Though it may come as a surprise to some, not all "processed" foods are created equal. There are minimally processed foods, such as canned vegetables and frozen meats, and then there are highly processed foods, such as mass-produced, store-bought breads, TV dinners, and other items that come packed with saturated fats, added sugars, and practically zero fiber. (For more on those, see our complete list of the 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.)
"Nutritionally speaking, minimally processed foods generally offer similar nutritional benefits—vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber—as the natural unprocessed versions do," writes Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., a dietitian at the Mayo Clinic. "Ultra-processed foods may have naturally occurring or added nutrients… However, ultra-processed foods often provide more calories than nutrients."
This is just one of the poor diet habits that the Mayo Clinic has noted over the years that can have an impact on your health and your lifespan. For more eating habits the Mayo Clinic advises you to cut back on for the sake of your health and your longevity, read on, because we've listed them right here. And for more health advice from the experts at the Mayo Clinic, here are the Ugly Side Effects of Drinking Coffee Every Day, According to the Mayo Clinic.
Eating Ultra-Processed Foods
According to a study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a "higher consumption of ultra-processed food was associated with higher mortality in the general population."
Eating Processed, Red Meats
"A recent review of the research regarding red meat consumption looked at six studies that tracked more than 1.5 million people for 5.5 to 28 years," writes Liza Torborg, of The Mayo Clinic. "The review found that regularly consuming processed meats is associated with increased risk of heart disease, cancer—especially colon cancer—and early death. Processed meats include bacon; sausage; hot dogs; ham; deli meats; canned meats; jerky; and meat that is processed, cured, fermented, or salted. These meats tend to be high in saturated fat, sodium, and nitrates or nitrites, which are thought to be implicated in their associated risks."
Related: Order our latest Eat This, Not That! book now for the latest advice on the best and worst foods to eat!
Eating Fried Foods
"Researchers have linked fried foods to type-2 diabetes and heart problems, but studies also show that eating fried foods every day can shorten your life," notes The Mayo Clinic Minute. According to Stephen Kopecky, M.D., a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, our bodies just weren't made to eat the amount of fried foods that exist today. "If you have a diesel engine, you don't put gasoline in your diesel tank," he says.
According to a study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, avoiding added sugars—ingredients that are used in foods to provide added sweetness and calories, from the much-maligned high fructose corn syrup to healthier-sounding ones like agave, date syrup, and cane syrup—is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
"The existing basic science evidence, observational data, and clinic trial findings suggest that reducing consumption of added sugars, particularly added fructose, could translate to reduced diabetes-related morbidity and potentially premature mortality," concludes the study. "At an individual level, limiting consumption of foods and beverages that contain added sugars, particularly added fructose, may be one of the most effective strategies for ensuring one's robust future health."
Overconsumption of Alcohol
"Keep in mind that even moderate alcohol use isn't risk-free," writes the Mayo Clinic Staff. "For example, even light drinkers (those who have no more than one drink a day) have a tiny, but real, increased risk of some cancers, such as esophageal cancer."
Excessive drinking, meanwhile, can lead to a hydra-headed monster of problems, including pancreatitis, sudden death "if you already have cardiovascular disease," heart muscle damage leading to heart failure, liver disease, stroke, suicide, and brain damage. And even if you're a light drinker, make sure you're avoiding The Worst Alcoholic Drink for Your Body, According to Experts.
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