Do you know which foods are good or bad for you? With today’s conflicting health messages, there’s always another hype going around. One type of food either gets praised or demonized, but worst of all – it can change its status every other week. So what would be the foods to never eat?
A recent study done by iModerate Research Technologies revealed that people have a strong desire to eat healthy, but most aren’t exactly sure what healthy eating entails, and how they can make it practical for them.
While every single body has a unique fingerprint and therefore
Are you affected?
Be aware that just because you haven’t suffered from any negative outcome yet, this doesn’t mean that unhealthy foods haven’t affected you in some way – and pretty surely will sometime in the future. But my making little adjustments, you can set yourself up for a fit, long and healthy life.
To give you a head’s up, we have already written down a quick overview of what type of food is really good for you, all of which is backed up by scientific research. But alongside knowing what is really good and beneficial to you, I want to give you a list of what is definitely unhealthy, explaining the reasons behind this claim, and showing useful alternatives. Let’s dive into it!
1. Meat & Fish
No matter if it’s been processed or is coming directly from the butcher – the human physiology is not made to be eating and digesting animal flesh (if we were natural meat eaters, we would eat the animals with all organs and fur, raw and even alive – just like lions do). Therefore, it causes many of today’s most common chronic and deadly diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, obesity, as well as all-cause mortality.
So not only is meat responsible for tumor production, clogging our arteries and causing weight gain, it keeps our bodies in acidic and toxic state – which is the exact environment disease thrives in. This is due to the containing animal protein and saturated fat/cholesterol, which is found in these animal products. Their lack of essential nutrients and fiber round up their profile.
But chicken is surely healthy?
I’m not just talking about the red meat here. One serving of chicken contains just as much cholesterol, clogs your arteries and causes heart disease. It’s a common industry practice to feed chickens arsenic to make them grow faster – this is a highly toxic substance for humans and can cause anything from dementia to cancer.
Since chickens raised for their flesh are often crammed into massive sheds, they need to be fed a large amount of antibiotics and drugs to keep them alive. These additives are likely to expose humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through food supply. A USDA study also found that more than 99% of chicken carcasses sold in stored had levels of fecal contamination – which means you are literally eating poop every time you have some chicken.
You won’t believe what’s in seafood
And eating fish isn’t any better. Besides its toxic contamination that causes cancer and brain degeneration, its bacteria can make you really sick and cause food poisoning. Fish swim in water that you wouldn’t even think of drinking – yet by eating the flesh, you’re ingesting this toxic brew (including mercury, arsenic, radioactive substances and harmful chemicals) as well. As they move up the food chain (big fish eating little fish), they absorb all the chemicals from the other fish as well – examples for this are tuna and salmon.
The contaminants found in
Beans, peas and legumes are a great safe, plant-based source of
It’s not a coincidence milk is often referred to as "liquid meat", since its nutritional profile is similar to other animal products. Unfortunately, most people associate dairy with good calcium sources, being important for bones, muscles, and growth. But instead of offering great nutritional benefits, adding them to a plant-based diet would only supply more calories, fat, animal protein,cholesterol, sodium, microbes, and chemical contamination.
What’s even worse: Did you now that one glass of milk contains around 130 million pus cells? They develop because most cows suffer from stress-induced mastitis, an infection of the udders. Often times, this ailment is treated by giving cows antibiotics – causing antibiotic resistant organisms to be bred inside the animal’s body. This is what you’re drinking, as well.
The truth about dairy products
Of course it’s easy to fall in love with ice cream, cakes, butter, cheese, and yogurt – they are loaded with sugar, salt and additives to make them irresistible. But did you also know, that milk naturally contains casomorphins, a substance that has opioid effects? Especially cheese has a pretty high amount of these protein fragments, which is why it’s so often people’s greatest weakness or even addiction.
The hormones in dairy (both naturally occurring in any mammal’s breast milk and also given to the cow in the form of the genetically engineered synthetic bovine growth hormone to increase milk production) can make a cow double its size in 45 days – likewise, they increase your cell growth as well, which results in undesirable cancer and accelerated aging.
On top of that, milk actually damages your bones because it provides excess protein and causes acidity, both of which makes you lose calcium. Most humans beyond their first years of life also don’t produce the enzyme lactase anymore, which is needed in order to break down the sugar in milk. That often results in digestive or skin issues, both of which are a sign of lactose intolerance. It’s a clear sign that we aren’t made to consume any dairy at all – other than human breastmilk for the first years of our lives.
There are also plenty of healthy alternatives to milk, ranking from almond and cashew to rice or oat milk – you can even make them yourself and home and consume them raw. Your best calcium sources are nuts, beans, whole grains, and vegetables.
