Top 10 Worst Foods and 10 Healthier Alternatives
© 2014 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
As Hippocrates said, “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.”
Fresh, organic fruits and veggies are just about the healthiest foods you can eat.
Quite simply, you really are what you eat, but the standard American diet leaves plenty of nutrients lacking while giving you an excess of unhealthy fats, sodium, preservatives and chemical additives.
Every day, 7 percent of the U.S. population visits a McDonald's, and 20-25 percent eats fast food of some kind, says Steven Gortmaker, professor of society, human development, and health at the Harvard School of Public Health in Harvard Magazine. As for children, 30 percent between the ages of 4 and 19 eat fast food on any given day.
When Morgan Spurlock, the mastermind behind the film Super Size Me, ate only McDonald’s foods for 30 days straight, his body fell apart and he gained 25 pounds!
"My body just basically falls apart over the course of this diet," Spurlock told Newsweek. "I start to get tired, I start to get headaches; my liver basically starts to fill up with fat because there’s so much fat and sugar in this food. My blood sugar skyrockets, my cholesterol goes up off the charts, my blood pressure becomes completely unmanageable. The doctors were like, ‘You have to stop.’"
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Americans get processed food not only from fast-food restaurants but also from their neighborhood grocery stores. As it stands, about 90 percent of the money that Americans spend on food is used to buy -- that's right -- processed foods.
So you have a choice to make when you eat. You can eat foods that will nourish your body, give you energy, and keep you healthy, or you can choose those that may lead to chronic disease, fatigue and weight gain.
Eating healthy will become obvious if you truly listen to your body. One hour after eating how do you feel? Time it and ask yourself. Do you feel better with more energy or worse one hour after eating or drinking something? If worse, then stop ingesting what makes you feel badly and instead eat what will make you feel better or even great!
Life’s too short to not feel the best you can and help your body be the healthiest and strongest it can be.
Here we’ve detailed the best and the worst choices on both ends of the spectrum to help you make the best choices for your health.
The 10 Worst Vs. Best Foods
10. Fried Catfish
Catfish are bottom feeders, which means they’re full of toxins like mercury and PCBs. When fried, they also contain acrylamide, a known carcinogen and neurotoxin that is formed when foods are baked or fried at high temperatures.
10. Wild-Caught Salmon
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fats that make blood platelets less sticky and less likely to clot inside arteries. They also positively influence cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Choose wild-caught salmon (rather than farm-raised) from pristine waters to avoid toxins.
If you eat any type of fish regularly, you may have accumulated harmful levels of mercury in your body. Check with your practitioner about a recommended detox program.
9. Canned Soups
Here we're talking about the traditional, canned soups you find in your grocery store. This may come as a surprise, but most canned (and packaged) soups have high levels of trans fats, sodium and artificial preservatives like MSG. Just one cup of canned soup can have almost 1,000 milligrams of salt (and most people eat more than one cup), which is a staggering amount considering dietary guidelines recommend consuming no more than 2,400 milligrams for the entire day.
Many canned soups (and other canned foods) also contain bisphenol-A (BPA), a widely used industrial chemical that has been directly linked to reproductive abnormalities and an increased risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes and heart disease.
9. Homemade Soup
Homemade soup using fresh veggies and organic meats is a nutritious comfort food that your whole family will love. Once you get the hang of making soups at home, you’ll find it takes hardly any time at all to create a fresh, wholesome meal for your family.
You can also use the simple recipes in the cookbook "Alive in 5": Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes to create incredibly healthy and delicious soups using all raw ingredients!
Bacon contains harmful preservatives called sodium nitrites, along with lots of bad fats and excess sodium.
8. Organic, Nitrate-free Turkey Sausage
There’s really no “healthy” version of bacon (though there are nitrate-free varieties available), but if you’re looking for a healthier breakfast meat look for organic, nitrate-free turkey sausage. You’ll want to look for an organic version because conventional meat is typically raised on corporate factory farms that are inhumane to animals and unhealthy for you.
Animals raised in mass factory farms are pumped full of antibiotics, hormones and other drugs (about 70 percent of all antibiotics and similar drugs produced in the United States are given to livestock and poultry), while being fed an unhealthy mix of pesticide-laden grains. Organic meats contain no pesticides, antibiotics or hormones.
7. Fast-food Hamburger
A typical fast-food hamburger contains loads of calories, sodium and sugar, and is pumped full of antibiotics and pesticides. Plus, “a single hamburger may contain meat from hundreds of animals," according to the CDC. Because so many products have been mingled together, the risk of contamination is higher than eating meat from just one animal. For instance, if any one animal out of the hundreds that were added to a large batch of ground beef is contaminated, the whole batch becomes contaminated.
