We all know food can make or break your ability to lose weight.
As a holistic nutritionist, I understand why this is the case. It comes down to one very important thing:
Food affects your hormones.
I’m going to discuss, which 3 foods affect your hormones the most. These 3 foods wreak hormonal havoc on your precious metabolism and you’ll thank me if you give up these 3 foods for at least 24 hours.
That’s right, you’ll feel a difference after just 24-hours of giving these foods up from your diet.
Let’s dive right in.
#1 Food To Avoid – Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
What are PUFAs?
PUFAs—short for polyunsaturated fats are a type of fatty acid. The type of fat that is available to us via the foods we eat generally fall into two categories: unsaturated fat and saturated fat. For ages we were advised to avoid saturated fats and emphasize unsaturated fats (or avoid fat all together). Many cooking oils actually said “heart-healthy” on the bottle. The research is overwhelmingly clear that saturated fats are not only healthy, but that they are extremely beneficial for overall health. What is not often talked about is the downright damaging impact of the class of highly unsaturated fats known as PUFAs.
Why should you avoid them?
The primary issue with PUFAs is that they are highly unstable. All fats have a temperature with which they oxidize (i.e. become unstable, go rancid, become toxic). For PUFAs that temperature is very low. An easy way to remember this is that UNsaturated fats are UNstable and Saturated fats are Stable. Unstable fats are prone to oxidation. Oxidation lead to free radicals. Free radicals lead to cellular damage in your body that can manifest both internally in the form of damaged organs/glands and externally in the form of rapidly aging skin. In addition, many of these fats can become unstable before they even enter your body. During processing, many of these “seed” oils are exposed to high heat (imagine trying to extract oil from a grape seed), which can often make the oils go rancid. In addition, these oils may be exposed to high heat during travel which can also lead to a damaged and unstable product. This is one of the reasons many of these oils are shipped in dark containers and are required to be refrigerated.
The Benefits of Following low PUFA Diet:
- Blood Sugar – PUFAs can damage the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. If you want to lose body fat and achieve a high level of health, you want a very effective blood sugar handling system. PUFAs can damage this system. For those with blood sugar handling issues the primary focus is usually reduced sugar intake, however, I believe it makes more sense to reduce PUFAs from your diet.
- Skin health – PUFAs are closely linked to age pigment formation. In addition, a high level of PUFA in your body means when you are exposed to the sun, free radical damage is more likely.
- Metabolism – PUFAs can stress various systems in your body, particularly the rate at which your cells produce energy (i.e. your metabolism). This has numerous implications for thyroid health and general hormonal balance.
- Digestion / Immune System – PUFAs can impair protein digestion. Digestion problems are rampant in this day and age, eliminating PUFAs are an often overlooked and very effective way at supporting digestion. Your immune system is closely linked to your digestive system, a problem with digestion almost guarantees a poorly functioning immune system.
- Detoxification – The liver plays a major role in detoxification, PUFAs can overburden the liver. That sluggish feeling you feel after eating out? You may have just consumed PUFAs.
Where are PUFAs present?
PUFAs are present in nearly all foods (even vegetables). While some extremists would say to avoid high-PUFA vegetables I don’t believe you need to go that far. Small amounts of unprocessed PUFA in a well balanced diet are unlikely to cause any issues. The most damaging PUFAs are the processed liquid cooking oils below:
Canola oil, Grapseed Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Generic Vegetable Oil, Walnuts Oil, Cottonseed Oil, Sesame Oil, Peanut Oil, Margarine, Flaxseed Oil.
#2 Food To Avoid – Wheat
The wheat we eat today is very different biochemically than the wheat even just 50 years ago
First and foremost, Dr. Davis goes through the history of wheat in the human diet, which goes back to only about 10,000 years ago. He talks about how the type of wheat that was eaten 1000’s of years ago is biochemically not the same wheat we are eating today. And in fact, even the wheat our grandparents ate just 50 years ago is a far cry biochemically from the wheat that is used today. This is because wheat has been hybridized heavily over the years to increase crop yield and to increase certain baking characteristics or taste.
Dr. Davis states: “Small changes in wheat protein structure can spell the difference between a devastating immune response to wheat protein versus no immune response at all.”
