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20 Foods That Are Bad for Your Health

Health + Wellness
20 Foods That Are Bad for Your Health
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By Kris Gunnars, BSc

It's easy to get confused about which foods are healthy and which aren't.


You generally want to avoid certain foods if you want to lose weight and prevent chronic illnesses.

In this article, healthy alternatives are mentioned whenever possible.

Here are 20 foods that are generally unhealthy — although most people can eat them in moderation on special occasions without any permanent damage to their health.

1. Sugary Drinks

Added sugar is one of the worst ingredients in the modern diet.

However, some sources of sugar are worse than others, and sugary drinks are particularly harmful.

When you drink liquid calories, your brain doesn't appear to register them as food. Thus, you may end up drastically increasing your total calorie intake (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).

When consumed in large amounts, sugar can drive insulin resistance and is strongly linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It's also associated with various serious conditions, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

Some people believe that sugary drinks are the most fattening aspect of the modern diet — and drinking them in large amounts can drive fat gain and obesity (7Trusted Source, 8, 9Trusted Source).

Alternatives

Drink water, soda water, coffee, or tea instead. Adding a slice of lemon to water or soda water can provide a burst of flavor.

2. Most Pizzas

Pizza is one of the world's most popular junk foods.

Most commercial pizzas are made with unhealthy ingredients, including highly refined dough and heavily processed meat. Pizza also tends to be extremely high in calories.

Alternatives

Some restaurants offer healthier ingredients. Homemade pizzas can also be very healthy, as long as you choose wholesome ingredients.

3. White Bread

Most commercial breads are unhealthy if eaten in large amounts, as they're made from refined wheat, which is low in fiber and essential nutrients and may lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar (10).

Alternatives

For people who can tolerate gluten, Ezekiel bread is an excellent choice. Whole-grain bread is also healthier than white bread.

If you have problems with gluten or carbs, then here are 15 recipes for breads that are both gluten-free and low in carbs.

4. Most Fruit Juices

Fruit juice is often assumed to be healthy.

While juice contains some antioxidants and vitamin C, it also packs high amounts of liquid sugar.

In fact, fruit juice harbors just as much sugar as sugary drinks like Coke or Pepsi — and sometimes even more (11Trusted Source).

Alternatives

Some fruit juices have been shown to have health benefits despite their sugar content, such as pomegranate and blueberry juices.

However, these should be considered occasional supplements, not an everyday part of your diet.

5. Sweetened Breakfast Cereals

Breakfast cereals are processed cereal grains, such as wheat, oats, rice, and corn.

They're especially popular among children and frequently eaten with milk.

To make them more palatable, the grains are roasted, shredded, pulped, rolled, or flaked. They're generally high in added sugar.

The main downside of most breakfast cereals is their high added sugar content. Some are so sweet that they could even be compared to candy.

Alternatives

Choose breakfast cereals that are high in fiber and low in added sugar. Even better, make your own oat porridge from scratch.

6. Fried, Grilled or Broiled Food

Frying, grilling, and broiling are among the unhealthiest cooking methods.

Foods cooked in these ways are often highly palatable and calorie-dense. Several types of unhealthy chemical compounds also form when food is cooked under high heat.

These include acrylamides, acrolein, heterocyclic amines, oxysterols, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and advanced glycation end products (AGEs) (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).

Many chemicals formed during high-heat cooking have been linked to an increased risk of cancer and heart disease (18Trusted Source, 19, 20Trusted Source).

Alternatives

To improve your health, choose milder and healthier cooking methods, such as boiling, stewing, blanching, and steaming.

7. Pastries, Cookies and Cakes

Most pastries, cookies, and cakes are unhealthy if eaten in excess.

Packaged versions are generally made with refined sugar, refined wheat flour, and added fats. Shortening, which may be high in unhealthy trans fats, is sometimes added.

These treats might be tasty, but they have almost no essential nutrients, copious calories, and many preservatives.

Alternatives

If you can't stay away from dessert, spring for Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, or dark chocolate.

8. French Fries and Potato Chips

Whole, white potatoes are very healthy.

However, the same cannot be said of French fries and potato chips.

These foods are very high in calories, and it's easy to eat excessive amounts. Several studies link French fries and potato chips to weight gain (21Trusted Source, 22).

These foods may also contain large amounts of acrylamides, which are carcinogenic substances that form when potatoes are fried, baked, or roasted (23, 24Trusted Source).

Alternatives

Potatoes are best consumed boiled, not fried. If you need something crunchy to replace potato chips, try baby carrots or nuts.

9. Gluten-Free Junk Foods

About one-third of the U.S. population actively tries to avoid gluten (25).

Yet, people often replace healthy, gluten-containing foods with processed junk foods that happen to be gluten-free.

These gluten-free replacement products are often high in sugar and refined grains like corn starch or tapioca starch. These ingredients may trigger rapid spikes in blood sugar and are low in essential nutrients.

