This Is the Unhealthiest Vegetable You Can Eat

Updated 11/20/19

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Is corn bad for you? What about peas? They are vegetables, after all… These are the diet questions we find ourselves asking. And we're not the only ones.

Indeed, you'll be hard-pressed to find a professional nutritionist who doesn't recommend eating more vegetables. (In fact, leafy greens and sprouts are among the few foods that all nutritionists agree are healthy.) But as the ever-growing interest in being healthy and getting in great shape increases, an eye-opening 2015 Harvard study of diet and weight loss is making the rounds again.

In the study, researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health examined the daily diets of approximately 130,000 adults over 20 years. Every four years, the scientists solicited food diaries of what participants had eaten every day for a week, and every two years, participants reported their exact weight. With these findings, the study was able to identify a category of vegetables that actually contributes to weight gain, inspiring exasperated sighs around the country.

With the granular data, they were even able to pinpoint the one vegetable that leads to the most weight gain—aka arguably the unhealthiest vegetable of them all. Curious to find out what it was? Keep scrolling to learn the number one worst vegetable for weight loss.

And the unhealthiest vegetable is…

According to Harvard's report, participants who ate larger quantities of starchy vegetables, like corn, potatoes, and peas, were more likely to gain weight. Corn was the biggest culprit, with just over two pounds of weight gained for each additional serving spanning the four years. The reason? These starchy foods have higher glycemic loads, producing frequent, intense blood sugar spikes after they are eaten, which can ultimately make a person want to consume even more.

While Harvard is applauded for its top-notch professors and research teams, some nutritionists don't fully agree with this information. "I really don’t believe there is a 'worst' vegetable as long as it is sourced correctly," says NYC-based nutritionist Amy Shapiro, noting that t only becomes problematic when corn is the only vegetable as part of someone's diet. "Peas contain a fair amount of protein, potatoes are starchy and similar to corn except they contain different nutrients and are more digestible." She does, however, note that since these veggies are part of the nightshade family, they can be an issue for those with auto-immune issues. "Overall, these veggies can all play a roll in a balanced diet as long as they are portion controlled and prepared in a healthy way," she says, noting to limit the common buttery and cheesy preparations of these foods.

Should You Cut Corn Out of Your Diet?

"I think corn can be part of a healthy diet since it contains many minerals and antioxidants that promote eye and skin health," Shapiro says. "You can absolutely eat it daily, but I would consider it a starchier vegetable and would recommend limiting it to one ear of corn or 1/2 cup of corn kernels daily or at least per meal."

What's more, she suggests only doing so during certain times of the year, as she reminds us that not all kernels are created equally. Shapiro says that "a lot of corn in the United States is genetically modified, as it is a cheap crop that is widely used to feed animals and to make inexpensive sweeteners." As such, she recommends saving corn for the summer, when you can eat it locally and fresh.

What Vegetables Should You Eat Instead of Corn?

In contrast to corn, the study found that participants who ate plenty of high-fiber vegetables, like kale and string beans, were likely to lose weight over time. (It's worth noting, however, that while Mayo Clinic acknowledges corn as a high-fiber food as well, it's a bad form that's more likely to cause blood sugar spikes and potential weight gain.) As such, filling your plate (or bottle) with fibrous veggies is a good place to start. (Not a big veggies fan? You can get many of the same benefits with Garden of Life Raw Organic Superfood Fiber Supplement, $25.)

The Final Takeaway

We don't know about you, but we're probably still going to indulge in a cob or two every now and again. You?

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