Put down those potato chips and pick up some pistachios! New research reveals the most common foods that cause weight gain, and the healthier choices that actually help you lose weight.
The average adult gains one pound per year, and this steady weight creep may be directly related to what (and not just how much) you eat, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers analyzed data collected over 20 years from more than 120,000 U.S. men and women who were not obese and were free of chronic diseases, and identified a number of specific foods linked to weight gain — or weight loss. Eating just one additional daily serving of French fries led to a 3.35-pound weight gain over a four-year period, the study found, while adding yogurt to your diet was linked to a 0.82-pound loss over the same time-frame.
The findings further fuel the theory that little diet tweaks can have a big impact on your weight — the average participant gained 16 pounds during the course of the study — and overall health. “This suggests that the path to eating fewer calories is not simply to count calories, but to focus on consuming a more healthy diet in general,” the study’s lead author, Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, told The Wall Street Journal.
Also important: Rounding out a healthy diet with smart lifestyle choices. The study found that weight gain also occurred among those who slept less than 6 or more than 8 hours, who watched the most TV, and who drank the most alcohol.
So are your daily favorite foods padding or slimming your waistline? Click through to find out how much weight they caused people to gain or lose over a four-year period.
Participants lost 0.49 pounds over a four-year period by adding fruit to their daily diet. The new USDA MyPlate recommends eating fruits and veggies at every meal.
Food Fact: 1 cup of berries = 83 calories
Food Fact: 1 cup of red or bell peppers = 46 calories
Nuts may be high in fat, but it’s the slimming monounsaturated kind that experts say we need to eat more. And not surprisingly, they were among the foods that helped prevent weight gain. Participants who ate these nutrient- and fiber-rich treats lost 0.57 pounds.
Food Fact: ½ cup of almonds = 265 calories
Among the worst offenders in the study were potato chips. People who ate them gained an average of 1.69 pounds.
Food Fact: 1 oz. flat-cut potato chips = 150 calories
We all know that French fries can make us fat — they led to a 3.35-pound gain — but it’s not only the fried variety. Whether boiled, baked, or mashed, all kinds of spuds spurred weight gain in the study.
Food Fact: Medium baked potato = 161 calories
Researchers have long touted the benefits of whole grains: They’re great for digestion, cholesterol — and weight loss, too. Participants who ate them lost 0.37 pounds.
Food Fact: 2 slices of whole-grain bread = 180 calories
Refined grains (white rice, white bread, white pasta, and all-purpose flour) lack fiber and key nutrients — and they also triggered a 0.39-pound weight gain.
Food Fact: ¼ cup white rice = 145 calories
Soda continues to be linked to rising rates of obesity, and this study further strengthens the connection. Participants who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages gained one pound.
Food Fact: 8 oz cola = 91 calories
100 Percent Fruit Juice
The research showed that drinking 100 percent fruit juice is simply not as good for your weight as eating whole fruits. It led to a 0.31-pound gain.
Food Fact: 8 oz orange juice = 112 calories
Close to 60 percent of Americans drink diet soda regularly — and many of them believe it can help with weight loss. Good news from this research: Diet soda fans lost 0.11 pounds.
Food Fact: 8 oz diet soda = 1 calories; 28 mg sodium
Sweets or Desserts
Sweet treats are among a dieter’s worst enemies. Yet according to this study, they’re not as bad for you as, say, a baked potato! Still, participants with a sweet tooth saw a 0.41-pound weight increase.
Food Fact: Hostess chocolate cupcake = 180 calories
Processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, and deli meat can increase your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. In this study, they led to a 0.93-pound weight gain.
Food Fact: 1 slice processed turkey = 35 calories
Whole-Fat Dairy Foods
Got milk? You’re better off sticking with skim or low-fat dairy. Participants who ate whole-fat dairy (butter, cheese, and whole-fat milk) gained 0.10 pounds.
Food Fact: 8 fluid ounces of regular milk = 149 calories; the same amount of skim milk has 83 calories
Low-Fat Dairy Foods
Yogurt may be the ultimate slimming food. Those who ate it regularly lost an average of 0.82 pounds.
Food Fact: 5 oz. plain Greek yogurt = 80 calories
Adding more veggies, with their high fiber and water content, can help you fill up and slim down. According to this major diet study, eating vegetables every day led to a loss of 0.22 pounds.
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