TIME Diet/Nutrition

9 Ways to Quit Sugar for Good

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Sugar out of sight is also out of mind

Here’s a shocker: the average person takes in 22 teaspoons of sugar daily—more than three times the amount suggested by the American Heart Association. And although it has never been considered a health food, new evidence shows sugar can do even more damage than previously thought, setting you up for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. But weaning yourself off sugar can be daunting. It’s tough to dodge because it hides in so many foods, and it provides an almost addictive buzz, thanks to a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine after it enters the body, says research neuroscientist Nicole Avena, PhD, author of Why Diets Fail (Because You’re Addicted to Sugar) ($19; amazon.com). Still, slashing sugar is one food trend worth trying. Find out all about sugar rehab, plus tactics to make your commitment stick.

The dangers of sweet stuff

Sugar has 16 calories per teaspoon. That doesn’t seem like much, but it can pack on hundreds of calories without offering any nutritional value, says Avena. Extra calories raise your risk of obesity, which in turn sets you up for diabetes.

A 2013 study found that for every 150 calories of added sugar consumed in a population—the equivalent of one can of soda—diabetes prevalence in the population went up 1.1%. Then there’s the research tying sugar to heart disease. A 2014 study from JAMA: Internal Medicine found that the more added sugar a person took in, the higher their odds of dying of heart disease.

Don’t forget about the way sugar plays with blood glucose levels, sending them surging, then crashing—leaving you fatigued, brain fogged, and irritable, says Brittany Kohn, RD, a New York City nutritionist.

Cut this kind of sugar

The sugar offender to steer clear of is refined white sugar, the kind spooned into coffee or added to baked goods. The bloodstream absorbs this simple sugar quickly, causing surges in blood glucose levels and insulin that can wreak havoc on the body, says Avena.

Refined sugar is also added to countless food products during processing, from ketchup to bread to salad dressing to beef jerky. Manufacturers try to trick consumers by calling it cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or some other unfamiliar name, but they’re all just fancy ways of saying sugar. Molasses, honey, and maple syrup are also added sugars, and though they’re not always processed the way refined white sugar is, they have the same harmful effect, says Avena.

Sweets you can eat

The types of sugar you don’t have to ditch are found naturally in foods, such as fructose in fruit and lactose in milk products. These get a pass as long as you consume them in their original food form. “Fruit, for instance, contains an amount of sugar that is in better proportion with the amount of fiber and other nutrients in it,” says Aveda. “These other nutrients mitigate sugar’s harmful effect.”

Artificial isn’t the answer

Swapping out sugar in favor of a chemical sweetener like aspartame or saccharin may not be the answer. “Artificial sweeteners provide sweet taste without calories, so when you consume these products, hunger isn’t satisfied, leading you to crave more afterward,” says Kohn. A 2013 study in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism lends credence to this, finding that drinking just one diet soda a day is linked to weight gain and diabetes.

Why do chemical sweeteners boost hunger? It’s not clear, but it might have to do with the intensity of the sweetness in these products. Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than natural sugar, and that can dull your taste buds to less intensely sweet foods such as fruit, ramping up cravings for high-sugar—and high-calorie—foods, says Kohn.

Don’t go cold turkey

Because our bodies are so used to the sweet stuff, going sugar-free very abruptly can lead to crazy-intense withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, and mood swings, says Kohn. Ever gone without your usual morning latte or other caffeine fix? That’s what sugar withdrawal is like, times 10. “It’s better to ease yourself off it slowly by taking one step at a time, so your body has time to adjust,” says Kohn. Another reason to not be in a rush: slower changes tend to last, says Avena, especially when it comes to diet changes.

Give up sugary drinks

Soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, iced tea—these and other sweetened beverages are sneaky sources of added sugar. One can of cola, for example, racks up nine teaspoons, already a third more than the six teaspoon daily limit suggested by the American Heart Association.

“Sweetened beverages or drinks made from fruit juice are like liquid sugar, and they add lots of calories without satisfying hunger,” says Avena. She suggests substituting soda for seltzer, which has no added sugar and zero calories. As for fruit-flavored beverages and fruit juice, sub in fruit-infused bottled water or water with fresh fruit slices added to it.

Ditch simple-carb sweet treats

Pastries, cookies, muffins, and other white-bread, refined-flour treats offer little nutrition-wise but are dense with added sugar. And since they’re not hard to identify, it’s easy to slash them from your diet. They mess with blood sugar levels, setting up a cycle of grabbing a donut or muffin for energy that doesn’t last, says Kohn. Instead, get your carb fix with whole grains. These are converted to sugar during digestion, but because they’re the complex kind rather than the simple type, they’re absorbed more slowly and provide steady energy.

