Celebrity dietitian and founder of F-Factor Tanya Zuckerbrot knows a thing or two about wellness, diet, and weight loss. In fact, she has built a whole empire helping high-powered New Yorkers (who shell out $10,000-plus) shed unwanted pounds while laying a foundation for them to live longer, healthier lives. At this point, we all know that you can’t work out on a bad diet, so we asked Zuckerbrot to single out the 11 foods she thinks we should all nix from our diets in the coming year. Here’s what she had to say.
It was good knowing you Doughnut Plant…
1. Processed meats
By this time you’ve probably heard about the WHO article that classified the consumption of processed meat as carcinogenic. The flavoring and preservation methods used for meats involve a wide variety of treatments such as adding sodium nitrates, smoke, sugar and salt. The processing of meat, like salami and bologna, can promote the formation of cancer-causing chemicals, N-nitroso-compounds. Stick with organic, grass-fed meat instead.
2. Vegetable oil
If it’s labeled “vegetable,” consider it highly processed. Vegetable oil, which may include any combination of soybean, sunflower, cottonseed, safflower or canola oil, uses refined pressing and heating techniques, industrial chemicals and toxic solvents to extract oil from the seeds of plants. “Vegetable oil” is not technically from vegetables and should not be confused with healthy plant oils like those derived from olives or coconuts. Vegetable oil contains very high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which, unlike omega-3s, tend to produce pro-inflammatory compounds in the body. A high intake of Omega-6 has been correlated with cancer and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, many types of vegetable oil have been found to contain trans-fats as well. So in 2016, say “sayonara” to vegetable oil.
3. White bread
Bread made from minimally processed whole-grains have high amounts of magnesium, zinc, folic acid, chromium, Vitamins B6 and E, and essential fatty acids, among other nutrients. A wheat grain is composed of three nutrient-rich parts; the bran (outer layer), the endosperm (middle starchy layer), and the germ (innermost layer). White bread only uses the endosperm, resulting in a loss of 30 nutrients and most notably its indispensable fiber content. All that remains in white bread is a sugary shadow of true wheat, one that raises your blood glucose higher than most candy bars.
Anything fried could stand to be avoided. With the current ‘artisan’ doughnut craze happening, it’s worth reminding everyone that all doughnuts are still deep-fried rings of rapidly-digestible carbohydrates and fats with melted sugar slathered on top. Don’t be fooled by that new “Matcha Green Tea Donut.” Regardless of any “superfood” added to the baking process, when eaten in this context, you can wave goodbye to any and all of its health benefits. Plus, despite laws passed in New York State, many doughnuts still contain hidden trans-fats in them. Doughnut = donut = cut it in 2016.
5. Pancake syrup
Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sodium benzoate, artificial flavors, sodium hexametaphosphate – yum, right? These are but a few of the typical ingredients found in the average “pancake” syrup. Pancake syrup may be labeled “maple flavored,” but the two syrups are completely different products. Real maple syrup contains zinc, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron and a respectable amount of antioxidants, while “pancake” syrup is completely devoid of all nutrition. Unless you want to give depression, diabetes, and obesity a leg up in the races, steer entirely clear from this industrial sugar goop.
Current seafood consumption recommendations from the EPA and FDA advise women of child-bearing age, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, young children and elders to stay away from swordfish due to its high levels of methyl mercury. Since mercury provides no physiological benefit, and no “safe” level of exposure is known, it’s safe to say that everyone would stand to benefit from cutting this fish from their diet.
7. Instant noodle soups
Instant noodle soups are usually sold as a solid precooked block of dried noodles with a packet of seasoning powder or oil for flavoring. Made to withstand a significantly long shelf-life, they are a highly processed, refined, bleached and calorie-laden option that’s scant in nutrients and loaded with fat and sodium. To bolster flavor, most brands use monosodium glutamate (MSG) and tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), a preservative derived from petroleum manufacturing. With nothing redeemable about instant noodle soups, cut them out of your diet in 2016.
8. White chocolate
While dark chocolate made from cocoa or even better, cacao, is shown repeatedly to have a wide variety of health benefits, white chocolate has very little to do with actual chocolate. White chocolate is merely the result of blending together cocoa butter, a chocolate by-product, milk fat, milk solids and a liberally set maximum of 55% sugar. If you’re going to eat chocolate, eat the real stuff with a minimal amount of dairy and sugar. Better yet, make it a point to try cacao this year.
9. Charbroiled foods
The high-temperature cooking of foods over a flame (e.g., pan-frying, grilling, barbecuing) can produce carcinogenic chemicals. Habitual intake of high-temperature cooked foods, primarily grilled, fried and baked foods, promotes risk factors for type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. When high heat is applied to food, the novel taste compounds and characteristic browning that occurs are due to reactions that take place between a carbohydrate and an amino acid, with end-products of increased variety forming at increased rates as the temperature goes up. Those grill-marks specifically though, more than any other common cooking technique, produce dangerous compounds called acrylamides that you’d be wise to avoid.
10. Brown colas
Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are known to be hazardous to your health. Brown soda is even more detrimental than clear colored soda, thanks to its high amount of phosphorous. When brown-colored cola is consumed, its high phosphoric acid content activates hormonal mechanisms that wreak havoc on your body’s phosphorous-calcium balance. A litany of adverse effects can result, including kidney damage, bone density loss, obesity, and cancer.
11. Sweetened, flavored yogurt
We know yogurt contains healthy gut-microbes that aid in digestion, but sweetened or flavored yogurts can pack a lot more than just probiotics. Companies often use insect-based dyes from beetle wings to create a “strawberry” color and the urine from beavers for “natural flavoring” in addition to the excess sugar. Even innocent-sounding vanilla yogurt can pack nearly 30 grams of sugar per 6 oz. serving. That’s more sugar than ice cream! People often eat yogurt thinking they have made a healthy choice. Stick with plain Greek yogurt if you want to give yourself a pat on the back in 2016.