Ranking Lists are trending – 10 Best Xs, 10 Worst Ys. This list is a compilation of worsts in several categories.
The Worst Food
If you read my articles regularly, you’re probably expecting me to list sugar here. And let’s face it, that would be a solid and logical choice.
But the consensus seems to go in the direction of processed meats – hot dogs, salami, bologna, even turkey.
Processed meats contain chemical preservatives, including nitrates and other preservatives used for smoking and curing. These preservatives increase colon cancer risk and more.
Processed meats contain few nutrients and very little fiber, but are high in sodium, fat, and cholesterol. They may also contain a food dye called Orange B that’s bad for the liver and the bile duct.
Innocent-seeming turkey contains arsenic, which is toxic and carcinogenic.
Avoid processed meats whenever possible.
The Worst Trend
This would have to be the fat-free trend. The trend grew out of the low-fat direction that folks were scared into by the sugar industry’s lies.
The fat-free trend had several consequences:
1. the consumption of much more sugar (great for the sugar industry’s profits)
2. the addition of sugar to low- and nonfat foods (great for the sugar industry’s profits)
3. a reduction in satiety (fats trigger satiety hormones, sugar does not; Big Sugar didn’t care)
4. the ongoing obesity epidemic in the U.S. (Big Sugar didn’t care; they were making big profits)
I still run into clients who are afraid to eat fats, so the trend persists. Instead, eat some fats and avoid sugar. (You knew I’d say that sooner or later, right?)
The Worst Lie
Yes, the sugar industry’s lies about fats could definitely qualify for this category. But I’m going back quite a bit further in food history – to the margarine lie.
Margarine was designed to replace butter, which contains saturated fat. But sat fats are definitely not as bad as we were told. And butter contains a healthful fat called lauric acid – which also happens to be a key healthful fat in coconut oil.
Margarine contains worse fats than butter – trans fats – which increase serum cholesterol and can cause blood vessel damage. Margarine also contains potassium sorbate (a carcinogen), soy oil (lots of bad info about it), and artificial colors.
My favorite margarine story is about the informal experiment done at a school. They unwrapped a stick of margarine and left it outside on the window ledge for the entire school year.
And? Nothing happened to it! Bugs didn’t eat it, birds didn’t eat it, mice didn’t eat it, mold didn’t grow on it. No life form would touch it.
So this was promoted as food… Some people still use it, but it’s better to stay away.
The Worst Mistake
Several mistakes were in the running for this category, but my final decision was the “a calorie is a calorie” mistake.
Different foods trigger different hormonal reactions. Insulin is only one hormone in this mistake, and its fat-storage effect is only one reason that the low- and nonfat craze led to the obesity epidemic.
Consider that supposedly evil fats yield 9 calories per gram while carbs yield only 4 per gram. The obesity epidemic that started during the low-fat craze would make no sense – unless you factor in the hormonal effects of foods.
Fats have value in terms of both health and satiety. Satiety is the feeling that we’ve had enough food and don’t need to resume eating for a while.
Protein consumption also fell during the low-fat craze. People wanted to avoid the fats that protein foods typically contain.
Yet proteins have a higher thermogenic effect than other foods, so digesting them burns extra calories.
Protein also has the highest satiety effect of any foods.
Thinking – eating – only in terms of calories is a big mistake. Choose healthful foods instead, including fats and proteins. Not all calories are equal.
The Worst Habit
The worst nutrition habit is probably avoiding carbs after exercise – when the body may actually need them most.
Carbs (especially starches, not sugars or fruit) replace glycogen most effectively. Glycogen is what we need to replace so we can continue training effectively. This is true for recreational fitness enthusiasts, not just elite athletes.
Avoiding carbs, especially in the key 30 minutes after a workout, will make the muscles temporarily insulin resistant. That can make it harder to replace glycogen, even if you eat perfectly the rest of the day.
To oversimplify, the idea is to eat so you can train well tomorrow. Carbs plus protein in a 3-to-1 ratio right after training will help you do that. Skipping carbs will not.
Difficulties with glycogen replacement become even more exaggerated if you also avoid carbs before exercise. If you work out regularly – especially if you work hard – you need carbs, both before and after your workout.
So there we have 5 Nutrition ‘Worsts’. The best plan would be to avoid these foods, habits, and behaviors.