Suss out sugary restaurant food

They don’t call it sweet and sour pork for nothing. Many types of takeout or eat-in cuisine are smothered in sauces or coatings made with added sugar. Even the crust of takeout pizza is likely to pack hidden sugar, even though you may not taste it, says Avena. Glazes, condiments, and even pasta sauces are often loaded with sugar, the same sugar that is just as harmful in a prepackaged box of cookies, she adds. Read labels carefully: look for brown sugar, corn syrup, maltose, fructose, dextrose, molasses, agave, brown rice syrup, cane sugar, cane syrup, and evaporated cane juice, which are all just other ways to say “sugar.”

Ease off the table sugar

If you’re used to adding sweetener to your food and drinks, give yourself time to ease out of the habit, suggests Kohn. Typically start your day with two spoons of sugar or honey in your tea or coffee? Cut back to one sugar for a week, then slash it to zero a week later—or sweeten it with a slice of orange or a little milk. Same thing with the sugar you put on top of French toast or cereal, or the maple syrup doused on your pancakes. Gradually reducing the amount will make it less noticeable that you’re cutting back, and you’ll be less craving-crazed for a sugar hit.

Designate a sweets drawer

If the rest of your household isn’t cutting back on sugar with you, you’re likely to see sweet treats and added-sugar products all over your kitchen, inviting temptation. “Instead, make one drawer or shelf in your kitchen the place where everyone else can stash their treats, but you don’t have to see the products every time you open the cabinet or fridge,” suggests Avena. Most of us go for the food we see first, so if you don’t see sweets, you won’t crave them, and then cave in to them, she adds.

Pile protein and healthy fats onto your plate

Cutting out sugar is the perfect excuse to indulge in more healthy fats (nuts, olive oil, avocado, dairy) and lean protein (eggs, turkey, and legumes). Both keep you feeling satiated and energized, preventing the blood sugar rise and fall that can lead to hard-to-resist sugar cravings.

A protein-fat breakfast will help you start the day off right. “Have a breakfast with protein and fat as the stars, like eggs and avocado, instead of the traditional starch and sugar combo, like a muffin or sweetened cereal,” suggests Kohn.

Go with naturally sweet flavors

To satisfy a sweet tooth without resorting to the refined stuff, just look through your spice rack. Cinnamon or vanilla extract added to coffee, cereal, or baked goods offer a sweet taste without sugar’s side effects, and zero calories too, says Kohn. Other sweet spices and herbs to add to beverages and meals include chicory, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom. Citrus zest also adds a fruity, refreshing sweetness.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Drink Tomato Juice?

3/5 experts say yes.

At 30,000 feet, tomato juice is almost as popular as beer, the top-selling beverage. But its health benefits are more up in the air, our experts say.

The very reason people order it on planes is why you should be wary. This stuff is salty—great for flavor while flying, since a new study shows that very loud noise, like the roar of airplane engines, changes our sense of taste by dulling sweet flavors and enhancing umami, the signature flavor of tomato. But most Americans aren’t exactly suffering from a salt deficiency.

“Most tomato juice has added salt at a rather shocking concentration,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. An 8-ounce serving can pack 670 mg of sodium: 28% of a person’s government-recommended daily intake, and about as much as four small bags of chips.

A good way to think about sodium, he says, is that the overall diet shouldn’t have more than a milligram of sodium per calorie. Since a cup of tomato juice only has 50 calories, it has about 13 times as much sodium as it should by this standard of measurement.

The real draw of tomato juice is lycopene—an antioxidant found in ruby and orange foods that may help lower risk of stroke, prostate cancer and metabolic diseases. Americans get more than 80% of their lycopene from tomatoes in its various forms. You’re in good shape if you regularly eat the whole fruit, especially if it’s cooked and with a little healthy fat; fat makes certain nutrients easier for the body to digest and absorb, say Steven Schwartz, PhD, and Robin Ralston, RD, of the Center for Advanced Functional Foods Research and Entrepreneurship at Ohio State University. “But the same health-beneficial compounds in tomatoes are also in tomato juice,” they say, while also echoing the importance of paying attention to salt content.

If you don’t regularly eat tomatoes, swapping unhealthy beverages like soda with tomato juice is a good way to get the benefits of lycopene, says Pei-Min Chao, PhD, professor and chair of the department of nutrition at China Medical University in Taiwan. In a small 2015 study, Chao gave 25 healthy young women 9 ounces of tomato juice every day for two months. Compared to their levels before the experiment began, tomato juice was linked to higher levels of lycopene and lower body weight, body fat, BMI and cholesterol blood levels after the experiment ended. And a randomized controlled trial by Gity Sotoudeh of the school of nutritional sciences and dietetics at Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran found that tomato juice reduces oxidative stress in overweight women.

