75 Unhealthiest Foods On the Planet
WARNING: These devilish eats can slow your metabolism and harm your health.
Indulging in certain foods is a lot like staying out late before a job interview. Sure, you knew it wasn't a great idea, but your FOMO was too great, and you figured you could somehow still pull off the next day. Wrong.
The same thing goes for your diet. You know that candy, bacon, and diet soda aren’t the best bets for your health, but you likely didn't realize that, beyond adding flab to your frame, these foods are also laced with additives and chemicals that can harm your health to a point you can't backtrack from. Then there are the more stealthy waistline saboteurs. You know, the foods that you think are healthy, only to discover years later that they’re anything but.
Read on to discover some of the unhealthiest foods on the planet—and for maximum weight loss, detox with Zero Belly Smoothies. In every drink, you get a unique blend of super-nutrients that help flatten your belly, boost your metabolism, and heal your digestive system.
Harmful Ingredient: Propylene glycol alginate (E405)
What’s a food additive that contains compounds also found in automotive antifreeze and runway de-icer? Sadly, there are a few, including this one. Propylene glycol alginate is a food thickener, stabilizer, and emulsifier, and it can cause cardiovascular or neurotoxic issues. And it’s used in Dunkin Donuts iced tea, among others.
Eat This Instead: Did you know that steeping green tea in cold water for two hours actually makes it even more beneficial to your body than your regular steeping routine? But no matter how you prepare it, green tea can help you melt major fat. People who did the The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse lost up to 10 pounds in a week!
Harmful Ingredient: Mercury
Ranked the #1 Worst Fish on Eat This, Not That!’s exclusive report on 40+ Popular Types of Fish—Ranked for Nutrition, you know tilefish must be pretty dangerous if it’s deemed scarier than shark and swordfish. You might as well drink some battery acid with the amount of mercury in these ocean creatures.
Eat This Instead: Atlantic Mackerel, aka the #1 Best fish on our list!
Harmful Ingredient: Trans-fats
If you thought the movie you were watching was terrifying, you probably haven’t taken a very close look at your popcorn. When air-popped, this snack has filling fiber and whole grains we love, but the microwaveable varieties are an entirely different beast. Many major brands like Jolly Time and Jiffy Pop contain heart-harming trans fats. What’s more, butter-flavored favorites are almost always laced with diacetyl (DA), a chemical that has been found to break down the layer of cells that protects one of our most vital organs: the brain. Now that’s some scary stuff!
Eat This Instead: Air pop fresh kernels or make your own microwavable popcorn for a low-calorie snack. Here’s how: Add your favorite popping kernels to a small paper lunch bag, fold the top down a few times. Then, zap it in the microwave until you hear only a few pops every five seconds. Challenged in the kitchen? We’re also big fans of Quinn Popcorn which you can buy online at Amazon.com. It’s one of the only microwavable popcorns that’s free of chemicals and won’t wreak havoc on your waistline.
Fast Food Chicken
Harmful Ingredients: Diglycerides, Red #40, carrageenan
Chicken nuggets all start with chicken but also contain several synthetic ingredients from diglycerides to Red #40 to carrageenan. These chemicals help make overly-processed foods like chicken nuggets possible because that's what keeps the (very few) organic materials in the nuggets from going bad (or looking weird) after days spent traveling on the road or months in the freezer. But even if you buy them at the grocery store, you might not be safe. Check out our exclusive report of The Most Popular Chicken Nuggets—Ranked!
Eat This Instead: Organic chicken breasts cut into pieces, coated with egg and breadcrumbs, and baked in your oven. Voila! Homemade, healthy nuggets.
Harmful Ingredient: Fructose
It’s natural! It’s packed with Vitamin C! It comes from Florida! What could be wrong? Well, while 100 percent fruit juice is a better pick than sugary drinks like Sunny D, even the all-natural stuff still packs up to 36 grams of sugar per cup—or about what you’d get from popping 4 Krispy Kreme glazed donuts into a blender and hitting frappe. What’s more, most of the sweetness in juice comes from fructose, a type of sugar associated with the development of visceral adipose tissue—yep, that’s belly fat.
Drink This Instead: Trick your belly into shrinking itself by filling your glass with some refreshing detox water. Just add fresh sliced fruit like oranges and grapefruit to plain ole’ H20 and chill. The key is to keep the peels on: Citrus peels are rich in the antioxidant d-limonene, a powerful compound that helps flush out toxins from the body and allows it to release stored visceral fat.
Harmful Ingredient: Sugar (duh)
According to the CDC Americans eat a whopping 82 grams of added sugar a day—which is 37 grams above the recommended intake! There’s a gross factor to white sugar, too: Refined white sugar is bleached in a process that entails running the sugar through “bone char” or “natural carbon”—both fancy terms for charred cattle bones. Confectioner’s and brown sugar can also be culprits, as they are variations of white sugar. Say goodbye to added sugars—and goodbye to your belly—with Zero Sugar Diet! Order your copy today!
Eat This Instead: Stick to organic cane or turbinado sugar, or check out our report Every Popular Added Sweetener—Ranked! to choose a smart alternative.
Harmful Ingredients: Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), refined carbs, added sugar
There’s no sugar-coating it: sugar wreaks havoc on the body. Consuming too much of the white stuff can lead to obesity, which often causes other health problems like diabetes and heart disease. And many cereals pack more sugar into one bowl than you’ll find in a Boston Kreme Donut! To make matters worse, many popular varieties like Frosted Flakes and Fruity Pebbles are also laced with Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) or BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole), ingredients that are banned in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and much of Europe because they are thought to be carcinogenic.
Eat This Instead: Cascadian Farms Chocolate O's and Nature's Path Peanut Butter Panda Puffs are both flavor-packed, low-sugar picks that don’t contain any scary chemicals. We’re also big fans of these 11 Brand Name Cereals for Weight Loss.
Harmful Ingredients: Caramel coloring, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), Bisphenol A (BPA), aspartame
What do cancer-causing artificial colors, flame retardants, and waist-widening fake sugars all have in common? They’re ingredients in all your favorite diet fizzy drinks. Shove all that into a plastic bottle laced with BPA, a chemical that’s been linked to obesity, and you’ve pretty much got the worst drink ever. Nearly all popular diet sodas contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener that raises glucose levels, overloading the liver and causing the excess to convert into fat. And that’s not all: The caramel coloring found in brown beverages like Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper has been proven to cause cancer in animals and is a possible carcinogen for humans. If citrus-flavored sodas like Diet Mountain Dew and Fresca are your go-to, you’re not off scot-free. Instead of caramel coloring, they contain BVO, a chemical used in rocket fuel and flame retardants that may reduce fertility and can negatively affect thyroid hormones.
