It’s not rocket science that ditching your favorite double-decker burger and curly fries will help you shed extra pounds.
Furthermore, in today’s digital age with all the information at our fingertips, we have become self-proclaimed health and nutrition experts.
However, something is just not right. We go to the gym diligently and eat all the right foods, but still find our jeans clinching at our waist even after a month into this fitness regime.
Try as we may, we are unable to identify the glitch in our health routine, and this can often be highly demotivating.
It’s time to stop and consider that the so-called “diet foods” we eat every day as we strive for better health might just be the culprit.
Many diet foods pack in a ton of fats and hidden calories, and are responsible for sugar cravings, energy depletion and long-term weight gain.
Here are 10 diet foods that are making you fat instead of thin.
1. Breakfast Cereal Made From Refined Grains
Refined-grain cereals are among the richest sources of added sugars. They also contain refined carbohydrates that break down into sugar in our blood. This causes an overflow of sugar in our bloodstream.
Our body utilizes as much sugar as it needs to convert into energy, and stores the rest as fat on our thighs, hips and waistline. Furthermore, when our blood sugar crashes, we feel hungry and fatigued again, so we eat more food.
A 2003 study conducted on female American nurses reports that whole-grain foods promote weight loss whereas refined-grain foods promote weight gain. This study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
It’s important to distinguish whole-grain from refined-grain cereal, as the former aids weight loss by regulating digestion and keeping us feeling full longer.
Whole-grain cereals are also low in sugar and saturated fats, and a good source of cholesterol-reducing antioxidants.
2. Diet Soda
How often do we go out to a salad bar and order a diet coke, too? We think we are getting the taste of soda without its sugar and calories.
However, studies have shown that substituting sugar-laden regular sodas with artificially sweetened diet sodas does not really aid in weight loss.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society notes that people who drank diet soda gained about triple the abdominal fat over nine years compared to those who did not.
Since artificial sweeteners are not digested the way regular sugar is, they get stuck in our gut instead and change the behavior of the gut’s bacteria. This induces glucose intolerance, which leads to a spike in blood sugar.
Plus, instead of satisfying or curbing your sugar craving, artificial sweeteners have been found to actually increase it.
3. Gluten-Free Food
Gluten-free has become popular as a weight-loss diet. According to a 2013 report by the NPD, one-third of the American population is trying to reduce dietary gluten.
However, only people with celiac disease need gluten-free food. It causes weight gain in others.
The fibers and proteins in gluten provide long-term energy and keep us satiated longer, thereby preventing unnecessary snacking.
Whole grains like quinoa, rye and barley contain a healthy mix of carbohydrates that regulate blood sugar. This inhibits excess sugar from converting to body fat.
Gluten-free foods, on the other hand, may contain added sugar to enhance the taste that causes blood sugar spikes, leading to excess fat. It also contains less fiber, leaving us hungry soon after we’re done eating and we end up eating more.
4. Commercial Fat-free Salad Dressing
Packed with vitamins, nutrients, minerals, fibers and antioxidants, green salads are incredibly healthy. However, in order to add zing to its taste, many of us top it with pre-packaged fat-free dressings.
Since this dressing is devoid of fat, other substances are added to balance its thickness and enhance its taste. One of the most harmful ingredients in fat-free salad dressing is fructose sugar, which is immediately stored as fat in our bodies.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation notes that volunteers consuming high-fructose diets developed fat around their abdominal area.
Participants also showed increased visceral adiposity and lipids and decreased insulin sensitivity in overweight people.
Furthermore, a certain amount of dietary fat is required to absorb weight loss-promoting nutrients from vegetables, as substantiated by a 2004 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
It found that subjects consuming fat-free salad dressing showed zero absorption of cartenoids like lycopene, an antioxidant found in various weight-loss supplements.
5. Agave Nectar
Agave nectar has recently garnered popularity as a healthy sugar substitute to promote weight loss. It was believed that because agave nectar had a lower glycemic index, it would stop the cycle of blood sugar spikes that contribute to added body fat and thus promote weight loss.
However, it contains high levels of fructose that directly relate to weight gain. According to a 2002 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, long-term consumption of fructose leads to weight gain and obesity.
Furthermore, the liver metabolizes fructose. When the liver encounters fructose, it starts producing fat through a process called lipogenesis.
Raw honey is a healthy sweetener for dieters than agave nectar and contains less fructose.
6. Low-Fat Yogurt Containing Sugar or Flavorings
When we’re trying to follow a low-fat diet for weight loss, many of us opt for low-fat yogurt to save on calories. But, some types of low-fat yogurt can make us gain more weight.
When yogurt is processed to extract fat, it ends up losing its taste. Thus, in some products, excess sugar is added to make low-fat yogurt more appealing.
When there is a sugar spike in our bloodstream, some of it converts into energy while the rest is stored as fat. So, low-fat yogurt in our diet routine may actually lead to weight gain overtime.