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Hiding Junk Food Key for Health

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A new study has found that the food that is visible on your counter can predict your weight. Find out more about this intriguing study and ways to correct unhealthy eating habits below.

It may be hard to believe, but what you have out on your counter is a good predictor of how healthy you are. A new study published in the journal Health Education and Behavior in 2015 found that visible foods are much more likely to be eaten.

This means that when unhealthy snacks are visible, you are more likely to eat them, but when healthy foods are visible, you are more likely to make healthier choices.

Find out more about this interesting study and how you can use the research to better your overall health below.

Study Details

Researchers examined over 200 kitchens of individuals living in New York. The researchers wanted to know how food environment related to a person's overall BMI. The researchers found that when households kept fresh fruit and vegetables in visible places, they were more likely to have healthy BMIs.

However, when junk food snacks and soda was visible, the study participants were on average, 20 pounds heavier than the visible fruit group. The researchers concluded that these findings go along with the "see food" diet, in which individuals are more likely to consume food that is right in front of them.

Study participants who kept soda out weighed the heaviest, even above individuals who kept unhealthy snacks and candy in plain few. Even more surprising, individuals who kept out visible breakfast cereal weighed an average of 20 pounds more than individuals with fruit on their counters. Although this seems surprising, cereal typically contains massive amounts of sugar, so it makes sense that eating it regularly could make a person gain weight.

Health Changes After 10 Days
  • Cholesterol: 10 points lower
  • Blood pressure: five points lower
  • Triglycerides: 33 points lower
  • Fasting blood sugar: 53 percent lower
  • Stroke risk: Reduced by 15 percent

This One Trick Will Control Unhealthy Eating Habits

As this study shows, individuals who had visible junk food on their counters were more likely to weigh more. The simple solution is to remove all junk food from the house, or at the very least, from open displays.

Make it easiest to eat vegetables and fruit by cutting up vegetables into slices that you can munch on throughout the day. If you make it easy to eat vegetables and fruit, you will be more likely to make healthy dietary choices.

Make it difficult to eat junk food, either by removing it from the house completely or storing it in a hard-to-reach place, such as at the top of a closet behind something else. You might even forget it is there, which is even better for you.

Simple Food Swaps to Improve Your Health

Small changes in your diet can make big changes in your health. As the study showed, junk food, sugary snacks, and soda were the biggest causes of weight gain and obesity. You can improve your health dramatically by removing these foods from your diet. Instead of sugary, junk foods, make these swaps for better health:

Food Subs for Better Health
  • Replace "weight loss" snacks with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
  • Replace cereal with protein-rich snacks, like hardboiled eggs and string cheese.
  • Replace potato chips with roasted nuts or chickpeas, kale chips, or pea chips.
  • Replace candy sweets with dark chocolate (80 percent cacao is full of antioxidants and low in sugar) or dried fruit.
  • Replace soda with kombucha tea or fruit-infused water.

How Long Does it Take to Improve Health?

Americans love quick results. We don't want to wait around for months or years for a new lifestyle change to take effect. Instead, we want our results immediately. That is why there are so many "quick fix" diets on the market today and exercise programs that promise change in just two or three weeks. Not all of these programs are effective, but research does show that reducing sugar shows benefit within two weeks.

In a study published in the journal Obesity in 2015, it was found that cutting added sugar from a child's diet takes effect within 10 days. The researchers found that when the children in the study reduced their sugar intake (from an average of 30 percent of daily calories eaten to 10 percent of daily calories eaten), they had improved blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and insulin regulation.

The children had lost no weight during this period, but their overall health improved. We focus a lot on weight loss, as it appears a visible sign of better health, but this study shows there is more to living a healthy lifestyle than just maintaining a certain weight.

The study gives support to the theory that what calories you consume are just as important, if not more so, than how many calories you are eating. Weight loss is not the only sign of improved health.

Since the study only took place over 10 days, it is unclear if further sugar restriction would have caused the children to lose weight. However, other weight loss studies have shown that when sugar intake is reduced, study participants typically lose weight, unless they were a healthy weight to begin with.

There is More to the Story Than Sugar

The landmark study has received a lot of media attention due to the major impact of such a small change. In an interview with Time Magazine, lead study author, Dr. Robert Lustig, told the magazine that he believes children would become even healthier with additional diet changes. In this study, the only difference in the children's diet was a reduced sugar intake.

The children still ate a diet of mostly processed foods with few vegetables and fruit. Dr. Lustig told Time Magazine, " We gave them crappy food... and processed food — and they still got better. Imagine how much even better they would have gotten if we didn't substitute and took the sugar out. Then they would have gotten even better yet."

What Happens Long-Term?

This study examined the effects of reducing sugar intake for a short period, but other studies have showed the benefit of reducing sugar and junk food intake long-term.

In fact, the amount of vegetables and fruit you eat as a young person directly influence your health later in life. A 2015 study published in the journal Circulation studied the health effects of vegetable and fruit intake over a period of 20 years. The researchers found that when young people, aged 18 to 30, ate seven to nine servings of vegetables and fruit a day were 25 percent less likely to have calcium buildup in their arteries 20 years later than individuals who ate fewer than five servings of vegetables and fruit daily.

This study not only supports the idea that eating enough vegetables is important, but also that it is important to eat healthy from a young age.

Hide Junk Food and Be Healthy

It turns out, you will eat what is in front of you. If that is junk food and sugar, you will eat more of that. Conversely, if you have visible healthy foods, you are more likely to eat those. This is important for the lifetime quest for health, not only because it reduced excess weight by about 20 pounds with no other changes, but also because it supports the healthy habit of eating seven to nine servings of vegetables and fruit daily, which contributes to a lifetime of health. So stock plenty of visible healthy snacks and encourage your kids to say no to sugar and junk food, too.

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