Food Properties - How to Eat More and Still Lose Weight

Eating more can help you lose weight. It goes against what you have been told all these years but there is overwhelmingly proof to show that eating more of the right foods can help you lose weight.

Here’s how it works…

It all starts with the calorie. The calorie itself is an excellent scientific unit of measure for energy. It is the amount of energy that is required to increase the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius. 

To lose weight, you require an energy deficiency, where the amount of energy (calories) you consume is less than the amount of energy (calories) you use in a day.

This will force your body to use its stored forms of energy like glycogen and fat and you will lose weight.

It makes sense...

Using these concepts, it makes complete sense to say, that to lose weight we must consume less calories than we use and the source of those calories is irrelevant because a calorie is just a calorie.

So,if a 50 kg man uses 2000 Calories in a day he has to make sure that he consumes less calories to lose weight. How he gets those calories doesn’t matter if the total amount is less than 2000 Calories he will lose weight.

Weight loss equation

This concept makes perfect sense but is incorrect because the calorie does not work well when it comes to measuring food energy.

The calorie simplifies food to a unit measure of energy and hides all its other qualities both good and bad.

Everything changes...

The calorie works well in a science lab but when that piece of food goes into your mouth everything changes.

Food has many properties that take effect when we consume it. These properties of food go beyond the basic calorie content that it provides. They affect hormones, metabolism and various other functions in our bodies.

Some foods positively affect our bodily processes to create an energy deficit needed for weight loss and other foods promote an energy surplus and storage resulting in weight gain.

These are the properties of food that will allow you to eat more and not gain weight.

Food Properties that allow you to Eat More and Still Lose Weight

1. Food Density and Volume

Food Properties that allow you to eat more and still lose weight

Energy dense foods are foods that are high in empty calories like alcohol, sugar, and processed carbohydrates. Foods that are energy dense with empty calories, have a high energy to mass content.

This means they have a lot of calories packed into a small volume. Think about a shot of alcohol or a teaspoon of syrup which have a lot of calories packed in them.

The problem with these foods is that we can consume too much before we even notice how much we have eaten leading to easy weight gain. It’s easy to eat a bowl of ice cream in a few minutes compared to eating a steak in that time. 

In comparison, foods that have a low energy to mass content, known as volume foods contain very little calories compared to their size. This allows us to eat a lot more of the food promoting fullness without the extra calories and weight gain.

Volume foods are also physically harder to eat quickly. For example, one teaspoon of sugar contains the same calories as 9 teaspoons of carrots. It would take a lot longer and much more energy to eat the 9 teaspoons of carrots compared to the 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Many high volume foods contain the extra volume from their fibre and water content and actually end up being energy deficient after you take into account the long chewing and energy consuming digestion processes they go through.

Mashelite explains this concept really well with the comparison of a protein bar to full plate of food. 

Food Volume and Energy Density

They constructed a full plate of food with the same macro-nutrients to a protein bar and showed the huge differences that perfectly sum up the concept of food density and volume foods. Here is their exact comparison:

I took a MP Combat Protein bar with the macro nutrient content of 28g of carbs, 20g of protein and 7g of fat, and turned it a nutritious FULL plate of food. This plate contains 3oz. ground beef (93% lean), 100g roasted red potatoes, 1 zucchini squash (155g), 1 yellow squash (140g) and some mixed bell peppers (55g). The macronutrients are: 27g of carbs, 23g of protein and 7g of fat, basically the same as the macronutrients in the protein bar.


I get it, the protein bar is yummy and satisfies that sweet tooth. However, does it really leave you feeling full and satisfied? It doesn’t for me. Does it have any real nutrition value, vitamins, minerals? Look at the difference in vitamin content of the two above meals. (Nutrition information done using My Fitness Pal, because that’s the way most of my clients count and tracks macros). The macro-nutrient content of the meal made from whole foods far outweighs that of the protein bar. More volume and more nutrition produces happier bodies and better performance. 

Fruit and vegetables are the best high volume foods that allow you to eat more without gaining weight.These two tables from the book Thin over 30, show you the vegetables and fruit that are best used as high volume foods. As a general rule, foods with a high protein and fibre to carbohydrate content per are great high volume foods. High Volume Foods

 High Volume Fruit

There are many ways to add high volume foods to your eating plan. Check out these 5 great tasting recipes from Masonfit. The best high volume food recipe of the five is the spicy mashed cauliflower and pulled pork. The recipe is literally 2 pounds of food with less than 500 calories.

2. Thermic Effect of Food

Thermic effect of food

The thermic effect of foods, also called diet induced thermogenesis (DIT), is the energy our body uses to digest a meal.