The take-home message… today’s wheat is quite different than even just 50 years ago, as today’s wheat has different levels of anti-nutrients and gluten with overall biochemical differences.
Essentially, big agra has hybridized wheat heavily over the last 5 decades to improve things such as crop yield and baking characteristics, but never once thought about the impacts on human health of changing the biochemical structure of wheat. Although the biochemical differences may seem small, it can have a major impact on how the human digestive system processes the food.
Dr. Davis points this out with this passage… “Wheat gluten proteins, in particular, undergo considerable structural change with hybridization. In one hybridization experiment, 14 new gluten proteins were identified in the offspring that were not present in either parent wheat plant .” This means that modern wheat contains new “foreign” gluten proteins that the human digestive system has not adapted to properly digesting.
Because of all of this, Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease with complete gluten intolerance, has increased fourfold in the last 50 years . Dr Davis also believes that gluten sensitivity has increased in similar levels in the last 50 years.
The message is that even if you haven’t been diagnosed with Celiac or Gluten Sensitivity, it doesn’t mean that constant daily gluten intake isn’t causing chronic gut inflammation and some sort of possible long term digestive system damage, along with other possible autoimmune diseases. And remember that chronic gut inflammation can also possibly lead to cancer later in life.
2. Wheat has addictive properties similar to opiate drugs
Dr Davis makes a very convincing argument that wheat is addictive. Wheat contains compounds termed “exorphins” that have an effect in your brain similar to opiate drugs. This explains why people have such a hard time giving up their beloved breads, cereals, pasta, and muffins because these foods are mildly addictive.
I know personally from past experience that if I have have a pasta dinner, I’ll go back for seconds and thirds as I just can’t seem to stop eating the stuff. And then hours after dinner, I’ll get cravings for more carb-based foods or sweets. But if I pass on the pasta and just have meat, veggies, and salad, I find myself totally satisfied after dinner with no cravings later at night.
3. Wheat makes you consume more calories
Possibly due to the additive nature of wheat products, and the subsequent cravings for more carb based foods, Dr Davis cites studies in his book showing that wheat eaters eat more calories overall than people on a gluten-free diet. One study he cited showed 14% higher caloric intake in wheat eaters than those on a gluten-free food plan.
Dr Davis also notes: “It might be due to the lack of exorphins, reduction of the insulin-glucose cycle that triggers hunger, or some other factor, but elimination of wheat reduces daily calorie intake by 350 to 400 calories — with no further restrictions on calories, fats, carbohydrates, or portion sizes. No smaller plates, prolonged chewing, or frequent small meals. Just banishing wheat from your table. ”
The message… it’s a LOT easier to control your total calorie intake by avoiding wheat based foods like cereals, breads, muffins, and pasta (with the exception of 1 cheat day per week if you can’t fathom giving up wheat altogether).
4. Wheat raises your blood sugar even more than table sugar
The type of complex carbohydrate that comprises wheat is called amylopectin A , which is a type of carb that is unique in that it is digested so fast that it highly affects blood sugar more than most other carb sources. Dr Davis cites studies in his book that prove that wheat bread can raise blood sugar HIGHER than table sugar, due to it’s amylopectin A content.
Dr. Davis even states: “Aside from some extra fiber, eating two slices of whole wheat bread is really little different, and often worse, than drinking a can of sugar-sweetened soda or eating a sugary candy bar.”
Dr. Davis discusses the fact that the amylopectin A which is uniquely found in wheat and not other sources of carbs raises blood sugar to a much higher degree than most other carbohydrates sources, regardless of whether they are simple or “complex” carbs. He continues, “In fact, the degree of processing, from a blood sugar standpoint, makes little difference: Wheat is wheat, with various forms of processing or lack of processing, simple or complex, high fiber or low fiber, all generating similarly high blood sugars .”
5. Excessive wheat consumption leads to visceral fat in the abdomen
There are many causes of visceral fat in the abdomen and Dr Davis isn’t trying to fully lay the blame on wheat, but he makes a case that shows that wheat is a heavy contributor to visceral fat. Through a combination of wheat’s trigger on the blood sugar and insulin process in your body, the ability of wheat to automatically increase calorie consumption, as well as the digestive system inflammation characteristics of some of wheat’s contituents, including gluten, this all leads to a greater chance of developing visceral fat in your abdomen.
