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21 "Health Foods" You Should Never Eat
With all of the confusion surrounding labeling and advertising, buzzwords like “sugar-free,” “all-natural” and even “organic” can be really confusing.
Most people I meet think that they’re pretty healthy. But when I probe a little deeper into their diets, I quickly find out that they are eating a lot of health foods you should never eat. I can’t blame them. With all of the confusion surrounding labeling and advertising, buzzwords like “sugar-free,” “all-natural” and even “organic” can be really confusing.
To makes things a little easier for you, here’s a list of the top health foods you should never eat. Many of these aren’t really health foods at all. Instead, many are secret sugar bombs, foods that set your body into inflammation overdrive, menu items that can throw your hormones into an unhealthy state or they’re tainted with seriously gross compounds.
Top Health Foods You Should Never Eat
- Fruit Juice
Fruit juice is just as dangerous as soda, or nearly as bad, when you’re drinking it in abundance. Think of it in this way: When you sit down to drink an 8-ounce glass of orange juice, you’re consuming the juice of four medium-sized oranges in literally seconds — or a few minutes at the most. Compare this to how long it would take to eat four oranges, and you can quickly see how eating fruit in its whole form is best. (Thanks, in large part, to all of that wholesome fiber.)
Fruit juice is so dangerously largely due to the fructose factor. In June 2014, a study published in the journal Nutrition found that the average fruit juice’s fructose concentration is 45.5 grams per liter. For soda, it’s 50 grams. Our bodies aren’t designed to deal with that type of fructose overload. While glucose serves as a fuel for our body, fructose is processed almost exclusively in the liver, where it’s converted to fat. (1, 2)
- Soy Protein
Contrary to popular belief, soy products are not healthy for you; at least, that is, unfermented soy. Fermented soy is one thing. But eating edamame, soy milk and soy protein is quite another.
Most soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified to withstand applications of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup. A recent Norwegian study found “extreme” levels of glyphosate in U.S. soy, meaning we’re eating weed killer when we eat nonorganic soy. That’s a problem, given that glyphosate is linked to many health problems, including human cell death. (3, 4)
It’s generally accepted that long-term use of soy dietary supplements like soy protein is unsafe because it has been linked to the following: (5)
- Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
- Breast cancer
- Cystic fibrosis
- Endometrial cancer
- Hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid)
- Kidney disease
- Urinary bladder cancer
All of these reasons are great reasons why soy is definitely one of the health foods you should never eat.
- Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols are commonly found in sugar-free gum and sugar-free baked goods and sugar replacements. Xylitol is one of the most popular forms. Others include: erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol. While often marketed as natural, these sweeteners undergo intense processing and are often derived from GMO ingredients like corn. Some of these products are also linked to allergic reactions, headaches, SIBO symptoms, rashes, gas and bloated.
Better option: Try green stevia, monk fruit or raw honey (in moderation) for sweetening.
- ‘Atlantic’ Salmon + Other Farmed Fish Like Tilapia
Another health food you should never eat: Farmed fish. I’ve written extensively on farmed fish. And in fact, eating tilapia is worse than eating bacon in some ways. Be sure to avoid farmed salmon, too. It’s often called ‘Atlantic’ salmon or just salmon.
Here are other reasons inflammation-boosting farmed salmon needs to be a fish you should never eat:
- An October 2016 study found omega-3 levels in farmed salmon are rapidly dropping and are half of what they were five years ago. Part of the reason for the nutrient loss is salmon farm feed contains less ground anchovy content. (6)
- University of New York at Albany researchers found dioxin levels in farm-raised salmon to be 11 times higher than those in wild salmon. The environmental pollutants are linked to cancer, organ damage and immune system dysfunction (7, 8)
- A 2011 study published in PLoS One found mice-eating farmed salmon actually showed weight gain and an increased risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes symptoms. (9) The risk comes from the persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, that tend to be high in farmed salmon.
- A 2011 Food and Water Watch aquaculture report highlighted some concerning statistics. Hundreds of thousands of farmed fish escape into the wild. These fish are often carrying “super lice” parasitic hitchhikers that even the harshest chemicals no longer kill. Some even carry other diseases that can debilitate nearby wild fish populations. Farmed salmon have also been treated with banned pesticides, another serious toxicity concern. (10)
- It takes about 2½ to 4 pounds of other fish to create the salmon chow needed to produce 1 pound of farm-raised salmon. The overfishing of wild sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring and other fish upset natural ecosystems. (11)
- In November 2015, the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of genetically engineered salmon and will not require any labeling, leaving consumers in the dark. It was approved despite findings the GMO salmon doesn’t actually grow as fast as its creator claims. (12, 13)
Better option: Alaskan wild-caught salmon, Pacific sardines, Atlantic mackerel (And avoid these other fish you should never eat)
- Microwave Popcorn
Another one of my top “health” foods you should never eat is microwave popcorn. Filled with questionable ingredients, it is just not worth the convenience. The main problem? The microwavable bags are coated with nonstick perfluorochemicals like perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), chemical that is linked to cancer. (14, 15)
Another major concern is diacetyl. This fake butter flavoring compound actually causes serious lung disease when inhaled in large quantities. (16)
Better option: Next time you get that hankering for some popcorn, simply pop your own. Purchase plain, organic popcorn kernels at a natural foods store. Use coconut oil or organic butter and pour 3 tablespoons into a heavy, stainless steel pan.
Put two kernels in the pan and wait until one pops, then pour 1/3 cup of popcorn in the pan and cover it. As it pops, make sure you shake the pan to allow the steam to escape and prevent the popcorn from burning. Remove from the pan when the popping stops and season as desired. Some great toppings include nutritional yeast, garlic powder
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