Do you want to start a diet to feel better and lose weight but don’t have time to get wrapped up in dieting details, like measuring your portions and counting calories? Then I encourage you to avoid these three foods. I call them the Elimination Trifecta, and we’ll discuss them in this blog post.
The Elimination Trifecta – At-A-Glance
- Sugar: Consuming sugar throughout the day promotes high blood sugar and insulin levels that are inflammatory and encourage fat storage.
- Flour: When whole foods are ground into flour, it increases absorption into your bloodstream, encouraging inflammation and fat storage.
- Seed Oils: Arguably, seed oils (a.k.a. vegetable oils) are the worst offender when it comes to creating inflammation. Unfortunately, they are cheap, so they are the oils restaurants and packaged food companies typically use.
The Elimination Trifecta: 3 Foods That Make You Sick & Fat [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- The three foods that make you feel fat and sick.
- How each of those foods affects your body.
- Rules to help you avoid the three foods.
#1 Eliminate Sugar
We will start with the food that makes the most sense to eliminate in any healthy diet: sugar. No matter what style of eating you prefer, from vegetarian to keto, if your goal is better health and weight loss, sugar is the first thing to go for good reasons. Consuming sugar throughout the day promotes high blood sugar and insulin levels that are inflammatory and encourage fat storage.
However, saying, I want to get sugar out of my diet and actually doing it are two different things. In fact, of all the basic taste qualities, sweetness is the most universally liked. And the human brain has been shaped through evolution to look at sugar as a reward encouraging you to eat as much as you can while you can. This primitive desire formed back when food was scarce, and we had trouble getting enough calories. We don’t have that problem anymore (1)(2).
You may think that noncaloric sweeteners are the solution, giving us a way to eat sweets without the consequences. However, this strategy has downsides of its own.
The reward we experience when we eat something pleasurable is twofold, with both a sensory and postingestive, or after-eating, component (3).
The sensory branch is activated as you eat through taste receptors on your tongue as well as the reward center of your brain that releases a feel-good chemical called dopamine (4).
The after-eating branch has to do with the value your body receives from the food. So satisfying this branch depends on the nutritional components of the food (3).
What we see with sugar substitutes is that they provide sensory satisfaction because they taste good. However, because they lack calories and nutrients, they do nothing to satisfy hunger. In fact, because they light up the brain’s reward center, they stimulate your appetite.
I will say that not all noncaloric sweeteners are created equal. Those derived from natural substances, like stevia and monk fruit, are better options than artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, which is used in many diet sodas.
Also, the intent with which you are using the sweetener matters. There is a big difference between sprinkling a serving of stevia, which is 1/8th of a teaspoon, on top of plain, full-fat yogurt and dumping a ½ cup of sweetener into a cookie recipe because the recipe is for keto cookies. Plainly stated, non-sugar substitutes should not be looked at as a way to keep eating sweet snacks and desserts.
That will not produce the health and weight loss benefits you are after. And I say that not only because these modified treats will keep your sweet tooth alive, but they also contain the second of the Elimination Trifecta, flour.
#2 Eliminate Flour
Flour is made by grinding down different plants. The white flour that we are most familiar with is made by grinding grains. But flour can also be made from other plant foods like almonds and coconut, giving us almond flour and coconut flour.
You can argue that these more natural flour varieties have a nutritional edge over white flour. However, regardless of its origin, once the plant has been processed, the result is a starchy refined powder that looks nothing like the original plant.
With that in mind, let’s think back to sugar for a moment. Like flour, sugar started out life as a plant, typically sugar cane or sugar beets. It was then refined down to the grainy white substance we recognize as sugar.
What I am getting at is that the problem is with the refining process. Snacking on a handful of raw almonds will have a much different impact on your physiology than snacking on a muffin made with flour, even if those two snacks contain the same number of calories. In fact, this was shown in a research study.
A research team fed 48 individuals with high cholesterol identical diets except for one daily snack.
Half of the participants snacked on 1.5 ounces (42.5 g) of unsalted, whole, natural almonds, while the other half ate an equal number of calories in the form of a banana muffin with butter. At the end of the study, the almond eaters showed a significant reduction in abdominal fat and improved cholesterol profile compared to the muffin eaters (5).
The takeaway concerning flour is that the whole plant food it comes from provides beneficial and hunger-suppressing fats, fiber, and micronutrients. Many of those nutrients are stripped away when the plant is ground into flour. The resulting quick-absorbing flour spikes blood sugar and insulin, promoting fat storage and inflammation.
#3 Eliminate Seed Oils
Sugar and flour are both carbohydrates. If you follow a low carb or keto diet, you already limit those foods, which is good. However, the third food that makes up our elimination trifecta is primarily fat, so excluding it is not as intuitive. The food I am talking about is seed oil, also called vegetable oil. Like sugar and flour, these refined oils promote inflammation within your body.
When we peel back all the layers and look for the root cause of poor health, inflammation is right there. However, inflammation tends to run under the radar partly because it requires a blood test to detect and is easy to overlook as a problem. It can also be a bit confusing because inflammation is not always a bad thing. In fact, it is part of your body’s natural immune response, so it helps you fight off bacteria, heal wounds, and clean up infections.