If you’re jonesing for the juice, the healthiest bet is to follow this recipe from Deborah Cohen, MD, senior natural scientist at the RAND Corporation. “Just put tomatoes in a blender,” she says, “and drink up.”

Tomato-juice
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME
TIME Food & Beverage

Drinking 4 Coffees a Day Is Bad for You, Study Says

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Less than 400 mg of caffeine per day is safe

A lot of caffeine is bad for your health, according to a new study, and many people are consuming too much of it.

A new report by the European Food Safety Authority says that more than 400 mg of caffeine a day, or about four cups of coffee, is linked to heart problems, insomnia and panic attacks. This safe amount of caffeine is halved for pregnant women.

Many countries recommend about this amount of caffeine intake, but the problem, according to BBC, is that people still have too much. An EFSA spokesperson gave an example to BBC: “If you have a bar of dark chocolate at 11:00 and espresso with lunch, a tea at 16:00 and vodka-Red Bull in the evening – that’s a lot of caffeine over the day.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

15 Eating Habits That Make You Live Longer

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The secrets to living long (and well) from the world's healthiest people

For more than a decade, I’ve been working with a team of experts to study hot spots of longevity—regions we call Blue Zones, where many people live to 100 and beyond. They are the Greek island of Ikaria; the highlands of Sardinia; the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan; and Loma Linda, Calif., home of the highest concentration of Seventh-day Adventists in the U.S. Remarkably, we’ve learned that folks in all these places share similar rituals and practices surrounding food. (Hint: They don’t count calories, take vitamins or weigh protein grams!) After analyzing more than 150 dietary studies conducted in Blue Zones over the past century, we came up with a global average of what centenarians really eat. Here are 15 age-old diet tips to borrow from the longest-living people on the planet.

Get 95% of your food from plants

Produce, whole grains and beans dominate meals all year long in each of the Blue Zones. People eat an impressive variety of vegetables when they are in season, and then pickle or dry the surplus. The best of the best longevity foods are leafy greens. In Ikaria, more than 75 varieties grow like weeds. Studies found that middle-aged people who consumed the equivalent of a cup of cooked greens daily were half as likely to die in the next four years as those who ate no greens.

Consume meat no more than twice a week

Families in most of the Blue Zones enjoy meat sparingly, as a side or a way to flavor other dishes. Aim to limit your intake to 2 ounces or less of cooked meat (an amount smaller than a deck of cards) five times a month. And favor chicken, lamb or pork from family farms. The meat in the Blue Zones comes from animals that graze or forage freely, which likely leads to higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Eat up to 3 ounces of fish daily

The Adventist Health Study 2, which has been following 96,000 Americans since 2002, discovered that people who ate a plant-based diet and included a small portion of fish up to once a day were the ones who lived the longest. In the Blue Zones overseas, fish is a common part of everyday meals. For the most part, the best fish choices are middle-of-the-food-chain species such as sardines, anchovies and cod, which aren’t exposed to high levels of mercury or other chemicals.

Cut back on dairy

The human digestive system isn’t optimized for cow’s milk, which happens to be high in fat and sugar. People in the Blue Zones get their calcium from plants. (A cup of cooked kale, for instance, gives you as much calcium as a cup of milk.) However, goat’s- and sheep’s-milk products like yogurt and cheese are common in the traditional diets of Ikaria and Sardinia. We don’t know if it’s the milk that makes folks healthier or the fact that they climb the same hilly terrain as their goats.

Enjoy up to three eggs per week

In the Blue Zones, people tend to eat just one egg at a time: For example, Nicoyans fry an egg to fold into a corn tortilla and Okinawans boil an egg in soup. Try filling out a one-egg breakfast with fruit or other plant-based foods such as whole-grain porridge or bread. When baking, use 1/4 cup of applesauce, 1/4 cup of mashed potatoes or a small banana to sub in for one egg.

Add a half cup of cooked beans every day

Black beans in Nicoya, soybeans in Okinawa, lentils, garbanzo and white beans in the Mediterranean: Beans are the cornerstone of Blue Zones diets. On average, beans are made up of 21 percent protein, 77 percent complex carbohydrates and only a little fat. They’re also an excellent source of fiber and are packed with more nutrients per gram than any other food on earth. The Blue Zones dietary average—at least 1/2 cup per day—provides most of the vitamins and minerals that you need.