Eat This Instead: While many companies have phased BVO out of their sodas, all diet drinks contain aspartame, and that’s just not something we can get behind. If you’re sick of plain ole’ H20, opt for one of these delicious detox teas or a cup of coffee instead.
Harmful Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, trans fats, added sugar
Coffee creamer and sunblock have more in common that you might think. They both contain titanium dioxide, an ultraviolet radiation blocker that doubles as a whitening agent. Besides lurking in many conventional creamers, it’s also found in seemingly ‘healthy’ bottles, too. The additive has been proven to cause liver and tissue damage in mice, and may also have health implications in humans, according to a recent review of the chemical. Coffee creamer is also typically packed with trans fats, often hiding under its lesser-known name: hydrogenated oil. Pretty much all of Coffee Mate’s products have this scary ingredient that has been shown to diminish memory in adults under 45 years old. If you’re working hard or don’t want to forget where you parked your car, this is one ingredient you should steer clear of.
Eat This Instead: Plain ol’ cow’s milk or unsweetened, organic soy milk both make for healthy additions to your morning cup. If you’re looking for a hint of flavor, stick with a tablespoon of one of Coffee Mate's Natural Bliss creamers. They’re all made from nonfat milk, heavy cream, sugar and natural flavors—that’s it! If you like your coffee iced we have a healthy recipe just for you.
Harmful Ingredients: Nitrate, excess sodium
The bacon and sausage you enjoy for breakfast and the deli meats you use to make your lunch may be putting your life at risk. How? Many of these meats contain nitrates, a preservative that interferes with the body’s natural ability to process sugar, which increases the risk for diabetes. It can also up your odds of developing thyroid and colon cancer. If that wasn’t bad enough, most processed meats are also loaded with sodium, a known contributor to hypertension that can make you bloat and set you up to develop heart disease.
Eat This Instead: At the deli counter, ask for Boar's Head All Natural Roasted Turkey Breast. It’s free of nitrates and is relatively low in sodium. Applegate Natural's Natural Slow-Cooked Ham and Organic Bacon are also good picks that can be found in the meat and cheese section of your grocery store.
Harmful Ingredient: Hydrogenated oil
Fried chicken, fried cheese sticks, fried calamari, French fries. You won't ever see these items marked as an “Eat This." They cause trouble for your body for a variety of reasons and can wreak havoc on your weight. But there’s more: They’re also linked to depression. Deep frying is usually done in partially hydrogenated oil. Hydrogenation is a process that turns vegetable oil into a more solid form, which makes it a more shelf-stable product. Anything that is cooked with hydrogenated oils and contains trans fats could potentially contribute to depression. It can also clog your arteries and contribute to heart disease like all of these 30 Worst Foods For Your Heart.
Eat This Instead: Bake your foods in the oven. Always.
Harmful Ingredients: Sodium, trans fats
From preservatives and artificial fillers to mountains of sodium that wreak havoc on your mood, frozen entrees are not to be trusted. So, you’ve been warned: These are the 67 Worst Frozen Foods in America.
Eat This Instead: Opt for organic, low-sodium, low-sugar frozen options that never (ever!) have trans fats. These 15 New Healthy Frozen Foods that Make Clean Eating a Breeze are among the best options.
Harmful Ingredient: Monosodium glutamate
Chinese food is often loaded with MSG (monosodium glutamate), a flavor enhancer found in other types of food such as soups, processed meats, and more. Some research suggests that the chemicals in MSG (one of these 23 Worst Food Additives in America) cause a drastic increase in appetite, which seems appropriate as people who consume the most amounts of MSG are more likely to be overweight compared to those that have no MSG in their diet.
Eat This Instead: Steamed veggies and these other 8 Chinese Foods Approved by Diet Experts
Harmful Ingredient: Sodium
And here you thought we’d say the sugar. And calories. And fat. And everything else. While that’s all true, and restaurant desserts are dangerous because the portions are often oversized, it’s the sodium content that many people don’t even think about. That innocent looking dessert you see pictured above has a whopping 1,380 calories, 92 grams of fat, 700 milligrams of sodium, 125 grams of carbs, and 86 grams of sugar. Check it out with its other evil friends on this list of 20 Restaurant Desserts With More Salt Than A Bag of Pretzels.
Eat This Instead: A small scoop of sorbet is a low-risk way to satisfy that sweet tooth at the end of a meal.
Harmful Ingredients: Excess calories, sodium, fat
Whenever your plate is made up almost entirely off-brown hues of deep-fried junk, you know you’re not in for anything remotely nutritious. (Or if it was once nutritious, it no longer is.) Appetizer samplers, fried fish, and chips, a plate of wings—if there isn’t at least half the plate made up of vegetables, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’ll notice this is what several of the pictures look like in this exclusive list of The #1 Worst Menu Option at 40 Popular Restaurants.
Eat This Instead: Consider The #1 Healthiest Menu Option at 40 Popular Restaurants your new go-tos.
Harmful Ingredient: Sucrose, glucose, caffeine
Ever wonder why all energy drinks taste like cough syrup? We can only imagine the number of broken Bunsen burners it took to come up with the now-familiar energy drink formula. No doubt this strange medicinal taste makes consumers feel like they’re deriving real benefits from one of these cans. All they’re really deriving, though, is an overpriced chemical cocktail with the caffeine content of a strong cup of coffee and a lot of sugar (or scary artificial sweeteners). P.S.: A University of Maryland study found energy drinks to be 11 percent more corrosive to your teeth than regular soda. Gross, right?
Drink This Instead: Green tea! It’s all-natural and one of the best energy boosters around. There’s a reason test panelists lost up to 10 pounds by drinking tea for a week with the The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse!
Harmful Ingredients: Soybean oil, titanium dioxide, artificial coloring
Most “premium” ice creams are overloaded with sugar and soybean oil, a fat that’s been linked to weight gain. Some even contain harmful artificial coloring agents and titanium dioxide, an additive that gives sunblock its white hue!
Harmful Ingredients: Caramel coloring, pectin, fructose, xanthan gum
Busy mornings and grab-and-go breakfasts are practically synonymous—so it’s easy to see the appeal of store-bought smoothies. They seem like the best way to get what you crave in a pinch. But the timesaving drinks have a downside: Compared to fresh-made drinks, most of them fall short on nutrition and are so calorie- and sugar-filled that you’d have to spend hours on the treadmill to burn them off. Be sure to avoid The Worse Smoothies at the Supermarket for Weight Loss to keep your waistline trim.
Drink This Instead: Play it safe by blending up one of these 56 Smoothie Recipes for Weight Loss—all of them can be made in 5 minutes or less.
