Quality of your food key to weight loss

London: Struggling to shed those extra kilos? Then eat extra helpings of yoghurt and nuts rather than concentrating on calorie cutting, scientists say.

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health found that the more good food in one`s diet, the more weight one loses over the long term.

To maintain a slim figure, the researchers said, it is much more important to concentrate on eating healthy foods rather than fixating on how much one consumes, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Their study of almost 120,000 people, five-sixths of whom were women, discovered that extra helpings of yoghurt, nuts, fruit, whole grains and vegetables were all linked to weight loss.

The team quantified the effect that eating particular types of food daily had on weight gain or loss.

Perhaps surprisingly, eating more yoghurt and nuts every day had a bigger effect on losing weight than fruits and vegetables — probably because they keep people fuller for longer.

They found that people who ate an extra portion of yoghurt daily, compared to the study group as a whole, lost on average 0.37kg every four years, over a 20 year period.

For nuts the comparable figure was 0.26kg, for fruits 0.22kg, for whole grains 0.17kg and for vegetables 0.1kg.

The authors, led by Prof Dariush Mozaffarian, noted that this did not mean people could simply eat large amounts of these foods and lose weight.

"Obviously, such foods provide calories and cannot violate thermodynamic laws," they wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.

However, people who ate them tended to eat less calorie-dense foods such as chips, meats, desserts and sugary drinks.

"Their increased consumption would… displace other, more highly processed foods in the diet, providing plausible biologic mechanisms whereby persons who eat more fruits, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains would gain less weight over time," the researchers wrote.

The worst foods to over-consume were chips – adding on extra 0.77kg per four years for every daily serving over the average — sugary drinks (0.45kg) and meats (0.43kg).

The study warned that people tended to put on weight so slowly that they never noticed.

The mean weight gain was less than a pound a year, but over 20 years that amounted to 7.6kg. At its root, this was because people consumed just 50 or 100 calories a day morethan they expended, the researchers said.

The study also found that sleeping between six and eight hours — no more no less — was ideal for minimizing weight gain, while cutting down on television viewing was also important.