Switch to sourdough or whole-wheat

In three of the five Blue Zones, bread is a staple. But it’s an altogether different food from the loaves most of us buy. Breads in Ikaria and Sardinia, for example, are made from a variety of 100 percent whole grains, including wheat, rye and barley—each of which offers a wide spectrum of nutrients and high levels of fiber. Other traditional Blue Zones breads are made with bacteria that “digest” the starches and glutens while helping the bread rise. This process creates an acid that lends the sour flavor to sourdough. The result is bread that actually lowers the glycemic load of meals. (It also has less gluten than some other breads.) To find true sourdough, visit a bakery and ask about their starter. If they can’t give you an answer, they’re probably not making their sourdough in the traditional way.

Slash your sugar consumption

Blue Zones dwellers consume about a fifth as much added sugar as we do. Centenarians typically put honey in their tea and enjoy dessert only at celebrations. The lesson to us: Try not to add more than 4 teaspoons of sugar a day to your drinks and foods. Have cookies, candy and bakery items only a few times a week. And avoid processed foods with sweeteners—especially when sugar is listed among the first five ingredients.

Snack on two handfuls of nuts per day

This appears to be the average amount that Blue Zones centenarians are eating. A recent 30-year Harvard study found that nut eaters have a 20% lower mortality rate than those who don’t eat nuts. Other studies show that diets with nuts reduce LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels by up to 20%.

Stick with foods that are recognizable for what they are

Throughout the world’s Blue Zones, people eat foods in their entirety: They don’t throw away the egg yolk or juice the pulp out of their fruits. They also don’t take supplements. They get everything they need from whole foods that are often grown locally. The takeaway? Avoid products with long lists of ingredients and shop at your farmers market when you can. Scientists are only beginning to understand how the elements in whole plants work together synergistically to bring forth ultimate health.

Up your water intake

Adventists recommend having seven glasses daily, pointing to studies that show that being hydrated lessens the chance of a blood clot. Plus, if you’re drinking water, you’re not drinking a sugar-laden or artificially sweetened beverage.

When you drink alcohol, make it red wine

People in most Blue Zones have one to three glasses per day. Wine has been found to help the system absorb plant-based antioxidants. But it may also be that a little alcohol at the end of the day reduces stress, which is good for overall health.

Drink this kind of tea

Okinawans nurse green tea all day long, and green tea has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and several cancers. Ikarians drink brews of rosemary, wild sage and dandelion—all herbs with anti-inflammatory properties.

Get your caffeine fix from coffee

People who live on the Nicoya Peninsula and the islands of Sardinia and Ikaria all down copious amounts of coffee. Research findings associate coffee drinking with lower rates of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Perfect protein pairings

Worried about getting enough protein on a plant-based diet? The trick is to partner legumes, grains, nuts and veggies that supply all nine of the essential amino acids your body can’t make on its own. Try these match-ups in the ratios described below.

1 1/3 parts chopped red peppers to 3 parts cooked cauliflower

1 part cooked chickpeas to 3 parts cooked mustard greens

1 part lima beans to 2 parts cooked carrots

1 1/2 parts cooked broccoli rabe to 1 1/3 parts cooked wild rice

1/2 part firm tofu to 1 1/4 parts cooked soba noodles

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

6 Simple Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

Forget the "calories in, calories out" equation

Throughout my years counseling clients I’ve seen many achieve fantastic weight loss results, including those who had not had success with other approaches, or thought they couldn’t possibly lose weight due to various circumstances, like being injured and unable to exercise, or being post-menopausal.

Based on my experience, I always believe that results are possible, but I’ve also learned that weight loss isn’t predictable or easy—and it certainly isn’t as simple as a “calories in versus calories out” equation. A new study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) illustrated this and backs what I’ve seen in my own practice—one person’s metabolic response to eating less may not mimic another’s, due to biological differences.

NIH researchers studied a dozen obese men and women in a metabolic unit. The study measured the subjects’ calorie expenditures, both before and after a day of fasting, followed by a six-week phase during which they reduced their calorie intakes by 50%. After accounting for factors including age, sex, and starting weight, scientists found that those who lost the least weight during the reduced calorie period were those whose metabolisms decreased most during the one day fast. These people have what scientists refer to as a “thrifty” metabolism. The opposite results were also found: those with “spendthrift” metabolisms, which decreased the least during the fast, lost the most weight.

In a nutshell, the theory behind “thrifty” metabolism is that when faced with a sudden shortfall of food, some people’s bodies quickly compensate to conserve energy, by burning fewer calories. So if, for example, you went from eating 3,000 calories a day to 1,500, a thrifty metabolism would trigger a conservation mode, designed to shrink the calorie deficit. Historically, people with this adaptation were better able to survive during times of famine; but today, it presents a challenge for those trying to shed excess pounds. It’s also one of the reasons why simply slashing your intake by 500 calories a day isn’t a guarantee that you’ll shed one pound in a week (for more check out my previous post Why You Can’t Rely on Calorie Counts and Why Dieting Makes You Fat).