Even though eggs sometimes enjoy the reputation of being a highly nutritious food, most people seem to forget what kind of nutrients and non-nutrients they are offered. According to many studies, egg yolks cause plaque inside the arteries and are just as detrimental as smoking cigarettes. In fact, eating just one egg a day is as bad as smoking 5 cigarettes!
Eggs contain about 60% fat, a large portion of which is saturated, and egg yolks have the highest amount of cholesterol of all foods. An average-sized egg contains an unhealthful 185 milligrams of cholesterol, which is the advised daily intake of someone with diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
But the egg whites aren’t exactly healthy either: they often trigger allergies, cause you to lose vitamin B (Biotin) and are one of the most bacteria-filled foods you can eat.
One thing that should alarm you though: Legally, eggs cannot be called nutritious – but there is no legal definition for “nutrient-dense”, so this is the attribution eggs usually receive. Eggs can’t also be portrayed as a diet food because of their saturated fat and cholesterol content. So it’s wrong to claim eggs are “relatively low in calories,” “low in sat fat,” or “relatively low in fat.”
Furthermore, they cannot be called a “protein-rich food” and it’s even illegal to say eggs are “healthful” or “contribute healthful components”. The scariest part though is that it’s not allowed to claim eggs are “good for you”, an “important part of well-balanced, healthy diet”, or even “safe”. This is because more than 100,000 people every year in the USA get poisoned by Salmonella from eggs.
So the USDA doesn’t really want us to consume them and only allows the egg industry to claim eggs “can reduce hunger” – just like virtually every other safe, nutritious, healthy food could. It's on ourselves to make smarter food choices and leave eggs where they belong: in a hen's nest.
Instead of using eggs when baking, you can put flax or hemp seeds, as well as apple sauce and mashed banana into the dough. Have you tried scambled tofu yet? Together with black salt it's scaringly close to scrambled eggs. Better sources of protein include beans, seeds, and green vegetables.
4. Sugars & Sweeteners
The effects of refined sugar are commonly known these days. From obesity to diabetes, cancer, liver disease, metabolic syndrome and even heart disease – this substance does the body a lot of harm. It can come in the form of white or brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, and so many more. All of them are highly refined, stripped of important nutrients, and even taking minerals and vitamins away from your body.
This means sugar only provides you with a whole bunch of calories that are “empty”, meaning useless. It can also cause tooth decay, insulin resistance (stepping stone towards diabetes), and its harmful effects on metabolism can contribute to cancer.
Obesity, Cravings and Addiction
On top of that, the simple carbohydrates found in sugar don’t even really satiate your body, leaving you craving more calorically-dense food after a short period of time – which is the main reason why sugar leads to obesity.
Another reason why it’s easy to overeat on sugar food is that is triggers a huge release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain, which makes you come back for more again and again (just like with other highly processed junk food). Its addictive properties make it hard not to overeat – and since nowadays sugar is in a lot of packaged foods, they become just as hard to resist.
The dangerous thing is that you don’t even recognize that you’re consuming sugar a lot of the time, so becoming aware of it is really crucial. Just like drinking soda can become such a habit and mindless routine that you don’t even think of it containing harmful ingredients and empty calories.
Speaking of which – have you read the ingredient list on a bottle of coke? How many of these words can you pronounce? This fact should be a huge red flag, since I personally don’t know of anyone who has acesulfame potassium or sodium benzonate lying around in their own kitchen, which shows how far away from real, natural food this beverage is.
It can cause roughly the same harm as pure sugar or high fructose corn syrup and should be avoided at all cost. A typical small can of soda contains about 140 calories, all coming from pure sugar. This is as much as 10 stacks or tablespoons.
Are sweeteners any better?
But don’t fall into the trap of drinking diet coke instead! Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, have devastating effects on your health too. They increase the risk for kidney problems, heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, cell damage, and even depression!
Since diet soda alters your metabolism, you are much more likely to develop a metabolic syndrome – when researcher Hannah Gardener and her team studied 2564 adults over the course of 10 years, 591 of them had a heart attack, stroke, or died of cardiovascular causes. They found a strong correlation between diet soda consumption and these diseases.
Drink self-made or good quality bought fruit or vegetable juice. You can also infuse your water by adding some citrus or berries to make it taste better. Good sugar alternatives are date paste or syrup, molasses, dried fruit, stevia, or apple sauce. Not all sugar is bad, especially when it comes with essential vitamins and minerals, meaning in its whole form like fruits, starches, or whole grains.