Starting with the process of eating, right up until a meal is digested and excreted, requires a lot of energy. It requires so much energy, that it makes up about 10-20% of our daily total energy expenditure. Processing, digesting and excreting a meal uses more energy in a day than physical activity.

This thermic effect of food plays a huge role in differentiating foods when it comes to weight loss. Foods that require more energy to be digested contribute more to the energy deficiency that we need to lose weight.

Some foods like grapefruit require more energy to be digested than they actually contribute. These are known as calorie negative foods. Dr Oz suggests using these 20 Negative Calorie-Effect Foods that boost metabolism for their weight loss effects.

The three food macronutrients, namely protein, fats, and carbohydrates have great variability in their thermic effect. Fats cost about 2-3% of their energy content to digest, carbohydrates about 6-8% and protein costs a massive 25-30% of their energy to digest.

These calculations don't take into account the energy required to chew a meal and the energy used to move a meal along your GIT and excrete it. This means certain food can use a lot more energy than others, especially foods high in fibre and protein.

You can eat a lot more of foods that have a high thermic effect because the energy(calories) left over after digestion is much lower than the amount you actually consume. .

3. Hormonal Effect of Food

Hormonal Effect of Food

Foods are made up of many components, and not just energy. These components include minerals, chemicals and vitamins that have the ability to affect various functions in our bodies. 

Most of these components carry out their effects by regulating our hormones and this plays a major role in weight gain and weight loss.

Food commonly affects these hormones:


Foods that are high in carbohydrates cause a sharp increase in insulin, which is the main metabolic hormone that signals to all parts of our body to store energy. This results in our body absorbing as much energy as possible and converting it to fat.

In comparison, foods that are high in protein and fibre release energy at a slow constant rate over a longer period of time, preventing the spiking of insulin levels and this normalises the way in which our bodies use energy. This allows for efficient use of energy and prevents weight gain via fat storage.

Spices such as cinnamon are also known to have this effect on insulin. The ability of a food to effect insulin levels is known as the glycaemic effect of food. Foods with a low glycaemic effect promote weight loss.

Hunger Hormones

Certain foods also have the ability to affect levels of the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin is the hormone that is directly responsible for creating hunger, it gets released from our stomach when it is empty and it decreases after we eat, when our stomachs are stretched.

Foods high in protein have been proven to cause a decrease ghrelin levels of up to 42%.

High volume foods especially foods with high fibre content also decrease ghrelin levels as they stretch the stomach due to their size. High fibre foods have been shown to decrease ghrelin levels by up to 21%.

This ability of certain foods to decrease hunger is known as the satiety effect.

AuthorityWeight provides an excellent article on Glucomannan, a soluble fibre found in Japanese Shirataki noodles which has almost no calories. Japanese Shirataki noodles gives you all the benefits of fibre and also all the benefits of a calorie negative food. 

Other Hormones

The hormone effect of food goes way beyond just insulin and ghrelin. Different foods have the ability to affect almost any hormone. This is particularly true for herbs and spices, and it is explained perfectly by Julie Doherty on her website. Her article Happy Hormones-Using Traditional Medicine and Diet lists the common herbs and how they affect your hormones. 

2 More Reasons to Eat More Food to Lose Weight

These two reasons are the consequences of eating less. When we restrict ourselves of nutrition our bodies undergo many changes that result in weight gain.

Prone to Binge Eating

Restrictive diets and eating less to lose weight is psychologically stressful. When we restrict ourselves of food various hormones get released to prompt us to eat.

These hormones do everything they can to make you eat and resisting them takes a feat of tremendous strength. Most of us usually fail and end up binging on junk food. Eating more of the right foods prevents binges.

Down Regulates Thyroid Hormones and Decreases Metabolism

Thyroid hormones are the backbone of our metabolism. They are integrally involved in so many aspects of energy usage and storage. A decrease in thyroid hormone levels can cause instantly drop your metabolism and cause rapid weight gain.

Restricting yourself of food, sends warning signals to your body and your body responds by decreasing thyroid levels to save energy.   

When we return to normal eating, our thyroid levels take some time to return to their higher levels. This causes weight gain and is the reason behind the yo-yo effect of dieting.


It is possible to eat more food and lose weight. Choose foods that have a high nutrient content, a high thermic effect, a low glycaemic effect and high satiety effects.

Foods that contain some or all of these properties can be eaten in greater quantities as they contribute to weight loss. These foods include your protein meals such as eggs, meat and fish, all vegetables, and the good complex carbohydrates.

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