Harmful Ingredient: Trans fat
Making biscuits from scratch can take forever, and the majority of the packaged varieties are chock full of trans fats, an artificial fat—invented to make baked goods more shelf-stable—that’s been linked heart disease. Each of Mary B's Buttermilk Biscuits carries three grams a pop (which is more than a day’s worth). And though the nutrition label on Pillsbury Grands! Buttermilk Biscuits reads “0 grams” in the trans fat column, it’s made with hydrogenated soybean oil—a dead giveaway that there are traces of the dangerous fat in the biscuits.
Eat this Instead: Not only do Thomas' “nooks and crannies” save you from the dangers of trans fats, but they also shave 90 calories from your plate. Smear some butter and mashed blackberries on those babies to amp up the flavor and add a hit of sweetness.
Harmful Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring
Famous syrup brands like Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth are made with two ingredients we’re constantly telling readers to avoid: health-harming high fructose corn syrup and caramel coloring.
Eat this Instead: The best syrup for your waistline is a Grade A Medium Amber pure maple syrup. Since the flavor is so concentrated, a little goes a long way, saving you calories and sugar. For even more ways to cut back on the white granular stuff don’t miss these 30 Easy Ways to Stop Eating so Much Sugar.
Harmful Ingredients: Omega-6s, PCBs
Atlantic salmon is the Kid Rock album release of the refrigerator section: Always bad news. By definition, all Atlantic salmon is farm-raised and packed with inflammatory omega-6s. Because salmon farmers feed their fish soy, farmed salmon has around 1,900 milligrams of the unhealthy fatty acid while wild salmon has just 114 milligrams. It gets worse: Farmed salmon are usually dyed pink, have been found to be high in PCBs (cancer-causing industrial chemicals that were banned in 1979) and have one-fourth the belly-flattening vitamin D of their wild cousins.
Eat this Instead: Wild salmon. It’s high in omega-3 acids, which fight inflammation throughout the body.
Harmful Ingredients: Wood rosin, artificial dyes
Whoever invented the Gatorade Dunk—the tradition in which winning sports teams dump coolers of the stuff on their coaches—was really on to something. One scan of the nutrition label and it’s clear: The sports drink is better off seeping into the sidelines than your stomach. Sure, it provides critical post-workout electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, but it also serves up a hearty helping of calories and sugar. In fact, there are 56 grams of the sweet stuff (which is more than a day’s worth) in a 32-ounce bottle. What’s more, the beverage is teeming with stomach-churning additives like wood rosin and artificial dyes that have been linked to cancer and hyperactivity in children.
Drink This Instead: A better—and safer—way to replenish the electrolytes and water lost after a tough workout: Pick up a fork and knife. There are a many all-natural foods that are just as hydrating as Gatorade and chock full of electrolytes and nutrients that aid muscle recovery and weight loss. Pick up some of these Healthy Foods Better For Hydration than Gatorade to reap the benefits.
Harmful Ingredients: Caramel coloring, soybean oil, yeast extract, high fructose corn syrup
You might not see MSG on this ravioli’s ingredients list, but its troublesome compound, glutamic acid, is found in a couple of ingredients that are there, including yeast extract. After years of bad publicity surrounding MSG (which is considered a “flavor enhancer” in food-additive terminology) many manufacturers stopped including it and instead slipped through an FDA loophole: They don’t have to mention glutamic acid if it’s hidden in other ingredients. So what’s the big deal about glutamic acid? A review compiled for the FDA recently concluded that the substance triggers some people to have reactions, including migraines, headache, nausea, changes in heart rate, and difficulty breathing.
Eat this Instead: When the craving for pasta strikes, try some of these 40 Ultimate Pasta Tips to Stay Skinny. Sure, making noodles from scratch may take some additional time, but at least you’ll have leftovers for days.
Harmful Ingredient: Monosodium glutamate
Everyone knows that when you buy Doritos, you're bound to finish the entire bag—and it’s no surprise. The recipe for the popular chip was specially designed so that no single flavor overpowers another. When foods lack a dominant flavor, people are less apt to feel full and, in turn, consume more, say researchers. What’s more, one of the first ingredients on the food’s label is monosodium glutamate (MSG), an additive that’s been known to increase appetite and make foods taste more appetizing. And if you thought that Dorito breath was just a coincidental side effect of munching on the snack, think again. The powerful savory taste lingering in your mouth is an example of a tactic called “long hang-time flavor” that’s used to lure snackers into going back for more. With all of these factors working against you, it’s really no wonder you're defenseless when Doritos come around.
Eat this Instead: Beanitos Nacho Cheese White Bean Chips. A serving of these bean-based chips have a whopping 6 grams of belly-filling fiber, so you’ll definitely be able to put the bag down once you’ve eaten your fill. Plus, they’re free of MSG, which should let your natural willpower kick in.
Harmful Ingredients: Monosodium glutamate, Yellow #6
It’s not your imagination: This orange, puffy snack melts the second it hits your tongue —a phenomenon scientists have dubbed “vanishing caloric density.” And it’s definitely not an accidental quality of your chips, either. Food developers know that when foods melt quickly, it tricks the brain into thinking you're not eating as many calories. In turn, snackers wind up eating a much larger serving. The sound Cheetos make when you bite into them was also specially developed to get you hooked. The crunchy sound makes them taste more appetizing, likely because we associate the sound with freshness, according to a recent Oxford University study. What’s more, Cheetos are doused with MSG, which has been shown to increase appetite and make foods taste even more delicious. Plus, Cheetos are one of the 8 Most Addictive Foods in the World.
Eat this Instead: Blue Diamond Natural Almond Nut-Thins in Cheddar Cheese. These rice and almond-based crackers offer a Cheeto-esque taste with three grams of hunger-busting protein per serving. Most importantly, they’re free of those tricky vanishing calories that cause us to overeat.
Harmful Ingredients: Palm oil, alkali processed cocoa, high fructose corn syrup
Oreos don’t come with a warning, but maybe they should! Not only are they filled with palm oil, a fat that promotes fat-causing inflammation, but Oreos have also been shown to be more addictive than both cocaine and morphine, according to a 2013 animal study. To come to this finding, researchers fed rats rice cakes, Oreos or gave them injections of cocaine or morphine and found that the cookies had the greatest effect on the pleasure center of the brain—which likely explains why it’s so hard to eat just one. A second group of researchers found that among all the foods out there, cookies were one of the most difficult to eat in moderation.
Eat this Instead: Nothin’ But Chocolate Coconut Almond Granola Cookies (which you can buy right on Amazon.com). These chewy bites don't quite look or taste like Oreos, but they sure are a lot healthier—and far less addicting. Made from a delicious combination of almonds, oats, chocolate, coconut, cane sugar, spices and espresso powder instead of a mound of processed ingredients, this treat is kinder to your waistline than the traditional twist-and-lick combo.
