Junk or unhealthy foods can not only make you feel crappy, but they can also lead to weight gain, and cause all sorts of health problems.
Here are the top 5 unhealthy foods you should avoid eating.
1. McDonald’s French fries
There is no way this list can start off without McDonald taking its spot.
Despite its recent marketing efforts to sugarcoat unhealthiness of McDonald’s menu items, simple observation of their ingredient lists can easily reveal how nutrition-less and additive-filled their foods really are.
So next time you watch their segments of “Our Food, Your Questions.”, don’t be fooled by their authentic, high-quality food appeal.
Their recent 30% drop in sales if one of their motivations for the “new” marketing plots to win back health-conscious consumers.
So what’s wrong with McDonald’s fries? A lot, if you ask me.
Let’s begin with ingredients.
Once upon a time, fries were made of just potatoes, a sprinkle of salt and oil for frying, and not much more.
According to McDonald’s, McDonald’s French fries are made of 19 ingredients.
- Canola oil
- Soybean oil
- Hydrogenated soybean oil
- Natural beef flavor
- Hydrolyzed wheat
- Hydrolyzed milk
- Citric acid
- Sodium acid pyrophosphate
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Soybean oil
- Hydrogenated soybean oil
- Citric acid
The ones in the spotlight are natural beef flavor, canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and salt.
Let’s start with #5 Natural beef flavor.
If you are vegetarian or vegan and have assumed that their fries is vegetarian, you are dead wrong.
McDonald’s fries have never been vegetarian, ever.
In the old days, the company’s French fries were fried with beef fat, but when the frying oils were switched to vegetable oil blend, they added natural beef flavor to their ingredient list to keep its taste.
Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
A synonymous for hydrogenated oil?
Trans fat, the worst type of fat you can consume.
It’s because it’s a type of oils that undergoes a chemical manufacturing process called hydrogenation.
According to naturalnews.com, the process takes naturally “healthy oils” such as kernel, soybean, corn oil or coconut oil and heat it up to one thousand degrees under several atmospheres of pressure, which changes its molecules to become solid or semi-solid oil, instead of liquid oil as in its original form.
After it undertakes the chemical process, hydrogenated oil is in fact only one molecule away from being plastic.
Hope it’s staring to illustrate how bad these oils really are to your body.
As you can guess, consuming this kind of oil that’s thicker and more dense than other natural oils only makes your blood thicker and viscous. This adds an unnecessary load on the heart to pump out blood throughout the body.
The result? You experience high blood pressure and heart diseases.
It’s harmful enough that in 2013, the FDA made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer recognized as safe.
So why McDonald still using it?
Well, like anything else, there is a loophole. Under FDA guidelines, food manufacturers can claim zero trans fat when a product contained up to 0.5g trans fat.
This regulatory loophole is still allowing manufacturers to use partially hydrogenated oils, and McDonald fries are just one example of products that contain trans fat.
According to McDonald’s latest campaign, dimethylpolysiloxane they put in their fryer is just there to prevent the splattering of oil as foods are cooked. Sounds pretty reasonable and un-harmful. Right?
But I bet you’ll change your mind after reading Merriam-Webster’s definition of dimethylpolysiloxane.
According to their Medical dictionary, dimethylpolysiloxane is a polymer of silicone used especially in pharmaceutical and cosmetic preparations.
That’s right. It’s a silicone, and it’s known to be in a variety of other goods like Silly Putty. And according to one source, it’s used to get rid of head lice.
Unless you don’t mind eating what head lice wouldn’t eat, I suggest you stay away from this ingredient.
Oh, by the way, it’s also a filler for breast implants.
There are other suspicious ingredients to look at on the ingredient list, but I’m sure you already lost your appetite for McDonald’s fries, so let’s just move on to the next entry, bacon.
There is nothing more American than starting off your day with strips of crispy, juicy bacon with pancakes and eggs.
Without a doubt, Americans have love affairs with bacon.
According to SFGate, every year, the average American eats nearly 18 pounds of the cured, smoked pork.
With that high consumption and gazillion bizarre bacon products on the market, bacon is quickly becoming America’s newest obsession.
Thanks to bacon worshippers, we can now get bacon “condoms”, bacon “chocolate”, bacon ice cream, and even bacon mouthwash and toothpaste, for keeping the taste of bacon in your mouth all day long.
