You might want to consider taking the following unhealthy foods off the menu if you want to live a long and healthy life . The food you put into your mouth every day plays a much bigger role in how healthy you are than your genes.
Some of these are obvious but the crazy thing is part of these have been promoted as “healthy foods” at some point or another but scientific research has shown extensively that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
So without further ado here are the top 10 unhealthy foods you can find at your local supermarket and even whole foods.
The process used to make a liquid oil opaque yellow and spreadable produces an incredibly unhealthy product that hardly qualifies to be called a food. It doesn’t matter if you start with the best quality extra virgin olive, the final product is still an unhealthy food.
Promoted as a cholesterol free and healthier choice than good old butter, margarine is the ultimate source of trans fats, which rather ironically elevate cholesterol and damage blood vessel walls. Even more ironic is the fact that margarine is still recommended by health authorities including the Australian Heart Foundation who also promote reducing dietary trans fats. Clever loopholes in labelling allow margarines to claim that they are ‘virtually’ trans fat free. Margarine is a good example of a politically correct unhealthy food.
What about the new cholesterol lowering margarines?
Save your money, you’ll be getting a dose of the very same phyto sterols by using extra virgin olive oil liberally in your diet. Most fruits and vegetables also contain phyto sterols. Flaxseed or linseed meal, nuts, seeds and legumes are all rich sources of phytosterols.
For a more detailed overview of the processes involved in making margarine, visit the Stop Trans Fats website.
2. Breakfast Cereals
These cleverly marketed, attractively boxed ‘foods’ are in my opinion one of the most unhealthy foods in your supermarket.
And it’s not just me who thinks this.
According to Dr. Peter Dingle, a Western Australian Toxicologist and author of “My Dog Eats Better than Your Kids” and “The DEAL for Happier, Healthier, and Smarter Kids”, McDonalds makes a more nutritious breakfast than Cornflakes!
Even Choice Magazine agrees with me. They looked at the top 10 selling children’s breakfast cereals and concluded that you may as well have a candy bar for breakfast they were so high in sugar and lacking in nutrients. Iron man food they most definitely are not.
Besides the addition of sugar and refined salt, breakfast cereals are made from highly processed grains. You might start off with a nice healthy whole grain but by the time you’ve puffed it or turned it into a nice crunchy flake, you’re left with something your body no longer recognises as food. The process used to make the little ‘O’s, pellets, shreds, flakes and other shapes in your cereal bowl is called ‘extrusion’. The extrusion process damages the nutrients and proteins in the grain leaving them devoid of nutrients, highly toxic and not much more than empty calories – watch this space, they will be the trans fats of the future.
3. Refined Vegetable Oils
A diet high in omega 6 polyunsaturated vegetable oils has been linked to an increased risk of:
- Cancer (Escrich E, et al. 2006. Are the olive oil and other dietary lipids related to cancer? Experimental evidence. Clinical and Translational Oncology). (Peskin BS, Carter MJ. 2008. Chronic cellular hypoxia as the prime cause of cancer: what is the de-oxygenating role of adulterated and improper ratios of polyunsaturated fatty acids when incorporated into cell membranes? Medical Hypothises.)
- Melanoma (Vinceti M et al. 2005. A population-based case-control study of diet and melanoma risk in northern Italy. Public Health and Nutrition)
- Learning disorders
- Immune suppression
- Heart disease
- Atherosclerosis (hardened plaques in your arteries)
- Reproductive problems
A pretty impressive list for a food we’ve been urged to consume more of for the last 20 years.
Polyunsaturated vegetable oils are highly fragile and easily damaged and subject to rancidity producing huge amounts of free radicals. The refining process also strips them of their natural antioxidants including vitamin E which in turn depletes your body of valuble antioxidants when you eat them.
The only oils in my kitchen include sesame oil, ghee and coconut oil for cooking, olive oil for salad dressings and butter to turn steamed vegetables from boring to mouth watering.
According to Carla Wolper, Nutritionist at the New York Obesity Research Centre, “When it comes to health, the only thing good about them is the hole”.
Break down a doughnut and you’re left with nothing but refined sugar and flour, artificial flavors and partially hydrogenated oil. They’re also loaded with trans fats – hello heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Despite the fact that they’re about as healthy as a packet of cigarettes, doughnuts are increasingly used in school fundraisers these days. And we wonder why as a society that diabetes and obesity are set to cripple our health care system in the next decade.
Even if you live by the mantra of ‘everything in moderation’, treat doughnuts like rat poison rather than a food.