And as you know from my article above, visceral fat is particularly dangerous as once it accumulates in your gut and around your organs, it continuously releases inflammatory molecules into your system. We’ve talked before about how high fructose corn syrup and other junk foods can increase visceral fat, but Dr. Davis makes a strong case for how wheat can also contribute to visceral fat accumulation.
The message… Eliminate the wheat (aside from one cheat day per week if you absolutely must), and you’ll lose the belly much faster.
6. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Acid Reflux may be linked to wheat consumption
Dr. Davis makes a good argument in his book showing links between gluten consumption and IBS and acid reflux. He states, “Eliminate wheat, acid reflux improves, symptoms of IBS improve. Unfortunately, this effect has not been quantified, though investigators have speculated on how large a role gluten plays in non-celiac sufferers of IBS and acid reflux .” Dr. Davis also states that hundreds of his own patients have seen complete or partial relief from IBS and acid reflux with gluten removal from their diet.
If you have IBS or acid reflux, you should at least consider removing wheat from your diet for 2-3 weeks and see if the symptoms go away. It certainly can’t hurt anything to eliminate wheat for a couple weeks (after all, there’s nothing “essential” about eating wheat), and if anything, you’ll lose some body fat as well in the process.
7. Wheat consumption leads to accelerated aging
Eating too many wheat products such as bread, bagels, muffins, cereal, crackers, etc increases compounds in your body called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs).
But it’s not just sugar and corn syrup that cause this problem… as we’ve already mentioned in this article, the main starch in wheat products is a very unique and fast digesting starch called Amylopectin A, which raises blood sugar even more significantly than table sugar. Due to the significant blood sugar effect of wheat products (yes, even “whole wheat”), this means it increases those nasty AGEs in your body which contribute to premature aging and wrinkles.
8. Too much wheat in the diet can cause ACNE problems
According to Dr. Davis, pimples (aka, acne) affects up to 95% of 16-18 year olds in western cultures, and even affects 50% of adults over age 25 with intermittent bouts.
But Dr. Davis provides evidence that acne is NOT caused by genetics, but rather almost entirely by diet. He discusses how cultures that rely on a basic hunter-gatherer diet, or some other form of diet that does not include wheat or sugar, have been curiously acne free (until western diet influences came in of course).
Dr. Davis talks about how acne is nearly universal in young Americans, but does not occur at all in other cultures. He states, “Some cultures display no acne whatsoever. Cultures as wide ranging as the Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea, the Ache hunter-gatherers of Paraguay, natives of the Purus Valley in Brazil, African Bantus and Zulus, Japan’s Okinawans, and Canadian Inuit are curiously spared the nuisance and embarrassment of acne .”
Dr. Davis then cites research that shows that once Western influence introduced wheat, sugar, and other processed foods into the diets of the Okinawans, the Inuits, and the Zulus, acne soon followed.
9. Wheat consumption contributes to heart disease risk
Another interesting chapter in the book Wheat Belly is where Dr. Davis makes a strong case that frequent wheat consumption increases your heart disease risk.
As you may have heard before, the LDL particles in your blood stream can be characterized as large puffy LDL types (which do not contribute to heart disease) or small dense LDL particles (which do contribute to plaque buildup and heart disease). Dr. Davis states, “Foods that increase blood glucose the most therefore translate into both greater quantities of small LDL and increased glycation of small LDL. So heart disease and stroke are not just about high cholesterol. They are caused by oxidation, glycation, inflammation, small LDL particles … yes, the processes triggered by carbohydrates, especially those made of wheat .”
10. Eating wheat adds a large acid burden that your body must deal with
Your body is hard wired to keep a very precise pH level in your body of approximately 7.4. What foods you consume either contribute acidifying compounds or alkaline compounds. A natural hunter-gatherer diet is well balanced with the acid compounds of meats being easily counteracted by alkaline producing fruits, nuts, and veggies. But when you add the acid burden of grains to the equation, the acid-alkaline balance shifts towards acid.