If you think you may be in this group, and your biology is making it tough for you to see results, don’t give up. Here are six things you can do to maximize your metabolism, and counter the effects of possible “thriftiness.” While your results may be slower than a “spendthrift” counterpart, losing weight isn’t an impossibility.

Become a tea drinker

Natural substances in green tea—antioxidants called catechins, and caffeine—have been shown to help boost metabolism, and trigger increased fat burning. Aim for about five cups a day, the amount tied to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease. Based on the research on how green tea impacts metabolism, this quantity could also translate into the loss of eight pounds over a year’s time.

Drink more water

In addition to naturally curbing calorie intake, water has been shown to positively affect metabolism. One German study found that drinking two cups (16 ounces) of water upped calorie burning by 30% within 10 minutes, and the effect was sustained for more than an hour. Shoot for a solid eight cups (64 ounces) daily, and if you dislike the taste, spruce it up with healthy add-ins like sliced cucumber, fresh grated ginger, mashed fruit, lemon, lime, basil, or mint.

Eat more produce

We all know that veggies and fruits are nutrient rich, but research shows they may also impact leanness, due to their ability to help preserve metabolism-boosting muscle. In one study, University of Florida researchers found that when two groups consumed the same number of daily calories, those who ate more plant-based foods had smaller waist circumferences, and lower body fat percentages. Aim to eat produce at every meal. One simple formula is to include one serving of fruit in every breakfast and snack, and two serving of veggies in each lunch and dinner. For more about how to build meals around veggies check out my previous post 5 Perfect Pasta Alternatives.

Eat more whole versus processed foods

More proof that a calorie isn’t a calorie came from research conducted at Pomona College. Researchers found that when healthy women consumed meals that were similar in terms of carb, protein, and fat content, they burned about 50% more calories eating whole foods versus highly processed foods. To reap this metabolism-boosting benefit, stick with foods as close to their natural state as possible. For example, rather than a turkey sub on a processed roll and a bag of baked chips for lunch, order a chopped salad made with greens and veggies, topped with lean protein and avocado. At snack time trade anything that comes from a package with a tennis ball sized portion of fresh fruit and a golf ball sized serving of nuts.

Eat more pulses

You know about beans—black, red, white…well, pulses are a unique food group that includes beans, as well as peas, like chickpeas, and split peas, and lentils. I made a daily dose of pulses a key strategy in the weight loss plan in my new book Slim Down Now, in part because they’re so filling, nutrient rich, and gluten free, but also because of their impact on metabolism. A review published in the British Journal of Nutrition concluded that pulses increase calorie and fat burning, and help reduce visceral fat, the deep internal belly fat known to up the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. To bolster your metabolism, include a half cup of a pulse in one of your daily meals, like a side of black beans with your veggie avocado omelet, lentils in your lunch salad, oven-roasted chickpeas or hummus in a snack, or white bean and kale soup at dinner. You can even incorporate pulses into desserts! For more about pulses check out How to Keep the Carbs and Still Lose the Pounds.

Drink coffee pre-exercise

Exercise itself can help boost metabolism, but according to a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism drinking java before you get your heart rate up may further up your metabolic rate. Researchers found that compared to those who took in a placebo, athletes who consumed caffeine pre-exercise torched about 15% more calories for three hours post-exercise. The dose used in the study was 4.5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. That’s about 300 mg of caffeine for a 150-pound woman (68 kg), the amount in about 12 ounces of brewed coffee. For more about the benefits of coffee for exercisers, check out my previous post.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

Trans Fats Are Hiding All Over Your Grocery List

A new report finds that 37% of foods in grocery stores may have trans fat

Eating trans fat raises the risk of coronary heart disease, and evidence suggests that no amount of it is safe. But more than a third of packaged foods found in grocery stores likely contain trans fat, found a new analysis by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Trans fats used by the food industry are manmade by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, which makes it solid at room temperature and good at extending the shelf life of snacks. The World Health Organization supports “virtual elimination” of trans fats from the food supply.

But still it persists, found the EWG. The group used their Food Scores database to analyze more than 87,000 foods for trans fat-containing ingredients: most famously partially hydrogenated oil. Seeing that phrase on an ingredient list is a red flag for trans fat.

It’s not the only ingredient that signifies trans fat, according to EWG’s investigation. Refined oils like soybean, canola, cottonseed and corn oil, fully hydrogenated oils and perhaps even some emulsifiers like monoglycerides and diglycerides contain trans fat in smaller amounts, the report says. Flavors and colors even use partially hydrogenated oils sometimes and are a “likely source” of trans fat, according to EWG.

