>>> 50 Foods You Should Never Eat
Whole Wheat Bread
William Davis, MD, creator of Wheat Belly 10-Day Detox
The Problem: Modern wheat is nothing like the grain your mother or grandmother consumed. Today, wheat barely resembles its original form, thanks to extensive genetic manipulations during the 1960s and 1970s to increase the grain's yields. "You cannot change the basic characteristics of a plant without changing its genetics, biochemistry, and its effects on humans who consume it," Dr. Davis notes.
Dr. Davis makes the case that modern-day wheat is triggering all sorts of health problems, everything from digestive diseases like celiac and inflammatory bowel disease to acid reflux, obesity, asthma, and skin disorders. "If there is a food that yields extravagant, extraordinary, and unexpected benefits when avoided, it is bread," says Dr. Davis. "And I don’t mean white bread, I mean all bread: white, whole wheat, whole grain, sprouted, organic, French, Italian, fresh, day-old…all of it."
The Solution: Try eliminating wheat altogether from your diet for a few weeks to see if you note health improvements. But be prepared for the wheat withdrawal syndrome of nausea, headache, fatigue and depression, and a host of other strange side effects of going grain-free during your first wheat-free week, since there are opiates that develop from the gliadin protein of wheat. Once you are through this process, you'll feel better, maybe better than you have in years. Non-Dairy Coffee Creamer
The Problem: The health benefits of coffee are pretty impressive, so don't go throwing them away by splashing non-dairy creamer in your morning joe. Fake creamers are full of hard-to-pronounce ingredients, including liver-damaging high-fructose corn syrup, inflammatory hydrogenated oils that would never exist in nature, and artificial flavors.
The Solution: Drink your coffee black, or if you want to add cream, opt for organic from grass-fed cows or organic unsweetened coconut milk without the food additive carrageenan Grape Jelly
The Problem: Concord grapes are delicious (and are one of the few fruits native to North America), but the way most of us taste them is in the form of high-fructose-laden grape jelly. "Even though it's given away for free like ketchup in little plastic packets, it's basically a jelly-textured candy loaded with various forms of sugar, artificial colors, and flavors," Gustafson says.
The Solution: Gustafson suggests opting for real fruit, honey, or apple butter on your PB&(F, H, or AB) sandwich. If you do reach for jelly in the store, look for low-sugar, organic versions—organic bans the use of artificial colors and flavors and requires that the grapes be grown without the use of chemical pesticides. (Nonorganic grapes are one of the most pesticide-laden fruits.) Diet Soda
The Problem: Dr. Eliaz stays away from any diet soda and foods, sugar-free candies, and gum containing artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame K, and neotame, among others. "The safety data on these sweeteners is shrouded in controversy and conflicts of interest with the manufacturers of these chemical compounds," Dr. Eliaz warns. "Independent research strongly suggests that when metabolized in the body, these sweeteners can cause health-related issues and problems related to metabolism and weight gain, neurological diseases, joint pain, digestive problems, headaches, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, chemical toxicity, and cancer, among others."
The Solution: From its weight gain effects to the overload of artificial sweeteners, the disturbing side effects of soda are enough to break the fizzy habit. If you're craving a soda but want to avoid the shady sweeteners, fake food dyes, and preservatives found in popular brands, try making one of these naturally flavored water recipes, or brew your own kombucha, a naturally bubbly fermented tea that's easy to make at home.More: How Soda Destroys Your Body
The Problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, or BPA, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Studies show that the BPA in most people's bodies exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. "You can get 50 micrograms of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that's a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young," says vom Saal. "I won't go near canned tomatoes."
The Solution: To avoid negative BPA health effects, choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Eden Organic and Bionaturae. You can also look for tomatoes in Tetra Pak boxes instead of cans. Sprouts
The Problem: Sprouts have been the source of so many major food recalls that they're really not worth the risk, Powell says. Be they bean or broccoli, alfalfa or pea, sprouts have been at the center of at least 55 outbreaks of foodborne illness, affecting more than 15,000 people over the last 20 years. Often, sprouts harbor salmonella, E. coli, or listeria; they're vulnerable to contamination because the seeds require moist, warm conditions in order to sprout—ideal conditions for bacteria to thrive and multiply in.