However, there is a difference between those short-term inflammatory responses and long-term chronic inflammation resulting from a poor diet. Chronic inflammation is the root cause of many diseases and uncomfortable symptoms, such as aches, pains, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and unexplained weight gain.
Arguably, seed oils are the worst offender when it comes to creating inflammation. Unfortunately, they are cheap, so they are the oils restaurants and packaged food companies typically use and the least expensive option at the grocery store. Common examples are soybean oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil, and safflower oil.
Now, if you notice by their names, these oils come from plants. The raw plant or seed does not have to be avoided. For instance, people eat edamame, which are immature soybeans, or raw sunflower seeds without the inflammatory consequence.
The problems with seed oils are that they are high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, and the oil is hard to extract. Because of that, it must be pulled out using harmful chemicals or heat. This extraction process creates oxidative products like free radicals that damage cells.
Oil can also come from high-fat fruits like olives, avocados, and coconuts. Because of their fat content, the oil can be pressed out of the fruit without heat or chemicals, making it okay to consume olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil. But quality matters.
Here are a couple of tips for choosing better oils. First, seeing the term “extra virgin” on the label means that the oil is from the first pressing of the fruit. That is desirable because it will contain more antioxidants than later pressings. Another term that is good to see on the label is “cold-pressed.” This indicates that the oil was extracted without heat.
If you are curious about oils to cook with, see my blog post on the best cooking oils.
If you’re curious about sesame oil and grapeseed oil. They are not recommended for high-heat cooking, like frying, but are generally considered safe to consume as a salad dressing or for use in low-heat cooking.
The Elimination Trifecta: Sugar, Flour, and Seed Oils
The Elimination Trifecta is sugar, flour, and seed oils. All three are created by taking a natural plant and subjecting it to a lot of processing and refinement. It is that refining process that leads to harmful consequences that make us sick and fat. A food can contain one of these ingredients, two of them, or all three.
You’d think that a food that contains all three would be obvious junk food and easy to avoid. Unfortunately, that is not the case. For instance, you might think pretzels are a decent snack, but if you look at the ingredients, you’ll find sugar, flour, and seed oil.
The First 3 Ingredients Rule
I realize that trying to eat healthily can feel like a full-time job. The safest way to avoid harmful ingredients is to cook at home and stick with whole foods. If you need to buy a packaged food, it can get complicated because there are so many different types of sugar, flour, and seed oil.
This feels discouraging because who has time to be a food detective? I wanted to end with a few simplified rules that will help you make better choices most of the time. We’ll call them the first three ingredients rules.
1. If sugar is one of the first three ingredients, don’t eat it.
2. If one of the first three ingredients sounds sugary, it probably is sugar and should not be eaten – think of words like syrup, agave, glucose, and sucrose.
3. If flour is one of the first three ingredients, don’t eat it – even if it is almond or coconut flour. A little is ok, but it’s too refined when it is a primary ingredient.
4. If soybean oil is one of the first three ingredients, don’t eat it. There are many seed oils out there, but soybean is the most widely used. If you can remember that, you’ll be in good shape.
5. If one of the first three ingredients sounds like a chemical, it probably is, or it is a sneaky name for sugar, so don’t eat it.
Eating by these rules makes it easier to keep your blood sugar steady, preventing the blood sugar crashes that drive hunger and cravings. You’ll also reduce disease-causing inflammation thanks to lower insulin levels and fewer refined oils. With them gone, it will not take long before you start to see improvements in your health and ability to lose weight. And this is true for yourself and your kids.
I want to leave you with a few comments that I’ve received.
“My son had become overweight and was having behavioral issues when he was 10 years old. We stopped feeding him sugar and white flour, and he returned to a normal weight in 3 months. The behavior changed virtually overnight.” ~DB
“I gave up all sugar and flour in August and have lost 35 lbs. I’ve also lost irritable mood swings and daily emotional beatings for eating crap all day long. While I mourn some sweets, it doesn’t out weigh how grateful I am for feeling good throughout the day.” ~5th Dimension
“The three things I eliminated as much as possible were sugar, grains, and seed oils 2 ½ years ago, and I feel the best I have in 30 or so years.” ~Scott H.
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week!
(1) Reed, Danielle R., and Amanda H. McDaniel. “The human sweet tooth.” BMC Oral health. Vol. 6. No. 1. BioMed Central, 2006.
(2) Wiss, David A., Nicole Avena, and Pedro Rada. “Sugar addiction: from evolution to revolution.” Frontiers in psychiatry (2018): 545.
(3) Yang, Qing. “Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings: Neuroscience 2010.” The Yale journal of biology and medicine 83.2 (2010): 101.
(4) Rada, Pedro, Nicole M. Avena, and Bartley G. Hoebel. “Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell.” Neuroscience 134.3 (2005): 737-744.
(5) Berryman, Claire E., et al. “Effects of daily almond consumption on cardiometabolic risk and abdominal adiposity in healthy adults with elevated LDL‐cholesterol: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of the American Heart Association 4.1 (2015): e000993.