27% of the analyzed foods contained partially hydrogenated oils, refined oils or fully hydrogenated oils on their ingredient lists. EWG identified more than 400 foods with four or more grams of trans fat per serving.

MORE: How Trans Fat Eats Away At Your Memory

And another 10% of foods likely have trans fat, the report concluded—even those labeled “zero” grams of trans fat. Food companies are allowed to claim a product has no trans fat if it contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. “Serving sizes are notoriously small,” says Dawn Undurraga, report author and registered dietitian at EWG, so even fractions of a gram can add up quickly.

The biggest sources of trans fat were the foods with a non-zero amount of trans fat listed on the label. The 16 foods with the most trans fat were breakfast sandwiches (0.94 g/serving), frozen pies (0.83 g), frosting and icing (0.75 g), eclairs and snack cakes (0.65 g), frozen cakes (0.50 g), frozen mini burgers (0.47 g), croissants (0.43 g), frozen cheesecakes (0.41 g), pastry shells (0.37), canned chili (0.36 g), heady-to-heat potatoes (0.33 g), frozen muffins (0.33 g), beef in a can (0.32 g), snack pies (0.32 g), cheese sauce (0.32 g) and popcorn (0.31 g).

“In some ways these products are bad, but at least they let you know that they’re bad,” says Undurraga.

Of equal concern were the foods claiming to have 0 grams of trans fat but which included partially hydrogenated oil on their ingredient lists—some brands of breakfast bars, granola, peanut butter, pretzels, crackers, bread, fruit snack candies, cereal, graham crackers, whipped topping, non-dairy creamer, pudding mixes, cupcakes and ice cream cones. “There’s a lot of kids foods here,” Undurraga says. “It’s really disconcerting.”

Even though we’re eating less trans fat than ever, Americans still have a long way to go towards adopting a diet free of trans fats. The findings add to recent research that trans fat lurks in all kinds of packaged foods. One study last year found that 9% of the packaged foods it surveyed listed partially hydrogenated oils in their ingredients, yet 84% of those claimed to be trans-fat free.

“It’s a little bit disingenuous to say trans fat intake is decreasing,” says Undurraga. “It is decreasing, but without data to be able to drive your analysis, how are you really getting an accurate picture of what is actually happening?”

In response to a request for comment, an FDA spokesperson said the government body is still reviewing the report. The FDA is currently in the midst of litigation about trans fat; in 2013, 98-year-old heart disease researcher Fred Kummerow sued the FDA for failing to ban the use of partially hydrogenated oil, claiming it “calcifies both the arteries and veins and causes blood clots.” The FDA said it will file a status update with the court today.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

61% of Your Calories Are From Highly Processed Food: Study

Most of the foods we buy are highly processed and loaded with sugar, fat and salt

As much as Americans like to pretend to worship at the altar of kale, many of us are cheating with chips, a new study suggests.

We like junk food so much that 61% of the food Americans buy is highly processed, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And almost 1,000 calories a day of person’s diet come solely from highly processed foods.

Not all processed food is the same, however. The USDA classifies processed food as any edible that’s not a raw agricultural commodity, so even pasteurized milk and frozen fruits and vegetables count. “It’s important for us to recognize that a processed food is not just Coca-Cola and Twinkies—it’s a wide array of products,” says study author Jennifer Poti, a research assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

So in the first study of its kind, researchers scrutinized our diets by analyzing a massive set of data of the foods we buy while grocery shopping. The stats came from 157,000 shoppers, who tracked their edible purchases with a barcode scanner from 2000-2012, for anywhere from 10 months to 14 years.

Using software that picked out words in the nutrition and ingredient labels, the 1.2 million products were placed into one of four categories : minimally processed—products with very little alteration, like bagged salad, frozen meat and eggs—basic processed—single-ingredient foods but changed in some way, like oil, flour and sugar—moderately processed—still recognizable as its original plant or animal source, but with additives—and highly processed—multi-ingredient industrial mixtures that are no longer recognizable as their original plant or animal source.

No surprise, our favorite categories are those last two. More than three-quarters of our calories came from highly processed (61%) and moderately processed (16%) foods and drinks in 2012. Best-selling products were refined breads, grain-based desserts like cookies, sugary sodas, juice, sports drinks and energy drinks.

Preferences for highly processed foods were remarkably stable over time, Poti says, which likely has implications for our health, since the study also found that highly processed foods were higher in saturated fat, sugar and salt than other purchases. But interestingly, no U.S. study has yet looked at the link between highly processed foods and health outcomes like obesity and diabetes, Poti says.