Or for a true vegetarian, Oregon State University researchers recently discovered seaweed that tastes like bacon.
If you like the sound of it, you’ve drank the bacon Kool-Aid.
So what’s so bad about bacon?
Quite frankly, it comes down to its food processing and salt content.
According to USDA, one slice of pan-fried pork bacon (11.5 grams) contains:
- 54 calories
- 3.9 g protein – % RDV
- 4.04 g fat – % RDV
- 1 g saturated fat – 5% RDV
- 194 mg sodium – 12.5% RDV
- 11 mg “cholesterol”
- 57 mg of potassium
- 0.2 g carbohydrates
- 0 g fiber
For some Paleo folks, bacon is a regular in their supposedly healthy breakfast, yet there is a handful of cavemen who takes a strong stance against bacon.
Bacon is a hot topic for the Paleo community, to say the least.
Let’s take a look to see if it’s really a firm breakfast protein choice for all of us aiming to eat healthy regardless of individual dietary restrictions and preferences.
Bacon, processed meat can cause cancer
We know that processed meat such as hot dogs, hams and sausages are not that great for our health, but what you probably didn’t know is it can cause cancer. And this is true for bacon.
World Health Organization (WHO) reported that every 50 grams of processed meat you eat daily can increase your risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.
So why is processed meat carcinogenic?
According to USC News, salting, smoking, curing, fermentation or other processed often involved in producing processed meats tend to use salts that have nitrates and nitrites that could convert into carcinogens, substances linked to the development of cancer.
If your bacon is smoked, be extra cautious.
Zen Vuong of USC News reported that “smoking meat can lead to accumulation of other carcinogenic compounds.”.
In other words, your cancer risk is higher with smoked bacon.
Bacon’s high salt content can weaken your heart
If you eat bacon, cancer is not the only health threat you have to worry about.
Bacon’s high sodium content can weaken your heart as salt intake and heart health are closely linked.
According to the American Heart Association, 90% of American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure in their lifetimes, and eating too much sodium is strongly linked to its development.
So what’s too much sodium for the average American?
Let’s take a look at some stats.
70% of Americans’ recommended daily salt intake is 1,500 mg. The remaining population can take up to 2,300mg.
According to Mayo Clinic, 3,400 mg of sodium is what the average American gets a day.
That’s 1,000mg to 2,000 mg over what people are recommended to take.
And bacon is just adding fuel to the fire.
Cutting down our salt intake by cutting down processed food is not just important but mandatory for good health.
Here is why.
There are three major sources of salt we take in:
- Natural foods – salt is a mineral that naturally occurs in foods such as celery, beets, and milk. This only accounts for 12% of our salt consumption.
- Salt added during processing. This accounts for 75% of our overall consumption.
- Table salt. The salt we add to prepared foods. This accounts for the remaining 13%. Bacon is no exception to processed foods with excess salt.
3 slices of bacon provide 582mg of salt, which is nearly 40% of daily recommended sodium intake. That’s a lot of salt just in your breakfast alone, and that’s even without salt in your bread or pancakes.
So what’s a better alternative?
Loren Cordain, Ph.D. of The Paleo Diet says pork chops.
Compared to 100 g of pork bacon that contain 2,300mg of sodium, 100g of pork chop only contains 142 mg. That’s about 6% of pork bacon.
Before reading so much about health, nutrition, and food, I treated butter and margarine almost the same. What a shame; I know.
But I also know that many people still use them interchangeably and believe margarine is just cheaper substitutes for butter, or dairy-free, vegetarian versions of butter.
Either way, it’s awfully wrong.
Although both can and are often used for the same purpose as cooking, baking and as a spread, how they are made and what’s really in them are completely different.
Butter, Less Evil Than Margarine
Compared to highly processed margarine, butter is made quite simply with much fewer ingredients: heavy cream and salt.
It’s made by separating cream from fresh whole milk, then churning the cream by shaking it until it thickens.
After any remaining liquid is removed and properly seasoned, butter is made!
Margarine— The Ugly Oils
Margarine, marketed as a butter substitute, on the other hand, involves a long food manufacturing process with an ingredient list longer than 10 items packing in chock full of artificial flavors and coloring food additives like beta carotene.
