We often like to classify healthy foods, super foods, not-so-healthy foods, and unhealthy foods, but in today’s health-obsessed culture, it can all get a little confusing. Today, we’re going straight for the jugular.
What are the seven worst things you can swallow down your gullet, as far as your health is concerned? We’re not saying don’t ever eat them—just be aware of the potential damage. Here are seven baddies best left off your grocery list from now on.
1. Processed Meat: Meats preserved by smoking, curing, or salting, or that contain chemical preservatives, are linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. Most are manufactured with a carcinogenic ingredient known as sodium nitrite, used to turn packaged meats a bright red color so they look fresh. A 2005 study from the University of Hawaii found that processed meats increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by 67 percent. Hot dogs, in particular, are made up of meat scraps, including organs, nerve tissue, bone pieces, and other unsavory animal parts. Animals that donate them are likely to have been fed grains laced with hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and fecal matter. After a detailed review of more than 7,000 clinical studies covering links between diet and cancer, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) declared that consumers should stop buying and eating all processed meat products for the rest of their lives. These include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, sandwich meat, packaged ham, pepperoni, salami, and virtually all red meat used in frozen and prepared meals.
2. Soda: It’s loaded with calories, sugar, and artificial ingredients, and has no nutritional benefit. One can of soda contains the equivalent of ten packets of sugar. According to studies, most popular diet and sugared sodas are nearly as corrosive to dental enamel as battery acid, leading to an increase in tooth sensitivity and cavities despite good dental hygiene. A study from the University of Minnesota found that people who drank as little as two soft drinks a week faced almost double the risk of pancreatic cancer. Dark-colored sodas contain a chemical known as 4-methylimidazole (4-MI), a byproduct of chemical processing used to create the artificial dye that gives these sodas their color. Animal studies have linked 4-MI to cancer. Pepsi and Coca-Cola recently announced they would modify the coloring to avoid a cancer-warning label newly required by California law. A UCLA study also directly linked soda with obesity.
3. Regular Potato Chips: They’re full of artery-clogging trans fats, high glycemic carbohydrates, sodium, artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. High temperatures used to cook them typically cause the formation of carcinogenic substances like acrylamide, which is also found in cigarettes. Clark University professor Dale Hattis is quoted as saying, “I estimate that acrylamide causes several thousand cancers per year in Americans.” Even those with reduced trans fat may contain acrylamide.
4. Microwave Popcorn: Chemicals in the lining of the bag, including perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to researchers at UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals caused liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancers. Microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize, and migrate into your popcorn. Many manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015. Until then, it’s best to pop kernels the old fashioned way.
5. Farmed Salmon: According to David Carpenter, M.D., director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, farmed salmon is not only lower in vitamin D than wild-caught, but higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, flame retardants, and pesticides including DDT. “You can only safely eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer,” Carpenter stated. These fish are also typically treated with high levels of antibiotics.
6. Conventional Apples (and Other “Dirty” Fruits): According to a survey by the Environmental Working Group, apples are the most pesticide-contaminated produce on average, with pesticides showing up on 98 percent of the more than 700 samples tested. Other highly contaminated produce included grapes, strawberries, cilantro, potatoes, and oranges, all of which had more than 90 percent of samples testing positive for pesticide residue. In addition to being toxic to humans, pesticides may increase the risk of some cancers, with some studies indicating that maternal exposure may increase the risk of lowered child I.Q. and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Choose organic for these items.
7. Canned Tomatoes: The lining of most canned foods contains bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical that acts as an estrogen and disrupts hormonal activity in the body. Studies show that BPA may be linked to heart disease, intestinal damage, and infertility and other reproductive issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is widespread exposure to BPA in the United States. Though all canned foods are of concern, tomatoes are particularly dangerous because their high acidity causes BPA to leach into them. University of Missouri endocrinologist Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., notes that you can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that’s a high enough level to impact people, particularly children.
Do you have other foods you avoid at all costs?
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Photo courtesy bdoublet via Flickr.com.
“Processed Meats Declared “Too Dangers for Human Consumption,’” Colorado State University. http://www.nationalreview.com/the-feed/248644/processed-meats-declared-too-dangerous-human-consumption#.
Robin Lloyd, “Acids in Popular Sodas Erode Tooth Enamel,” LiveScience, March 21, 2007, http://www.livescience.com/7198-acids-popular-sodas-erode-tooth-enamel.html.
“Study: Soda Linked to Pancreatic Cancer,” CBS News, February 9, 2010, http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-204_162-6189455.html.
“Coke, Pepsi Skirt Cancer Warning Label,” ABC News, March 9, 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/03/09/coke-pepsi-skirt-cancer-warning-label/.
Kim Lamb Gregory, “UCLA Study Directly Links Soda with Obesity,” Ventura County Star, September 17, 2009, http://www.vcstar.com/news/2009/sep/17/ucla-study-directly-links-soda-with-obesity/.
Reader’s Digest Editors, “The Worst Foods You Can Eat,” Reader’s Digest, http://www.rd.com/slideshows/the-worst-foods-you-can-eat/#slideshow=slide4.
“7 Foods Experts Won’t Eat,” Wake Up World, http://wakeup-world.com/2011/10/06/7-foods-experts-wont-eat/.
Bryan Walsh, “Apples Can be Tainted with Pesticides—But You Still Need Your Fruits and Vegetables, Time Science Ecocentric, June 13, 2011, http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2011/06/13/apples-can-be-tainted-with-pesticides—but-you-still-need-your-fruits-and-vegetables/.