17 Worst Foods to Eat That Would Horrify Your Doctor
We all know that some foods are better for us than others. But a handful of foods are far worse for than any others out there—so much so that many experts would like to see them eradicated from your diet entirely. Before you start to worry, don't worry—we've got you covered.
We did the heavy lifting for you and gathered up the ultimate list of foods your doctor would be horrified you're still digging into, according to experts. Be sure to avoid them at all costs, as there is nothing redeeming about them.
"Many modern diseases stem from our diet and sugar (to me) is the number one culprit," she says. Sugar has been linked to obesity, heart disease, acne, diabetes, depression, cancer, and more. And while sugar is present in many foods that have otherwise redeeming factors, like fiber, vitamins, or minerals, the same cannot be said for artificially flavored candies. Candy has no redeeming qualities, so it's best to give it a miss. Think you might have a sugar addiction? Well, here are subtle signs you're eating too much sugar.
Sugar is often lurking in places you wouldn't necessarily expect, like store-bought salad dressing, tomato sauce, and even ketchup.
"Ketchup is chock-full of preservatives, sugar, and salt," says Elliott Reimers, Certified Nutrition Coach at Rave Reviews. "While tomatoes are a great addition to our diet, all benefits of tomatoes are stripped away when making ketchup."
Instead, consider using a low-sugar salsa as an alternative dip, or make your own ketchup from scratch.
While agave nectar rose to fame a few years ago as a superfood sweetener, more recent research has shown that this "healthy" alternative is "anything but," according to kuudose celeb health expert Joey Thurman, CES CPT FNS, and kuudose founding RD, Aja Gyimah, MHSc.
"Agave has an incredibly high amount of fructose (actually highest of any sweetener on the market)," they say, "and the liver has a hard time processing fructose which will trigger your body to store fat."
Specialty Coffee Drinks
While coffee is fine in moderation, consuming whipped or blended coffee drinks are often akin to drinking a milkshake for breakfast.
"Most people have no idea just how much sugar (and calories) they're mindlessly slurping up," says Megan Wong, registered dietitian working with AlgaeCal. "To give you an idea, a grande caramel frappuccino has 370 calories and 55 grams of sugar. That's almost 14 teaspoons of sugar—and 220 calories from sugar alone!"
According to Chris Fernandez, B.S., CPT, and CEO of Women's Health Interactive, energy drinks may well be one of the worst choices you can make.
"They are filled with stimulants like caffeine and ephedrine-like derivatives that overload your adrenal glands, make you depend on them for 'energy,' and to top it all off, combine it all with a nice dose of sugar, preservatives and artificial colors and flavors," he says. "Don't drink them. Just don't."
Store-bought smoothies may masquerade as healthy choices, but in reality, they contain a vast amount of sugar.
"Oftentimes (with rare exception) most store-bought smoothies from national chains are simply sugar-laden bombs disguised as 'healthy' because of certain ingredients like fruits, 'boosts' or a sprinkle of wheatgrass or similar," says Fernandez. "Drop these things from your diet. You would be better served just eating a piece of fruit."
Low-fat yogurt is often higher in sugar than its high-fat counterparts; and the sugar is added, Lisa Richards, nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet explains, to compensate for the lack of fat and resulting lack of flavor.
"Healthy fats in whole or minimally processed foods can help us feel full or 'satisfied' longer," says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com. He cites research including one 2016 study published in Circulation that found that people with the highest byproducts of full-dairy products enjoyed a 46% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to people who ate less full-fat dairy.
Low-fat, sweetened yogurts are also typically devoid of the beneficial bacteria associated with the snack, explains Richards. And Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum, the world's leading expert in medically important fungus and founder of BIOHM, notes that low-fat yogurt, like other low-fat dairy products, can encourage pro-inflammatory bacteria in the microbiome, promoting general inflammation and disease.
Diet soda might seem like a better choice than regular soda, which is full of sugar, but in reality, low-cal options can be just as bad or worse. And diet soda is still, well, soda.
"Diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners, which can make your insulin levels spike and may lead to fat storage and weight gain (the complete opposite reason most people start drinking these sodas)," says Boltze-Ruiz. "Some studies have shown that diet soda can lead to metabolic syndrome. These drinks can lead to diabetes, GI issues, and cancer."