5. Soft Drinks
Your average can of soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar (about 150 calories) as well as artificial food colours and sulphites. Sulphites are well known triggers of asthma and other allergies. Diet soft drinks are just as unhealthy, artificial sweeteners like aspartame are potent ‘excitotoxins’ to the brain and nervous system and have also been linked to an increased risk of obesity.
Soft drinks are definitely not a ‘soft’ option in the junk food stakes, they increase your risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Soft drink are a particularly unhealthy food for children as they are a significant risk factor for impaired calcification of growing bones – you wouldn’t dream of letting your child smoke a cigarette or drink a glass of wine as a ‘special treat’ so it makes no sense that it’s OK to give a child a can of cola as a weekend treat.
According to a report in the medical journal of Australia, “There is much to be gained by reducing children’s intake of soft drinks and little — except excess weight — to be lost”. Not to mention healthier bones and teeth.
The easiest way to stop yourself and your family drinking soft drink is to simply stop buying it. If it’s not in the fridge you can’t drink it.
(Artificial sweetener: Trade Name Equal and NutraSweet)
As a natural health consultant I’m always trying to convince people to eat less sugar. But sometimes a little big of sugar is much healthier than some of the artificial alternatives.
There are far worse things than sugar hiding in your food.
Aspartame, the artificial sweetener also known as Equal and NutraSweet was first approved for use in dry foods in 1981. Its approval by the American FDA which paved the way for approval throughout the rest of the world was highly controversial. The FDA commissioner, Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes who approved its use over ruled his departments own board of enquiry who recommended against approving aspartame for use in food. Shortly after approving aspartame, Dr. Hayes left the FDA to take up a very well paid position in public relations for the pharmaceutical giant, Searle, who produced aspartame and pushed hard for its approval. For more info on the checkered past of aspartame and dirty politics visit Sound and Fury Productions the makers of the documentary Sweet Misery
Why is aspartame so bad for you?
- Aspartame is broken down or metabolised into the well known toxin, methanol (wood alcohol).
- Methanol is then converted to formaldehyde and formic acid (which is responsible for the pain caused by ant stings).
- Formaldehyde is a potent neurotoxin and causes damage to the nervous system.
Other documented effects of methanol poisoning include vision problems and problems with DNA replication which can cause cancer and birth defects. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) classes’ methanol as an ‘accumulative poison’ as it is excreted slowly once absorbed into the body. This means that even very small amounts of aspartame can be toxic if taken on a daily basis. When taken on an empty stomach, the metabolism of aspartame to these toxic byproducts is accelerated – ironic when you consider that most people who use this artificial sweetener are in fact dieters eating aspartame laced unhealthy foods and meal replacements.
When aspartame is heated to temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius, large amounts of free methanol are produced resulting in greater toxic reactions due to faster absorption. Despite this, in 1993 it was approved for use in foods that would be heated to high temperatures such as jelly, cakes, biscuits and puddings. Aspartame toxicity is believed to be responsible for ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ caused by diet cordial and soft drinks consumed by troops that had been heated to temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius in the Saudi Arabian sun.
Some of the toxic reactions caused by Aspartame and acknowledged by the FDA include:
- Anxiety attacks
- Birth defects
- Blood sugar control problems
- Chronic cough
- Chronic fatigue
- Headaches and Migraines
- Facial flushing
- Heart palpitations
- Hearing loss
- Numbness or Tingling of extremities
- Seizures and convulsions
- Vision loss
- Weight gain
Aspartame can also mimic or worsen the following disease:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Multiple chemical sensitivity
Holisticmed.com contains an extensive resource list on aspartame and its toxic health effects including work by Dr. Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon who has written several books on the damaging health effects of this very common artificial sweetener.
And lets face it, at the end of the day, the sorts of foods that aspartame is found in are pretty unhealthy foods at best, making it pretty easy to avoid if you’re even marginally interested in a healthy diet.
7. Soy Protein
Textured vegetable protein (TVP)found in vegetarian “Not Meat” products and Soy protein isolate found in most processed foods.
No matter what side of the fence you sit on the great soy debate, TVP or textured vegetable protein made from de-fatted soy flour is so processed that it hardly qualifies to be called a food anymore.
It is a highly processed and unhealthy food, it is NOT a health food.
If you want to include soy in your diet, use the whole bean or foods made from the whole bean – fermented of course!
