Sounds harmless, right? Look for that white bread.
We all have our pleasures: A big bowl of chocolate ice cream after a long stressful day. This can of Coke with a few slices of pizza on a Friday night. A burger and fries in this new restaurant that everyone loves.
The saying “everything in moderation” exists for a reason. Most doctors and nutritionists know that completely depriving yourself of the foods you love will backfire, causing you to eat way more of them than you should. But there are certain foods that gastroenterologists — doctors who specialize in keeping your gut and digestive tract healthy — avoid 99% (and sometimes 100%) of the time.
None of these foods will set you back for years if you eat them once in a while, but there are some foods that gastrointestinal doctors rarely eat. Here are six.
Protein bars are healthy, right? While some — like those made with real fruits and nuts — are better than others, Dr. Harmony Allison, a gastroenterologist at Tufts Medical Center, says she never eats highly processed ones. In particular, super-processed protein bars can lead to bloating and gas. “I never eat ‘protein’ bars. They tend to be highly processed and contain many additives of unknown usefulness,” she said. “You can get the same amount of protein from a cup of milk, a serving of peanut butter, nuts, or pumpkin seeds.”
Sorry, red meat lovers: GI docs are not fans. “I avoid red meat, especially steaks and burgers,” Dr. Reezwana ChowdhuryA gastroenterologist at Johns Hopkins. “Red meat and processed meat increase the risk of colon cancer and colon polyps. They’re high in saturated fat, but if you’re going to eat it, the amount you eat matters: the risk of colon cancer is higher in those who eat more than 100 grams a day (that’s just under a quarter of book). ”
Eating processed meats, like hot dogs, four or more times a week can lead to a 20% increase in the risk of colon cancer.
Hot dogs and other processed meats
Few people find it hard to turn down a few pieces of fragrant bacon or a hot dog, but Dr. Rabia DeLatour, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, avoids processed meats like these — and sadly, deli meats count too. “Red and processed meats have a higher risk of colorectal cancer,” she said. “Data linked eating red and processed meats four or more times a week to a 20% increased risk of colon cancer.”
Fried fish or chicken
That Filet-O-Fish and carton of chicken nuggets are delicious and all, but they’re doing your gut health a disservice.
“Studies have shown that frying oil can negatively modulate the gut microbiome, leading to exacerbation of atherosclerosis (accumulation of fat and other substances on the walls of the arteries),” explained Dr. Mahmoud GhannoumA microbiome researcher and co-founder of BIOHM. In the long term, this buildup can lead to consequences like heart attack and stroke.
If you’re a regular consumer of soda or any other type of sugary drink, it might be time to kick the habit. “Although they may be easy to consume, these beverages are also linked to chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease,” said Dr. Simon C. Matthews, gastroenterologist at Johns Hopkins and member of the advisory board of Living Health. “Additionally, they are often associated with triggering gastrointestinal symptoms of bloating, burping, and reflux, especially when combined in their carbonated and caffeinated forms.”
According to dr. Shilpa GroverTHE director of the onco-gastroenterology program in the division of gastroenterology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, refined grains are not good for your gut.
“Studies that have assessed dietary habits have clearly shown that a high intake of red and processed meat and refined grains is associated with an increased risk of [inflammatory pouches in the digestive tract] called diverticulitis,” she said. “Contrary to what was previously thought, nuts, corn and popcorn are not associated with an increased risk of developing diverticulosis or complications such as diverticulitis or bleeding.
But your gut health isn’t the only thing you need to watch out for when it comes to eating a diet high in red meat and refined grains.“These same diets recommended to reduce the risk of health problems such as diabetes, coronary artery disease and cancer, including colorectal cancer, are also likely to decrease the risk of diverticulitis,” she said.
If you’re mourning a loss of identity as you contemplate going through your summer months without a single hot dog, don’t worry: a hot dog here and there won’t wreck your gut health. Just go with them — and maybe add some sauerkraut for gut-boosting benefits.