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What’s a No-No Now? Re-Thinking Food Taboos

Mar 22, 2017 02:00PM ● By Becca Newell
By Becca Newell

When a decision is reached to begin a weight-loss or healthy eating regimen, there are certain food groups, like carbs, that are immediately eliminated from one’s diet because they’re deemed “bad.” While this is inherently true—unfortunately, it’s near impossible to eat three doughnuts a day and still drop a dress size—it’s important to distinguish the good foods from the not-so-good.

Sometimes a complete diet overhaul is in order; other times, it’s more a case of moderating certain food groups already in your every-day eating plan. Either way, we’ve found that a little of the “bad” can do a whole lot of good.


Daily Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Published by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Added sugars

Less than 10% of calories

Saturated fats

Less than 10% of calories


Less than 2,300mg


Up to 1 drink for women; up to 2 drinks for men


Between three to five 8oz servings (up to 400 milligrams)



Completely eliminating complex carbohydrates from your diet isn’t necessarily harmful—especially if adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed—but it may result in a lack of essential fibers, vitamins, and minerals. These starches, found in grains, beans, root vegetables, and whole grain pasta and bread, are good sources of energy and contain calcium, iron, and B vitamins. Fiber is vital in keeping bowels healthy and it also helps create the feeling of being full, which subsequently results in consuming less food—perfect for watching that waistline! Additionally, some fibers, like those in apples, sweet potatoes, and oats, have been shown to help reduce blood cholesterol. Complex carbs are not to be confused with the refined starches in white bread, white pasta, white rice, and other processed foods that contain little to no fiber and other nutrients.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrates, established by the Institute of Medicine, is 130 grams per day, which provides enough glucose to the brain for proper function.

Fat (and Cholesterol)

Unsaturated fats, like monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats, are considered to be part of a heart-healthy diet; saturated and trans fats are not. The latter are found in items that aren’t exactly diet-friendly, like baked goods, pizza, hot dogs, ice cream, and fried chicken, so eliminating these types of food certainly isn’t unhealthy. Research suggests MUFA-rich fare, like olive oil, almonds, cashews, avocados, and olives, may help to lower your risk of heart disease, meaning the aforementioned items are shopping list staples. Additionally, some research suggests MUFAs may improve blood vessel function and aid in blood sugar control. However, any type of fat is typically high in calories, so be sure to include even the “good kind” as part of a well-balanced diet.

In its 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the government suggested limiting dietary cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams—or about two eggs—per day. This recommendation was removed from the most recent guidelines, since some studies suggest little correlation between heart disease and one’s dietary cholesterol intake. Still, the 2015 guidelines propose a healthy eating pattern with restricted dietary cholesterol.


Women should consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day and men should consume no more than nine teaspoons of added sugar per day, according to the American Heart Association.



It’s nearly impossible to rid your diet entirely of sugar, since much of it—typically glucose, fructose, and lactose—is found naturally in fruit and other foods. It’s important, for example, to consume fresh fruit (in moderation!) since it also provides nutrients and fiber. There’s plenty of research that correlates the consumption of added, or refined, sugar—the stuff found in sodas, cakes, and other sweet treats—with obesity, increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and other health complications. These are the sugars that should be limited. However, sugar-free substitutions aren’t the best solution. Though data is inconclusive and more research is necessary, there are several studies that suggest artificial sweeteners, like saccharine and aspartame, may be addictive, could increase the risk for type 2 diabetes, and may contribute to weight gain.

Don’t be fooled! Added sugar isn’t just found in sweet stuff. There are dozens of processed foods, like ketchup, crackers, and fruit-flavored yogurts, that contain refined sugars or syrups.

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