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.
The best part about being a grown-up is having the freedom to do—and eat—whatever you want. Pizza for breakfast? Yolo. But when the muffin tops and man boobs start to appear, it can be a rude wake-up call that many foods aren’t without consequence.
Hard-and-fast food rules royally suck. But some foods can seriously mess with your health.
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.
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.
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.
Choose a small amount of regular butter or soft spread over stick-shaped margarine when topping foods or baking. Margarine is usually loaded with trans fat. Don’t forget that stick margarine is found in plenty of pastries, crackers, snack foods, and even microwave popcorn, so limit intake to keep cholesterol levels in check.
Processed Baked Goods
So convenient, so tasty, but so not worth it. Those pre-packaged mini muffins, doughnuts, and dessert cakes will add tons of calories and loads of unwanted sugar to your diet, plus they aren’t easy to digest. These foods are bad on so many levels, because they are filled with high sugar content and preservatives for a longer shelf-life — they can literally sit there forever. Sugar increases inflammation in the skin, which on top of irritating acne and rosacea, can make you look puffy and bloated. Skip the wrapped stuff and grab fresh fruit for a sweet fix instead.
Noshing on bacon as a side for breakfast, as a topping for salads, or as an addition to your sandwich? Bad habit. I know it’s only 45 calories a strip, but it is really high in fat, sodium, and the preservative sodium nitrate.
Made With Nitrates or Nitrites: Step away from the deli counter. Processed meats in the U.S. such as ham, salami, hot dogs, and bacon aren’t just full of unhealthy fats. They can have up to 400 percent more sodium and 50 percent more preservatives than unprocessed red meats. The worst part: Some contain nitrites and nitrates, chemical additives that have been linked to various cancers, but are still used to enhance color, promote taste, and prevent spoilage. These ingredients must be listed on food labels, so look out for them and opt for meats that don’t contain them.
Everyone knows that soda is Very Bad for your health. In case you missed the backstory: The average can contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar. When you consume that much, your body responds by creating excess insulin, which typically helps the body absorb sugar from the bloodstream and use it for energy. Over time, though, this over-the-top response can increase your risk of developing diabetes and some forms of cancer. If soda’s sugar content doesn’t still doesn’t scare you, its other ingredients might: The amount of caramel coloring you’d consume in one can of soda per day was recently linked to a 58 percent greater risk of cancer, according to a new study.
Microwave popcorn bags, in particular, are often lined with a chemical called perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), which has been shown to affect fertility, cancer risk, and kidney functioning in animal and some human studies. Because microwave popcorn bags aren’t labeled “toxic,” it’s best to avoid them altogether.
Some brands of microwave popcorn add unhealthy trans fats to their products, and vaguely list “artificial flavors” or “natural flavors” on their labels — so there’s no way to know exactly what’s in there.
A cutting-edge study published in 2013 found a connection between high blood pressure and skin aging. Compared to their older-looking counterparts, female study participants with fewer wrinkles also had lower blood pressure. Although the connection between the two issues remains unclear, there’s no harm in cutting back on sodium, a mineral that’s known to raise blood pressure. Not sure how to start scaling back? Head to your pantry and take a hard look at your shelf-stable soups. U.S. guidelines call for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, but many popular cans carry 40 percent of the day’s recommended salt intake in just one serving. But that’s not the only reason you should stay away from the stuff. Many soup cans are laced with BPA, a chemical that’s been linked to cancer, infertility, and weight gain.
Drinking a caffeinated beverage out of a straw—how most of us down our daily iced coffee—is a skin-aging double-whammy. During the day, we’re exposed to skin-stressors like UV rays, but while we sleep our cells repair themselves. However, downing too much caffeine can interfere with sleep quality, cutting into this rejuvenation time and prematurely aging the skin. What’s more, researchers have found that repetitive facial movements, like sipping through a straw, can cause fine lines and wrinkles.