Although I can make enough arguments against margarine just from the standpoint, they are not even in the forefront of what’s so wrong about margarine.
The worst health offender in margarine is trans fat.
Let’s take a look.
The main ingredients in most margarine are vegetable oils such as soybean, palm, canola or palm kernel oil.
Now, despite what you hear, these oils in original forms are mostly unsaturated and don’t contain artificial trans fat.
To turn these natural, liquid at room temperature oils that cannot be used as spreads into a harder and creamy spread like texture, they undergo a chemical hydrogenation process that exposes the oils to high pressure, hydrogen gas and a metal catalyst.
If that doesn’t sound disgusting enough, as mentioned earlier in the McDonald fries entry, hydrogenation turns some of these oils into trans fats.
In case you missed it earlier, trans fat is something FDA banned in 2013 declaring partially hydrogenated oils, the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in human food.
So how do trans fats damage your health?
According to the American Heart Association, trans fats raise your bad cholesterol levels and lower your good cholesterol, increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke. They are also closely linked to type 2 diabetes.
So, how do you limit trans fats?
In most cases, I’d suggest reading food labels, but in the case of trans fats, which can be hidden in food without showing up on the label, thanks to food regulation loophole.
You’ll have better luck reading the ingredient list and avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils.
For those who can benefit from lowering cholesterol levels, limiting trans fats to 5-6% of total calories is recommended by heart.org.
Swap trans fats with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.
If you often use margarine as spreads, use smashed avocados instead and get plenty of good fats instead of artificial cholesterol-raising trans fats.
4. Sodas and Soft Drinks
Did you know that sodas are America’s second best selling drinks after water?
According to the Huffington Post, sodas outsell beer and milk, and on average, Americans consume 44 gallons of sodas a year.
Whether your favorite is Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Pepsi or Mountain Dew, it’s common knowledge that they are high in sugar and calories no matter which brands or drink you choose.
But what you may not have realized is just how much sugar is really there in one 12 oz bottle of soda.
According to Coca Cola, one 12 fl oz bottle of Coca Cola contains 45 mg of sodium, 39 g of sugar and 140 calories.
Let’s compare this with a daily recommended sugar intake published by the World Health Organization.
Daily Recommended Intake (DRI)
- 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons).
- 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons).
12 fl oz Cola contains 39grams of sugar or 144% of daily recommended sugar intake for women and 104% for men.
For women, that’s already 1 day and a half worth of sugar in one small bottle. That’s excessive, to say the least.
While we’re at it, let’s compare sodium and calories in relation to their DRIs.
Daily recommended sodium intake is 1,500 mg, and one 12 fl oz bottle of soda contains 45mg.
It’s slightly less than 10% of your daily salt intake.
How many calories to eat a day is up to an individual and her weight loss goal.
Hypothetically speaking, if your daily caloric needs are 1,500 calories based on your weight management goal, 140 calories you automatically take in from one drink can make up nearly 10% of your daily calories.
But that 10% is not that worst part.
It’s the fact that 10% of daily calories is not used to feed your body the nutrients and minerals such as healthy fats, lean protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and potassium, that it needs to properly function.
Instead, 10% of your daily calories are made up of 1.5 days worth of sugar (1.5 days worth). That’s horrifying about sodas.
And if you believe you can get away with health consequences, think again.
Harvard recently reported three main health dangers sodas and soft drinks are closely linked to:
- Heart disease
- Bone health
Sodas and Diabetes
Sugary drinks like sodas increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, say researchers at the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health.
More precisely, people who drink 1-2 soda cans a day or more have a 26% greater risk for type 2 diabetes than those who rarely drink such drinks.
In a similar study on soft drinks that followed 90,000 women for eight years, sugar-sweetened beverage drinking habit of 1 a day is associated with a greater magnitude of weight gain and an inflated risk for type 2 diabetes in women.
Researchers of the study believe the association is due to excessive calories and extreme amounts of rapidly absorbable sugars.
Although that study did not include exactly how much weight you can really gain from drinking sodas, other sources such as Dr. Mercola of mercola.com can aid in providing that info.
According to Dr. Mercola, drinking two bottles of soda a day can make you gain a pound of fat per week. In one year, that’s 52 pounds of fat just from sodas.
