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Eating a Lot of Processed Food after WLS?

Have you ever felt like it’s easy to eat a lot of processed foods after WLS: protein shakes, pre-made meals, packaged snacks?  While these foods can fit into a healthy diet and aren't always highly processed, we often encourage eating less processed food when possible since it is generally healthier and packed full of nutrition.  But does eating unprocessed vs ultra-processed food really make a difference?  A 2019 study points to YES!  Keep reading to learn more.

Ultra-Processed Foods

The Study Setting

To give you a picture of the study itself, 20 patients lived at a research clinic for 28 days. For 2 weeks they ate a diet of ultra-processed foods, followed by 2 weeks of unprocessed foods or vice versa. The foods in each diet were nutritionally matched.  As you can see, this wasn’t a real-life setting. But since what the participants ate and their activity for the day were so controlled and monitored, the researchers actually knew how many calories were taken in and burned off.

The Results

When eating the ultra-processed diet, participants ate an average of 500 calories more per day than when eating unprocessed foods, coinciding with a weight gain of 1kg over 2 weeks.  They also found that participants ate more quickly on the ultra-processed diet.  On the other hand, participants lost about 1kg in 2 weeks on the unprocessed diet.  In addition, hunger and satiety hormones, blood sugars and insulin, thyroid hormones, cholesterol levels, and more improved during the unprocessed diet.

The Take-Aways for Bariatric Surgery

A month-long study in a research center can be hard to translate into real life. However, it does give us some insight into the benefits of eating real food. This is especially true as your body becomes less strict in terms of hunger/fullness, portion size, and how quickly you eat over time after surgery.   So why not try it out yourself?  Do you feel more satisfied when you eat fewer processed foods?  Do you naturally eat more slowly?  Does it make a difference in how much you eat?  More importantly, does it make a difference in how you feel?!  Plus, now is a good time to add more whole foods into your diet since fresh foods are so plentiful this time of year.  Find inspiration for adding more fruits and veggies to your diet here.