9 Unhealthy Foods You Should Avoid Having in Your Diet

6. Processed Meats   Processed meat is defined as any meat that is preserved by smoking, canning, curing, salting, drying, or adding chemical preservatives. This includes… Denis Courtney - September 30, 2016

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Processed meat is defined as any meat that is preserved by smoking, canning, curing, salting, drying, or adding chemical preservatives. This includes sausages, bacon, ham, canned meat, hot dogs, corned beef, salami, smoked meat, among others. Many people consume processed meat daily, without thinking of the harm they do to the body.

They are very high in sodium. Most have more than 20% the recommended daily intake of sodium. This is associated with a greater risk of high blood pressure, and negatively affect organs such as the heart and kidneys. Some, like sausages and hot dogs, are a source of high saturated fats and calories, which may lead to weight gain and are not healthy for the heart.

Some chronic diseases, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Heart disease and bowel and stomach cancer are associated with a high intake of processed meats.

Sodium nitrate, used for protection against the bacteria that causes foodborne illnesses, is an ingredient in most processed meats. In the stomach, which is acidic, some nitrate is converted to nitrite and combines with the protein in food. This combination is converted to nitrosamine, which is a carcinogen. Long-term exposure to this increases the risk of cancer.

When smoking meats (or grilling them), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) are formed. These PAHs have been shown, after studies and research, to cause cancer. Cooking meat under high temperatures, such as frying, leads to the formation of Heterocyclic Amines (HCA), which are associated with cancer.

There are several ways of controlling your intake of processed meats:

  • If possible, avoid all kinds of processed meat, and instead go for fresh meat from grass-fed animals, and fresh-caught fish.
  • Lower-temperature cooking methods such as stewing, poaching, steaming and braising are usually recommended.
  • Grilling meat should be done as few times as possible.
  • When purchasing any processed meats, make sure you buy those with a low sodium quantity.

7. Microwave Popcorn


Most of us love popping some popcorn in the microwave. This easy-to-make snack is everyone’s favorite, especially since you can make and enjoy them in a few minutes. Health officials, however, have a warning for everyone who enjoys this snack: they are not healthy.

When you are making your popcorn in the microwave, there is this sweet smell that makes the popcorn even more tantalizing. What we don’t know is that the smell is, in reality, a chemical, diacetyl, which is a synthetic butter flavoring. Inhaling such a chemical, according to CDCP, is linked with a lung disease commonly referred to as ‘popcorn lung.’ While diacetyl is harmless when you consume it, inhaling the vapor after it has been heated to high temperatures is very harmful. A large number of factory workers in popcorn factories have been found to have problems with their lungs, due to exposure, over an extended period, to artificial flavoring such as diacetyl.

Diacetyl has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease since it can pass through the blood-brain barrier, supposed to keep toxins from the brain. It causes the brain proteins to fold into the beta amyloid, Alzheimer’s-linked form. Apart from diacetyl, there has been concerns about the high quantity of salt in some popcorn packages.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS), Perfluoroalkyls and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) are chemicals used to line the bags containing popcorn, to prevent them from being soaked in grease. They mix with the popcorn when you heat it and have been linked to problems with the thyroid and endocrine system.

If you still use microwave popcorn, make sure you allow it to cool before opening, so that you can breathe in less diacetyl. You can also pop the kernels yourself, or prepare you popcorn on a stove using olive oil. Homemade popcorn is much healthier and sweeter than the microwave one.

8. Unfermented Soy Products


There is this belief that soy products are very healthy, and can be used in several foods as a substituted for other products. However, most of the soy we consumed is genetically engineered, and we all know the adverse effects of genetically engineered/modified foods.