While it’s hard to know what constitutes too much soda and what are considered an infrequent indulgence, many studies have found one or more soft drinks per day frequent and troubling.
For those trying to manage blood sugar, this once a day soda drinking pattern is also shown to increases the risk for metabolic syndrome by 50% and trouble managing blood sugar by 25% according to the Framingham Heart Study.
Dr. Frank Hu, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, made a strong case recently claiming there is sufficient evidence that shows cutting down sugar-sweetened beverage consumption will reduce obesity and obesity-related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.
Sadly, diabetes are not the only health risk for frequent soda drinkers.
In the Nurses’ Health Study that tracked nearly 90,000 women for a period of over two decades found that women who drank two or more servings of sweetened beverages a day were 40% more at risk for heart attacks or death from heart disease than women who rarely consumed sugary drinks.
The study’s researchers further suggest that “the adverse effects of the high glycemic load from these beverages on blood glucose, cholesterol fractions, and inflammatory factors probably also contribute to the higher risk of heart disease.”
Harvard School of Public Health writes that sugary drinks such as sodas are devoid of calcium and other healthful nutrients.
For young children and adolescents whose bones are being built, insufficient calcium is detrimental.
In addition to insufficient calcium, sodas contain high levels of phosphate.
Among micronutrients, calcium and phosphate are two main bone minerals necessary to maintain optimum bone health, thus high consumption of phosphate while depleting calcium causes a negative effect on bone mass and strength.
The drink that supports healthy bones is milk, a source of calcium, protein and other vital micronutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin B6, and B12.
However, according to Yale University research, those two drinks often are in an inverse relationship where one drink’s consumption increases, the other’s consumption goes down.
Needless to say, their recommendations include a reduction of popular soft drink consumption.
The take away for sodas is this:
If you drink sodas once a day, it’s frequent enough to increase your risk of developing serious and often chronic diseases.
If you crave something more than water, how about carbonated infused water?
You can carbonate your own water and add slices of your favorite fruits like oranges, strawberries, lemon, and peach to make it a healthier pop that doesn’t provide you with more than a day worth of sugar.
5. Dunkin’ Donuts
As Dunkin’ Donuts claims, they may be bringing smiles since 1950, donuts or more precisely “oil cakes” they’ve been so proudly serving for over 6 decades are nothing but treats to consumers’ health and waistline.
And it may well be the reason why 70% of Americans now overweight or obese along with their partner in crime, Coca Cola.
If you ever drop in for an infrequent indulgence, make sure to skip their two-donut combos. They may be budget friendly, but you’ll certainly pay for them with your health.
Let’s take a look their worst donut of all, Glazed Jelly Stick.
In one donut (yes, just one), Dunkin Donut’s Glazed Jelly Stick contains the followings:
- DV % are based on 2,000 daily calorie intake.
- Calories: 480 cals (220 cals coming from fats) —– 24% DV
- Total Fat: 25 grams —42% DV
- Saturated Fat: 11 grams —- 55%DV
- Cholesterol: 30 mg —- 10% DV
- Sodium: 380 mg — 25%
- Total carb: 59 grams — 20%
- Sugar: 37 grams —148%
These numbers relative to other unhealthy foods may be a bit easier to see how bad this one donut really is.
Dunkin’ Donut Jelly Stick contains more calories than Burger King Bacon Double Burger that has 390 calories.
This one piece of the donut is actually more fattening than Sonic’s Chili Cheese Natural-Cut Fries containing 4 gram more in total fat.
Saturated fat? It sure does over-exceed in this area too.
While DD’s donut contains 11 grams of saturated fat, which is almost triple of saturated fat you can find in one Taco Bell’s Beefy Fritos Burrito.
Last but not least, Dunkin’s Glazed Jelly Stick has more than 9 teaspoons of sugar. That’s equivalent to Starbucks’ Java Chip Frappuccino Light’s sugar content.
A better alternative?
Photo: Deborah / Taste and Tell
Greatist came up with a list of 29 healthier donut recipes that are far less alarming to your waistline.
Making small changes like starting your day off with “healthy breakfast” without bacon, cutting sodas and stop making trips to McDonald and Dunkin Donuts can do wonder to your health, weight and your body fat.
Lastly, make sure to go with a healthy grocery list in hand to keep your fridge and pantry clean and junk-free.