TVP is used by many vegetarians and vegans to increase protein in their diet and is also used by meat eaters keen to reduce meat in their diets due to budget or health reasons but don’t want to miss out on essential protein.
According to an article on the Savvy Vegetarian website, if you’re currently using TVP or other forms of soy protein you might want to find an alternative:
- Having most of the fats and carbohydrates removed means that it’s no longer a whole food.
- Food grade soy protein was originally used as animal feed, which didn’t pay all that well. So it was re-invented as a human food, and then as a health food, which was much more profitable. Think about the price of protein shakes, veg sausage, or veggie burgers, and you get the picture
- The world’s biggest manufacturer of TVP is the world’s second largest chemical company – DuPont. This same company funds much of research and telling us how healthy and safe texturised soy protein and soy powder is.
- Soy protein is used in a variety of foods such as salad dressings, soups, vegetarian foods, meat imitations, beverage powders, cheeses, coffee whiteners, frozen desserts, whipped toppings, infant formulas, bread and rolls, cereals, pasta products, oriental foods and pet foods. It is not used in these foods to enhance nutrition, it is used emulsify (combine oils/fats and water) and add texture to food – it’s used for the convience of food manufacturers, not to make it healthier for you.
- Most soy these days comes from genetically modified soy beans (soy beans are genetically modified to make them resistant to pesticides, so they don’t die when the weeds growing around them are sprayed).
Researchers, writers and healthy food campaigners Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig outline several more reasons why soy protein is such an unhealthy food in their article Newest Research Why You Should Avoid Soy
“SPI (soy protein) is not something you can make in your own kitchen. Production takes place in industrial factories where a slurry of soy beans is first mixed with an alkaline solution to remove fiber, then precipitated and separated using an acid wash and, finally, neutralized in an alkaline solution.”
“Acid washing in aluminum tanks leaches high levels of aluminum into the final product. The resultant curds are spray-dried at high temperatures to produce a high-protein powder. A final indignity to the original soybean is high-temperature, high-pressure extrusion processing of soy protein isolate to produce textured vegetable protein (TVP).”
“But high-temperature processing has the unfortunate side-effect of so denaturing the other proteins in soy that they are rendered largely ineffective. (23) That’s why animals on soy feed need lysine supplements for normal growth.” Nb. Denatured proteins are hard for your body to digest and often cause bloating and wind.
“Nitrites, which are potent carcinogens, are formed during spray-drying, and a toxin called lysinoalanine is formed during alkaline processing. 24 Numerous artificial flavorings, particularly MSG, are added to soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein products to mask their strong “beany” taste and to impart the flavor of meat. (25)”
“In feeding experiments, the use of SPI increased requirements for vitamins E, K, D and B12 and created deficiency symptoms of calcium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, copper, iron and zinc.26 Phytic acid remaining in these soy products greatly inhibits zinc and iron absorption; test animals fed SPI develop enlarged organs, particularly the pancreas and thyroid gland, and increased deposition of fatty acids in the liver. (27)”
8. Potato Chips
Out of all the foods on my top 10 Unhealthy Food hit list, potato chips are my biggest down fall and I have to admit to guiltily indulging in the odd packet of chips despite knowing what a shockingly unhealthy food they are, whether they actually deserve to be called a food is another matter. If I know I’m headed somewhere that chips will be laid out to tempt me, I eat a boiled egg before leaving the house which helps to keep me feeling full and satisfied and reduces cravings for unhealthy foods.
So if you find yourself falling afoul of the big bad top 10 unhealthy foods, don’t beat yourself up too badly. Simply avoid eating them every day (even once per week is too much) and if you’re regularly eating all ten super unhealthy foods remind yourself that by doing so you’re sending your body further into nutritional debt – think of it like going crazy with your credit card, at some point you’re going to have to pay for it, plus the interest.
The British Heart Foundation built an effective campaign around the slightly nauseating image of a young girl drinking cooking oil directly from a great big bottle to try and alert parents to the dangers of feeding their kids chips. British kids consume almost 10.5 pints of oil annually if they eat one bag of chips a day.
Another British chips fact: Brits consume a ton of chips every 3 minutes, or enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool every 14 hours. I’m sure that Australian statistics are just as bad.
Gross statistics aside, just how bad are chips?
The oil that chips are cooked in is heated to extremely high temperatures forming all sorts of toxic compounds. To make matters worse, the oil is filtered and reused again and again and again.
Some of the toxic chemicals produced include carcinogens such as Acrylamide as well as toxic fat molecules that are cross-linked, fragmented, bond-shifted oils and polymerized (which translates into dangerous fats, far worse than trans fats).
