You know what they say: “You are what you eat.” In today’s high-cholesterol and trans-fat loving world, this age-old saying has begun to physically manifest itself more than ever before.
Hectic lifestyles have made us lazy consumers. Seldom do we check the ingredients of the products we pick up at the supermarket.
We just buy what is popular, without considering how it may affect our health. But our diet has a direct effect on our health and well-being.
According to the World Health Organization, the majority of the world’s population lives in nations where excessive weight gain is a bigger killer than malnourishment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States.
An unhealthy diet is the window to obesity and chronic heart disease. When planning a healthy diet, there are certain foods that we must avoid at all costs to begin transitioning toward better health.
Here are the top 10 foods you should never, ever eat.
Made from vegetable oils, margarine boasts lesser saturated fats than regular butter. For this reason, people consider it the healthier alternative.
However, margarine is full of trans fatty acids (TFAs), or simply trans fats. TFAs are fats that occur when vegetable oil-based products are solidified.
TFAs in our diets contribute to clogged arteries, restricting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart and causing heart attacks.
A 2011 study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry noted that mice fed a high trans-fat diet for 24 weeks showed plaque buildup in the arteries.
Researchers concluded that trans fats inhibit the activity of a vital protein that regulates cell renewal and strengthens the heart’s immunity against disease.
2. Processed Meats
Meat preserved by smoking, salting, drying or adding harmful preservatives like nitrates is processed meat. This includes bacon, ham, sausage, salami, beef jerky, canned and smoked meat.
Research has shown that eating processed meat contributes to fatal heart disease, cancer and premature death.
A 2013 study published by BioMed Central collected comprehensive lifestyle data on 448,568 men and women from 10 European countries.
Researchers concluded that people who consumed processed meats were at a 44 percent greater risk of premature death due to heart disease and cancer.
Processed meats also have high salt content that increases blood pressure. The nitrate preservatives also clog arteries and increase blood sugar levels.
In 2010, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health evaluated 1,600 case studies from four continents and concluded that processed meat consumption increased diabetes risk by 19 percent.
3. Soft Drinks/Soda
In the U.S., soda is the second most-preferred beverage of choice after water. One bottle of soda contains 44 grams of sugar.
Consuming soda regularly spikes our blood sugar. The excess sugar is stored as fat, contributing to obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
In a 2006 study published in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, researchers concluded that soft drink consumption may have adverse effects on bone mineral density.
In addition, a 2001 study published in Lancet concluded that daily intake of soda beverages increased the risk of obesity in children.
Daily consumption of 1 to 2 cans of soda elevates the risk of diabetes in young adults and increases the risk of developing gout for both men and women.
Colas, in particular, also contain phosphoric acid that inhibits calcium absorption, weakens bones and increases the risk of osteoporosis.
4. Artificial Sweeteners
As more people look to lower the calories in their diets, artificial sweeteners are replacing natural sugar in many products.
However, recent research has shown that artificial sweeteners increase the risk of diabetes by raising blood sugar levels and negatively affect the body’s immune system.
A 2014 study published in the Nature journal states that the body does not digest artificial sugar, which then goes to the intestine and is absorbed by intestinal bacteria, altering their behavior.
According to results, this causes rapid weight gain. It also prevents sugar breakdown, significantly accelerating the risk of diabetes.
In addition, although artificial sweeteners are sweeter than sugar, they tend to increase sugar cravings and sugar dependence because there is a strong correlation between repeated intake of a flavor and preferred intensity for that flavor.
5. Deep-Fried Foods
Deep-fried foods like French fries, potato chips, onion rings, fried chicken and breaded cutlets are exceptionally delicious, but also exceptionally unhealthy.
Oil contains fat, and in order to deep-fry food, you need lots of it. Deep-frying is also a slow process, allowing foods to absorb a lot of the fat.
Eating these fat-laden foods on a regular basis increases cholesterol and clogs arteries. This leads to heart problems. A 2015 study published in the Journal of American Heart Association showed a positive association between fried food intake and heart failure.
Also, a 2014 study published in the American Society for Nutrition journal showed that frequent fried-food consumption was significantly associated with risk of developing incident Type 2 diabetes or coronary artery disease.
Furthermore, carbohydrate-rich foods like potatoes, when fried at high temperatures, produce acrylamide – a substance that increases the risk of cancer.
6. Microwave Popcorn
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stated that microwave popcorn bags are lined with certain chemicals (PFOA) to keep the grease from leaking out. When these bags are microwaved, the chemicals leak into the popcorn.
A 2009 study published in Human Reproduction substantiates that these chemicals increase the risk of infertility.
A 2010 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that consumption of PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) chemicals might cause thyroid disorders. If left untreated, thyroid disorders pose the risk of turning into thyroid cancer.
Other studies in the U.S. have also proven exposure to PFOA chemicals is a major cause of breast, kidney and testicular cancer. These chemicals also increase cholesterol levels and, consequently, the risk of chronic heart disease.
7. Canned Foods
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a compound found in canned food linings that leaks into the food and, upon consumption, causes myriad health problems.
It interferes with the hormone and gene regulation system of the body and is linked with problems like early puberty, obesity and cancers.
A 2013 study published in Human Reproduction noted that BPA consumed through food led to egg mutations in women, leading to difficulties conceiving a child. BPA may even promote breast cancer growth.
In addition, a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found a direct correlation between BPA levels found in children’s urine and childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is one the leading causes of heart disease in adulthood.
8. Instant Noodles
Instant noodles are laden with artificial flavors, preservatives, seasonings and colors. It contains minimal nutrition with high levels of calories, fat and sodium. When consumed, we end up absorbing the harmful preservatives and additives.
In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers in Korea studied the dietary habits of 10,711 adults.
Results showed that women who consumed noodles 2 or 3 times a week reported an increased prevalence of metabolic syndrome which is characterized by elevated blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and abdominal fat.
All these conditions combine to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Regular high sodium consumption can also cause heart and kidney disease.
9. White Bread
White bread is made from white flour. A wheat kernel comprises two parts – the germ and the bran – that contain all the nutrients.
When white flour is manufactured, the germ and bran are removed. Therefore, white flour is stripped of nutrients, and all that remains is the starch.
Starch increases the blood sugar level in your body, raising the risk of diabetes. The excess blood sugar also carries the risk of converting into fat and being stored away in the body. Gradually, this increases the risk of excessive weight gain.
Since white starches pack no nutritional value, and the sugar is quickly digested, we also tend to feel hungry sooner after eating. This, unwittingly, can lead to a spike in our daily caloric intake.
10. Soy Protein
Almost all of the soybeans cultivated in the U.S. are genetically engineered and sprayed with an herbicide called glyphosate for protection from weeds.
Processed oil and protein from soybeans is found in myriad food products and are popularly consumed. So, the herbicide is consumed along with it.
According a 2010 report submitted to the US Environment Protection Agency and the European Food Safety Authority, exposure to glyphosate sprays in Argentina used in soybean cultivation resulted in a significant increase in pregnancy complications, neural deformities, miscarriages, birth defects and cancer.
Since soy protein re so widely added to a variety of foods, it is important to read the label before purchasing anything.