Science taught us a lot about what’s healthy and what’s not this year. Read on for the most important nutrition foodie findings of 2016.
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.
To recap: Remember how we all suffered from serious false hope when butter was said to be healthy? (That is, until another study quickly squashed that dream and confirmed that saturated fats have been and always will be bad for us…sigh). Or that time we gasped when we learned that in addition to being ineffective, dietary supplements may be flat-out fatal? How about the happy dance we did when our nut butter obsession was deemed a-ok?
In case you missed these important health moments, we’ve rounded them up for you. Read on for the Cliff’s Notes versions of the biggest nutrition lessons we learned in 2016.
Here’s one more reason to skip the chips in aisle five: A 25-year study released in October found that upping your salt intake even the tiniest bit (i.e. by less than a half teaspoon each day) could increase your risk of premature death by 12%. Yikes. Nix these surprisingly salty foods from your diet, and add flavor to your food with these sodium-free herbs and spices instead.
What you see is what you eat, according to recent research from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. The 2016 study found that women 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, women 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.
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.
Well this is nutty. An analysis of 29 studies about nut-eaters and their health outcomes found that the benefits of eating the good fat-packed snack are abundant. That is, people who ate a handful of nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, peanuts—you name it) every day had a 30% lower likelihood of having heart disease than their peers whose diets were nut-free. And that’s not all. Those who regularly noshed on nuts had a 15% lower risk of cancer, as well as a 22% lower risk of premature death. Does that mean we can feel less bad about spooning PB straight from the jar now?
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 actually 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) actually works to boost heart health. Luckily, topping your toast with avocado instead of butter isn’t the worst sacrifice (and we have the delicious avocado toast recipes to prove it).