Soda is on the top of my list because it provides absolutely nothing nutritionally speaking, and it is incredibly easy to avoid. If you are drinking soda for caffeine, you can easily replace it with coffee or tea. And if you are drinking soda for bubbles or flavor, you can replace it with seltzer and a piece of fruit! Drinking soda is basically like drinking simple sugar combined with chemicals. Because of the simple sugars, it causes a rapid insulin response (with an associated blood sugar spike) followed by the obvious crash soon after. If this happens regularly, it can cause insulin resistance and eventually, metabolic syndrome and/or diabetes. In addition, drinking soda has been linked to dementia, gout, increased cancer and heart disease risk, and of course, obesity.
Think you are off the hook because you are drinking diet soda? Think again! Even though diet soda doesn’t contain sugar, it is still linked to increase risk for diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, and tooth decay. In addition, the artificial sweeteners dull our sense to sweetness, causing us to crave sweets even more. AND they still send fat storage messages to the brain, so they don’t even serve the “diet” function. Take care of your body and switch to a natural beverage like water, seltzer, coffee, or tea!
2) TRANS FATS
Trans fats (aka Hydrogenated Fats) are the only real concern when it comes to fat in your diet. Other fats are good for you and serve multiple benefits to your body. Trans Fats, however, are altered in a way that they don’t give you that benefit- in fact they do just the opposite. So, trans fats are basically vegetable oils that have added hydrogen molecules to change them from a liquid to a solid and ultimately create a longer shelf life (ever wonder why Twinkies last forever?!?). The problem with this is that this altered state is hard for the body to break down and so it just hangs out in our fat tissues and actually prevents us from using other proteins and fats. As a result, trans fats are ultimately linked to increased “bad” cholesterol and heart disease, increased inflammation and metabolic disease, arthritis, diabetes, and stroke. Check your labels before buying and avoid anything with trans fats on the nutrition label or hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated anything in the ingredients list!
3) PROCESSED MEATS
Unless you’ve been living in a cave recently, you’ve probably seen the latest report by the World Health Organization (WHO) admitting that processed meats cause cancer. For that to happen, it’s gotta be legit! So, what are we talking about here? Well processed meats are basically meats that have been cured, smoked, or pumped full of sodium or preservatives with the goal of changing taste and/or extending shelf life. The most common suspects are bacon, sausage, hot dogs, salami, and prepackaged lunch meats. Do yourself a favor and limit most of these (reserving bacon for special occasions!) and stick with unprocessed grass fed meat.
4) HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is another example of a manmade, unnatural ingredient that impacts our bodies negatively. HFCS is a manmade sweetener that is commonly found in processed foods and sodas. It is cheap and easy to access (thanks to our abundance of corn crops!) so it is used a lot and is often a symbol of a cheap or low-quality food. The problem with HFCS is the way it impacts our hunger and satiation hormones. Ghrelin is our hunger hormone and Leptin is our satiation hormone and HFCS messes with both of them! Fructose does not actually stop ghrelin like glucose (sugar) does so we stay hungry even when we eat it. It also tricks your body into blocking leptin so you never feel full. This combination allows you to eat and eat and eat. That’s great for the food companies but terrible for your heart and your waistline. Opt for real sugar instead.
5) LOW FAT ALTERNATIVES
Low Fat alternatives to original packaged products have been popping up for decades now. The idea behind these options is that they are better for you since they are lower fat, but that is often very far from the truth! As a mentioned above, fats are good for you and an essential part to a healthy, balanced diet. The problem with these low fat products, is that something needs to be added when fat is removed. And that “something” can be sugar, artificial sweeteners, flavor enhancers, or even trans fats. All of these things ultimately make the food item less healthy than its full fat original! In addition, eating behavior studies have shown that when eating low fat products, people tend to eat up to 50% more. So, ultimately there is no benefit here. Stick with the original and try and enjoy good fat foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, and fish.