Some brands of chips tested had levels of cancer causing acrylamide 500 times more than the safe limit set by the World Health Organisation for acrylamide in drinking water.
After they’re cooked, chips are then loaded with flavour enhancers (MSG), stabilizers, anti caking agents, preservatives and colourings.
Chips are one of the most unhealthy foods that people eat on a regular basis and you’ll be doing your body a huge favour if you boycot the chip aisle in your supermarket.
9. Fructose and Sucrose
If are interested in diet, nutrition and health, chances are you’ve come across the term HFCS, otherwise known as high fructose corn syrup. The internet is awash with the dangers of this sweetener added liberally to processed foods and drinks, including soft drinks.
And it’s all true.
The good news is that HFCS is not used in Australia.
The bad news is that the sweetener currently used in Australia, sucrose, is every bit as bad.
Fructose on the other hand has always been thought of as a healthier sweetener as it doesn’t have an immediate effect upon blood sugar levels. This is why soft drinks such as certain Cola drinks have a low glycemic index. Fructose, unlike glucose doesn’t stimulate insulin production.Insulin’s job is to store energy, in other words, insulin’s job is to make you gain weight. This is why a high glucose or sugar intake leads to weight gain.
According to Dr Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of California, research over the last 10 years has shown that fructose is by no means a healthy alternative to glucose.
In Dr Lustig’s own words, “We’re being poisoned to death by fructose”.
He describes fructose as behaving more like an alcohol and a fat than a sugar. In fact he describes fructose as “just like alcohol without the buzz”.
You might want to keep this statement in mind the next time you reach for a glass of fruit juice or a ‘sugar free’ jam sweetened with fructose.
A high fructose diet can over many years can cause:
- Liver damage
- Weight gain
- Elevated uric acid (gout)
- High blood pressure
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels (elevated VLDL’s, the Very Bad cholesterol)
What does fructose have to do with sucrose, the main sweetener used in Australian processed foods?
Sucrose is actually 50% glucose and 50% fructose making it 100% unhealthy. High fructose corn syrup also known as isoglucos contains 45-58% glucose and and 42-55% fructose.
Sucrose is also known as table sugar or sugar.
Fructose does occur naturally in fruit, but our bodies are not designed to handle it in the amounts that are currently being ingested.
Our consumption of fructose has increased from around 250 grams per year in 1970 to 25kg in 2003. It comes as no surprise then that we’re all getting fatter as a society, despite the fact our fat intake has decreased from 40% to 30%.
Choose a piece of fruit over a glass of fruit juice and limit your consumption of sugar sweetened foods (if you really care about your health make it a priority to eliminate these unhealthy foods altogether). Also beware of ‘Sugar Free’ foods as these are often sweetened with fructose.
10. Fat Free and Diet Foods
If you’ve ever struggled to keep your weight under control, you’re probably already aware that fat free foods don’t help. A diet too low in fat leaves you feeling depressed and battling food cravings which does nothing to help your self esteem (or your waist line).
Fat also makes food taste good and if food doesn’t taste good most people won’t buy it. Food manufacturers know this, so in order for a low fat processed food to sell they load it up with sugar, salt, fructose, msg, artificial sweeteners and other bad things in order to make it taste appealing.
Fat free is a marketing gimmick based on what we thought we knew about health, nutrition and the human body back in the 1950’s. We now know that fat is not responsible for making most people fat – we’re already eating a diet much lower in fat than our grandparents.
We get fat thanks to our own hormones – insulin and cortisol, not just extra calories from unhealthy foods. A diet high in refined sugars and carbohydrates are the primary culprits behind high levels of these fattening hormones. You should be fearing the processed, colourfully packaged unhealthy foods in your supermarket more than fat. Other culprits responsible for fat producing hormones are lack of sleep, high stress, calorie restriction diets and lack of exercise (and in some cases, over exercising).
If you want a truly healthy low fat snack, pick up an apple instead of a fat free processed and unhealthy food snack.
Now you know what the most unhealthy foods are lurking in your supermarket. Being aware of them and the tricks manufacturers, advertisers and even your supermarkets use to promote these unhealthy foods as healthy is the first step to eliminating them from your diet.
In fact it helps to stop thinking of them as foods altogether, this helps you to move past thinking of them as harmless little treats that are OK for a lunch box snack.
These unhealthy foods are responsible for the current decline in our health as a society including skyrocketing rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, allergies and dementia.