To be clear, the researchers aren’t pooh-poohing processing, per se. “Food processing is important for food security and nutrition security of Americans,” Poti says. The study wasn’t able to capture the full spectrum of our diets—loose spinach doesn’t come with a barcode, after all—and the authors acknowledge that food purchasing doesn’t always directly translate to dietary intake. But the results suggest that we might want to swap some bags of chips for, say, cans of beans. “Foods that required cooking or preparation”—like boxed pasta and raw eggs—”were generally less than 20% of calories purchased throughout the entire time period,” Poti says.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

3 Things You Should Know About Natural Sugar

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How to enjoy sweets without disrupting your appetite

As a nutritionist, I advise my clients to avoid soda, eat fruits and veggies, and sweeten recipes conservatively with natural options, like organic honey or maple syrup. They’re less processed than refined sugar and they contain other beneficial substances, including antioxidants. Some new research, however, has left people wondering if these better-for-you sweet foods are actually okay to consume, particularly for weight loss.

Here’s a summary of the study and my bottom-line tips on how to sweeten up your life a little, without wreaking havoc on your waistline.

University of Southern California researchers looked at the responses of 24 volunteers who consumed flavored beverages that were sweetened with fructose one day, and glucose another. Brain scans revealed that when subjects looked at images of food after consuming fructose, there was greater activity in the area of the brain tied to reward. The participants were also asked if they’d rather eat the food immediately, or forgo it for a monetary bonus. When drinking fructose, more of the men and women chose the immediate food reward. The researchers said the results indicate that, relative to glucose, fructose has less of an appetite-suppressing effect, and may be more likely to trigger eating.

Why the difference between the two sweeteners? When you consume glucose, your pancreas secretes insulin, which allows cells to use it for energy. Insulin also tells your brain that you’ve received fuel, which curbs appetite. Since fructose doesn’t stimulate insulin secretion, you brain may not be getting an “I’m good, stop eating now” message.

So how does all of this relate to honey and produce? Well, honey, maple syrup, molasses, fresh fruit, and even some veggies (like sugar snap peas), all contain fructose. But in my opinion the aforementioned study doesn’t mean you should eliminate the lot.

To reap the rewards without disrupting your appetite—or derailing your weight—follow these three tips.

With fruit, fresh is best

While fruit is a natural source of fructose, the sweetener is also bundled with fiber, water, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. And in fresh fruit the fructose isn’t concentrated. For example, one cup of blueberries naturally contains about 7 grams of fructose, along with 3.5 grams of fiber and several key nutrients. By contrast, a 12-ounce can of soda sweetened with high fructose corn syrup contains about 22.5 grams of fructose, with no fiber or nutrients. The fluid and fiber in fresh fruit (in addition to the volume and chewing involved) also positively impact fullness and satiety.

In other words, the amount and form of the fructose you consume matter. If you’re concerned about fructose and appetite, stick with fresh fruit. If you eat dried fruit, remember that the portion shrinks by about three quarters, so you should eat a serving no larger than the size of a golf ball. The same holds true for juice. Some of my clients love fresh-squeezed orange or grapefruit juice at breakfast, but I advise them to drink a shot, not a tall glass, and capture as much pulp as possible.

Don’t drink your sugar

The USC study was done with beverages. Previous research has shown that sugar in the form of a thin liquid isn’t as filling as solid forms, so you won’t compensate by eating less food when you drink a soda, lemonade, or sweet tea. That means the extra calories just add to your overall intake, and if you don’t burn them off, you’ll either prevent weight loss or further fill up your fat cells. For this reason, I advise clients to choose solid sweet treats, preferably made with ingredients that offer some nutritional value (check out my dark chocolate superfood pudding, which can also be made into a smoothie).

Other studies have shown that thickness also prompts eaters to perceive foods as more filling. In a University of Sussex study, researchers asked volunteers to rate how filling they expected various thick, creamy drinks to be. The subjects did this by identifying how much solid food they thought they would need to eat to experience the same level of fullness. The conclusion: thickness, not creaminess, impacted the expectation that a drink would better suppress hunger. In two additional studies, thicker drinks were found to suppress actual hunger (not just anticipated hunger, as in the Sussex study) more than thinner versions of beverages with the same calorie levels. This is one reason I’m a big fan of chia seeds—they soak up water to form a thick, gel-like texture, which adds a satisfaction factor to sweetened puddings, smoothies, and parfaits.

