You try your best to eat right, but once you hit 40, you can’t just make sure that you eat healthy foods. You also need to be avoiding certain foods that will cause health problems. Many of the foods on this list are best avoided altogether, no matter your age, but their harmful effects begin to really take root after you go over the hill. Keep reading to learn more about what you should avoid putting into your body once you pass this milestone.
40. Too Much Coffee
By the time you blow out 40 candles on your birthday cake, you may be struggling to get up in the morning. It can be hard to find the energy to get through your day. You may think you have become desensitized to the effects of caffeine and need to drink more of it. However, the opposite is true; as you age, you become more sensitive to caffeine (via LA Times). Consuming more than two cups per day after going over the hill can mess up your sleep cycle (via Eat This).
What do you take in your coffee? Many people opt for the convenience of powdered coffee creamer, which is shelf-stable and ultra-portable. However, when you add the powder to your coffee, you increase your intake of stuff that your body does not want. You cannot process this as well after 40, including the sodium aluminosilicate (an ingredient in detergent) and hydrogenated vegetable oil (via LA Times). You are much better off opting for regular cream or nut milk to add that extra touch to your coffee (via Eat This).
In your twenties, you probably could recover from a hard night of drinking alcohol by downing six cups of coffee the following day. You probably could even get through the workday without any significant problems. As you age into 40, though, you need to reduce more than your caffeine intake; the alcohol needs to come down, too (via Eat This). While one or two servings of alcohol at a time is usually nothing to worry about, excessive drinking in middle age can lead to serious health problems, including heart disease and cancer (via The Daily Meal).
You may have long believed that bringing a can of soup to work is a much healthier option than eating out, and you might be right when it comes to some restaurants. But canned soup has its own woes, including excessively high sodium levels. This can lead to heart disease and cause water retention and bloating (via Eat This). You are much better off preparing your own soup and freezing it in portions that you can eat in one meal or buying prepared soups that have low sodium on the label (via The Healthy).
Once you hit 40, the time has come to put childish things away… along with hotdogs, bacon, salami, and other processed meats. These foods have high levels of sodium, nitrates, and saturated fats. Nitrates lead to a host of health problems (via Eat This). That includes cancer and seeing as your risk of cancer naturally increases as you age, you don’t need to add nitrates to that risk. Sodium and saturated fats both contribute to an increased risk of heart disease, increasing naturally as you age (via The Healthy).
One of the deadliest myths in healthy eating is that sugar-free products are better than high-sugar alternatives. No. The sweetness of sugar-free candy and sodas triggers the body to respond as if it is receiving a high dose of sugar (via Eat This). Thus, you can still get the insulin spikes and other harmful effects of sugar — without the sugar! Additionally, sugar-free products are loaded with chemicals that you cannot pronounce and higher fat levels to make up for the different taste (via Editor Choice).
Fried chicken is a Sunday staple for many people, and they cannot imagine parting with this time-honored family tradition. However, there should be no surprise that fried chicken is pretty terrible for you because of the high levels of oils used in cooking (via Eat This). Instead, opt for breaded chicken that is baked or air-fried, as air-frying uses significantly less oil. You can still get the nutrients in the chicken and the traditional experience of eating the ultimate comfort food but without the side of clogged arteries (via Editor Choice).
There should be no surprise that soda is on the list (via LA Times). Though, parting with the favored beverage may be more difficult for some who are used to drinking it every day. The high sugar content in soda dramatically increases the risk of heart disease and gout; a study shows that women who drink one can of soda per day have a 75% greater chance of developing gout! Moreover, lest you think that opting for diet soda will make a difference, think again: sugar-free products are worse than their high-sugar cousins (via Eat This).
Plenty of people believe that meal-replacement bars are a healthy alternative to meals. When you were in your twenties, you may have been able to get away with skipping lunch and just eating a meal-replacement bar. But they have high levels of chemicals that you don’t want to be putting in your body, along with saturated fats and lots of sugar (via LA Times). You are much better off snacking on a bag of nuts and a piece of fruit if you can’t eat a regular meal (via Eat This).
Many people have swapped out regular eggs for egg whites. Why? Because they believe that the lower-calorie egg whites are healthier than eggs with cholesterol-laden yolks. Nevertheless, neglecting to eat the yolk means not getting the high levels of nutrients found in the eggs (via Eat This). These are nutrients that your body needs more and more of as you age. These include B-12, which is critical for brain and blood health. It also includes omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins E, D, K, and others. Eat the whole egg but be careful of what you add to it (via The Daily Meal).
