Don't you always want to eat a donut at breakfast when you're on a diet? Well, one study actually had participants enjoy a mandatory dessert every morning with breakfast. Researchers at the Tel Aviv University did a 16-week study with two groups of people. Both groups had the same, low-calorie diet. Both started with a protein-rich breakfast. But one group got a mandatory cookie, chocolate, cake or donut for dessert with that meal. (Apparently, they just ate less later to make up for the calorie increase at breakfast.) Basically, while both groups had low-calorie diets, one group had a higher carb allotment.
Both groups lost about the same amount of weight — 33 pounds on average. In the 16-week followup, the low-carb group had regained an average of 22 pounds. But the higher carb group? They continued to lose weight, averaging a loss of 15 more pounds.
I’ll take the diet with the donut, thank you!
A few other facts about the study: First, the 200 people doing the diet were all obese. Someone who has just a few pounds to lose might not find the diet as effective. The authors also found that the dieters allowed the dessert in the morning had an easier time staying on the diet. The dessert group had fewer cravings and less hunger and had greater drops in the “hunger hormone” ghrelin after breakfast when compared to the low-carb dieters. You should also note that the group eating the cake had to eat it in the morning. They couldn’t save it for an after-dinner snack. The dessert was also small.
It almost sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? A diet that includes cake and donuts is definitely in the realm of daydreams. And besides, don’t sugar and carbs make you gain weight? Look at the Atkins diet. Look at the paleo /primal diet. Look everyone defaming carbohydrates these days.
Here are a few thoughts. First, I am not “anti-carb.” I personally could eat vegetables, protein and fat until I turned green, but still not feel satisfied. However, if I pair those vegetables, protein and fat with a nice serving of mashed potatoes or a slice of bread, I feel great! So the idea that a diet with carbs helps make dieters feel satisfied resonates from my day-to-day experiences.
However, I don’t think that eating a daily serving of refined sugar is great for you. And depending on the quality of the other ingredients in a donut, cookie or cake, you could end up with a lot of preservatives, food additives, and other nasty things. Furthermore, to make the breakfast so high-protein yet lower calorie, people ate non-fat milk/yogurt and egg whites. While, yes, they did get more protein for less calories, that fat from the milk is needed to properly assimilate the nutrients from the meal. The egg yolk is the most vitamin-rich part of the egg. While, granted, I suppose any fat-soluble nutrients would be absorbed because you are eating plenty of fats with the cake or donut, it just seems a little backwards and not a diet for proper nutrition.
Daniela Jakubowicz, M.D., the study’s principal investigator, has written a book called "The Big Breakfast Diet: Eat Big Before 9 a.m. and Lose Big for Life". I am sure she would give a lot more guidelines and details there.
For a different mindset, check out Julia Ross, M.A., in "The Diet Cure: The 8-Step Program to Rebalance Your Body Chemistry and End Food Cravings, Weight Gain, and Mood Swings–Naturally." She does an excellent job of clearly laying down the problem of low-calorie diets and the dieting yo-yo that results. She points out that many people see their metabolic rate slow down when they eat less and she has seen how nutrient-depleted people who diet become, which leads to eventual weight issues as their body begins to work improperly or inefficiently. Her diet plan is completely different. On her plan, you eat plenty of calories in the form of vegetables and protein, carbs enough to satisfy, and amino acids to help depleted levels. She is very convincing. She also agrees that breakfast is very important.
But perhaps the greatest thing we can learn from this study is that it doesn’t always pay to be as extreme as possible. Jakubowicz told the New York Times, “Most people simply regain weight, no matter what diet they are on … But if you eat what you like, you decrease cravings. The cake — a small piece — is important.” The whole point of the dessert is to help you feel satisfied in how you eat."
Perhaps cake is important to our diet after all! But I’d make it a real food, a homemade one. Your taste buds and health will thank you.
What do you think? Would you stay on a diet that allowed you dessert at breakfast, but was really limited the rest of the day?
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