The more acidifying compounds that you eat or drink (soda, grains, sugar are examples), the more your body needs to pull calcium compounds out of your bone to regulate pH in your body. This can cause weak bones and osteoporosis as you age.
According to Dr. Davis, grains such as wheat account for 38% of the average American’s acid load. Dr Davis states, “Around 10,000 years ago, the formerly alkaline human diet pH balance shifted to the acid side with the introduction of grains, especially the most dominant of grains, wheat. The modern human diet of plentiful “healthy whole grains” but lacking in vegetables and fruit is highly acid-charged, inducing a condition called acidosis. Over years, acidosis takes it’s toll on your bones .”
Dr. Davis also cites a University of Toronto study that showed increased gluten intake increased urinary calcium loss by 63%, along with increased markers for bone weakening. So even if you’re not Celiac or gluten sensitive officially, this is yet another reason to consider reducing or eliminating gluten and wheat from your diet.
11. A link between wheat consumption and joint degeneration, including arthritis
Dr. Davis also includes a chapter about how eating too much wheat over the years is linked to joint problems and pain, including arthritis. Dr. Davis states: “The more wheat products you consume, the higher and more frequently blood glucose increases, the more glycation occurs. Glycation represents an irreversible modification of proteins in the bloodstream and in body tissues, including joints such as the knees, hips, and hands. The cartilage in joints is uniquely susceptible to glycation, since cartilage cells are extremely long-lived and are incapable of reproducing .”
Dr. Davis continues… “The damage of glycation is cumulative, making cartilage brittle and unyielding, eventually crumbling. Joint inflammation, pain, and destruction results, the hallmarks of arthritis .”
The message… if you want healthy joints for life (I know I still want to be enjoying skiing and mountain biking, two of my favorite things in life, for decades to come) then Dr. Davis makes a strong case that eliminating or greatly reducing wheat in your diet can be an important step to help protect your joints as you get older. And if you already have arthritis, it’s a worthy test to eliminate wheat from your diet for a full 3-4 weeks and see if you notice some relief. After all, what could it hurt… if anything, a side effect of eliminating wheat is that you’ll drop some body fat.
#3 Food To Avoid – Soy
Soy Has Enzyme Inhibitors
Soybeans contain potent enzyme inhibitors which block trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion. Constant consumption of soy products can result in gastric distress, deficiencies in amino acids and impaired protein digestion.
Soy is High in Phytic Acid
Soybeans are high in phytic acid or phytates. This organic acid is present in the bran or hulls of all seeds (so this includes all grains and nuts) and blocks the uptake of critical minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Phytates have been studied extensively and findings show that phytates contribute to widespread mineral deficiencies in third world countries.
Analysis shows that calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc are present in the plant foods eaten in these areas, but the high phytate content of soy and rice based diets prevents their absorption.
Soybeans have the highest phytate content of all the grains and legumes and is resistant to phytate reducing techniques such as slow cooking or long soaking.
Only a long fermentation will accomplish that, hence, fermented foods like tempeh and natto are very digestible. Tofu or bean curd is not fermented and neither are any of the fake soy products in the marketplace, including soymilk.
Since the Sad American Diet is full of soy and grains that are not properly prepared and therefore have little available nutrition, we have many people that are over weight but starving for nutrients. This is obvious in the sky rocketing rate of obesity in America today.
Soy Products are Highly Processed
Soy products are highly processed under conditions of high pressure and high heat. This denatures the protein structure and make it much harder to digest. In fact, it is transformed so much that many people have immunologic reactions to it. Soy is highly allergenic.
Additionally, in order to make a product such as soy milk, the beans are soaked in an alkaline bath which produces a carcinogen called lysinealine. The alkaline bath also reduces the amino acid cysteine, which makes in an incomplete protein.
Another highly processed aspect of soy is the use of soy protein isolate in many soy products, including baby formula. Soy protein isolate has many steps in it’s processing, the end result of which is a denatured protein.
This isolated protein is stripped of all the carbohydrate and fat, soaked and sprayed with chemicals (traces of which may remain in the powder) and has compromised vitamin and protein quality. Yet, even after all the processing, the trypsin inhibitors are still present making digestion even more difficult.
