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5 “Diet” Foods That Don’t Help You Lose Weight

5 “Diet” Foods That Don’t Help You Lose Weight

Many people believe that various types of “diet foods” help with weight loss, but in many cases, they don’t–they actually make it harder.

Weight loss is a $61 billion market, and when people are spending that much money, you’d better believe that there are companies willing to do or say anything to get a piece.

“Diet” foods are an example of this and are pushed in mainstream weight loss advice as a healthy, easy way to lose weight. Many people believe that weight loss even requires the consumption of diet foods.

Well, I have good news: you don’t have to eat diet foods to lose weight. All you have to do is ensure your metabolism is healthy and burn more energy than you consume, and you will lose weight. If you really want to do it right, you will include resistance training in your routine, like weightlifting, to preserve (or even build) muscle and thus maximizing fat loss.

So, in this article, I want to discuss 5 popular diet foods that you should stay away from whether you’re trying to lose weight or not, and what you should choose instead.

Why Agave Syrup Doesn’t Help You Lose Weight

You can find more than 300 species of agave plants growing in Mexico, the southern United States, and northern areas of South America. The nectar extracted from the core of this plant has long been used for medicinal and intoxication purposes (you get tequila when you ferment it), and more recently, as a natural sweetener.

Most of the agave syrup you find in stores comes from the “blue agave” species of plant, and although it’s marketed as a healthier alternative to sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, it’s not.

You see, both sucrose (table sugar) and high-fructose corn syrup are comprised of about 50% glucose and 50% fructose, whereas agave nectar can be anywhere from 55% to as high as 90% fructose. Why does this matter?

Well, more and more research is emerging that increasing fructose intake increases the risk of developing the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. (And in case you’re wondering, the fructose found naturally in fruit is fine, but the fructose artificially added to foods to sweeten them is not.)

So, if you’re looking for a healthy, natural sweetener, stay away from agave and choose a zero-calorie, fructose-free alternative like stevia or xylitol.

Why Fruit Juice Doesn’t Help You Lose Weight

Many people perceive fruit juice to be healthy because they assume it comes from fruit. Well, in many cases it’s little more than flavored sugar water. No fruit, just chemicals that taste like it.

Even if you choose 100% fruit juice, it’s still not a great choice of beverage for a few reasons:

1. Drinking calories never a good idea when you’re trying to lose weight. 

Weight loss requires that you restrict your calories, and if you want to avoid hunger issues, you need to get as much satiation from those calories as possible. And drinking calories simply doesn’t make you feel full.

Instead, you want to be eating plenty of protein, low-gyclemic carbohydrates, and fibrous foods, all of which keep you satiated and less likely to overeat.

2. The natural sugars found in fruit are different than those found in the juice. 

This is because the sugars in whole fruit are bound to the fibrous flesh, which fills you up and slows down their absorption in the body. The bottom line is the sugars in fruit don’t pose a problem unless you’re eating ridiculous amounts of fruit every day.

Fruit juice is different, though–it allows you to consume much larger quantities of sugar, and it lacks the fibrous matter to slow down the absorption. For example, one cup of orange juice contains the sugar content of about two whole oranges, or a can of Coke, with none of the fiber mass.

So, enjoy a few servings of fruit every day, but stay away from fruit juice.

Why Diet Soda Doesn’t Help You Lose Weight

An easy way for many people to reduce caloric intake is to simply switch from sugar-sweetened beverages to artificially sweetened ones, like diet soda. While this is an effective way to reduce the amount of sugar and calories one eats, it can cause other problems.

Namely, research has shown that artificial sweeteners can stimulate the appetite as well as sugar cravings, causing you to overeat in general and thus sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

The last thing we need when we’re dieting to lose weight is an appetite stimulant, so leave the diet soda out. Instead, stick to water and if you have a sweet tooth, indulge it my favorite choice: naturally sweetened green tea.

Why Gluten-Free Junk Food Doesn’t Help You Lose Weight

Gluten-free dieting is hugely popular these days and big food manufacturers have jumped all over it, bringing all kinds of crappy gluten-free products to the marketplace.

Well, remember that cheap gluten-free muffins, breads, cereals, and other highly processed, low-quality carbohydrates are no better than their gluten-containing counterparts.

All are devoid of nutrition and high on the glycemic index, which can contribute to vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as increase the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even certain types of cancers. Furthermore, research has shown that high-glycemic carbohydrates can be less filling than lower-glycemic options, which increases the likelihood of overeating.

If you’d like to reduce your gluten intake, stick to naturally gluten-free foods like meats, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, not processed gluten-free junk sitting on the supermarket shelves.

Why Margarine and Fake Butters Don’t Help You Lose Weight

While the anti-fat crusade has died down and given way to the now-trendy anti-carb hysteria, people continue to buy margarine and other butter alternatives.

Well, while butter is healthy, margarine isn’t. There are two main problems with margarine:

1. Many margarine products still contain trans fats.

Trans fat is a highly processed form of unsaturated fat that has been associated with increased risk for a whole host of health problems, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, depression, and more.