Harmful Ingredient: Monosodium glutamate
Typically dubbed a healthy, soothing meal, soup truly is one of the least suspicious diet saboteurs of them all. What makes it so addicting? Besides being appealing because of its low cost, many popular brands add monosodium glutamate, a flavoring agent that increases appetite and causes migraines. While we weren’t too shocked to learn that all of Maruchan Ramen Noodles—a popular college staple—are laced with the ingredient, we were miffed to learn that some of Campbell’s condensed soups are loaded with it, too.
Eat this Instead: Progresso, Campbell’s V8 Soups, and Pacific Foods Soups are all MSG free. Sticking with those brands will make it easier to keep your appetite and portions in check. If you have high blood pressure, be sure to look for soups with less than 500 milligrams of sodium per serving, too. Check out these 36 Best and Worst Canned Soups & Soup Products for more insight into what’s healthy and what’s not.
Harmful Ingredients: MSG, Yellow #5, Yellow #6
Monosodium glutamate, better known as MSG, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are just three of the unsettling ingredients found in a typical bouillon cube. The former has been shown to stimulate appetite while the latter two, both artificial coloring agents, may have adverse effects on activity and attention in children. To discover other items you should avoid adding to the pot on the stove, check out these 20 Worst Ingredients to Put In Your Soup.
Eat This Instead: Organic broth is available at most supermarkets.
Harmful Ingredients: Soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, and trans fats
That innocent-looking muffin may just give you a muffin top if you’re not careful. Hey, the name had to come from somewhere, right? A typical blueberry muffin carries nearly 400 calories and a third of the day’s fat, and eating half now and “saving the rest for later” is near impossible—likely because foods rich in carbs, fat and sugar can be downright addicting. A University of Montreal study found that mice who had been fed diets with high levels of those very nutrients displayed withdrawal symptoms and were more sensitive to stressful situations after they were put on a healthier diet. Plus, many commercial muffins are also spiked with waist-widening soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup and trans fats, an ingredient that’s been shown to decrease brainpower and diminish memory.
Eat this Instead: Kashi Blueberry Waffles. Two of these low-sugar, high-fiber waffles serve up the sweet blueberry taste you crave for a mere 150 calories. Even if you topped them with a tablespoon of syrup, you’d still take in fewer calories and less fat and sugar than you would had you opted for the muffin. The winner here is obvious. Making breakfast at home? Try some of these 30 Best Breakfast Habits to Drop 5 Pounds.
Harmful Ingredients: Coloring agents Yellow 5 and Yellow 6
The glow-in-the-dark color of most mac and cheese products on the market doesn’t exist in the natural world and shouldn’t be ingested. Why? Well, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, studies have linked artificial food coloring to allergies, ADHD, and cancer in animals. Many of these dyes are made from coal tar — just like the products used to seal-coat industrial floors and kill bugs in lice shampoo. Yummy!
Eat This Instead: Pick an organic brand, which means no added artificial colors, no dairy from cows treated with synthetic hormones, and no genetically modified ingredients. Or make one of these Amazing Mac and Cheese Recipes for Weight Loss!
Harmful Ingredient: Magnesium sulfate
Hardly what you might think of as a risky food item, virtually flavorless tofu—which is made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks—actually harbors a the nasty coagulant magnesium sulfate. Studies have shown it can cause cancer in laboratory animals.
Eat This Instead: Tofu that employs another coagulating agent, such as nigari salts, lushui, or clean sea water.
Harmful Ingredient: Sucralose
You don't want your liver and kidneys to swell while your thymus gland shrinks. But if you did, consuming lots of the artificial sweetener Splenda would be a fantastic way to do it.
Eat This Instead: Before sugar was widely available, people’s go-to sweetener was honey, and it still stacks up. Although honey is high in fructose, it also contains a lot of cancer-busting antioxidants. Additionally, local honey has been said to help alleviate allergy symptoms.
Harmful Ingredient: Orange B
There are plenty of good reasons not to eat hot dogs—their high levels of sodium and cancer-causing preservative nitrates are just two—but if you need another, here you go. The casing of many hot dogs is colored with a food dye called Orange B. High doses of it are bad for the liver and bile duct.
Eat This Instead: If you're jonesing for a juicy dog, opt for an organic option like Applegate Farms' Great Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dog.
Harmful Ingredient: Trans fats
Mama’s baby may like shortening bread, but that’s because the infant’s knowledge of what trans fats do to his body is patchy at best. Harmful trans fats abound in any food that lists shortening or partially hydrogenated oil as an ingredient. Trans fats will clog your arteries and cause obesity, but they’ll also increase your risk of metabolic syndrome.
Eat This Instead: Choose healthier monounsaturated fats, such as olive, peanut and canola oils, and foods that contain unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids instead.
Harmful Ingredients: Citrus Red #1 and #2
This one’s a shocker: Oranges are bought more swiftly when they're a little more orange than the color that was named after them. That’s what led someone to hit upon the idea of spray-painting them so they'd appear ripe, even if they aren’t. Both of these dyes can damage chromosomes and lead to cancer.
Eat This Instead: Opt for organic oranges, or engage in a little digging to discover if the color of your fruit is actually from a factory in New Jersey.
Harmful Ingredient: Potassium sorbate
It’s listed on Mickey D’s website as an ingredient in their mayonnaise, although food and chemical toxicology reports labeled potassium sorbate as a carcinogen after it was demonstrated that it tended to cause the cells of mammals to mutate.
Eat This Instead: Ask them to leave off the mayo—and the buttermilk ranch and BBQ sauces, too. Though the ketchup has HFCS, which we don’t love too much, as long as you don’t squeeze on too much of the stuff, it’s the better option.
Frozen Fish &
Harmful Ingredient: tert-Butylhydroquinone
This ingredient is found in many different food and non-food items, but the highest limit (1 gram/kg) permitted is for frozen fish and fish products. It’s a preservative that’s effective at extending storage life and, at high doses, could cause stomach tumors.
Eat This Instead: Always buy fresh or flash-frozen fish as opposed to anything fishy in the freezer aisle.
Harmful Ingredient: Soy protein
Soy protein is made from genetically modified soybeans (often grown in China) and then subjected to hexane, a chemical solvent that can literally explode.
Eat This Instead: You're far better off with a veggie burger like Amy’s Sonoma Burger, which is made entirely of organic vegetables, quinoa, and walnuts. You’ll find some more of our favorite in our special report 32 Best and Worst Veggie Burgers.
Harmful Ingredient: Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
If you don’t swallow it, can chewing gum count as a food? Yes, because BHA is being released into your mouth. Used as a food preservative, BHA is commonly found in chewing gum, butter, cereals, snack foods, and beer. Not only has BHA have been shown to impair blood clotting when consumed in high quantities, but it's also been linked to the promotion of tumor growth. Which led it to be banned from food in the UK, Japan, and many other European countries.