Soy Contains Goitrogens
Goitrogens suppress thyroid function.
Soy also contains goitrogens – substances that depress thyroid function.
Soy Irritates the Digestive Tract
Soy has been shown to irritate the digestive tract. There are many compounds in soy that have been shown to be very irritating to the mucus membranes of the digestive tract.
Oxalates can be irritating and when they precipitate out, may cause painful kidney stones.
Lectins are also present in soy and may cause clumping of the red blood cells, which is bad in and of itself, but may also cause immunologic reactions.
Anyone with compromised digestive issues should clearly avoid soy.
Soy is Genetically Modified
Maybe this should be reason #1: 90% of the soy in commercial food is genetically modified unless it is organic. Soy products are found in most commercially prepared foods, from soybean oil, found in most salad dressings to soy flour, found in many commercial baked goods like breads and muffins.
Any product that is genetically modified is laced with tons of pesticides like glyphosate.
Soy Contains Plant Estrogens
Soy contains phytochemicals called isoflavones, including genistein and daidzein. These are said to be adaptogens – that is, they can block estrogen levels that are too high and so protect against diseases such as cancer. Alternatively, they can raise low hormone (estrogen) levels to protect against menopausal symptoms in women.
But, by affecting hormone levels, isoflavones can also potentially promote hormone sensitive cancers in certain people. The studies are conflicting and it is possible that they affect individuals differently.
These phytochemicals are also important to the issue of baby formula. The Weston Price Foundation is adamantly opposed to the use of soy baby formulas as they can cause hormone disruption in the tiny infant.
Soy Health Myths Debunked!
Asians consume large amounts of soy, that’s why they lead long, healthy lives.
The report How to Get the Benefits of Soy Without All the Health Risks tells you that they are consuming far less soy than Americans! In fact a Japanese man consumes about 2 teaspoons of soy in a day, far less than Americans, who guzzle soy milk by the gallons and have substituted meat with processed tofu (so they can feel that they’re not missing out). Find out why moderation is actually the key to the Asians’ healthy diet.
Modern soy foods have the same benefits as traditionally fermented soy.
Most modern soy food from soy milk to soy burgers are processed, which means they contain natural toxins called “antinutrients”. Learn what these antinutrients can do to your health and how much danger they pose. Learn why traditional, fermented soy disposes of these natural toxins to make for “healthy soy”.
Soy formula is safe for infants.
Learn how mega doses of phytoestrogens in soy formulas are putting your infant’s normal sexual development at risk. The report How to Get the Benefits of Soy Without All the Health Risks will show you why your infant should be off soy formulas! You’d be shocked to know that you are feeding your baby with 5 birth control pills worth of estrogen with soy infant formulas. Just imagine how that much estrogen can mess up your baby’s sexual development.
Overall Tips and Suggestions
- Vitamin E is a very powerful antioxidant and may help offset the damage caused by PUFAs. When you go out to a restaurant or if you are in the mood for some French fries, take some vitamin E when you get home.
- Eat more saturated fat in general, but especially on days when you will be consuming PUFAs (whether intentionally or unintentionally). Saturated fat can offset the damage caused by PUFAs.
- If you only want to do one thing for your health, limit your exposure to PUFAs.
- It is rumored that pig farmers attempted to feed there pics coconut oil to fatten them up (in the days when coconut oil, was cheap). Apparently the pigs got lean and muscular on the coconut oil diet. Only after they started feeding them corn, soybeans and grains did they begin to bulk up.
- When eating out look for farm-table restaurants and ask that you food be cooked in olive oil or butter (coconut oil would be great but this is very uncommon).
- If you have been consuming a high PUFA diet for many years and carry around high levels of body fat, chances are you are storing lots of PUFA in your own tissues. While reduced body fat should be your goal, you should be sure not to rush your weight loss. When you begin to shed those pounds you can release PUFA into circulation in the body. If done too quickly, this can be particularly damaging and stressful to the body (see the various televised weight loss competitions).
Why Should You Give Up These Foods?
Sure there are many other foods that can affect your metabolism and hormones in a negative way, but if you just start with these 3 foods you’ll see a HUGE difference in your health and body.