Furthermore, and directly relevant to weight loss, research has shown that regular consumption of trans fats may induce insulin resistance, which in turn impairs your body’s ability to burn fat.

2. All margarine products contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids.

An omega-6 fatty acid is a type of fat molecule that is found in quite a few foods prevalent in Western diets such as pultry, eggs, vegetable oils, whole grain breads, and nuts.

While omega-6 fatty acids aren’t inherently harmful, if you eat too much of them and too little omega-3 fatty acids (which are comparatively scarce in the common Western diet), the risk of developing many types of disease (cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, depression, and more) is dramatically increased.

The bottom line is us Westerners are already generally eating too much omega-6 fats and too little omega-3 fats, so throwing margarine into the mix will only make the problem worse.

Instead of turning to margarine or other similar products, you’re much better off sticking with the real deal and just using it sparingly, as a part of a proper meal plan.


What do you think about these diet foods? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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Leave a Comment!
  • Great article Mike! Margarine stops here. 🙂
    What are your thoughts on a yogurt-based butter alternative such as Brummel & Brown?

    • Scott

      Is there a specific reason as to why you are selecting a yogurt-based butter?

      I’d personally stick with real butter. I highly recommend KerryGold. I prefer the less processed things.

      • Yeah, lower fat content.

      • Russ Vanover

        2tbps in your coffee for breakfast….yuuum

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yeah cut that shit out! 🙂

      I’ve never heard of that. I’ll have to check it out.

  • Gary

    I know this has got nothing to do with the article but I was wondering what your opinion is when it comes to using a thick bar for bicep exercises? Alot of articles claim that a thick bar will increase your grip and forearm strength dramatically and place more stress on your bicep, thus building forearm and bicep mass at a faster rate than a standard barbell. I’m struggling to figure out whether this is actually true or if its just a load of BS to help market products such as fat gripz. Would appreciate your opinion!

    • Michael Matthews

      I’ve used fat grips-like products and I like them for building grip strength. I don’t use them on curls though–just push exercises.


    What about the slightly salted and unsalted butter? There is even an olive oil version as well. Are they adding other stuff to make up the flavour instead of salt?

    • Michael Matthews

      Butter is totally fine.

  • Jim

    Hi mike. I’ve always been interested in pre workout. I took ‘super pump’ a while back but it gave me anxiety/panic attacks after about 20 mins of consumption. Any thoughts if why this may be and do you think your pulse pre workout could have the same effect?

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s not good. I doubt mine will do that as it’s light on the stimulants. It only has caffeine and has it theanine to make the caffeine rush smooth.

  • natallie

    I recently found out about agave and stopped using it. My concern is what about raw honey and pure maple syrup? Are they good alternatives?

    • Michael Matthews

      They’re okay. They are similar to sucrose in terms of fructose and glucose content.

  • natallie

    I recently found out about how bad agave was and stopped using it. My concern is what about raw honey and pure maple syrup? Are these good alternatives?

  • Shreddy Brek

    Spot on in regards to the gluten free stuff. Gluten free alone doesn’t make a food healthy. I do however eliminate gluten from diet during contest prep, but for me this means the only foods i eliminate are oats, and replace that with potato or rice. I don’t pick up gluten free muffins, cupcakes and all the other crap these foods promote.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I’m going to write an article on gluten and gluten-free diets. I generally keep my gluten intake low because too much will upset my stomach and make me hold water.

      • GlutenFreeDude

        Sorry, but I don’t even understand the point about Gluten Free in the article. I don’t know anyone, nor have I ever heard of anyone, being on a gluten free diet to lose weight. People do it because they either have Celiac disease or to avoid stomach discomfort from gluten consumption. Who is saying it is for weight loss? Maybe if an article was cited where this was brought up as a claim….. This article seems to argue against a point that doesn’t exist. I feel like I am missing something.

        • Michael Matthews

          Really? Gluten-free is hugely popular right now and many people are buying GF products because they think they’re “healthy carbs” that are better for losing weight and/or staying lean. I get asked about it fairly often.

          • jackfaktor

            3 out of 8 people on my team at work are still on their Gluten-Free New Year’s weight loss diet. I’ve bitten my tongue and haven’t said a word to them.

      • Jeanne Ahlers

        My daughter and my mom both need to be on gluten free diets, luckily I do not. However, I do need to buy gluten free foods for them to eat when they are at my house. Not all gluten free food is bad, you have to read the labels, just like you would for any food if you are trying to live a healthier lifestyle. There are lots of good recipes to make things like healthy gluten free muffins and breads.
        People who go on a gluten free diet usually do lose some weight initially, because they realize they can’t eat the junk they are used to, and it takes them awhile to realize there are just as many gluten free junk foods as not. There are many people who have no idea about nutrition and just eat whatever their taste buds desire, which is why they are fat and are looking for an easy way out.
        I try to eat processed-free and chemical-free, which is much harder than gluten free, I think. I feel so much better though, and I can really tell when I end up eating something I shouldn’t.

