It's a well-known fact that our weight tends to creep up as we grow older -- the average adult gains about one pound per year! But why? Turns out, food is the worst offender, say Harvard researchers who studied more than 120,000 people spanning 20 years (none of whom were obese). And some foods are more sinful than others.
Those who ate more starches or processed foods packed on about 4 more pounds every four years than those whose diets had more natural fiber, healthy fats and proteins.
And the worst culprit of them all? Potato chips -- just one serving a day led to a 1.69 lb (0.8kg) weight gain every four years. Here's a list of the most 'sinful' foods, compiled from the study:
Cut back on these
These foods are associated with the greatest weight gain, for every daily serving.
Potato chips (1.69 lb weight gain every 4 years)
Other potatoes (1.28 lb weight gain every 4 years)
Sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 lb gain every 4 years)
Unprocessed meats (0.95 lb gain every 4 years)
Processed meat (0.93 lb gain every 4 years)
These increments may not look significant now, but they can quickly add up over the years. Luckily, not every food's bad news -- the study has also identified some that are actually good for our waistline:
Eat more of these
These diet-friendly foods are associated with less weight gain when their consumption was actually increased.
Focus on the quality of your food
"These findings underscore the importance of making wise food choices in preventing weight gain and obesity," says senior study author Frank Hu. "The idea that there are no 'good' or 'bad' foods is a myth that needs to be debunked."
So what are the take-home messages here? When it comes to keeping your weight in check, don't just watch your calorie intake. Instead, emphasize on improving your dietary quality by making more wholesome choices:
Focus on quality carbs such as fruits, veggies and whole grains, and cut back on sweets, surgar-laden drinks, starches, and refined grains.
Eat more minimally processed foods. Opt for fresh or frozen vegetables and meats instead of processed foods like deli meats and potato chips, and deep-fried foods such as french fries.
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