Ah, summertime and the living is easy. How come you’re so stressed?
Perhaps it’s because you’ve told yourself you must shed X of pounds before making your beach debut (or high school reunion, wedding, etc.)
But here’s the thing: your physical and mental health could suffer from an unrealistic super restrictive diet.
Many dieters substitute favorite foods with foods deemed “healthier.” You’ve likely seen the labels touting low-fat, low-carb, and even gluten-free.
Buyer beware, many of these products' supposed health benefits are either inflated or unfounded compliments of savvy marketers.
These foods benefit from what many now call the ‘health halo’ effect. What you may not realize is that the lion’s share of these foods aren’t actually all that healthy.
Even more concerning, these sneaky foods may be especially detrimental to your gut.
Here we will de-mystify some additives found in many ‘health halo’ foods. Don’t get us wrong, not all food additives are harmful, even if they have long chemical-sounding names.
However, there are a few additives that you should keep your eye out for and avoid when you can.
1. Polysorbate 80
Never heard of it? Well, chances are you’ve consumed this common food emulsifier. You’ll spot polysorbate 80 on the label of coconut milk, bottled sauces, dressings, and other processed diet food faves. It helps gives these products a creamy, homogeneous consistency.
So, what’s so bad about this emulsifier? According to a 2017 study , this additive decreases beneficial bacteria in your gut. And on top of that, pathogenic (harmful) bacteria feed on polysorbate 80, triggering increased gut inflammation and risk of weight gain.
Researchers note that this emulsifier gradually damages gut bacteria so that consumption won’t cause too much harm once in a while. Still, it’s best not to consume regularly.
2. Xanthan Gum
If you’re a label reader, this one may be more familiar as it’s been around for decades. It’s widely used in everyday baked goods, “diet” ice cream, non-dairy replacements, and “low-fat” processed foods. (Fun fact, it’s also used in wallpaper glue!)
Xanthan gum is found in many common health halo, gluten-free foods as a substitute for gluten. It’s even sold as a separate dietary supplement for keto/low-carb diets.
But now, a growing body of research suggests that this additive affects the beneficial bacteria in our intestines. In human studies, large doses of xanthan gum were found to cause increased gas, loose stools, and altered gut bacteria.
Again, these studies are based on long-term, high consumption of this additive.
3. Sucralose (Splenda)
This artificial sweetener was once demonized for its link to cancer. But it probably doesn’t cause cancer unless you guzzle 70+ cans of diet soda daily. However, you might want to lay off sugar-free products, pre-workout drinks and protein powders that list this as an ingredient.
Researchers found that rats that ate normal amounts of sucralose exhibited a nearly 50% decrease in beneficial gut bacteria and showed high liver enzymes, which can interfere with nutrient absorption.
4. Aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal)
Like sucralose, aspartame is found in a host of health halo products. Recent research reveals that aspartame may influence your health by tweaking the balance of bacteria in your gut.
And here’s another research tidbit. Research shows a link between artificial sweetener consumption and increased risk of obesity , as well as other issues such as stroke, dementia, and type 2 diabetes.
Our take-home message on artificial sweeteners is to switch to natural sweeteners such as Stevia or monk fruit. If you’re concerned about sugar intake, focus on your whole diet.
Choose nutritious, naturally sweet options, like fruit, when you’re jonesing something sweet. And consider having that cookie from time to time, rather than fixating on it, which can lead to heightened cravings. The key to health is balance, after all.
5. Crash Dieting and Your Gut
Fad or crash diets all have one thing in common: they offer a temporary solution to a lifelong problem for many folks.
You see, they are often so restrictive that they force your body into survival mode, and then when the diet has stopped, the weight returns. Many then spiral into harmful yo-yo dieting cycles.
Most restrictive diets have one thing in common: they are a temporary solution to a lifelong problem that many people struggle with.
Their restriction of calories and/or food groups can do short and long-term damage to your body and metabolism. And to top it off, they don’t lead to long-term weight loss, as pounds pile back on once the diet ends.
Plus, your gut may rebel against dieting. While the definition of a “healthy gut microbiota” is still being debated, studies have shown that specific diets can negatively influence gut microbiota. Dietary changes may also lead to an imbalance in its diversity.
Instead, we suggest embracing a healthy meal plan that is focused on fueling your body with whole, unprocessed foods, in moderate proportions, with plenty of room for the occasional treat.
If you’re looking for additional digestive health support, Zenwise offers a wide range of solutions.
Have questions? Our customer service team can help at firstname.lastname@example.org or M-F from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at (800) 940-1972.
And one more thing…
Life is too short to avoid the beach (or anything else!) because you don’t look like a supermodel!