healthy fridgeMany people who go on low fat diets skip dairy because of its high fat content. What these people may not realise is that they need the calcium from dairy to keep fit and maintain healthy bones and teeth. What even fewer people realise is that calcium can actually help you to lose weight, so cutting some high calcium foods when you are on a diet could actually stop you from losing body fat, instead of helping you.

The research

A 15 week study conducted on obese women looked at the effect of calcium on weight loss. Before the study the women had an average of 600mg of calcium a day, where the recommended amount was 1000mg. Throughout the study the women followed a low calorie diet and each took two tablets a day, either 1200mg of calcium or a placebo. The results showed that the women who took the calcium lost an average of 13.2 lbs., whereas women who took the placebo lost just 2.2 lbs. over the 15 week period.

Another study found that a high-calcium (but low fat) diet resulted in an average 24 lb. weight loss over 16 weeks, making a high calcium diet more effective for weight loss than many weight loss drugs, and much better for you too.

Other studies show that, while calcium supplements can make you lose 5 times as much weight, eating a medium calcium diet can make you lose 8 times as much fat and a high calcium diet results in 9 times as much fat loss over time.

Reducing the appetite

Researchers think that our bodies know when they don’t have enough calcium, so they respond by being hungry, in order to take on more food and increase calcium levels. A high calcium intake means that the body doesn’t look for more food, reducing an individual’s appetite, making dieting much easier.

Burning fat

A high calcium diet can actually change the way in which our bodies burn fat. They think that the more calcium there is in a fat cell, the more fat it will burn. This is because, when a person goes onto a low calorie diet their body thinks that it won’t be getting much food, so hangs on to their fat stores just in case. As a result people on low fat diets don’t always see as much weight loss as they would expect. A high calcium, low-fat diet makes the body believe it is getting enough, so it is happy to burn fat cells for energy.  What’s more, high calcium dieters tend to lose more weight around their middles, where the body stores a lot of excess weight. Losing fat on the waist makes you look better but also increases your health, by reducing your Waist Hip Ratio.

Don’t dump the dairy!

For most dieters the first thing to go in a low fat diet is dairy; milk, cheese and yoghurt, which are all very high in naturally occurring calcium. What they should be doing is swapping high-fat dairy for low fat or non-fat alternatives, such as fat free milk or yoghurt. This will help you to feel full for longer and burn fat at the same time.

Non-dairy calcium

If you don’t eat dairy there are lots of non-dairy natural calcium sources, such as enriched rice or soya milk, almonds, green leafy vegetables, soy beans, tofu and sesame seeds. Even if you do eat dairy, these other calcium sources will help you to keep a varied, high calcium diet.

Increasing your calcium intake isn’t a magic cure but by eating more calcium-high foods such as non-fat dairy and green leafy vegetables as part of a balanced diet you will increase your health and bone strength and could help weight loss.

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