Eat This Instead: If you’ve got a chewing habit, try sunflower seeds. Not only are they tasty, but they are also an excellent source of vitamin E, the body's primary fat-soluble antioxidant.
Harmful Ingredient: Chlorine dioxide
A bleaching agent, chlorine dioxide is used in a variety of ways, including water treatment and the whitening of flour. According to research undertaken by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, this chemical has been linked to cancer.
Eat This Instead: There are plenty of whole-grain and whole-wheat flours and breads that don't include bleach. Make the switch! Not only do they not contain chlorine dioxide, they’re better for you in a variety of other ways, too. Go with one of these 10 Best Brand Name Breads for Weight Loss!
Harmful Ingredients: Artificial coloring, added sugar, saturated fats
You already knew all the artery-clogging fats and addicting sugars in candy weren’t doing you or your family any favors, but you likely didn’t realize that certain candies can make it more difficult for your little ones to concentrate. A few years ago, researchers discovered that the artificial colors, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 (found in M&Ms), promote Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in children. In fact, Norway and Sweden have already banned the use of these artificial colors, and in the rest of the EU, foods containing these additives must be labeled with the phrase: “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
Eat This Instead: M&M fans should check out Unreal’s Candy-Coated Milk Chocolates. It’s a similar product, but free of all the scary chemicals. If there’s no way you could ever trade in your go-to candy for another sweet, here’s hoping your sweet of choice is made by Nestlế. In 2015, the company phased out the use of all artificial dyes. Or better yet, try some of these 20 Healthy Desserts for Weight Loss.
Harmful Ingredient: Arsenic
You may know arsenic as a toxic chemical, but it’s also handy at staving off parasitic infections in poultry. As recently as early 2011, a drug called Roxarsone—which was later found to contain traces of inorganic arsenic—was still being used in chicken feed for this reason, and because it made chicken meat appear pinker and fresher. Since then, the National Chicken Council has said that it is no longer using arsenic-based drugs. The National Turkey Federation, however, says Nitarsone, another arsenic-based drug, is given to turkeys during the first few weeks of their lives and in summer months. It’s banned in the European Union. This stuff is bad for more reasons than can be listed here, but all you really need to know is that it is listed as a class 1 carcinogen, meaning that it's highly toxic to humans.
Eat This Instead: Organic turkey. ’Nuff said.
Harmful Ingredients: Sodium carboxymethyl cellulose, sugar
This catchy-sounding item is used as a thickening agent in salad dressing and, in high quantities, it can cause cancer. Consider these 16 Salad Dressing Worst Than Chocolate Syrup passes, as well.
Eat This Instead: Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, honey, mustard. These are just some of the whole ingredients you can use to concoct in your kitchen that will be far less likely to do you harm. Choose these Ingredients for Salad Dressing That Will Help Keep You Slim!
Harmful Ingredient: Potassium bromate (bromated flour)
Banned in Europe, Canada, and even China, potassium bromate abounds here in the U.S. and is found in wraps, rolls, bread crumbs and bagel chips. This food additive is an oxidizing agent used in baking. It helps producers cook things faster. It's also been linked to kidney failure and cell deterioration.
Eat This Instead: This will take a little investigative work on your part, but take a moment to scan the ingredients list next time you're at the market. If you pick up a package with potassium bromate or bromated flour on the label, put it down and pick up something else.
Harmful Ingredient: BPA (Bisphenol-A)
BPA (one of these Scary Toxins Hiding in Your Cookware and Storage Containers) is a hormone-mimicking chemical found in nearly all food packaging plastics, and it’s potentially bad news. Active in just parts per billion, one of the things BPA is known for is causing men to grow breasts by disrupting their hormones. It can also promote cancer and render people infertile.
Drink This Instead: Join the increasing amount of people who want to stay hydrated but also remain alive and with little to no change to the size of their breasts by pouring filtered water into a metal flask or non-BPA bottle. We’re fans of S’Well bottles since they come in so many cool and colorful patterns. A 17-ounce bottle will cost you $35 on Amazon.com—and it’s worth every penny.
Harmful Ingredient: Acesulfame-K, also known as acesulfame potassium or Ace-K.
This artificial sweetener is often used to make the bitter aftertaste of um...other artificial sweeteners. Acesulfame potassium is suspected of causing benign thyroid tumors. In rats, the development of such tumors took only three months. Consequently, the substance is believed to have carcinogenic properties.
Eat This Instead: Stevia. Of all the artificial sweeteners, this is the least offensive. Even if you don’t trust the powdered stuff, you can still use the sweeteners by growing your own stevia plant.
Dried Fruit Snacks
Harmful Ingredients: Sulfites
Sulfites, which naturally occur in all wines and are added to some others, are used to keep prepared foods fresh. They're often used in dried fruit snacks. Asthmatics are at an elevated risk for reaction to sulfites (though anaphylaxis and life-threatening reactions are rare). Other reactions include fun stuff like sneezing, swelling of the throat, hives, and migraine.
Eat This Instead: Get your dried fruits from a retailer like Whole Foods, which says that all of their dried fruits are 100 percent sulfate-free.
Foods Coated with Artificial Chocolate
Harmful Ingredient: Polysorbate 60
Short for polyoxyethylene-(20)-sorbitan monostearate, this emulsifier is widely used in the food industry. Made of corn, palm oil, and petroleum, this gooey mix can’t spoil, and it often replaces dairy products in baked goods. It's commonly contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a chemical which has been shown to cause cancer in animals.
Eat This Instead: Foods coated with real chocolate. We like these 7 Best New Healthy Chocolates.
Harmful Ingredients: Sodium and potassium benzoate
A professor of molecular biology and biotechnology tested the impact of sodium benzoate on living yeast cells and found that benzoate damaged their mitochondria, an important area of DNA in the "power station" of cells. Potassium benzoate, like sodium benzoate often shows up in seemingly innocuous foods such as apple cider, low-fat salad dressings, syrups, jams, olives, and pickles, and it's just as hazardous.
Eat This Instead: You don’t have to go too far out of your way to find pickles without this additive. For example: Walmart carries Woodstock Farms Organic Baby Kosher Dill Pickles, which doesn't have either of the benzoate brothers on its ingredients list.
Harmful Ingredients: Pectin and added sugar
These classic spreads look innocent enough, but they’re really just pieces of fruit smothered in calorie-laden sugar and pectin, a natural fruit fiber that makes the spread nice and sticky. What’s so bad about natural fiber? Well, just as it causes jelly to stick to your fingers, pectin also sticks to health-boosting antioxidants like beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein, carrying them out of your system before your body can benefit from them. Smuckers Strawberry Jam and Concord Grape Jelly both contain high levels of pectin and quite a bit of added sugar, so be sure to keep your distance.
