If you want to live healthier, step away from these 10 foods and general food categories.
We hate to be the bearers of bad news but yes, that means put down the bacon.
Let’s get this fan-favorite out of the way first. Bacon is not good for your health.
“Many don’t know that the World Health Organization has classified bacon in the same category as tobacco when it comes to carcinogenesis,” says Reyzan Shali, MD, referring to the process by which normal cells are transformed into cancer cells. “We have done a good job asking people to give up tobacco, but how come we have not done a good job asking people to not eat bacon?”
2. Turkey bacon
Turkey bacon isn’t a healthy choice either.
“If I can convince my patients to give up bacon, the next question I get is usually whether they can have alternatives to bacon, like turkey bacon. I explain that it’s the processing that makes the meat harmful. So replacing bacon with turkey bacon to make it healthier is misguided,” says Shali.
“All types of bacon are processed to become bacon, so changing the type of bacon does not change the fact that it’s processed meat” she says, noting that this is a difficult diet change to make, especially if someone has been eating processed food all their lives.
With that said, Shali urges people to remember when they reach for turkey bacon at the grocery store that “it’s processed meat that has nitrates. And according to a study in the Meat Science Journal, in the stomach, nitrite can eventually form carcinogenic nitrosamines in the acidic environment.”
3. Fried food
“Fried foods, yet another staple of the American diet that is terrible for our health,” states registered dietitian Angela L. Lago, also known as The Mental Wellness Dietitian. “I’m not suggesting that one never has fried foods, however fried foods should not be a staple of anyone’s diet. In general, fried foods are higher in fat, salt, and calories, all of which are horrible for heart health and the risk of developing obesity,” she continues, highlighting that the type of oil that fried foods are cooked in is of great concern.
“Many times, especially in restaurants and fast food businesses, hydrogenated, trans fats are used, which are associated with heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. A great alternative is to pan fry at home in olive or avocado oil or use an air fryer to get the same effect without the negative health benefits,” Lago comments.
EAT THESE FOOD TO LIVE A LONG LIFE, EXPERTS SAY
4. Potato chips
Andrea Paul, MD, medical advisor to Illuminate Labs, chimes in on why this popular snack food is bad for you: “Chips are known to be unhealthy for a number of reasons. They’re low in nutrition, and high in cheap fats and sodium,” she says. “This obviously varies by brand, but health-conscious consumers want to avoid chips as a snack.”
If you’re craving a crunchy food, opt for nuts or veggie snacks like kale chips, Paul says.
5. Added sugars
If you see any added sugars on the nutrition facts panels of packaged foods, steer clear. “Added sugar has essentially zero nutritional value and has been shown in medical research to increase risk of obesity and metabolic disease,” Paul explains.
“I recommend that consumers try to cut out added sugars entirely from their diet,” she adds. “You can replace added sugar with whole foods like fruit or healthier sugar substitutes like blackstrap molasses, which is nutrient-dense and has a lower glycemic index.”
6. Processed oils
Try to cut processed oils out of your diet as much as possible.
Arika Hoscheit, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Paloma Health, an online medical practice focused exclusively on treating hypothyroidism, explains why: “Processed oils like grapeseed, soybean, canola, cottonseed, corn, and vegetable oils are generally detrimental to human health and should be avoided. This is because they are heated to extremely high temperatures during processing, which oxidizes the oils,” she says.
“Oxidation produces free radicals that can cause damage throughout the body. As we age, our bodies have to work harder than they used to in order to recover from insults,” she explains.
“Try to limit or avoid processed oils and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants. Consuming plenty of antioxidants can help to protect the body from any free radicals that are produced,” Hoscheit notes.
7. Hydrogenated fats
This category of fats lurks in many packaged foods and fast food products.
“Hydrogenated fats are conclusively shown to increase mortality rates in population studies. It’s important that consumers read the ingredient label on their packaged food products, because many popular consumer brands of products like peanut butter contain hydrogenated fats,” says Paul, who advises avoiding these fats entirely.
“They don’t even add any flavor, and are used to improve cost efficiency for the manufacturer. Peanut butter with a simple ingredient label like dry roasted peanuts and salt is much healthier than peanut butter with hydrogenated fats and added sugar,” she says.
MORNING HABITS DOCTORS AND PSYCHOLOGISTS WISH YOU WOULD DO
8. Refined carbohydrates
These include white bread, white rice and pasta, pastries, pizza and more.
“I like to describe refined carbohydrates as foods that started out as nature intended, yet were then stripped of most of their nutrients to make them more palatable and enjoyable for the American public. Refined grain products are known to promote inflammation in our bodies, they are generally higher in sugar, and are also associated with obesity,” says Lago. “Gut health is also negatively affected by the standard American diet that lacks fiber and consists largely of processed, refined grain products.”
Lago takes the nutrient profile of 100% whole grain sprouted bread as an example. “It is abundant in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients that help our body thrive. Once the bread is processed to become soft, white bread, the nutritional value of the bread plummets, the fiber is stripped, the nutrients are wiped away, and there is little to no nutritional value compared to the original item,” she shares.
“Up to 89% of the antioxidant activity in whole grains is lost during processing, flavonoids, zinc, and vitamin E are reduced by 79%, fiber is reduced by 58%.,” she adds. “This can be said for rice, pasta, cereals, flour and other whole grains that go through the refining process.”
OLIVE OIL CAN HELP CUT RISK OF DISEASE, HELP YOU LIVE LONGER
9. Breakfast sausages
Consider this while loading your shopping cart: “According to a study [published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports titled] ‘Unprocessed Red and Processed Meats and Risk of Coronary Artery Disease, the available evidence points to strong associations of processed meat consumption with the incidence of coronary heart disorder (CHD),” says Shali.
To reduce the risk of developing heart disease, Shali urges her patients to cut out all processed meats from their diet, especially from their breakfast.
“I know that is not easy, and I have found that helping them take small steps over time can help get them detached from these dangerous breakfast treats,” she comments.
10. Processed meat
Even though it’s been explained that processed meats like breakfast sausage, bacon and turkey bacon are horrible for your health, this category of food is unhealthy as a whole. Therefore, it merits a standalone section.
Hot dogs, deli meats, packaged bologna, beef jerky, pepperoni and more, should all be avoided as much as possible, if not eliminated from your diet completely. “The World Health Organization has classified processed meats as a group 1 carcinogen, meaning it’s known to cause cancer. Processed meats contain chemicals that are not present in fresh meat,” says Lago.
“Studies show that people that eat an abundance of processed meats are more likely to have high blood pressure, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as well,” she adds.
If you’re looking to make this year your healthiest yet, check out these nine superfoods for a long, healthy life.