Alternatives

Choose foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as unprocessed plant and animal foods.

10. Agave Nectar

Agave nectar is a sweetener that's often marketed as healthy.

However, it's highly refined and extremely high in fructose. High amounts of fructose from added sweeteners can be absolutely disastrous for health (26Trusted Source).

In fact, agave nectar is even higher in fructose than many other sweeteners.

Whereas table sugar is 50% fructose and high-fructose corn syrup around 55%, agave nectar is 85% fructose (27Trusted Source).

Alternatives

Stevia and erythritol are healthy, natural, and calorie-free alternatives.

11. Low-Fat Yogurt

Yogurt can be incredibly healthy.

Nonetheless, most yogurts found in the grocery store are bad for you.

They're often low in fat but loaded with sugar to compensate for the flavor that fat provides. Put simply, most yogurt has had its healthy, natural fats replaced with an unhealthy ingredient.

Additionally, many yogurts don't provide probiotic bacteria as generally believed. They're often pasteurized, which kills most of their bacteria.

Alternatives

Choose regular, full-fat yogurt that contains live or active cultures (probiotics). If possible, buy varieties from grass-fed cows.

12. Low-Carb Junk Foods

Low-carb diets are very popular.

While you can eat plenty of whole foods on such a diet, you should watch out for processed low-carb replacement products. These include low-carb candy bars and meal replacements.

These foods are often highly processed and packed with additives.

Alternatives

If you're on a low-carb diet, aim for foods that are naturally low in carbs, which include eggs, seafood, and leafy greens.

13. Ice Cream

Ice cream may be delicious, but it's loaded with sugar.

This dairy product is also high in calories and easy to overeat. If you eat it as a dessert, you're usually piling it on top of your normal calorie intake.

Alternatives

It's possible to opt for healthier brands or make your own ice cream using fresh fruit and less sugar.

14. Candy Bars

Candy bars are incredibly unhealthy.

They're high in sugar, refined wheat flour, and processed fats while also very low in essential nutrients.

What's more, these treats will leave you hungry because of the way that your body metabolizes these sugar bombs.

Alternatives

Eat fruit or a piece of quality dark chocolate instead.

15. Processed Meat

Even though unprocessed meat can be healthy and nutritious, the same is not true for processed meats.

Studies show that people who eat processed meats have a higher risk of many serious ailments, including colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (28, 29Trusted Source).

Most of these studies are observational in nature, meaning that they can't prove that processed meat is to blame. However, the statistical link is strong and consistent between studies.

Alternatives

If you want to eat bacon, sausages, or pepperoni, try to buy from local butchers who don't add many unhealthy ingredients.

16. Processed Cheese

Cheese is healthy in moderation.

It's loaded with nutrients, and a single slice packs all the nutrients as a glass of milk.

Still, processed cheese products are nothing like regular cheese. They're mostly made with filler ingredients that are engineered to have a cheese-like appearance and texture.

Make sure to read labels to confirm that your cheese contains dairy and few artificial ingredients.

Alternatives

Eat real cheese instead. Healthy types include feta, mozzarella, and cottage cheeses. Many vegan cheese alternatives can also be good choices.

17. Most Fast Food Meals

Generally speaking, fast-food chains serve junk food.

Most of their offerings are mass-produced and low in nutrients.

Despite their low prices, fast foods may contribute to disease risk and harm your general wellness. You should especially watch out for fried items.

Alternatives

As a result of mounting pressure, many fast-food chains have started offering healthy options.

18. High-Calorie Coffee Drinks

Coffee is loaded with antioxidants and offers many benefits.

Notably, coffee drinkers have a lower risk of serious diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's (30Trusted Source, 31).

At the same time, the creamers, syrups, additives, and sugars that are frequently added to coffee are highly unhealthy.

These products are just as harmful as any other sugar-sweetened beverage.

Alternatives

Drink plain coffee instead. You can add small amounts of heavy cream or full-fat milk if you desire.

19. Anything With Added Sugar or Refined Grains

It's important to avoid — or at least limit — foods that contain added sugar, refined grains, and artificial trans fats.

These are some of the unhealthiest but most common ingredients in the modern diet. Thus, the importance of reading labels cannot be overstated.

This even applies to so-called health foods.

Alternatives

Aim for nutrient-dense, whole foods, such as fresh fruits and whole grains.

20. Most Highly Processed Foods

The simplest way to eat healthy and lose weight is to avoid processed foods as much as possible.

Processed goods are often packaged and loaded with excess salt or sugar.

Alternatives

When you're shopping, make sure to read food labels. Try to load up your cart with plenty of veggies and other whole foods.

The Bottom Line

Though the Western diet packs plenty of junk food, you can maintain a healthy diet if you steer clear of the processed, high-sugar items mentioned above.

If you focus on whole foods, you'll be well on your way to feeling better and reclaiming your health.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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