Dr. Mike Roussell

Rice Cakes. They may have been touted as the ultimate diet food during the low-fat/no-fat craze of the late 1980s and 1990s, but don’t be fooled. Rice cakes have a glycemic index rating as high as 91 (out of 100), making it the kind of carbohydrate that will send your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride.

Fat-Free Salad Dressing. Fat-free salad dressings are a perfect example of good food gone bad. Salad dressing is the perfect combination of vinegar (which helps control blood sugar) and plant oils (full of essential fatty acids and sometimes antioxidants). However, an irrational fear of dietary fats has forced food companies to mess around with the perfect blend.

Seitan. Seitan, originally from Asia, is a common meat substitute for vegetarian dishes. Unlike many meat substitutes, seitan is not soy derived, but made entirely of wheat gluten. While there is no research linking seitan intake to increased prevalence of gluten allergies or intolerances, eating a lot of this allergenic protein may trigger development of a more severe gluten allergy or intolerance.

Shark. The risk/benefit ratio of eating fish (benefits of omega-3 fats vs. risk of mercury) typically falls in favor of the omega-3 fats and their incredible health effects. Shark is one of the exceptions. Despite having an omega-3 fat content similar to tuna, shark contains almost three times the amount of mercury.

Refined and Re-Fortified Grains. Refined and re-fortified grains are grain-based foods like certain breakfast cereals, pastas and rice products that have been refined so that the naturally occurring fiber, vitamins, and minerals have been removed. Companies then replace the fiber and synthetic versions of the vitamins and minerals that were initially removed. Sometimes they put everything back in naturally occurring ratios so that they can still claim the food contains ‘whole grains’.

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages. If you stop consuming only one thing on this list, it should be sugar-sweetened beverages. The empty calories help pad your waistline without offering any sense of satiety or fullness. Plus, simple sugars do an excellent job of lowering your good cholesterol and increasing your triglyceride levels.

Grits. Another hyper-refined carbohydrate, grits are the small leftover pieces from corn processing. Nutritionally speaking, grits lack significant amounts of vitamins or minerals. Their flavor is lacking and thus butter or heavy cream is used to make them palatable. (DISCLAIMER—obviously none of the Nutritionists contributing to this article are from the South, nor are their mothers from the South.)
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