7. Grass-fed Hamburger
If you’re looking for a healthier burger, go grass-fed. Grass-fed beef has been found to contain less fat and more omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and other beneficial compounds compared to grain-fed beef. Even better, look for organic and grass-fed beef from a small farmer that uses humane farming practices.
6. Snack Cakes and Other Baked Treats
This category actually includes all varieties of baked goods, including packaged cake and biscuit mixes. What makes these foods so bad is that they almost always contain high amounts of trans fats and a host of other unsavory additives including corn syrup, preservatives and artificial flavors and colors. In fact, commercial baked goods typically contain more trans fats than any other food because not only are they often made with hydrogenated oils, they're fried in them as well.
6. Homemade Baked Goods
If you're not ready to give up your morning treats and snack cakes just yet, opt for baked goods from your local bakery (which while not "health foods" are less likely to contain margarine and hydrogenated oils.) You can also make them yourself.
5. Potato Chips
This popular snack food contains cancer-causing acrylamide, but that's not all. Potato chips also contain trans fats, the artery-clogging fat that's been linked to raising bad cholesterol (and lowering the good kind), and increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants and contain an impressive array of nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, copper, fiber, vitamin B6, potassium and iron. Animal studies also suggest that sweet potatoes help to stabilize your blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance.
4. Hot Dogs and Lunch Meat
Processed meats like these (and others including sausages, bacon, pepperoni and other processed meats) contain a carcinogenic precursor ingredient known as sodium nitrite (sodium nitrate is closely related).
"Sodium nitrite is a dangerous, cancer-causing ingredient that has no place in the human food supply," says nutritionist Mike Adams, author of the Grocery Warning Manual.
And, according to a University of Hawaii study that followed nearly 200,000 people for seven years, people who consumed the most processed meats (hot dogs and sausage) showed a 67 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer over those who consumed little or no meat products.
4. Nitrate-Free, Organic Hot Dogs and Lunch Meat
If you love hot dogs and lunch meat and are looking for healthier alternatives, opt for nitrate-free, organic varieties (available in health food stores and increasingly in regular supermarkets) that contain all meat, no byproducts and no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
Even better, ditch processed hot dogs altogether and cook an organic whole turkey breast at home, and then slice it thinly for sandwiches.
3. French Fries
French fries are loaded with acrylamide and trans fats. When the Center for Science in the Public Interest conducted tests on some popular brands of French fries, they found that the acrylamide in a large order of fast food fries was at least 300 times the amount allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a glass of water.
3. Red Potatoes
There are plenty of healthier options than potatoes (like leafy greens, for instance). But if you really want potatoes, know that red potatos are leaps and bounds healthier than French fries. Red potatoes contain healthy flavonoids that may protect against heart disease, respiratory problems and certain cancers. While the white Idaho potato is a high glycemic food, the red potato is a medium glycemic food with more nutrition and less starch.
Tasty, yes. But break a doughnut down and you'll find nothing more than refined sugar and flour, artificial flavors and partially hydrogenated oil that's loaded with trans fats. They have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
2. Fresh Fruit
Swap your morning doughnut for a bowl of fresh fruit. You’ll get vitamins, enzymes and other healthy nutrients, along with the sweetness you’re craving.
An average can of soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar, 150 calories, 30 to 55 mg of caffeine, artificial food colors and sulphites. Diet sodas have the even-more-unhealthy artificial sweeteners. A major part of the problem is that sodas have become a staple in many people's diets. A study in the journal Pediatrics found that 56 to 85 percent of children consume at least one soft drink a day, and 20 percent of adolescent males drink four or more sodas a day.
"Parents and health officials need to recognize soft drinks for what they are -- liquid candy -- and do everything they can to return those beverages to their former role as an occasional treat," says CSPI. CSPI has even petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling for cigarette-style warnings on soft drinks to warn people of their potential health risks (weight gain, diabetes, tooth decay and more).
1. Water and Green Tea
Water is crucial for survival -- it's the base of all your body fluids, like blood and digestive juices. Water facilitates the trasport and absorption of nutrients from your food and helps eliminate waste. Green tea has also emerged as a major natural player in fighting diseases like heart disease and cancer and in helping with weight loss.
How to Make Sure You’re Absorbing the Nutrients From the Healthy Foods You Eat
Digestive enzymes allow your food to be broken down, and the nutrients to be absorbed into your bloodstream. If you suspect a deficiency of enzymes, ask for your practitioner's recommendation for acid-resistant digestive enzyme formulations that:
Maximizes nutrient absorption from consumed food
Helps alleviate digestive disturbances such as gas, bloating and acid indigestion
Having the right type of enzymes available will also help reduce stress on your organs and systems that are involved in detoxification processes.