I was going to put the word “food” in the title for this post, but I quickly realized that the items I’m going to list are not actually food. They are all things that you can eat that are made in a factory or chemistry laboratory. While I’m not going to say that you should never eat something that has been in a factory, or comes in a package, I will say that if you are eating or feeding your family something that has a label, you must inspect the ingredients list carefully. No matter what type of diet or meal plan you follow, you are not going to see these on anyone’s recommended list!
Now on to the countdown…
#5 Worst Thing You Can Eat: DOUGHNUTS
Doughnuts (and their alternate spelling “Donuts”) are made up of three ingredients – oil (the trans fat kinds), sugar and white flour. Even worse than the Krispy Kreme and Dunkin type are store-bought doughnuts. They are made up of about 35-40% trans fat, and an average doughnut contains about 200 to 300 calories, mostly from sugar, and almost no nutrients.
Trans fats, found largely in commercially prepared baked and fried foods, not only raise "bad" LDL cholesterol, but also lower levels of the good HDL cholesterol. High trans-fat intake has been linked to coronary heart disease, in which fatty plaques build up in the heart arteries, sometimes leading to a heart attack.
Doughnuts are even worse because they are typically consumed first things in the morning. Throwing down a chocolate iced glazed ring will throw off your blood sugar and doesn’t provide any real nutrients, which means you'll soon be hungry again. You are better off eating no breakfast at all if a donut is your other option.
#4 Worst Thing You Can Eat: ENERGY DRINKS
I’m still amazed when I see Ironman athletes down a Red Bull during a race. I feel sorry for the teenager grabbing a Monster at the gas station before school. These cans are a ticking time bomb that typically contain harmful ingredients such as sugar, guarana, taurine, ginseng, and excessive caffeine (raises heart rate, blood pressure, dehydrates the body, risk of heart attack, and more). One energy drink was measured to have more sugar than two regular sized chocolate bars. Some energy drinks have been measured to contain as much as five times the amount of caffeine contained in a cup of coffee. Did you know it takes over 6 gallons of water to flush out a 20 ounce energy drink from your body? If you look at ingredients and harmful effects, one study said that one energy drink is equivalent to six cans of soda! So don’t let these ever be something you drink…even if you desperately need 5 hours of energy!
#3 Worst Thing You Can Eat: PROCESSED MEATS
A recent statement from a World Health Organization research agency classified processed meat — including bacon, sausage, jerky, hot dogs, pepperoni, canned meat and lunch meats as carcinogenic. It also found that eating just 50 grams daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Did anyone really think that Spam and Vienna Sausages were good for you? The processing of the meat (cured, dried, etc.) doesn’t really matter because they all contain similar harmful ingredients, such as nitrates, to preserve the meat. Look at the label and make sure to avoid sodium nitrate/sodium nitrite, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), smoked/naturally smoked/smoke flavor, corn syrup, aspartame and excess sodium. Processed meat contains various chemical compounds that are not naturally present in fresh meat. If you like deli meats (such as sliced turkey or ham), go somewhere where they cut it for you, never buy the pre-packaged stuff!
#2 Worst Thing You Can Eat: SODA
I don’t think that this is a surprise to anyone, but yet people still consume soda at an alarming rate. Drinking soda is like drinking liquid candy. Seriously. Sodas are sugary calorie bombs that have greatly contributed to the obesity epidemic in our country. This soda habit has also been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, premature aging and hormone disruption.
Most sodas contain high fructose corn syrup (which is where all the calories come from), food dyes, preservatives and other sketchy ingredients. And your soda habit isn't just making you fat; it's also linked to cavities and tooth decay.
So “diet” or “zero” soda drinks are ok, right? Survey says….”X”! Forget the fact that the calorie-free sweeteners found in all of these low-calorie drinks can make your addiction to sugar even worse, if you eat or drink something with artificial sweeteners, you create a 35% greater risk of metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Although I think more studies are necessary for a definitive result, research has shown that mice fed artificial sweeteners saw a significant increase in cancerous tumors, and the risk increased along with the dose. So why take the chance??
#1 Worst Thing You Can Eat: VEGETABLE OILS
Depending on how old you are, it’s likely that someone told you that butter is bad and vegetable oils are good. After all, they have the word “vegetable” in them, right? Hell, it was the U.S. government and food industries that told everyone vegetable oils are safe to use as a “heart-healthy” alternative over traditional saturated fats.
Found at your typical grocery store, these clear, tasteless, highly refined and processed oils include corn, soybean, canola, safflower and sunflower oils. These all contain Omega 6 fats. These horrible fats not only fuel your body’s inflammatory pathways, but also reduce availability of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats in your tissues, resulting in more inflammation.
Consuming too many omega 6 fats also increases the likelihood of inflammatory diseases and links to mental illness. This recent review looks at increases in the incidence of cancer and heart disease after the introduction of industrial vegetable oils in the world…and there’s some pretty strong evidence to a link. So please stop cooking with Crisco and start using olive, avocado or coconut oil. With any oil that you cook with, it’s important to avoid the smoke point. For more on smoke point, check out this link: http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/05/cooking-fats-101-whats-a-smoke-point-and-why-does-it-matter.html
But vegetable oils are not just used for cooking. They are hidden in hundreds of other packaged items. Most chips, crackers, salad dressings, mayo, packaged nuts, peanut butters, anything fried or frozen…they likely all have been cooked in a refined oil. So check the labels on these too.
#1A – MARGARINE
While used for many of the same purposes, butter and margarine are two very different products. The primary factor that sets them apart is what they're made from, and thus the types of fats they contain. Butter is the dairy product made from churning milk or cream. Unlike butter, margarine isn't something that can be made at home. It is a highly processed food that was invented to replace butter. The primary ingredient is vegetable oil along with emulsifiers, colorants and various artificial ingredients.
Vegetable oil is liquid at room temperature. This is why margarine is often hydrogenated, which gives it a harder consistency and extends shelf life. Hydrogenation also turns some of the vegetable oils into trans fats. As I mentioned earlier, these fats are bad for you because they expand your waistline, raise your bad cholesterol levels (while lowering levels of good cholesterol), raise your risk of heart disease and raise your risk of suffering a stroke.
But even if you find a margarine that is genuinely trans-fat free, it can still be bad for you.
The vegetable oils used in them, such as soybean and safflower oil, may be seriously harmful on their own. These types of oils are the biggest sources of polyunsaturated Omega-6 fatty acids in the diet. Several studies link excess consumption of polyunsaturated vegetable oils with cancer, violence and the very thing margarine is supposed to prevent… heart disease.
So start getting things 5 things out of your house if you want to life a long and healthy life. There are healthier alternatives to all of these, so don't feel like all hope is lost if you have no idea how to get through your day without that afternoon Coke. Stay tuned as my next post will be the 5 BEST things that you can eat!
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Wishing you optimal health and peak performance,