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Why not create a cal-burning diet?

What can you remember from when you were eight or nine or maybe 10?

I can remember someone saying “sovereignty” on the nightly news and making a beeline for my copy of Webster’s New Word Dictionary for Young Readers (which I still occasionally consult, by the way) as I said the word over and over. I loved the sound of it and wanted to know what it meant.

Guess I’ve always been a word nerd.

This memory returned to me as I pondered how to begin this article so that you read it to the end. That’s my concern because, according to a survey cited in “Top Trends in Prepared Foods 2017,” only 6 percent of U.S. adults follow the diet about to be discussed.

The diet that eschews meat, eggs, and all dairy products. The vegan diet.

And I can’t help but think a survey of just Schuylkill and Carbon counties would produce a percentage that’s significantly lower - like less than 1 percent. So meat eaters who aren’t intrigued right away might just turn the page.

So let’s start with that pleasant-sounding word that means “freedom from external control.” When you embrace any diet, you do so to be free of unwanted pounds, to be in control of your body, so isn’t a sort of personal sovereignty what you really seek?

And a sort of personal sovereignty is what 122 of the 244 overweight-to-obese subjects in a study performed in Washington, D.C. and available at JAMA Network Open found. They were the ones who ate a low-fat vegan diet for 4 months and lost an average of 14 pounds.

When compared to the prior-to tests, the end tests also showed significant decreases in insulin resistance and overall body fat in the 122 new vegans. The 122 who ate as they had in the past recorded no significant decreases in weight, insulin resistance, or body fat.

While you may find this information interesting, impressive even, I recognize that it’s unlikely to instantly transform you into a vegan. And even if it does, it’s unlikely that you’d remain one.

Surveys generally find that 9 out of 10 people who become any type of vegetarian - let alone the strictest type - go back to eating meat within a year.

So why inform you of this study? To motivate you to make subtler changes in your diet based on the aforementioned study and a theory I’ve touted for two decades: nutrient partitioning.

The new vegans in the study were trying new foods more so than trying to lose weight. In fact, the researchers instructed them to eat the same amount of food at meals as before.

Their weight loss occurred because their bodies burned the vegan foods at a much higher rate - 18.7 percent higher - and it’s the science behind nutrient partitioning that’s responsible.

Nutrient partitioning is defined as the process by which your body decides to store or burn fuel, a decision made by and large by the ratio of the fats, proteins, simple and complex carbohydrates consumed. Your body needs to digest the macronutrients to use them, which requires burning some of the calories to do so.

This is also known as the thermic effect of food (TEF) and making subtle dietary changes based upon it is the way to create a cal-burning diet that’s not vegan or even vegetarian. Just healthy.

Virtually all fats digest easily, requiring no more than 3 percent of the cals consumed to do so. Simple carbs require 5 to 8 percent.

Complex carbs require 10 to 15 percent. Protein needs between 15 to 30 percent.

Equally as significant to TEF is the manner of preparation.

For instance, eat 500 calories of roasted chicken breast, which contain 91 grams of protein and 11 grams of fat, and you’ll burn about 110 of those calories digesting the meal. Eat 500 calories of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, which contain 25 grams of protein and 32 grams of fat, and you’ll burn about 30.

Make some food swaps throughout the day, based on TEF - eat a small salad at lunch with your sandwich instead of French fries; have hot-aired popcorn instead of pretzels and chips as your TV viewing snack - and it’s possible to burn an extra 250 cals a day to digest the same amount of food in calories that you used to eat. Burn an extra 250 cals per day for a month, and you’ll lose 2 pounds.

And since the foods being removed from your diet tend to be heavy in cals but light in weight, you’ll actually be eating more food by volume while you lose weight.

In short, eat the right sorts of meats prepared the right sorts of ways, replace some of the simple carbs you usually eat with complex ones, lessen the total amount of fat you ingest, and you can create a cal-burning diet without becoming a vegetarian.