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Let’s face it: Most of the food we love to eat is bad for us. Whether you love bacon, pizza, T-bone steak, or just about anything else that tastes fantastic, the hard truth is that if you eat too much of it, you’re putting yourself at risk of suffering from health issues. While it would probably be too much to ask to cut them from your diet entirely, there are foods you should try and avoid whenever possible.

Here are five foods you should never eat:

1. Vegetable Oils

You’ve no doubt seen commercials touting the health benefits of products such as corn and soybean oil, but these products aren’t typically what they’re made out to be. If you consume too much of them, you may be at a higher risk for problems such as cardiovascular disease and inflammation, which could also increase your risk of developing other major illnesses.1

One of the reasons that oils can pose such a large problem is that they contain a great deal of omega-6 fatty acids, which need to be balanced with omega-3 acids in order for the body to maintain a healthy state. If we take in too many omega-6 acids, that can increase the amount of inflammation we experience.

2. Products Marketed a “Diet” or “Low-Fat”

If all the products with the labels “diet” or “low-fat” were taken off of grocery store shelves, the amount of empty space would be incredible. We are constantly being bombarded with advertising touting the health benefits of diet soda and the like, but the reality is anything but.

The next time you see a product with “low-fat” or “diet” on its label, be skeptical. Very skeptical. Many of these items are, in fact, loaded with artificial sweeteners that can be extremely unhealthy. They have not only been associated with obesity, but also metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.2 But, while artificial sweeteners in general are considered to be bad for you, one type of sweetener, stevia, could actually provide some benefits. Stevia has shown potential in not only lowering blood pressure, but also helping diabetics control their blood sugar levels.3, 4

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3. Processed Foods

Meats and other foods that are processed typically have a lot of sodium as well as harmful saturated fats. A “processed” food is one that includes chemicals and other ingredients that most experts would say are not not beneficial to a person’s health. Just about everything we eat is processed in one form or another. However, there’s a major difference between an orange that has been cut from a tree and a hot dog that’s been pumped with sodium nitrate and other chemicals to make it last longer.

Many processed foods have a lot of artificial ingredients that not only make them more visually appealing, but also give them a certain flavor or texture. They also often have preservatives that give them a longer shelf life until they spoil. Many of them are also high in refined carbohydrates that can be quickly broken down in the digestive tract, quickly raising insulin and sugar levels in the blood. Refined carbohydrates have not only been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, but also obesity and diabetes.5,6,7

4. Certain Types of Grains

A lot of products on the market, such as bread and cereals, are high in refined grains as well as gluten, which has been shown to pose a risk of digestive problems.8 But even seemingly healthy options such as “whole wheat” products have been shown to possibly raise cholesterol levels, which, in turn, can increase the risk of heart disease.9 Whole wheat products can also have an effect on blood sugar levels, leading to cravings for more food after you eat them.10 Some researchers go so far as to say that anyone on a diet that’s low in carbohydrates should try to avoid grains completely, because they are so high in carbs.11

5. Fructose and Added Sugar

It’s not exactly breaking news that too much sugar is bad for you. But recent research is painting a very discouraging picture as to just how bad it can be. Studies are showing that consuming too much sugar not only raises your risk for diabetes and obesity, but possibly even heart disease and other serious illnesses as well.12

Researchers always knew that sugar could adversely affect the body, but they now have a better understanding as to why. For example, one study shows that products that include a lot of fructose (a sweetener used in soft drinks and thousands of other items) tend to be filled with “empty calories” that do nothing to fill you up. As a result, you have to consume more and more to feel satisfied, and pack on more and more pounds in the process.13

bad foods | Heartland Nutrients

Use Common Sense

As unhealthy as these and other foods can be, it’s simply not realistic to assume that people will be able to completely avoid them. Unless you want to eat a diet that only consists of kale and water, you’re probably going to run into an unhealthy ingredient now and then.

The key is to use a little bit of common sense. Try to be smart about what you put into your body. If you eat so much that you feel guilty, then you’re doing something wrong – even if you buckle down for the next week and cut out everything that’s bad for you. Likewise, if you eat addictive food such as potato chips (Remember the old slogan, “You can’t eat just one?”) or donuts on a regular basis, you’re very likely going to fall into the vicious cycle of craving more and more.

Try to be more diligent about what you eat. Pay close attention to the labels the next time you go to the grocery store, and try to keep the ones high in the ingredients on this list on the shelf. There is always a healthier alternative if you look closely enough.

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1. Sonestedt E, et al. “Do Both Heterocyclic Amines And Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Contribute To The Incidence Of Breast Cancer In Postmenopausal Women Of The Mal… – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2008. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.
2. Nettleton, J. A. et al. “Diet Soda Intake And Risk Of Incident Metabolic Syndrome And Type 2 Diabetes In The Multi-Ethnic Study Of Atherosclerosis (MESA)”. N.p., 2009. Print.
3. Hsieh MH, et al. “Efficacy And Tolerability Of Oral Stevioside In Patients With Mild Essential Hypertension: A Two-Year, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2003. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.
4. Gregersen, Søren et al. “Antihyperglycemic Effects Of Stevioside In Type 2 Diabetic Subjects”. N.p., 2004. Print.
5. Jenkins, David et al. “Glycemic Index: Overview Of Implications In Health And Disease”. Ajcn.nutrition.org. N.p., 2002. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.
6. Ludwig, D. S. et al. “High Glycemic Index Foods, Overeating, And Obesity”. N.p., 1999. Print.
7. Hu, F. B. “Are Refined Carbohydrates Worse Than Saturated Fat?”. N.p., 2010. Print.
8. Biesiekierski JR, et al. “Gluten Causes Gastrointestinal Symptoms In Subjects Without Celiac Disease: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. – Pubmed – NCBI”. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2011. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.
9. Davy, Brenda et al. “High-Fiber Oat Cereal Compared With Wheat Cereal Consumption Favorably Alters LDL-Cholesterol Subclass And Particle Numbers In Middle-Aged And Older Men”. Ajcn.nutrition.org. N.p., 2002. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.
10. Publications, Harvard. “Glycemic Index And Glycemic Load For 100+ Foods – Harvard Health”. Harvard Health. N.p., 2015. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.
11. Santos, F. L. et al. “Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Of Clinical Trials Of The Effects Of Low Carbohydrate Diets On Cardiovascular Risk Factors”. N.p., 2012. Print.
12. Larsson, Susanna, Leif Bergkvist, and Alicja Wolk. “Consumption Of Sugar And Sugar-Sweetened Foods And The Risk Of Pancreatic Cancer In A Prospective Study”. Ajcn.nutrition.org. N.p., 2006. Web. 6 Apr. 2017.
13. Page, Kathleen A. et al. “Effects Of Fructose Vs Glucose On Regional Cerebral Blood Flow In Brain Regions Involved With Appetite And Reward Pathways”. N.p., 2013. Print.