Limit sweets overall, from all sources

I’ve had many clients over the years who have tried to eliminate sugar completely only to experience intense cravings, and eventually break down, and binge eat sweets. If all or nothing doesn’t work for you, you’ll be happy to know that even the strictest recommendations on sugar, from organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA), don’t recommend banishing it completely.

According to the AHA, the daily target for added sugar (e.g. forms like honey and sweetened foods) should be no more than the equivalent of 6 level teaspoons for women, and 9 for men. That means adding a teaspoon of organic honey or maple syrup to Greek yogurt, having a few squares of dark chocolate each day, or enjoying an occasional dessert is well within the limits. It’s also far less the 22 daily teaspoons the average American takes in each day.

For more about sugar, including where it may be hiding, and how to limit your intake sanely and sustainably, check out my article The 4 Most Confusing Things About Sugar.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

A Magic Formula for Healthier Eating

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Getty Images

The newest way to make good food choices

If you’re looking to eat healthier, think C.A.N. Not as in willpower, but as in these three critical food musts: Convenient (easy to reach), Attractive (enticingly displayed), and Normal (an obvious choice).

That’s the conclusion of a recent study from Cornell University, which analyzed 112 studies that gathered information about healthy eating behaviors. People who ate healthiest did so when a grocery store, restaurant, or partner offered up food following this formula. Think about a bowl of fruit displayed on a countertop versus fruit buried in a drawer in your fridge and you get the idea.

The study, published in the journal Psychology and Marketing, also offers hints about what to avoid: Watch out for specials at restaurants that have a tempting name, like Creamy Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo; are highlighted on the menu; and that your waitress is touting.

“With these three principles, there are endless changes that can be made to lead people…to eat healthier,” promises Brian Wansink, PhD, Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

And they couldn’t be easier to remember. As in, you C.A.N. do it.

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Cornell Food and Brand Lab

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Eat Pork?

3/5 experts say yes—but with a lot of caveats.

This little piggy went to market. But does that mean you should take it home? We asked five experts to answer the tough question, and most of them gave you permission to park pork on your plate—though they still voiced some concerns.

Nutrition, it turns out, is the easy part. A lean cut like pork tenderloin or center cut pork chop is a good choice for your health, says Kate Patton, registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Heart and Vascular Institute. “Pork tenderloin is actually as lean as chicken breast,” she says. It’s also an excellent choice for protein, says Kristi King, senior clinical dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital. A three-ounce serving of pork has more than 20 grams of protein and is rich in vitamins and minerals. It’s one of the most concentrated food sources of the mineral zinc, with 17% of a person’s recommended daily intake in a 3-ounce serving. It also has vitamin B12, a critical but hard-to-get nutrient necessary for maintaining red blood cells in the body, says King; a 3-ounce portion has 14% of your daily value.

But there’s more to our food than just its nutritional value, says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “Pigs are smarter than the family dog,” he says, adding that they endure a great deal of abuse when raised for food on factory farms. “I am not sure how much sense it makes for one kind of fellow mammal to be adopted into our families, and another, slightly smarter one to be on our dinner plates,” he says.

Consumer Reports dug into the unsavory details of pork production in a 2013 investigation, in which they tested 198 samples of pork chops and ground pork across the U.S. They found potentially harmful bacteria on most of the samples. Cooking whole cuts of pork to an internal temperature of at least 145°F and ground pork to 160°F—then checking the temperature with a meat thermometer—is key to killing off these bacteria.

You can eat pork, says Urvashi Rangan, director of consumer safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports. But be aware that the investigation found some antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria on the pork it studied. “These bacteria were resistant to antibiotics, which lessens the effectiveness of these drugs for all of us,” says Rangan. “Conventional pork can be fed antibiotics and other drugs daily, live indoors in unhygienic, confined conditions, and often have their tails docked,” Rangan says. “Liquid manure storage is common on hog farms; these conditions help breed contamination and compromise the health of the animal, workers, surrounding communities and the safety of the food product.”

One way to buy better-produced pork is to look for labels reading “organic,” “Global Animal Partnership” or “Animal Welfare Approved,” says Rangan. Don’t be duped by meaningless labels reading “natural” or “no hormones added”—legally, hormones aren’t allowed in pork production.

So what’s the bottom line on swine? Barry Estabrook was so fascinated by pork and pigs that he wrote a book about them: the just-released Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat. “The conclusion I arrived at after researching Pig Tales is that pork is either the worst meat you can eat from pretty much any perspective—environmental, animal rights, gastronomic—or the very best,” he told us. It all depends on how the pigs are raised, and it’s an important question worth asking about your meat. “Thumbs down for factory-raised industrial pork,” he says. “Vigorous thumbs up for sustainably raised pastured pork.”

Pork
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

Read next: Should I Eat Red Meat?

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