Eat This Instead: Your safest bet is to top your peanut butter sandwiches with fresh pieces of fruit like banana and strawberries. You’ll get a similar taste with none of the added sugar or pectins. Not willing to ditch your spread? Try Polaner All Fruit Spreadable Fruit Apricot. Apricots are naturally low in pectin, and the spread is free of added sugars. Looking to take your peanut butter and fruit sandwiches to the next level? Try using one of our go-to healthy nut butters.
Harmful Ingredients: Sodium citrate and phosphate
That brick of orange cheese sitting in the dairy case at your supermarket is more than just a flavorless lump of dairy-ish ingredients —it’s loaded with icky additives, too. While many companies are thankfully opting for natural colors to give their cheese that trademark bad spray-tan hue, they’re still loading those icky slices with ingredients that can seriously harm your health. Kraft Singles are packed with sodium citrate, which can cause muscle spasms and may be harmful to individuals with kidney health issues. They’re also packed with sodium phosphate, an ingredient used to prevent crystallization of meat and dairy products, which has been linked to an increased risk of bone demineralization, osteoporosis, and kidney health issues.
Eat This Instead: If you can’t fight your cheese cravings, opt for an organic cheese that’s made without preservatives or artificial colors. If you’re trying to be particularly gentle with your body, opt for an aged white cheddar or parmesan —they’re the cheeses with the lowest lactose levels, which make them the least likely to cause digestive distress to the estimated 75 percent of adults who can’t fully digest dairy.
Harmful Ingredients: Sugar and maltodextrin
When reaching for a bottled Frappuccino, you’re probably more concerned with how under-caffeinated you’re feeling and less about what could be lurking under that label. Unfortunately, this sickly-sweet drink is loaded with both sugar and maltodextrin, a combination that’s sure to send your blood sugar skyrocketing. While the reason for sugar’s less-than-healthy reputation is pretty well-known (hello, obesity and diabetes!), maltodextrin, a thickener, is a less obvious baddie. However, maltodextrin has a significantly higher glycemic index than sugar, causing a sudden spike in your blood sugar that’s sure to lead to a crash later on. For those with gluten sensitivities, maltodextrin, which is made from wheat, may be a trigger.
Eat This Instead: Keep the convenience and toss out all the added sugar by opting for cold brew instead. This refreshing pick-me-up skips those high-calorie ingredients and gets you more of what you really want: sweet, sweet caffeine. Fortunately, ready-to-drink cold brew is becoming more widely available, with companies like Blue Bottle, Stumptown, and High Brew offering their flavorful, antioxidant-rich coffees in convenient to-go bottles and cans. Not in the mood for a black coffee? The 20 Easy Ways to Stay Slim at Any Coffee Shop can help you order smart.
Low-Fat Peanut Butter
Harmful Ingredients: Sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil, sodium
Don’t let its reduced fat content fool you: low-fat peanut butter is in no way a health food. While peanuts on their own can be a good source of protein and fiber, the other ingredients used in low-fat peanut butters will have you running for the hills. When the naturally-occurring fats are stripped from peanut butter, they’re often replaced with artery-clogging vegetable oil, tons of sugar, and excess salt to make up for what would otherwise be a bland and flavorless product.
Eat This Instead: Skip all the waist-widening sugar and salt and enjoy some full-fat natural peanut butter instead. Spread the Love brand peanut butter is made without added salt, sugar, or oils, and has all the cholesterol-lowering MUFAs that you get from peanuts in their natural state. Peanut butter is also incredibly easy to make on your own: throw some peanuts and a little bit of oil or honey, as per your taste, into a blender and puree until smooth.
Harmful Ingredients: Sugar, trans fat
Baking a pie is an undeniably wholesome activity, falling just behind knitting in a rocking chair and opening a New England bed and breakfast. However, what’s not so wholesome is all those scary ingredients that could be hiding in your pie crust. To keep pre-made crust moist and palatable, they’re often loaded with trans fats and sugars, a dangerous duo that can increase your risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Eat This Instead: Making your own crust is easy, cost-efficient, and saves you from all those scary ingredients that could be corrupting your innocent pie. If you’re looking to make your dessert a whole lot healthier, take off the top crust from your pie and make the bottom using almond meal, honey, and a hint of olive oil, the combination of which is full of heart-healthy fats and may even give your immune system a boost, thanks to honey’s antimicrobial properties.
Harmful Ingredients: Sugar, pectin, artificial colors
Pro tip: if your food shakes more than Shakira, odds are, it’s not the all-natural treat you’re hoping for. While Jell-O’s ubiquity as hospital food is enough to turn most people’s stomachs, its ingredients list makes it an even worse offender. Nutrient-leeching pectin, sugar, and potentially-carcinogenic artificial colors team up in this wiggly dessert to form an unholy trifecta that’s bad for both your health and weight loss efforts.
Eat This Instead: With a little gelatin, some fruit, and a hint of honey, you can whip up your own batch of gelatin dessert that’s all-natural, preservative-free, and pretty tasty, too. If it’s just the fruit flavor you’re craving, smoothie pops can similarly satisfy your sweet tooth while adding tons of fiber and antioxidants to your snack.
Harmful Ingredients: Potassium bromate, high fructose corn syrup
That plastic-bagged loaf sitting in your bread box is hardly the best thing since sliced bread. Not only is white bread high in refined carbs while lacking significant amounts of either protein or fiber, making it a recipe for craving-inducing insulin spikes, the sneaky secret ingredients in many of the brands on your supermarket’s shelves are a recipe for weight gain and poor health. Even if they don’t taste sweet, many white breads are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and contain potassium bromate, which has been linked to kidney health issues and can cause DNA damage.
Eat This Instead: Opt for whole-grain breads whenever possible and make sure to check the label to avoid any hidden sweeteners in the recipe. Fortunately, healthier slices aren’t hard to find; brands like the Vermont Bread Company, Country Hearth, and Milton’s Own all make multiple varieties of bread made without HFCS.
Harmful Ingredients: Sugar, corn syrup, sorbitol, soybean oil, BHT
Granola has long been associated with healthy living, although considering all the garbage that’s put in granola bars, the link isn’t exactly clear. The combination of sugar, corn syrup, and sorbitol, a weight gain-inducing trifecta found in Quaker Chewy Chocolate chip granola bars should be enough to have most health-conscious consumers steering clear, but the fattening soybean oil and widely-banned potential carcinogen BHT are just the icky cherries on top of this unhealthy recipe.
Eat This Instead: Indulge your sweet tooth without sabotaging your health by opting for a Nut Delight Kind Bar instead. Loaded with mixed nuts, honey, rice, and flaxseed, this omega-3-rich concoction only tastes decadent. Find out which other Kind snacks should earn a spot on your menu by checking out Every Kind Bar — Ranked!