Fat has more calories per gram than proteins and carbohydrates. Thus, many people avoid it, mistakenly believing that less fat in the diet will lead to weight loss. Not so. Your body needs fat, and fat helps you feel fuller to eat less (via LA Times). Fat-free foods, such as yogurt have additional sugar added to make up for the loss in taste. So, when you eat fat-free yogurt, you get less of what your body actually does need and more of what it doesn’t (via The Daily Meal).
If you have hit 40, your days of stress-eating with a box of cookies need to come to an end. Sugar wreaks havoc on your body and causes disruptions known as glycation when sugar molecules bond to fats and proteins. The result is advanced aging and health problems that include wrinkles, tangled nerves, hardened arteries, and numerous diseases (via LA Times). Start satisfying your sweet tooth with foods that balance the sugar with proteins, fats, and fiber. Fresh fruit on a bowl of yogurt is a great start (via The Healthy).
Do you think that sports drinks are a healthy substitute for soda? You need to go back and learn the purpose of sports drinks. Sports drinks are meant to replenish athletes who have intense training sessions that cause them to need extra sugar and electrolytes (via LA Times). Ordinary people, including those who go to the gym regularly, do not need sports drinks or the high levels of sugar. Sugar is the leading cause of so many health problems that you are best off eliminating as much of it from your diet as possible (via The Healthy).
Many people wrongly associate “gluten-free” with healthy. They don’t realize that gluten is a protein that is almost identical to meat, making it ideal for vegetarians and vegans. Gluten-free bread not only tastes like cardboard, but it has many essential nutrients removed (via Best Life). If you are not gluten intolerant, opt for multi-grain bread with plenty of fiber. Bread with lots of fiber from ingredients like seeds is bursting with nutrients that will help you age better and reduce the possibility of chronic or life-threatening disease (via Editor Choice).
Of all the decadent and guilty pleasures our short lives afford us, perhaps none is as tantalizing as coffee ice cream. However, coffee ice cream may be the one that people over 40 need to avoid, given that the caffeine content (because, yes, coffee ice cream is made with real coffee) is enough to keep you awake until the wee hours of the morning (via Best Life). Frozen yogurt is a much healthier alternative to ice cream, and if you need to reach for the ice cream, opt for a flavor that does not have caffeine (via Editor Choice).
Sure, drinking a cocktail after dinner may help you fall asleep more quickly at bedtime. However, alcohol does not help you stay asleep. People who drink alcohol before bed tend to wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty falling back asleep, and this problem is made worse with sugary drinks (via Best Life). Once you hit the big 4-0, you need to eliminate things that prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, as sleep deprivation can lead to intense carb cravings the next day (via Eat This).
You may believe that fruit juice is healthier than soda but think again. Fruit juice can have even more sugar than soda, and often, some of that sugar is added in. Much of that sugar is fructose, which is a leading culprit in metabolic diseases that can cause chronic, life-limiting complications (via Best Life). Additionally, the processing of fruit juice eliminates most of the nutrients in the fruit. If you want to drink juice, opt for fresh-squeezed or cold-pressed vegetable juice that has some fruit added for flavor (via Eat This).
Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much hot sauce! Especially if you are going through menopause or preparing to in the next few years, you will want to adjust your palate to milder flavors. Hot sauce can worsen hot flashes that menopausal women experience and can also lead to other health problems when consumed in excess (via LA Times). If you are over 40, start getting used to eating less spicy foods so that you can begin removing the hot sauce from your diet (via The Daily Meal).
Iceberg lettuce is a common ingredient in many salads. It is often the type of lettuce used on hamburgers and tacos. Nevertheless, it is almost entirely devoid of nutrients, unlike dark leafy greens like spinach and Romaine lettuce (via Best Life). If you are over 40, you cannot afford to miss out on iron, which is present in abundance in dark leafy greens. Change up your salads so that you are mostly eating dark leafy greens and consider a Caesar salad a treat rather than a healthy meal (via The Daily Meal).
Almond milk in itself is not necessarily bad. It is basically pressed almonds emulsified with water, and almonds are nutrient powerhouses. The problem is not getting the calcium that is prevalent in cow’s milk (via LA Times). Aging bodies need more calcium, and if this is not obtained through diet, the body begins leaching it from the bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Additionally, almond milk tends to have a lot of sugar added to it, and added sugar is one thing that people over 40 definitely want to avoid (via The Healthy).
Once touted as a healthy alternative to butter, margarine has revealed itself to be a carrier of heart-disease risk factors. That includes lots of trans fats that wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system. Look for plant-based butter and oils for a healthy alternative to butter and margarine (via Best Life). If you are cooking and the recipe calls for butter or margarine, smashed avocados can be a healthy alternative that provides the same flavor and texture but with more nutrients and less bad fats (via The Healthy).