  • Mike

    I need to focus on intake that will promote water loss..I think my salt consumption in things like butter sprays and packaged foods, even if sparingly is hurting me at this point and is visually frustrating. Working to get from 12 perc to 9 perc bf at the moment. I am considering moving to a simplistic approach using a more limited amount of foods plan that gets the job done. Not moving to a restriction mindset, though some things I have found just have to be limited or cut out period if I am going to progress further. Increased my activity as well, though I am on the cusp of additional activity not benefiting me. If I could just be like the guys in the movies who drink everyday and eat shit and walj around ripped lol no wonder people are confused

  • Joseph Piscitelli

    The Big problem with most Gluten Free Bread products is that they’re primarily, Brown Rice and Tapioca. You might as well just have a couple of cups of Sugar instead. There is well made Gluten Free Bread out there, made from Spelt, Teff, and Amaranth Flour, but, it’s difficult to find, if you don’t live in or near a big City. I live in Philly, so we do have a couple Bakeries that make Gluten Free Breads. I can no longer eat any Gluten do to Osteo Arthritis in my Hips and hands. It really aggravates my Inflammatory Response, in those area’s. Although it doesn’t bother my Intestine’s. I had to figure this out myself, there’s almost nothing on this in the Medical Literature. When I told my Doctor this, he looked at me like I had 3 Heads, until he did a test for Gluten Sensitivity.

    • Michael Matthews

      I agree. Thanks for sharing.

  • Nathan Hanak

    Spot on with the Gluten stuff. I’m so tired of going in to a bakery and seeing “gluten-free” doughnuts, muffins, etc. Sure, it’s a great way to appease the minority of people with celiac disease who can enjoy a doughnut, but in reality it’s being used as a cop-out by those who are trying to be healthy and still “indulge”. If you’re going to have a doughnut, just have a regular doughnut.

    Also I’ve heard that margarine is one chemical bond away from being plastic, who wants to eat that?

    Also with butters, like a lot of dairy and cow products, you have to be careful. A lot have grain-fed diets or are treated with hormones and the excess crap gets stored in their fat. While I’d take butter that’s processed, from not nicely-treated cows over margarine any day, there are still risks. Grass fed is the way to go if you can.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup. Paleo is the same way for some people. They think that because a bread is Paleo, they can just eat away.

      Regarding the dairy, it’s foggy due to the amount of conflicting research out there, but I too like to stay on safe side and limit my dairy intake. And I avoid run-of-the-mill junk dairy.

  • Wigster

    Hi Mike – Interesting one about the zero sugar sodas, and could explain why I’ve started feeling so damned hungry all afternoon since starting to have a couple of large glasses at work. I’m guessing the same thing would apply to other sugar free stuff like mints & chewing gum?

    • Michael Matthews

      Very possible. And yup, all artificially sweetened products.

      • wigster

        Just a quick follow up on this, and you seem spot on again Mike. I’ve stopped having the diet sodas & no added sugar squash drinks, and my afternoon hunger cravings have vastly reduced!
        Thanks again!

        • Michael Matthews

          Perfect! Glad to hear it!

  • Leandro Miguel Pucci

    I believe the gluten issue will eventually become what the fat issue has become. no one is addressing the issue that gluten consumed in the US is frankengluten. Wheat consumed here is a genetically altered seed that contains many extra gluten molecules witch render the results we are seeing in people.
    in regards to the Agave, I am not convinced that much. I use stevia for my coffee, try to get gum with Xylitol and very seldom I use a teaspoon of agave on a yogurt. Stevia and Xylitol are chemically altered (processed) in order to get what we get. So I don’t trust them completely as a totally safe alternative to a natural product. Agave, raw sugar, honey seem to be less processed. If something calls for a sweetener I am more inclined to a moderate use of a natural sweetener than a powder chemical one. Of course the way to go is to avoid sugars to the best effort.

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s very possible with the gluten. I will need to research more into it though as there is a lot of health alarmism used to sell products.

      A teaspoon of agave every day isn’t going to hurt.

      You can look at research conducted on stevia extracts and xylitol. Just because something is processed doesn’t automatically mean it’s unhealthy.

  • AB

    I juice my own wheat grass, kale, spinach, and an apple tossed in with a slice of ginger and lemon. I do this on the weekends after a good cardio session. I always feel great after the drink and it helps my digestion as a high protein diet seems to clog me up. What is your angle on this? Thanks for the article as well.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yum! Juicing is veggies great. A little bit of apple isn’t going to hurt.

  • I think pretty much anything with the much “diet” or “low fat” in front of it (with a few exceptions, of course) means the food is packed with artificial fillers and preservatives. GF is one of the biggest diet fads of our generation, and the industry is making a killing off these poor people. When in doubt, eat real food.

    • Michael Matthews

      In many cases that’s true, yes. I’ll be writing more about GF soon.

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  • Liz Barr

    Ahhh I love your website, if I have a question about fitness or dieting, I always find the answer! Thought diet coke was a cheeky treat, but will definitely be steering clear from now on!

  • Zak Smith

    Hey Mike,
    Have you ever had Monster zero calorie energy drink or zero calorie red bull? If zero calorie drinks like those don’t increase your appetite is there any reason not to drink them?

    • Go for it. The caffeine and taurine in them might help suppress your appetite and give you some energy you’re not getting from food.

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