The Solution: Get the crunch of sprouts—without the added bacteria—by shredding cabbage or carrots onto your sandwiches. If you really enjoy the flavor of sprouts, cook them first, but watch out for cross-contamination. Chicken Wings
The Problem: A single chicken wing has 81 calories and 5 grams of fat. Given that most people don't eat just one, a lone feast of chicken wings could easily lead to 1,000 extra calories and 50 grams of fat—nearly two or three days worth of artery-clogging fat! "Since 500 extra calories per day leads to two pounds per week, chicken wings are a recipe for weight gain," Dr. Bhatia says.
The Solution: If you like chicken, try baked or grilled versions to avoid a calorie overload. Since conventional chicken feed often contains antibiotics to stimulate faster growth (and sometimes even arsenic), choose organic whenever you can. If you want to go the veggie route, try this delicious vegan Buffalo wings alternative. Nonorganic Strawberries
The Problem: While filming Food Inc., Kenner says he wanted to film strawberry farmers applying pesticides to their fields. "The workers wear these suits to protect themselves from the dozens and dozens of known dangerous pesticides applied to strawberries," he says. "When I saw this, I thought to myself, if this is how berries are grown, I don't really want to eat them anymore. I haven't been able to eat a nonorganic strawberry ever since." Unfortunately, for the food-concerned public, he wasn't able to get footage of these farmers. "I guess they didn't think it looked too appetizing."
The Solution: Opt for organic strawberries! The Environmental Working Group, which analyzes U.S. Department of Agriculture pesticide-residue data, has found 13 different pesticide residues on conventionally grown strawberries.
The Problem: Diacetyl is used in a lot of fake butter flavorings, despite the fact that the chemical is so harmful to factory workers that it's known to cause an occupational disease called "popcorn lung," Scranton says. After news of the chemical got out to the popcorn-eating public, companies started replacing diacetyl with another additive—which can actually turn into diacetyl under certain conditions, she adds. Neither chemical is disclosed on microwave-popcorn bags because the exact formulations of flavorings are considered trade secrets. "It's a classic example of the need for better chemical regulation and improved transparency on the chemicals used in our food and other household products," she says.
The Solution: Make your own popcorn using real butter. Pop it on the stovetop in a pot or go an easier homemade popcorn route: Put a small handful of kernels into a brown paper lunch bag and stick the bag in the microwave. The kernels will pop just like those fake-butter-flavored kernels in standard microwave popcorn bags. When they're done, pour some melted organic butter over them. "Makes pretty good popcorn at a fraction of the cost!" Scranton says. Nonorganic Green Beans
The Problem: Green beans are consistently rated one of the riskiest picks in your produce aisle. In a recent Consumer Reports report, researchers found that green beans tainted with chemical insecticide acephate—and its breakdown product methamidophos—ranked No. 1 as a risk driver for chemical contamination. Its use on green beans accounted for around one-half of total risk across all pesticides and food. Because of this, green beans fall into the report's "very high-risk vegetable" category. And the thing about green beans is that they are consistently contaminated with toxic pesticides. Looking at the measure of both the amount of pesticide residues found on the beans and the chemicals' toxicity, green beans have landed on the very-high-risk category nearly every year since testing began in 1992.
The Solution: Make sure you always opt for organic green beans. Better yet, plant your own. They're incredibly easy to grow, take up little room in the garden, and produce a bountiful harvest in less than two months. Farmed Salmon
The Problem: "Fish is naturally low in saturated fat, and some types, like salmon, are also high in omega-3 fat, reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack and inflammation throughout the body. While Americans need to eat more seafood and less red meat, some fish such as farmed salmon are contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), pesticides (including dieldrin and toxaphene) and antibiotics," she says. And unlike wild salmon, farmed salmon are fed a mixture of other fish ground into fishmeal and fish oil, and they concentrate more toxins in their fat tissue than do other fish, Dr. Cuomo notes.
The Solution: "Fish is an important part of my family's diet, and I am very careful to choose wild salmon, rather than farmed salmon, which contains many carcinogens," Dr. Cuomo Margarine
Dave Asprey, author of The Bulletproof Diet
The Problem: "If you could pick one type of fat that would destroy your performance, decrease your brain function, damage your health, and shorten your life, it would have to be margarine and other trans fats," Asprey says. "They lower your HDL cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease, increase your triglyceride levels, and damage your arteries and your heart." Not only that, but the inflammatory fats found in margarine impact brain function through inflammation.
