The truth about nutrition is always in flux. One day coffee is a carcinogen, the next it’s a potent antioxidant. Carbs used to be the devil, now (the right kinds) are the staple of a well-balanced diet.
What’s healthy seems to change regularly, and 2016 was no exception, which is why we’re looking back at the biggest nutrition discoveries of the year.
5. In Plain Sight
What you see is what you eat, according to recent research from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. The 2016 study found that people who kept packaged foods and sugary drinks on their kitchen counters weighed up to 26 pounds more than those who didn’t. What’s more, those who had a bowl of fruit out were shown to weigh almost 13 pounds fewer than those who didn’t. Expert tip: Keep health-boosting bites within reach and stash splurges far out of sight if you’re trying to stick to a slim-down plan.
4. The Honey Ploy
We learned the not-so-sweet truth about honey this year, and we weren’t thrilled about it. The sticky stuff has long been thought of as an all-natural, antioxidant-rich alternative to traditional sugar, but research published in The Journal of Nutrition showed otherwise. In fact, the study suggested that honey sparks the same responses as both white cane sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, raising peoples’ blood sugar, insulin, weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure post-consumption. The bottom line: All sugar is sugar, so practice moderation no matter what form of the sweet substance you’re snacking on.
3. Supplement Danger
Just because something’s sold in a health food store doesn’t mean it’s good for you. An article published in Consumer Reports this summer found that tons of dietary supplements are contaminated with dangerous bacteria and ingredients that may cause scary health outcomes from vomiting and nausea to liver damage and heart problems. Though the report highlighted 15 concerning ingredients that are commonly found in the pills (including seemingly benign substances, like green tea extract powder), it’s best to keep your guard up around all dietary supplements, since they tend to be mislabeled and unregulated.
2. Butter; Back to Bad
It’s confirmed: saturated fat really is bad.
Butter lovers went bananas when science (momentarily) said saturated fats are healthier than they’ve been made out to be. Update: They aren’t. A second study confirmed that we were right all along—and saturated fats are definitely not a superfood. The research, published in The British Medical Journal, found that a reduced intake of saturated fats can lower one’s risk of coronary heart disease, while swapping in unsaturated fats (from good-for-you sources like vegetable-based oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and seafood) works to boost heart health. Luckily, topping your toast with avocado instead of butter isn’t the worst sacrifice.
1. Plant Power
Research from the Massachusetts General Hospital showed that those who consumed a large quantity of animal protein—especially if they ate more processed red meat than fish or poultry—had a higher risk of premature death than the average person. If that isn’t enough to convince you to pick salmon over sausage, get this: Individuals who ate more plant-based proteins (from foods like bread, cereals, pastas, beans, nuts, and legumes) had a lower risk of premature death than the average person. To be fair, the link between meat-eating and early death was bolstered by other unhealthy habits, like heavy drinking or inadequate physical activity (when carnivores lacked these lifestyle factors, the diet-death link disappeared). Still, a diet high in processed meats isn’t advised for anyone. Ditch the bacon and load up on beans instead.