Eating a healthy diet is, as most of us know, a cornerstone to not only losing weight, but maintaining our overall health.
However, as food labels become more obscure, and we’re being hit with different diet recommendations 24/7, we wanted to provide a solid, research-backed list of foods to definitely avoid if you want to lose fat, no matter what.
This list will help take the mystery out of what you should reach for vs. what you shouldn’t, so tuck it in your notes with you during your next haul.
Top Foods to Cut to Lose Weight
Right off the bat you’ll probably notice a theme here: most of the foods that are notorious for helping you gain fat are processed and contain added sugars. The reason for this is linked to the fact that these type of foods don’t occur naturally in nature, and therefore cause our bodies to react in unpredictable and, frankly, non-beneficial ways.
One of the main side effects of heavily processed foods is the blood sugar spike that results from the simple starches and sugars. When we consume whole foods in their natural state, we also consume their fibers and enzymes, which help slow their release of energy, or sugar, into our bloodstream.
Processed foods have been stripped of fiber and enzymes, which allows their simple sugars to hit our bloodstream at full throttle. To understand why this is so bad for weight loss (and health in general), it helps to know how the entire process works.
When we consume sugar in the form of glucose (which includes carbohydrate foods, not just “sugar” in the form of candy or, say, ice cream) the sugars enter our bloodstream. Insulin is then released to help usher these sugars into our cells to be used for energy, which also keeps our blood sugar levels stable.
While this entire process is normal and happens whenever we consume any carbohydrate or sugar (and even protein at times), here’s the kicker to keep in mind: any excess sugar leftover in our bloodstream after our cells are “full” is stored as – you guessed it – fat.
The problem with processed foods is that the blood sugar spike is often astronomically more than the blood sugar spike from natural foods … flooding our bloodstream with more sugar than we can use for energy at any given time. As such, the rest is rapidly stored as fat. When we consume natural, sugar-free foods, there is less chance of this happening, which is one of the main reasons for the success of low-carb diets like keto.
However, there are other reasons you’ll want to avoid the following foods as well, which includes issues like their ability to disrupt your hormone balance, ultimately priming your body for weight gain.
1. Fruit Juices and Dried/Canned Fruit
While grabbing a fruit juice may seem like a reasonable choice when compared to, say, a soda or candy bar, the truth is they are often not much better.
Most fruit juices are loaded with pure sugar and lacking fiber and other important nutrients that help stop blood sugar spikes. Not to mention, many, like orange juice, contain chemical preservatives and colorings to help preserve their shelf life and appearance.
2. Pastries, Cakes, and Breads
While it’s common knowledge that cakes, processed breads, and pastries aren’t exactly the best for your health and waist, the startling figures make their impact on your body much clearer: one study involving 9,267 participants found that eating two slices of white bread per day was linked to a 40% greater risk of weight gain and obesity. [*]
Now, keep in mind that is plain white bread with no added sugars or flavorings – combine the same flour used to make standard bread with icings and pure sugar and you can imagine the result.
Pastas (especially white, non-organic varieties) can have the same effects as breads and pastries. They are made with flour, which is usually stripped of all fibers, sending the carbs (sugars) in a direct rush to your bloodstream.
4. Candy and Candy Bars
This may be a no-brainer, but most all candies and candy bars are definitely on the avoid list. They are typically not only loaded with sugar in the form of genetically modified (GMO) corn syrup and wheat flour, but also toxic chemical preservatives.
5. Fast Food
Now to be clear, we’re talking about your typical fast food: the greasy, fried, and sugar-laden kind. We know there are some new, fresh-er “fast food” places that are starting to serve up healthier meals, but let’s just focus on the kind we’re all aware is “bad.”
Foods like cheeseburgers and fried chicken are not only coated in blood-sugar-spiking flours and hormone-disrupting dairy, but are also doused in oxidated, inflammatory cooking oils that can damage your DNA. Not to mention, the meat used is also typically extremely low quality, and laden with additional growth hormones that can disrupt your endocrine system.
6. Dairy (ice cream, milk, yogurt)
Dairy is something you want to avoid not only for its sugar content (especially in ice creams and yogurts) but also due to its added hormones. These hormones, including rBGH, have been proven to disrupt our normal hormonal processes, which can lead to weight gain. Not to mention, they have also been linked to hormonal acne and even asthma. [*][*]
One study on children even found that those who drank more than 3 servings a day of milk gained more in BMI than those who drank smaller amounts. [*]
Foods That Can Increase Fat Loss
While the above foods can certainly cause weight gain, there is a whole spectrum of foods that not only don’t cause weight gain, but actually encourage fat loss. These are mostly fresh, whole foods in their natural state, and include:
- Wild fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel
- • Organic meats like turkey and chicken
- • Avocados
- • Low-sugar berries
- • Nuts and seeds
- • Squashes like butternut and zucchini
- • Eggs
- • Non-dairy yogurts (unsweetened)
- • Green veggies and leafy greens like spinach and kale
- • Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut
- • Small amounts of pseudo-grains like quinoa
- • Small amounts of soaked and/or sprouted beans
- • Unsweetened nut milks like almond and coconut
Now, I know it may seem like this list is basically an instruction of how to remove “fun” foods from your diet, but the truth is that there can be exceptions to these rules … just healthy exceptions.
For instance: we now know that breads made with almond flour exist. As long as you stick to consuming this version of “bread” once in a while, there is no reason to avoid doing so. In addition, non-dairy ice creams made with coconut milk now exist, along with low-sugar dark chocolate, and even low-carb treats like almond butter cups.
The key with these is to, yes, enjoy them, but keep them as a once-a-week treat. By choosing the healthier version as well, it’s highly likely you won’t derail any of your progress.
Have you made the leap to remove these foods from your diet? How do you feel? We’d love to hear below!