Harmful Ingredients: Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, carrageenan, artificial colors
All those smiling models in yogurt commercials obviously haven’t checked out the ingredients list on their purportedly healthy snack. Most fruit-flavored yogurts on the market contain precious little actual fruit, sweetening their recipes with sugar and high fructose corn syrup instead. And those brilliant hues you thought were the result of fresh fruit in the recipe? Those are the result of possibly cancer-causing artificial colors.
Eat This Instead: Yogurt doesn’t have to be completely off the menu just because you’re trying to eat healthier. Plain, unsweetened yogurt is full of live cultures that can benefit your gut bacteria, boosting your immune system and potentially lowering your risk of everything from diabetes to depression. If you’re worried about the belly bloat that dairy can cause, coconut milk yogurt with live cultures tastes like the real stuff and has all the same benefits for your belly bacteria.
Harmful Ingredients: Sugar, carrageenan, red #3, artificial flavors
Think flavored milk is a good way to get stronger bones? Think again. Strawberry Nesquik is a particularly egregious offender in this department, with sugar, belly-bloating carrageenan, artificial flavoring and red #3, which has been banned in cosmetics. If it’s too dangerous to apply to your skin, why are you ingesting it?
Eat This Instead: Whipping up a strawberry smoothie is an easy way to get the flavor you love without all the icky extras. Just blend together your favorite carrageenan-free almond milk and some fresh strawberries for a filling snack that’s loaded with belly fat-fighting resveratrol.
Harmful Ingredients: Sugar, artificial sweeteners, caramel color, polysorbate 60
They say getting a great body is 80 percent nutrition and 20 percent exercise. Unfortunately, most protein bars are 100 percent garbage. The combination of sugar, carcinogenic colors, and polysorbate 60, an emulsifier that can create potentially-toxic compounds when combined with other ingredients, makes most protein bars less snack and more health hazard. If you think you’re getting a better deal by opting for sugar-free recipes, think again; the artificial sweeteners used in sugar-free protein bars have been linked to cravings for real sugar and increased waist circumference.
Eat This Instead: Loading up on protein doesn’t have to mean loading up on sugar and preservatives, too. A handful of raw almonds, a piece of cheese, or a hard-boiled egg can all help improve your post-workout recovery without weighing you down.
Meal Replacement Shakes
Harmful Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup, caramel color, red #3, maltodextrin, carrageenan
Replacing your meal with a pre-packaged shake means you’re replacing all the fiber, vitamins, and minerals you’d normally eat with a whole lot of scary ingredients instead. From blood sugar-spiking high fructose corn syrup and maltodextrin to tumor-promoting artificial colors, these icky shakes are better off in the garbage than on your table.
Eat This Instead: Instead of those chalky, medicinal shakes, blend up a batch of smoothies. You can customize your drink to add fruits and vegetables, two ingredients you’re unlikely to find in anything with a name like “Chocolate Dreemz” or “Power Protein,” and it’s easy to customize your shake for a whole range of eating plans, like subbing in pea protein for whey, or swapping out yogurt in favor of non-dairy milk.
Harmful Ingredients: Sugar, sodium, and caramel color
Oatmeal, a food so innocent that virtually every ad for it is set in a cabin on a snowy winter morning, has been corrupted. But with what, you ask? A whole lot of sugar. Just one packet of Quaker’s Maple and Brown Sugar oatmeal has a whopping 12 grams of the stuff. Flavored oatmeal mixes are often made using caramel color, which may cause carcinogenic ingredient 4-Mel, which often goes unlabeled in foods, despite numerous warnings about how its potential health risks.
Eat This Instead: Start your morning off on the right foot by opting for some unflavored oats instead. Not only will this save you some serious calories, it lends the possibility of adding healthy, filling ingredients, like raw almonds and fruit, to your recipe instead. Liven up your morning meal by adding the 50 Best Overnight Oats Recipes to your repertoire.
Harmful Ingredients: Sugar, caramel color, monosodium glutamate
High protein dieters who turn to beef jerky as a snack may be in for a not-so-pleasant surprise: their favorite bagged meat chunks are loaded with sugar, too. To make hunks of dried beef more palatable, many brands add a pretty shocking amount of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and some caramel color to make the stuff look less like the inside of a dead cow. Beef jerky is often made using MSG, as well, which researchers at Hirosaki University School of Medicine have linked to retinal damage.
Eat This Instead: Healthy high-protein snacks aren’t hard to find if you know where to look. A spoonful of natural peanut butter on some Mary’s Gone Crackers, which are vegan, organic, gluten-free, and made with whole grains, can keep you full without all the extras you don’t want.
Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
Harmful Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup, sugar, potassium sorbate, polysorbate 60, xanthan gum
Things chocolate syrup is good for: making fake blood in old movies, wrestling. Things chocolate syrup is bad for: your health. Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup is an icky mixture of high fructose corn syrup, sugar, carcinogenic potassium sorbate, and belly-bloating xanthan gum.
Eat This Instead: You don’t have to give up on chocolate for good just because you’re trying to eat healthier. Opt for some antioxidant-rich, raw, preservative-free Gnosis Chocolate, or choose a low-sugar dark chocolate bar from your favorite brand.
Harmful Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup and red #3
Just because it’s not full of alcohol doesn’t mean that fruit cocktail is any healthier than an oversized margarita. In fact, with the high fructose corn syrup, and red #3 in these toxic fruits, it may be worse. The BPA used to package many kinds of fruit cocktail has been linked to endocrine issues and obesity, too, making this supposedly healthy snack a poor choice for anyone.
Eat This Instead: Just eat fruit. It’s healthier, it’s not loaded with added sugar, and it hasn’t been sitting in a plastic cup on your supermarket’s shelf for a decade (we hope).
Harmful Ingredients: Potassium sorbate, trans fat, soybean oil, diglycerides, artificial colors
Long considered a healthier option than butter, this trans fat-laden mess is like spreading heart disease on your bread. A little cancer-causing potassium sorbate, some artery-clogging, obesity-promoting trans fats, and some icky artificial colors thrown in for good measure make margarine a poor choice for any health-conscious consumers. Make like Nancy Reagan and just say no.
Eat This Instead: Instead of slathering your snacks in margarine, add some healthy fat to your food with olive oil instead. Not only is olive oil far more flavorful than margarine, it’s also a proven heart disease fighter and has been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, too.
Harmful Ingredients: Carrageenan, soybean oil, silicon dioxide, diglycerides, potassium chloride, margarine, sugar, benzoyl peroxide, maltodextrin, artificial flavors
Hot Pockets’ ability to be both the temperature of molten lava while simultaneously frozen defies everything we know about science, and yet, people are still eating them, trying not to accidentally sear off the inside of their mouths. Fortunately, if their perplexing temperature issues weren’t enough to turn you off, consider that the Ham and Cheese Hot Pocket contains the following unbelievably bad ingredients: sugar, maltodextrin, margarine, potassium chloride, benzoyl peroxide (yup, the stuff you use on pimples), soybean oil, and carrageenan. Not enough to keep you away? Consider the fact that these also contain what’s unappetizingly described as “fully cooked ham and water product,” and, for whatever perplexing reason, non-dairy creamer.