5. Oil & Margarine
Vegetable oils sometimes get a really good reputation – just like olive oil or coconut oil for example. But almost nobody sees their similarity to white sugar even though extraction processes have removed all of the ingredients of the whole food as well. What used to be an olive, sunflower seed or soy bean, filled with phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, has been turned into pure, liquid fat. These free oils are no longer intermixed with the naturally-designed package of nutrients that the body needs in order to properly digest and assimilate the food.
When you think about it, humans were never exposed to concentrated oils until very recently since they don’t just exist is nature. Our bodies are not adapted to such concentrated fats. While it’s true that we do need fats for proper functioning, choosing oil (or even animal fat) isn’t the answer.
What about essential fats?
The good news is that plants can synthesize both essential fats, namely omega-3 and omega-6. That’s actually where fish get their omega-3 fats as well: by eating algae and storing the fats. Therefore, we can easily skip the fish and just consume the plant itself. The requirement for essential fats is rather tiny, so even the most basic diets provide sufficient linoleic acid which forms the omega-3’s and omega-6’s.
Oils contain a very unnatural large amount of omega-6 fats and therefore deranges the omega-3 to omega-6 balance, which should ideally be around 1:3 – 1:1 (modern diets range from 1:10 – 1:25). This can lead to structural changes within our fat stores and cell membranes, causing harmful chain reactions. The more omega-6 you have in your body, the more inflamed you become and the more omega-3 you need to balance it out again. An increased inflammation cancontribute to serious diseases, such as heart disease, depression, and cancer.
Especially if you suffer from heart disease or are at risk of developing clogged arteries, it’s very important that you skip any kind of oil. Some have claimed that a few types of oil would be ‘heart-healthy’ but the truth is that high fat foods hurt the health of our blood vessels. They evenconstrict them by blocking the production of nitric oxide. Instead of using any oil, eat a tablespoon of flaxseed daily for your omega-3’s.
Even though margarine has been promoted as a cholesterol-free and healthy alternative to butter, it’s the ultimate source of trans-fats. By solidifying vegetable oils, the chains of the fatty acids get altered and therefore become very harmful. Don’t get me wrong, butter isn’t an alternative as well (as I have written above), but don’t think of margarine as a healthy option. Everything I just told you about vegetable oils is true about this artificial product as well.
It’s getting worse
Fried foods are usually amongst people’s favorites, but the high temperature they have to endure during this process causes them to form toxic chemical compounds. On top of that, they have a high saturated-fat content – usually accompanied by lots of trans-fats which develop due to the heat.
They raise your LDL (‘bad cholesterol’) and can increase your risk for heart disease as well as cancers. A study performed by the Public Health Sciences Division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle showed that men consuming foods such as French fries, fried chicken, fried fish or doughnuts at least once a week had a raised risk for prostate cancer of between 30-37%. These foods even caused the disease to be rather aggressive.
Deep-fried foods are also known to contain compounds linked to chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. The hotter a food is fried, the more oil gets absorbed – overloading your food with fat and grease. It also increases likelihood of getting towards the smoke point, at which oil breaks down and toxic fumes as well as free radicals start occurring. Most of the time, the fry oil has even been reused and is full of bacteria which feeds on leftover food particles. Especially rancid oil that became stale contains molecules that can damage cells and therefore lead to increased cancer risk.
When it comes to cooking or frying food, you shouldn’t use any oil at all or even heat it up to such high temperatures. Vegetables are best sautéed in a pan using water or vegetable broth instead of oil. Other liquids can work too. Pay attention so the water doesn’t cook off and your food gets sticky or even burned. Baking works without oil as well, replace it with a mashed banana, applesauce, dried fruit, or tofu. When it comes to salad dressings, you can simply omit the oil and use some tahini, vinegar, juice, mashed avocado, or plant-based yogurt.
Both animal products and refined plant products are harmful to your body and not considered natural, health-promoting food. Try to avoid them at all cost if you can and shift your way of eating towards a fully plant-based and whole food diet.
By doing this, you will drastically reduce your risk of ever suffering from a chronic and detrimental disease. Since it’s our food and lifestyle choices, not our genes most of the time, when it comes to being healthy, this is your chance to take your destiny into your own hands.
Luckily, there are many great alternatives to the worst foods out there, so you won’t miss out on either taste or important nutrients, which come from whole plant-based sources.
What kind of changes are you going to make now? How has your diet developed over the past years? What do you imagine being the hardest food to let go of? Let us know in a comment below.
About the Author
Alena has been eating a plant-based diet for 6 years and is passionate about sharing her learnings in the fields of nutrition, wellbeing, and vegan ethics. She is the co-creator of nutriciously and loves music, reading, nature, traveling, yoga & good food. Alena received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy, and social work.