The Solution: Instead of margarine, Asprey recommends fats like ghee, avocado oil, coconut oil, and grass-fed butter. Or get a healthy dose of healthy fat with this Bulletproof coffee recipe. Gummy Vitamins
Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, author of The Supplement Handbook
The Problem: Vitamins in the form of candy? Sounds like a dream to the parents of picky eaters. Too bad it's too good to be true. Each serving is about 15 calories a day and, while 2 or 3 grams of sugar a day (often as corn syrup) doesn't seem like much, Dr. Moyad points out that this translates to nearly 6 cups of sugar a year. Not to mention, gummies contain artificial food dyes and can contain a laundry list of other problematic ingredients: "Many contain gluten, and some also contain corn syrup, carmine, and pregelatinized cornstarch," he says.
The Solution: "Always go to food for nutrition first," says Dr. Moyad. "Don't teach kids to rely on pills at such a young age." Liquid multivitamins can be a good alternative for kids (especially those who can't swallow pills). Double-check the labels for dyes first, and pick one that touts the NSF certification. Instant Noodles
Jean Nick, senior information analyst at the Rodale Library
The Problem: This frat-house staple contains ingredients like MSG that can actually trigger not just excessive food cravings, but painful migraines, too. In fact, Baylor University researchers recently found that eating instant noodles two or more times a week increases your risk of cardiometabolic syndrome, raising your likelihood of developing heart disease and other conditions, such as diabetes and stroke, explains Nick.
The Solution: To avoid one of the worst ingredients in the ramen packets, MSG (and all of the sneaky names for MSG)—and to inject some nutrition into your cup of noodle meal—stir up this healthy instant noodle recipe. Nonorganic Corn
Maryam Henein and George Langworthy, directors of Vanishing of the Bees
The Problem: Today's corn plants are more like little pesticide factories with roots. Most of the nation's corn supply is genetically engineered to either produce its own pesticide supply within the plant or withstand heavy sprayings of chemicals, which wind up inside of the food. That's problematic not just for bees, but for people, too. "I avoid corn because most is genetically modified, and on top of that, most of the seeds are treated with systemic pesticides that kill bees," says Henein. "And let’s not be fooled, the sublethal effects of these pesticides also slowly impair our health."
The Solution: In one form or another, corn is present in the vast majority of processed foods. From ketchup to salad dressing, and even bread, it’s hard to escape corn ingredients. One to especially look out for? "I always try to avoid foods containing high-fructose corn syrup," says Langworthy. "Not only is it unhealthy, but the pesticides used in the production of the corn is detrimental to honeybees and other pollinators."
To avoid genetically engineered corn, which has never been tested for longterm impacts on human health, choose USDA organic or Non-GMO Verified foods. Artificial Sweeteners
Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale, Inc. and author of Organic Manifesto
The Problem: Ironically, there's a lot of evidence that suggests using artificial sweeteners, which have zero calories, is just as bad for your waistline as using regular, high-calorie sugar. For instance, research from the University of Texas has found that mice fed the artificial sweetener aspartame had higher blood sugar levels (which can cause you to overeat) than mice on an aspartame-free diet. Not only are they bad for your health, but scientists have also detected artificial sweeteners in treated wastewater, posing unknown risks to fish and other marine life. Plus, as Rodale says, "They're unnatural, nonorganic, taste horrible, and lead to all sorts of bad health consequences, false expectations, and short-term strategic thinking."
The Solution: Refined white sugar isn't any healthier, but you can replace it with small amounts of nutritious sweeteners, including honey, blackstrap molasses, and maple syrup, all of which have high levels of vitamins and minerals, or make homemade healthy sweeteners that are far better for your diet. Processed Honey
Gerard E. Mullin, MD, author of The Gut Balance Revolution
The Problem: "Refined honey is among the most insidious sweeteners of all time," says Dr. Mullin. The pasteurization process eliminates the health properties of honey, essentially turning it into just another form of sugar. To make things more confusing, research has shown that more than 75 percent of honey has been processed to the point where it isn't even considered honey anymore. Some honey is even blended with high-fructose corn syrup, additives, and other flavorings.