Eat This Instead: Get some unsweetened whole-grain bread, a few slices of preservative-free meat, and pop it on a panini press! Your un-scorched mouth will thank you. For the sake of your health, stick to the 46 Best Frozen Foods in America when a Hot Pocket craving hits.
Harmful Ingredients: Sugar and yellow #5
Beyoncé’s Lemonade? Great. Pretty much every other kind of lemonade? Mostly garbage. On top of the boatload of sugar that’s in most lemonade recipes, many brands give their drink a vibrant hue
using yellow #5, which has been linked to hyperactivity and impaired renal function in animal test subjects.
Eat This Instead: Opt for some infused water instead and you’ll save yourself a huge number of calories, a ton of sugar, and keep those kidneys working — we hear they’re pretty important, after all.
Harmful Ingredients: Sugar, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, artificial colors, carnauba wax
You know those scented candles that smell so delicious you almost want to take a bite? That’s pretty much what you’re consuming when you add some sprinkles to your ice cream. These sugary little ice cream accessories are little more than sugar, hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, and actual wax, just like your favorite candle.
Eat This Instead: Give your favorite frozen treat a little bit more texture and flavor by adding some slivered almonds or cacao nibs; not only will they make your ice cream more pleasing to your palate, they’ll also add some healthy fiber and antioxidants to your snack.
Harmful Ingredients: Hydrogenated vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, polysorbate 60, sorbitan monostearate
Ever wondered why Cool Whip doesn’t bill itself as whipped cream? It turns out, this creamy topping is many things, but cream isn’t actually one of them. While it does contain a little bit of skim milk, this dessert topping is mainly vegetable oil and high fructose corn syrup, with a little polysorbate 60 thrown in for good measure. Scarier still is Cool Whip’s sorbitan monostearate, which researchers at the British Industrial Biological Research Association have linked to kidney disease and enlargement in mice.
Eat This Instead: The topping on your treats doesn’t have to be toxic. While old-fashioned whipped cream isn’t exactly waist-friendly, you can make your very own version that’s just as tasty by whipping some coconut milk instead. It has the same creaminess you’d get from traditional whipped cream, but with no added fat or sugar, and a much more digestible recipe.
Harmful Ingredients: Omega-6
We may think of fish as a more-or-less universally healthy food, but tilapia’s here to be the exception to that rule. While most fatty fish have high levels of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, tilapia is packed with omega-6s, which have been known to increase inflammation. Tilapia is also one of the most farmed fish, meaning it often has increased levels of environmental pollutants, fewer omega-3s, and is more likely to be treated with antibiotics or hormones.
Eat This Instead: Choose wild-caught fish instead and you’ll decrease your chances of consuming harmful dyes, pesticides, preservatives, and hormones while increasing your intake of healthy omega-3s. Fish like salmon and cod are loaded with omega-3s and have light flavors that make them an easy substitute for tilapia in recipes.
Harmful Ingredients: Sulfur dioxide, calcium chloride, high fructose corn syrup, red #40
Mix up some bleach, some preservatives, corn syrup, and cancer-causing dyes and you’ve got… a sundae topping? Maraschino cherries, known for their vibrant hue and perplexing flavor, are an engineered food that have no place in a healthy diet. When you consider that they can last up to three years in their high fructose corn syrup bath before they even get near their expiration date, you’ll definitely want to put them back on the shelf.
Eat This Instead: Instead of pulling a syrupy, radioactive-looking cherry out of a jar, try getting it the old-fashioned way: from nature. Cherries are plenty sweet on their own, and even without the benefit of potentially-toxic dyes, they’ve already got a very pretty color to them. Cherries are also a good source of resveratrol, which can help fight excess belly fat and may even help fend off dementia. Loading your fruit with sugar could be one of the 50 Little Things Making You Fatter and Fatter.
Harmful Ingredients: Xanthan gum, diglycerides, corn syrup solids
Uncle Ben may not be such a good guy after all. Uncle Ben’s Cheddar Broccoli rice is loaded with bloat-inducing xanthan gum and diglycerides a food emulsifier that’s often made up of trans fats. Odder yet is the inclusion of corn syrup solids, a fattening sweetener that’s most commonly found in desserts, but manages to make it into this recipe just to spoil the fun.
Eat This Instead: Instead of eating those preservative-laden pre-seasoned rice mixes, you can easily save both your money and your health by making a batch of easy-to-prepare brown rice. Brown rice is not only filling, but a good source of resistant starch, which researchers at South Dakota State University have linked to improvements in gut bacteria, potentially lowering consumers’ risk of diabetes and obesity along the way. If you’re not a fan of unseasoned rice, try adding some healthy toppings, like a little heart-healthy olive oil, metabolism-boosting chili pepper, or antioxidant-rich spices, like sage, basil, and oregano.
Harmful Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup, propylene glycol, artificial colors
Big business is all about the bottom line, but we’re not sure what genius at Big Frosting thought that combining high fructose corn syrup and antifreeze ingredients was worth the obvious health risk to consumers. Not only is all the HFCS used in commercial frostings a major weight loss don’t, many frostings are tinted with potentially cancer-causing dyes, and the propylene glycol in frosting recipes is widely regarded as a potential allergen and has been linked to poor kidney health and neurological disturbances in animals.
Eat This Instead: Healthy frosting is as easy to make as it is delicious. Using avocados and dark chocolate, you can create a decadent buttercream-like frosting that takes just seconds to prepare and is loaded with mood-boosting cocoa flavonols and monounsaturated fats, which can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Harmful Ingredients: Sugar, soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, TBHQ
When you have just a few minutes to wake up, get dressed, and head out the door, it’s no wonder that so many people turn to convenience foods to settle their growling stomachs in the morning. Unfortunately, for those who opt for Pop-Tarts, any time they’re saving is coming at a high cost to their health. Loaded with fattening ingredients like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and soybean oil, Pop-Tarts aren’t a recipe for poor health. Even scarier are potentially carcinogenic caramel color and TBHQ, a preservative that has been linked to liver health issues, vision problems, and neurological issues in animals.
Eat This Instead: If you want a convenient breakfast treat that’s got fewer of the chemicals you’d find in a traditional Pop-Tart, Annie’s Organic Toaster Pastries fit the bill. While they’re still not exactly health food, they use whole wheat and rice flours, natural colors, and a little bit of actual fruit in their recipes. Start every day on the right foot with the 56 Smoothies for Weight Loss!
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