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Popular Foods You Didn't Know Have Major Side Effects, Say Experts

Steer clear of eating too many of these pantry staples.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

Keeping track of the health ramifications of our favorite foods can prove incredibly difficult. Just when we find the perfect snack or ingredient, we later learn about all the harm it can cause us in the long run and have to keep an eye on the research surrounding it to make sure it fits our lifestyle just right. Some of these popular foods seem innocuous at first, but end up sneaking in major side effects when we let our guard down. On the flip side, other foods hide additional health effects behind a slew of other well-documented health hazards, making them even more dangerous.

Trying to sort through these choices feels impossible, but thanks to the help of a group of health experts, we sorted through some of the most common foods that lead to some unexpected major consequences. Next time you indulge in any of these popular items, don't want to overdo it or you may encounter any of these hidden side effects! And for even more tips, be sure to read up on our list of the 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.


eating chips

While everyone knows chips can do some major damage when we eat too many, few think about the hidden dental consequences of these salty snacks.

"Many people don't realize that eating potato chips… can lead to tooth decay," says Jin Lin, D.M.D. "Chips… may not be sweet, but they break down into sugars inside your mouth. Cavity-causing bacteria feed on these sugars just as they would feed on the sugars found in cookies and candies, and they then produce an acidic waste product that damages your teeth and can lead to tooth decay. To make matters worse, bits of potato chip… often get stuck in the pits and grooves on your molars, giving harmful bacteria additional time to consume the sugars."

Next time you snack, think about your dental health and check out 25 Foods You Had No Idea Are Good for Your Teeth.

Sugar-Free Candy

Lollipop stick

If you dig into a bag of sugar-free candy, you might assume you have chosen a healthier option due to the lack of sugar. While you might avoid the expected consequences of this ingredient, don't assume you're out of the woods just yet.

"Sugar-free foods containing sugar alcohols (anything ending in -ol, such as mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, etc.) can cause major digestive upset in some people, especially when consumed in large amounts," says Diana Gariglio-Clelland, RD. "Sugar alcohols aren't digested, which is why they don't impact blood sugar levels or contribute many, if any, calories. Once these sugar alcohols hit the large intestine, they are fermented by bacteria, which produces gas. Some people may also experience stomach pain and cramping as well as diarrhea after eating large amounts of sugar alcohol."

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"Cheese can induce bizarre dreams and even nightmares," says Alexandra Soare, RD.

If you love cheese and want a peaceful night sleep, you probably want to enjoy this food earlier in the day. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers have found that cheese truly does disrupt sleep and leads to very bizarre dreams. Avoid this food before bed in order to get a good night rest and avoid taking a hit on your psychological well-being.

Processed Meat

deli meats on wood plate

"Processed meats like lunch meat, salami, and spam are loaded with dextrose, nitrates, sulfates, and other sugars," says Lisa Richards, CNC. "These foods are particularly harmful because they contain sugars and are pro-inflammatory too,"

While you might associate processed meat with cholesterol, we should watch out for the sugar content of these particular products. For a healthy lifestyle, make sure to avoid these products to ensure you don't face an increased risk of depression, heart disease, sagging skin, and more.

When you feel ready to start cleaning out the pantry to purge any of these offending items, make sure to Avoid These 50 Foods if You Want to Lose Weight.

Erich Barganier
Erich Barganier is a health and food writer. Read more about Erich
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