Nowadays it’s difficult picture what a healthy diet looks like.
The large processed food companies say eat more grains, your doctor says eat more fruits, veggies and lean protein, your yoga teacher says they're both crazy, vegetable juice only!
The underlying issue is that anyone who tells you what to eat has an ulterior motive: buy their product, adopt their lifestyle, do what they say.
Full disclosure: I’m no different, my ulterior motive is to prevent healthcare costs from skyrocketing as heart disease and diabetes consume the nation (1).
Why? Because the more triple bypass surgeries you have, the less money that goes to improving schools, saving polar bears, and helping veterans recover from PTSD.
Everyone knows that Pizza, Soda, bagels, and potato chips are bad for you. If this is a surprise, you’re beyond help. But this article is meant to identify foods that will pack on the pounds and help people recognize which foods to avoid. Which should hopefully help on your next visit to the grocery store.
Thanks to the low-fat craze, most store-bought salad dressing has little healthy fat, replaced by high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which has been shown to be the chemical most responsible for the obesity epidemic.
In the U.S, HFCS is used as a cheap sweetener, but since it’s artificially made it’s absorbed differently than traditional sugar, and can cause severe weight gain (2).
Alternatives: Balsamic Vinegar and Olive oil with a little salt and pepper.
Juice is the largest culprit when it comes to weight gain, simply because most people mistakenly believe it’s healthy.
While fruit on it’s own can be good for you, juice:
- Strips away fiber and most of the phytonutrients that give fruit it’s value.
- Condenses fruit calories into pure sugar
- Is absorbed a lot faster than whole foods, creating a spike in blood sugar which causes weight gain.
Alternatives: Whole fruit. Or if you’re looking for a flavored beverage, herbal tea is a great option.
The vast majority of protein bars are candy bars with a little bit of protein added. They typically contain a lot of sugar and preservatives which can cause more weight gain than traditional junk food.
Most protein bars also use soy protein isolate since it’s the cheapest form of artificial protein.
Consumption of processed soy can cause lower testosterone and fertility levels in men (which causes weight gain), and lead to gastrointestinal issues which hinder the body’s ability to absorb nutrients (3).
Alternatives: Find a good whey, casein, egg, or vegan protein powder (other than soy), and use a shaker to mix it with water.
Canola and Other Vegetable Oils
Unfortunately vegetable oils are one of the most misunderstood and overly recommended “health” foods in the U.S. Vegetable oils have a high concentration of Omega-6 fatty acids, and when your Omega-6 ratio is a lot higher than your omega-3 ratio, you .
Regular margarine consumption, (which is made of vegetable oil) over a 10 year period causes a 77% increase in the chance of heart attack (4).
So while vegetable oils can pack on pounds because of there fat content, the effects on heart health are more concerning.
Alternatives: Olive oil, coconut oil.
Skim and Low-fat milk are another contentious group of “health” foods because, much like juice, they’ve been marketed as healthy alternatives to the real thing.
The mechanism responsible for this is insulin. By removing fat from milk, the sugar in the milk gets concentrated. Consuming sugary liquid leads to a huge spike in blood sugar, which tells your body to release insulin, and store those calories as fat. Drinking whole-fat milk blunts this spike in insulin, reducing the amount of fat your body stores.
Alternatives: Whole fat milk.
Unfortunately most food that’s labelled “Whole Grain” or “Multi-Grain” is no better for you then there refined-grain counterparts.
While whole grains contain more fiber and phytonutrients than refined grains, most companies exaggerate the amount of whole grains in their products (7).
The best way around this is by reading food labels.
Look at the list of ingredients, which are listed in order of quantity, and if white flour is one of the first mentioned, you’re getting played.
Alternative: Sprouted wheat bread (8)
While drinks like Gatorade and Powerade may aid in recovery for elite athletes, studies show that for the non-elite athletes, sports drinks are replacing soda as a major cause of weight gain (9).
Again, these are just sugary liquids and electrolytes which, unless you’re running a marathon, are completely unnecessary.
Alternatives: Electrolyte water, plain water.
Being oblivious to the contents of your food is no excuse for being out of shape. Unfortunately, no one’s going to care about your well-being as much as you, (maybe your mom, but unless she’s a nutritionist it doesn’t matter.) So it’s up to you to stay educated and aware of what’s in the food you eat.