We’ve all been told that if you eat less calories and exercise regularly, you’ll lose weight. It’s harder than it sounds, but it’s been touted as the only true path to weight loss success.

But the Journal of the American Medical Association is saying this just isn’t so. While exercise still stands as an important part of weight loss, smaller portions and fewer calories have less to do with weight loss than we’ve been taught. Instead, the study pinpoints exactly what dieters much ditch in order to lose weight: refined grains, processed foods and foods with added sugar — no surprises there.

The research was conducted by Christopher D. Gardner, director of nutrition studies at Stanford Prevention Research Center. Around 600 people were split into two different diet groups. One at “healthy” low carb and the other “healthy” low fat. Dietitians trained both groups to eat home-cooked, minimally processed whole foods.

Both groups were successful in losing significant amounts of weight, but the members of the low-carb group lost on average 13 pounds. The low-fat group only lost 11.7. Both groups saw a reduction in waist size, body fat percentage and lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Participants were surprised they were able to lose weight without reducing the amount of food they ate. They found it was more about controlling the quality of the food.

The takeaway: if you’re hungry, eat something. It doesn’t matter when you eat it or how much you eat, just as long as you’re eating the right foods.

(h/t The Irish Times)

Also see, Keep milk out of the fridge door, and other storage tips.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.