PHOTOGRAPH BY NATALIA KORSHUNOVA/SHUTTERSTOCK
Toss out that Wonder Bread. “Even though white bread and white pasta may taste better than whole wheat, that’s where the pros end for white flour foods,” says Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, CPT, and CEO of New York Nutrition Group in New York City. “White flour is processed wheat that has all of the wheat grains’ best attributes, like fiber and antioxidants, stripped away. As a result, you’re left with something that might have a better taste and texture, but is incredibly low in nutrient quality.” What’s worse, because white flour has little to no fiber, which actually slows down digestion, your body breaks it down more quickly than whole wheat goods. “The body does not have to burn any extra calories to try to break down these easy-to-digest-foods, leaving your metabolism operating at a slower level,” explains Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD, CEO of F-Factor in New York City. “Foods that are high in fiber like whole wheat bread ramp up your metabolism due to the extra work required to try and break down the indigestible fiber.”
“Conventionally farmed beef has more antibiotics than grass-fed beef,” says Zuckerbrot. “For years, we were unaware what deleterious effects the antibiotics would have on our health.” A 2013 study in the journal Frontiers in Public Health found that antibiotics in farm-raised beef can have a harmful effect on good gut bacteria. “This change in bacteria in the gut is correlated with an increase in weight gain, as it changes and negatively affects the way we process food,” explains Zuckerbrot. “Simply stated, consuming antibiotics from meat can make us gain weight. Choose grass-fed meat as often as possible.”
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? Not so fast. A study published inEnvironmental Health Perspectives found that a certain type of fungicide used on fruits and vegetables caused weight gain in mice, and researchers hypothesize that the same is true for humans. So just when you thought you were eating a healthy piece of fruit, the truth is, it could actually be impairing weight loss. “Try to limit your exposure to pesticides by buying organic versions of the Dirty Dozen, the fruits and vegetables which are most likely to soak up pesticides and bad bacteria,” advises Zuckerbrot. And be sure to wash all fruits and veggies thoroughly before consuming.
You may have heard of the outstanding benefits of omega-3 fatty acids—you know, the ones you find in chia seeds, walnuts, wild-caught salmon, and egg yolks—but those are not to be confused with omega-6 fatty acids. The latter, found in foods like butter, pork products, chicken thighs, cookies, and more, may be responsible for slowing metabolism. “The American diet used to be balanced in both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids,” says Zuckerbrot. “But today, higher processing has left our country filled with vegetable oils andhydrogenated fats, both high sources of omega-6, which are pro-inflammatory, and the consumption of these are correlated with obesity.” In fact, a studypublished in the journal Nutrients found that “A high omega-6 fatty acid intake and a high omega-6/omega-3 ratio are associated with weight gain in both animal and human studies, whereas a high omega-3 fatty acid intake decreases the risk for weight gain.” What’s more, that same study found that omega-6 fatty acids promote insulin resistance, a process in which our bodies turn too many of our consumed carbs into fat.
It’s no secret that high fructose corn syrup is an ingredient you should stay away from—consuming it can cause something called “metabolic syndrome,” essentially a group of risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. “Thissweetener, found in many processed foods and soft drinks, is as damaging as it is cheap,” explains Zuckerbrot. “And it has been argued that fructose consumed in the same quantities as other sugar has more damaging effects on the metabolism.” A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high fructose corn syrup may lead to obesity because of its negative effects on the metabolism.