The Solution: In moderation, raw honey from your local farmer's market has the opposite effect on your health. "Good data show that a teaspoon or less per day of raw honey has positive effects on gut microbimone health," Dr. Mullin says. Raw honey may have an antimicrobial effect against harmful pathogens in your gut, including E. coli. At the same time, this superfood can help promote the growth of healthy bacteria. "Honey also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune-regulating, and anti-tumor properties," he points out. It can also improve many aspects of your health, including allergies, bone health, diabetes, and wound healing. Agave
Robert Lustig, MD, author of Fat Chance
The Problem: Don't trust the health halo claims associated with the natural sweetener agave. While it is technically a low-glycemic food, it actually drives up blood fructose, which is way worse, Dr. Lustig explains. "Fructose causes seven times more cell damage than glucose because it binds to cellular proteins seven times faster and releases 100 times the number of oxygen radicals (like hydrogen peroxide, which damages cells)," he notes.In addition, fructose is turned into fat in the liver, which contributes to the development of metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes. "Glycemic index is irrelevant; fructose damages your body unrelated to glycemic index. Agave nectar should have a skull and crossbones," Dr. Lustig says.
The Solution: Retrain your tastebuds to not want excessively sweet foods. When you feel like reaching for something sweet, try one of these 25 sugar-free ways to stop sugar cravings instead. Table Salt
Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, and founder of DrAxe.com
The Problem: Table salt starts out as a healthy sea salt, but the extreme processing that happens next makes this one of the worst things you can put in your body. Manufacturers strip it of all its minerals and heat it to around 1,200 degrees, completely changing its chemical structure. Then, the naturally-occurring iodine that was destroyed is replaced with potassium iodide, and the salt is stabilized with dextrose, which turns it purple. Finally, it is bleached white.
The Solution: For an all-natural, unprocessed way to add flavor to food, choose Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt. You'll also get a heavy dose of health benefits, including bone support, improved cognitive function and pH balancing. Food Dyes
Michael F. Jacobson, PhD, executive director of Center for Science in the Public Interest
The Problem: Small studies link some food dyes to hyperactivity in children and cancer in animals, and that's one reason Jacobson avoids them. Red #3 causes cancer in lab rats, and Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 may contain cancer-causing contaminants. Food dyes, often used together with artificial and natural flavorings, are used to make foods appear more healthful than they actually are and to replace truly healthy ingredients like fruit, fruit juice, and vegetables. For instance, Tropicana Twister Cherry Berry Blast contains no berry or cherry juice, but lots of the artificial dye Red #40.
The Solution: Read labels anytime you're considering buying a prepackaged food. Food dyes can crop up in some really unexpected places, even in healthy foods like cheese and yogurt. The good news? Some companies are starting to remove food dye from foods. Charred Meat
Natasha Turner, ND, author of The Supercharged Hormone Diet
The Problem: While everyone loves a good barbecue, grilling meats can produce carcinogens if you aren’t careful. The two most associated with charring are HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). HCAs form when meat is cooked at high temperatures; PAHs are created when the flames touch the meat or when fat drips into the flames and produces smoke, which then rises and coats the food.
The Solution: To grill more healthfully, lower the heat on your gas grill or increase the distance between the fire and the meat if using a charcoal grill. Choose smaller cuts of meat, flip them often, and use a meat thermometer when cooking at lower temperatures so you can check to be sure the meat is fully cooked. Homemade grilling marinades, particularly ones containing rosemary, can reduce the risk of HCAs by up to 99 percent. Nonorganic Potatoes
Mark Kastel, cofounder at Cornucopia Institute
The Problem: Insects love potatoes. To counter that, nonorganic farmers generally spray chemicals on potato plants several times a year in the field. "But if that's not enough, in many production systems, their vines are sprayed with an herbicide just prior to harvest so they can be more easily harvested," Kastel explains. After harvest and washings, potatoes are often sprayed with a mold and sprout inhibitor—right on the skin, the high-fiber part that is also high in nutrients that we all should all be eating.
The Solution: Buy organic potatoes, including antioxidant-rich blue potatoes, at your farmer's market. "They are cheap and have one of the lowest premiums you need to pay to eat organically," Kastel notes.