Many self-proclaimed healthy eaters don’t really have a good understanding of what they are putting into their bodies. Do zero-calorie drinks, protein bars, and bottled water seem reasonably healthy? Do you know what’s in them? This list will give you the information you need to know to make your own educated decisions about what you put into your body.
1. Powdered Cellulose
Cellulose, much of which is actually powdered wood pulp, is added to many common foods. If you’ve ever wondered why your shredded cheese doesn’t stick together, it’s because of cellulose. Cellulose is essentially just a complex carbohydrate and is a basic element of every plant product. For the food industry, the cheapest form of cellulose comes in the form of wood pulp. In an industry set on increasing profit margins, cellulose is a much cheaper filler or thickener than more expensive ingredients like, say, flour.
The shocking thing about cellulose is its prevalence as an additive. It is an ingredient in so many different food products that it is actually reasonably hard to avoid. Check the back of the package the next time you purchase cheese, pasta, crackers, sauces, or even ice creams there is a good chance you’ll find some wood pulp in there. The good news, which may be comforting or not, is that cellulose is not necessarily harmful. It has virtually no nutritional value, however, so you will be much better off sticking to fruits and vegetables.
2. Canned Food
The cans in your pantry more than likely contain harmful industrial chemicals. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical compound used in canned food products and shown to leach into canned food through the can liner. A recent study found that up to 92 percent of canned food products contain BPA. It has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and can affect fetal development in unborn children.
Canned foods typically contain high amounts of sodium and sulfites as preservatives. The levels of sodium in a single can of some canned vegetables can surpass your entire recommended daily intake of salt. Some manufacturers have begun to sell low-sodium versions of canned vegetables in response to growing low-sodium diet demands. Sulfites are sulfur compounds found in canned vegetables that may cause allergic reactions in people with sulfur sensitivities.
When you have a choice of vegetables, your order of preference should go like this: fresh, frozen, and then canned. Fresh is always best. Your intake of canned foods should be limited to one can per week to ensure the levels of consumed BPA and preservatives are kept relatively low.
3. Genetically Modified Foods
Genetically modified foods or GMOs have been used in long-term testing of animals and have shown terrible side effects including intestinal degradation, organ failure, and infertility. In humans, GMOs have been shown to deposit residue that may lead to major intestinal health issues. Since the production of GMOs in the late 1990s, the percentage of Americans with chronic illness has risen approximately 11 percent. Some physicians have indicated that children are at greater risk for the negative effects of GMOs.
GMOs have been genetically engineered to be tolerant of herbicides. When farmers use GMO seeded plants they are able to apply these chemicals to their crops without the worry of plant damage. As you can imagine, this often leads to the overuse of herbicides; since 1997, it is estimated that farmers in the United States have used more than 411 million pounds of excess herbicide on genetically modified crops. This over-spray means higher levels of herbicides can make it all the way to your grocery store shelves.
In the US there is very little government oversight and regulation of GMOs. Government controlled testing has shown GMOs can cause side effects that are variable and hard to predict; however, the government will not officially recognize that GMO foods are different than non-GMO foods. Speculation exists that some officials in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may have vested interests in the continued use of them, leaving us to make our own decisions.
4. Bottled Water
They claim to come from far away glaciers, natural springs, and even Iceland. However, over 90 percent of the bottled water sold is merely tap water bottled. You read that correctly. Most bottled water is obtained from municipal water supplies. If you don’t believe it, check the back of the bottle for the water source. If it refers to a supply, reservoir, city, or municipality it was essentially bottled from tap water. But is tap water bad? No. Tap water is typically better for you than bottled water.
What makes bottled water worse is that plastic from the bottle can leach into the water, you don’t know how old the water is, and you don’t know the treatment process used to disinfect the water. Most municipal water sources, which supply most bottled water manufacturers, use a chlorine treatment of the water to disinfect it. Regrettably, chlorine disinfection creates what is called disinfection-by-products or DBPs in the water. Some DBPs have been shown to boost the chance of cancer and other disorders. In addition, the plastic container will go through heating and cooling cycles causing plastic byproducts to leach into the water.
6. High Fructose Corn Syrup
When the food industry decided cane sugar was just too costly, it looked for less expensive sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) arrived. Excess consumption of HFCS can lead to diabetes, obesity, and a variety of other health concerns. So many foods contain HFCS that it can be easy to consume more than your daily recommended intake of sugars.
Bottom line is that HFCS raises your fat storage hormones and is a contributor to diabetes, obesity, and liver disease. Stick to the natural sugars found in fruit, and if you have to consume food or drink with sugar, ensure it is made with cane sugar instead of HFCS.
7. Trans Fat
This type of fat is typically found in partially hydrogenated oils and is used in many foods including fried foods, crackers, biscuits, pie crust, baked goods, pizza, margarine, and other butter alternatives. These fats are used due to their availability, inexpensive production, and longevity. These facts make the use of trans fats very appealing to fast-food restaurants, where they are often used in place of other oils.
Consumption of foods containing trans fats will raise your LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels and lower your HDL or “good” cholesterol levels. Although no one knew much about trans fats until the early 1990s, the American Heart Association now goes to great lengths to bring awareness to the negative impacts of trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils. A high LDL with a low HDL has been shown to increase your risk of heart disease. You should avoid trans fats like the plague.
8. Processed Foods
These foods go thru mechanical and chemical processes, resulting in foods with fewer nutrients and sometimes more harmful additives. Processing food removes the vitamins and minerals synthetic minerals and vitamins are then added. Many of the foods in this article of the top 10 foods to never eat, including partially hydrogenated oils, HFCS, and artificial sweeteners, are used as additives in processed foods.
Unfortunately, many foods packaged as healthy or natural are actually processed foods. Many health foods are processed in an effort to affect nutritional packaging claims such as low calorie, low carbohydrates, high protein, or low fat. These processed foods often leave you hungrier than before you ate them. Studies have shown that people who eat food with normal amounts of fat and carbs are actually less likely to gain weight than people who eat low fat or low-calorie diets. Low fat and low-calorie ice cream and sweets use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. If you think aspartame is not bad for you, keep reading; you may reconsider.
If you’ve ever grabbed a zero-calorie drink, snack, or even sugar-free chewing gum, you have likely tasted aspartame. The approval of aspartame by the FDA has been the subject of great conjecture for the past 50 years and the safety of aspartame continues to be questioned by many. The FDA still says it is safe, but the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recommends avoiding it.
One natural alternative to aspartame is stevia. Stevia is made from the Stevia rebaudiana plant and is 200 times sweeter than sugar, so you need less of it. Stevia, unlike sugar, has almost no effect on blood glucose levels. Stevia has recently become popular in the United States, but it has been a popular sweetener in Japan for almost 100 years. It is definitely worth trying.
In the past few years, public perception of gluten has drastically changed. Gluten was relatively unknown 15 years ago. Now, nearly any health food or grocery store offers a wide variety of gluten-free products to customers. Unfortunately, the majority of customers who purchase these foods won’t recognize any advantage of buying gluten-free products. This is because only 30 percent of people are likely to be gluten-intolerant or have a real gluten allergy. Gluten is completely harmless and a variety of foods contain it. Odds are if you don’t know whether you have a gluten allergy, you probably don’t. You should be able to happily enjoy delicious pizza, pasta, and bread packed with gluten without concern about intolerance. Concerns about weight gain, however, could be discussed on another day.