Not to scare you completely, but there are certain foods out there—lurking in the shadows, luring you in—that the health world (or rather, a certain Dr. Axe) calls “metabolism death” foods. And they’re exactly what they sound like (and no, that would not be an army of miniature foods chanting “Death to metabolism!” in high-pitched voices, though that visual gives us joy). These foods wreak havoc on your body and can actually hurt your metabolism’s ability to function over time—in other words, slowing down your body’s ability to process the food and drinks you consume into energy. Some are obvious, but others, not so much. (Warning: You may want to put down that granola bar.) Keep scrolling for six foods that are hurting your metabolism!
Picking up a fruit juice at the supermarket might make you feel like you’re being healthy (especially when it has the word green on the label, or superfood), but the truth is that these juices are usually full of added sugars and flavorings—just check the label. Some have a whopping 46 grams of sugar, while most fall around the 20-gram range—either way, way too much fructose for your body to take in one sitting. Fructose is metabolized primarily by the liver, and many studies have found links between excess fructose consumption and cholesterol levels, as well as weight gain and even cardiovascular disease. Yikes.
Speaking of fructose, now we have to bring another drink out of the dark: diet soda. Yes, no longer the favored child, but you might still be tempted to reach for it as the “lesser evil.” In short, don’t. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame trigger insulin, which basically tells your body to go into fat storage mode—aka weight-gain central. Sure, the calories are fewer, but researchers at University of Texas found that diet-soda drinkers had a 70% greater increase in weight circumference compared to non-drinkers.
Repeat after us: Carbs are not the enemy. However, simple ones—which are found in foods like white flour, pasta, and rice—are broken down more quickly in your body and tend to get the bad rap. Why? Because they cause your blood sugar to spike way, way up. Instead, get your carb fix from complex carbs, like whole grains and legumes—they’re full of nutrients and have large, complex molecules that are more difficult to digest and don’t cause the rapid increase in blood sugar. And if you’re really craving carbs, always choose pasta over bread, and try to eat it at night—in one study, researchers found that a group of people who ate pasta at night experienced greater weight loss and less body fat than the control group.
Two words: trans fats. These fats are created by pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils, like soybean, safflower, corn, and cotton, and have been linked to heart disease, along with many other health issues. They can oxidize quickly, creating lots of free radicals, and can throw off the imbalance of omega fatty acids in your body. Instead, try cooking with oils that are high in omega-3 and monosaturated fats (aka “good fats”)—coconut, olive, macadamia, and avocado oil are good options. (Spectrum's Refined Coconut Oil, $10, is great for cooking.)
Your favorite high-fat comfort foods—love you, mac ’n’ cheese—are, sadly, not doing any favors for your metabolism. This information probably isn’t surprising (there’s a reason we always feel a slight tinge of guilt before diving into the cheesy goodness), but did you know just how bad? Allow us to shine some light on that. In a study done at Virginia Tech, researchers found that after just five days of eating a high-fat diet, the way in which your body processes nutrients changes—this can lead to long-term problems, like weight gain and obesity. “This research shows that those high-fat diets can change a person’s normal metabolism in a very short timeframe,” says Matt Hulver, who led the study. Scary. Maybe think twice before you go on your junk food bender? You can read more about the study here.
Sorry, granola—we see you for what you are now. Previously masquerading around as a health food, the crunch cereal alternative has now been exposed for what it is: a giant sugar bomb. Some contain more added sugar than an equal amount of sugary cereal, and even the “healthy” ones—sweetened with honey—aren’t doing your metabolism any favors; processed honey has been shown to be similar to corn syrup in terms of spiking your blood sugar. If you’re craving a crunch, try DIY’ing your own granola—here’s a good recipe.
Were you surprised by any of these foods? On a brighter note, here are seven foods scientifically proven to make you happier.