Processed foods are often far from worthy of the name "food." They contain plenty of fillers, preservatives, sugar, and more, processed foods may be easy to eat, but this benefit is far outweighed by potential side effects.
"Processed meats are almost never truly genuine meat, but rather a processed combination of ingredients (along with a minimal amount of 'meat') engineered with sodium, nitrates and other chemicals to ensure a longer shelf life and a salty taste," says Jamie Bacharach, Head of Practice, Acupuncture Jerusalem. "Processed meats tax your entire body due to their sky-high sodium content as well as stubborn, difficult-to-digest composition."
Processed meats can lead to colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and more; the World Health Organization even declared processed meat a Group 1 carcinogen.
Just like processed meats, processed snacks such as chips and cookies boast loads of fillers and additives. As Jessica Randhawa, head chef and writer behind The Forked Spoon explains, they're also devoid of an essential nutrient most Americans could do with more of—fiber.
"The overall best advice I can give for people to stop eating is unhealthy prepackaged goods with high amounts of sugar and salt that are also lacking fiber," she says. "These packaged foods are a sure way to reduce one's overall health."
White bread is another food lacking in essential nutrients and fiber.
"White flour is absolutely nutritionally devoid—even if it has been enriched," says Dr. Chris Norris, a board-certified neurologist and founder of SleepStandards.com, noting that the processing of white flour strips it from all of its nutrients and much of its fiber.
Fernandez also cites the added sugar as another issue linked to this product.
"Eating large quantities of bread in any form (donuts, rye, muffins, scones, etc.) causes insulin levels to spike as the body has to work hard to remove the extra sugar (remember, sugar is poison to the human body in large quantities), which in turn causes a crash whereby the cycle repeats when you reach for that soda or quick carb treat," says Fernandez.
Fast food is highly processed and filled with extra sugars, fats, and salt. Tehzeeb Lalani, founder of Scale Beyond Scale, says that "extremely poor quality ingredients are used to cut costs and fast foods are high in salt, fat and sometimes even preservatives."
Henry Obispo, Social Entrepreneur, Food Justice Activist, PhD, and Founder of BornJuice, notes that fast-food consumption is linked to obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. But fast food isn't just bad for your health—it's bad for the planet.
"Environmentally speaking, the global system in which food is distributed and transported, from where it's grown to where it's served, contributes highly to the carbon emissions," says Obispo. More of a reason to cut it from your diet!
Fried foods like donuts and French fries are "a recipe for both diabetes and clogged arteries" according to Randhawa.
"Oil that is heated to the temperatures needed for frying are essentially rancid oils," adds Norris. "The high heat alters their chemical structure and denatures them. Combine this with the protein coagulation and nutrient denaturing of the actual food being fried, and you have a food-like substance that actually robs nutrients from your body instead of providing them."
It's always best to choose organic and pesticide-free produce when you can, but if that's not feasible for you, consider at least buying organic when it comes to the fruits and vegetables on the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list. These fruits and vegetables are the most contaminated by pesticides, and strawberries are at the top of the list.
"The strawberry industry uses a ton of pesticides regularly on non-organic strawberry crops," says Randhawa. "In contrast, organic strawberries are a great food to eat daily when in season."
While many experts say it's OK to drink in moderation, the reality is that alcohol is simply not good for you.
"Alcohol breaks down muscle tissue, inhibits recovery from exercise, kills brain cells, and is essentially a poison that the body has to work hard to remove," says Fernandez. "It's toxic, in any amount. While I realize this is a big ask for most, at least be aware of the dangers."
"Microwave popcorn bags are actually lined with something called PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, which has carcinogenic properties," he says. Since most popcorn on the market is made with artificial, chemical flavorings and is not organic, thus boasting a panoply of pesticides, it's better to pop your own.
Overly processed (and not nearly as tasty as butter), margarine first rose to fame during the era of the low-fat craze. But Axe says that the time has come to shelve margarine for good.
"Margarine is full of industrial fats our body isn't built to recognize," he says. "Thankfully, most of the trans fats of the past have been removed from margarine, but the damage is done: these fats were blamed for 50,000 fatal heart attacks a year during peak use."