Soy foods can be categorized into two: fermented and unfermented. Fermented products, such as soy sauce and natto, have no adverse health effects on the body. Unfermented soy, on the other hand, is very harmful and should be avoided at all costs, regardless of what the media says. Some of the adverse effects of unfermented soy include:

  • Synthetic Vitamin D – since soy products increase the body’s vitamin D requirements, soy companies end up adding synthetic vitamin D2 to products such as soymilk. This is a very toxic form of the very useful vitamin D.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency– A compound resembling this vitamin is usually present in soy products, but cannot be used by the body. This leads to a deficiency of vitamin B12.
  • Manganese and Aluminum are found in high quantities in soy products. They are harmful to the body, as aluminum harms the kidneys and the nervous system, while manganese harms a baby’s metabolic system.
  • Some compounds in soymilk (two or more glasses) alter women’s menstrual cycles and their hormonal balance. Phytoestrogens, which resemble human estrogen, can cause infertility and increase breast cancer risk.
  • Phytic acid found in soy products isn’t quickly neutralized, only long fermentation can neutralize it. It results in growth problems in children.

Soy protein isolate, a dry powder ingredient made from genetically engineered soy, has been shown to enlarge the thyroid and pancreas and is linked to allergies. People with allergies are therefore usually advised to avoid soy products, as soy isolate is found in lots of processed foods.

Vegetarians are best advised to take only fermented soy products, which are much healthier for the body.

9. Vegetable Oils


Vegetable oils have been marketed to us as healthy to use when cooking. This perception is because they contain unsaturated fats that are considered healthier than saturated fats. We are advised to use vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, canola oil or soybean oil. But are they as safe as we think they are?

No, they are not. Experts say these oils cause harm to the body over time. Some effects include:

  • They contain a huge amount of omega-6 unsaturated fatty acids, which when used in excess are harmful. These omega-6 fats fuel the body’s inflammatory paths and reduce the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in the body tissues, resulting in inflammation of the cells.
  • They contain high levels of PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats) which are highly unstable. They easily oxidize, leading to mutation and inflammation in cells. They are also linked to cancer, endometriosis and heart disease.
  • There are lots of additives and chemicals in vegetable oils which are not healthy. Chemicals such as Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) that is used to prevent food from spoiling quickly. BHA, however, produces potential cancer compounds. It is also linked to other health problems such as infertility and kidney damage.
  • They have a huge amount of trans-fats, which are highly toxic and are associated with an increase in the risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

As the oil is heated when cooking, it mixes with oxygen and becomes rancid. This is oxidized oil, which leads to vascular diseases and hence should not be consumed. When hydrogenated, the trans-fats in the oil increase the risk of heart disease and breast cancer.

Doctors recommend the use of other healthy fats and oils such as:

  • Fatty fish like wild salmon and mackerel that contain omega-3 fats.
  • Nuts such as macadamia and almonds.
  • Avocados
  • Extra-virgin organic olive oil
  • Coconut oil

9. Non-organic vegetables and fresh produce with high pesticide contamination

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

There has been a debate on the importance of buying organic foods, and their nutritional value as compared to non-organic foods. Organic foods are those that are produced and manufactured using organic means, while non-organic are those that are produced using synthetic means such as fertilizers and insecticides.

Organic foods are preferred by some people because they contain much fewer pesticides and more nutrients than non-organic foods. Pesticides that are used to grow non-organic foods can be absorbed into vegetables and fruits and leave residues. These traces of pesticides are harmful to the body and are linked to health problems such as congenital disabilities.

According to research done by Newcastle University, organic products contain up to 40% more nutrients, such as zinc, iron and Vitamin C, than non-organic ones. Organically-grown corn and berries were also found to have 58% more antioxidants that help in the prevention of cardiovascular disease than non-organic ones. This is attributed to the fact that when growing crops organically, the nitrogen in the soil is slowly released, hence the plants grow normally with balanced nutrient allocation. Non-organic crops are grown using fertilizers, hence grow very fast. Their nutrient allocation is, therefore, less. Buying fresh produce from the farm is also beneficial since they still have their maximum nutrients (nutrient values are peak just after harvest, at prime ripeness). The fresher the produce, the more nutrients it has.

Non-organic animal products such as eggs and meat are usually produced by animals that have been fed with antibiotics and hormones for faster growth. These chemicals end up in the bodies of the people who consume such products. Long-term ingestion of such is associated with breast and prostate cancers.

Organic vegetables and foods are the recommended ones for a healthy life. In addition to more nutrients, they do not have the chemicals that are contained in non-organic foods.