had a lower risk of overweight and obesity, compared with omnivorous women, according to a Swedish study.

4. Include Low-Fat Dairy or Soy Milk in Your Diet. A healthy diet that includes 2-3 servings a day of low-fat or nonfat dairy may help promote weight loss, perhaps even in the midsection. High-calcium, low-calorie diets have been shown to help reduce body fat and preserve muscle mass, but some experts suspect that other components in dairy foods may also contribute to this effect.

In recent studies of people following similar low-fat diets -- one with calcium from dairy products and the other from calcium supplements -- those taking the supplements tended to lose LESS weight and body fat than the dairy-drinking group. Could food synergy be at work here?

Researcher Judith Lukaszuk, PhD, RD, from Northern Illinois University, wondered if this weight loss effect was due to the milk protein, or whether any source of protein fortified with calcium would have a similar result. She and colleagues tested the weight loss effects of lite soy milk and skim milk on 14 overweight or obese women who followed an 8-week, reduced-calorie diet. One group consumed 3 cups of lite soy milk per day; the other consumed the same amount of skim milk. The preliminary study showed that both groups lost similar amounts of weight and body fat, and also had similar decreases in waist size.

Other research has suggested there is synergy between two components found in most low-fat dairy foods -- calcium and vitamin D -- when it comes to helping reduce the risk of colon cancer, preserve bone mass, and ease symptoms of PMS as part of a low-fat diet.

The lite soy milk used in Lukaszuk's study contains both of these nutrients as well. Since it's not clear exactly what caused the weight loss benefits seen in her study, she says, it's possible that it has something to do with synergy between calcium and vitamin D.

5. Drink Green Tea. Some research indicates that green tea may trigger weight loss by stimulating the body to burn calories and mildly decrease body fat, possibly through catechins, a type of phytochemical. The phytochemicals in tea have a half-life of a few hours, so have one cup now, and another later in the day to get the biggest benefit. When deciding which green tea to buy (there are some great flavored options on the market), remember your nose always knows. If a tea bag smells delicious, that's how it will usually taste when brewed.

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

Published April 18, 2008.

SOURCES: Neal Barnard, MD, president, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; adjunct associate professor of medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine. Judith M. Lukaszuk, PhD, RD, assistant professor, School of Family, Consumer, and Nutrition Sciences, Northern Illinois University. Food Synergy, Elaine Magee, 2008. Major, G.C. et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2007; vol 85: pp 54-59. Lukaszuk, J.M., et al. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, October 2007; vol 107: pp 1811-1814. Ello-Martin, J.A. et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2007; vol 85: pp 1465-1477. Ledikwe, J.H., et al American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2007; vol 85: pp 1212-1221. Katcher, H.I. et al American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2008, vol 87: pp79-90.

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