Some fats are bad, especially trans fats and saturated fats. However, many fats are good and even necessary for healthy aging. Avocados are very high in fat. Yet, consuming one avocado a day is linked with less risk of memory loss and other brain-related issues associated with aging (via Best Life). On the other hand, low-fat foods also tend to have reduced amounts of necessary nutrients, which are stripped in the process of removing the fat. In their place are high amounts of added sugar, the one ingredient you want to avoid as much as possible (via The Healthy).
Donuts are the ultimate comfort food. They have just the right amount of sugar and fat. Plus, that perfectly crisp outside with a soft inside makes us want to eat a half dozen in one sitting. Moreover, that high amount of sugar and fat leads to weight gain (and all of the problems associated with carrying excess weight), along with the host of health problems caused by extra sugar and hydrogenated oils (via LA Times). If you are over 40, you are best off avoiding donuts altogether in favor of a hearty breakfast of eggs with whole-wheat toast and a smoothie made from vegetable juice and fresh fruit (via Editor Choice).
Pasta is a quick and easy meal that is both satisfying and comforting. It also leads to spikes in blood sugar because of the high amount of carbs (via LA Times). Simple carbs, such as those found in pasta, are very similar to sugar and cause many of the same health issues when eaten in excess. If you can’t give up your pasta, opt for versions made from beans, peas, or legumes rather than refined wheat flour. Also include lots of vegetables and healthy seasonings to create a healthy, fiber-rich meal (via Editor Choice).
If you like to eat store-bought muffins as an on-the-go breakfast or a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, think again about what you are putting into your body. Store-bought muffins tend to contain excessive amounts of hydrogenated oils and a full day’s worth of added sugar (via Best Life). You can make much healthier muffins at home by using recipes that incorporate superfoods like flaxseed and much lower amounts of sugar. You can store your homemade muffins in an airtight container or freeze them so that they will last longer (via Eat This).
Nothing beats warm, flaky biscuits made with heaping amounts of butter. Unfortunately, as you age, your risk for developing heart disease increases. Furthermore, the high amounts of saturated fats in butter increase that risk even more. Just two tablespoons of butter each day will set you over the limit! Opt for plant-based kinds of butter instead and try a spoonful of peanut butter on your toast instead of regular butter (via Best Life). Definitely avoid smothering chicken in butter and adding butter to every dish you eat! Some butter is fine in moderation, but you may need to reduce your intake severely (via Eat This).
Nothing sounds healthier than eating riced cauliflower over white rice, right? Moreover, spiralized zucchini has to be loads better than regular noodles. However, think again before you go overboard with the vegetables-over-carbs trend (via Best Life). Cauliflower is definitely healthier than white rice, but brown rice has many nutrients that your body needs, and that cauliflower does not have. Furthermore, while there is generally nothing wrong with zucchini, bean-based pasta will leave you feeling full longer and less likely to eat sweets an hour later (via The Daily Meal).
Powdered peanut butter boasts a much lower fat content than regular peanut butter (via Best Life). However, the fats in peanut butter are so incredibly good for you that you are much better off eating the real thing! The problem arises when peanuts are processed with hydrogenated oil, which is most certainly not beneficial for you. Instead of powdered peanut butter, which has a pasty rather than creamy texture and loses many nutrients in processing, look for peanut butter that only has peanuts, no added sugar, or hydrogenated oils (via The Daily Meal).
As you age, your metabolism begins to work more efficiently. It means that you need fewer calories because the calories you consume are stretching further than they did when you were in your twenties. As such, your metabolism simply cannot keep up with the exorbitant number of calories in foods like French fries (via LA Times). Further, high sodium contributes to heart disease, and the fats are terrible for your skin. Not all fats are created equal, and the fats in French fries are definitely on the bad side. Use an air fryer or make oven-roasted fries at home if you need a fix (via The Healthy).
Many people who have spent their lives smoking have pronounced wrinkles around their lips from the repetitive motion of sucking on the cigarette and then blowing out the smoke. Using straws regularly can lead to the same issue, albeit on a reduced scale. Once you pass the age of 40, your skin begins to lose its elasticity, and fine lines and wrinkles start to appear (via LA Times). Another good reason to stop using straws is that they are terrible for the environment (via Editor Choice).
You may love summer barbecues and especially the charring on meat that comes right off the grill, but if you are concerned about your health, you need to cut out the charred meats after the age of 40 (via LA Times). Charred meats cause glycation, which accelerates the effects of aging in your skin and throughout your body. The charring process also produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These can cause changes to your DNA and lead to cancer (via Eat This).
Cottage cheese has been touted as a healthy food because of its low-fat content, but what it lacks in fat, it makes up for in sodium (via Best Life). As you age, the effects of sodium become more pronounced and begin causing problems in your heart, kidneys, and bones. High sodium consumption can even lead to stomach cancer! If you want cottage cheese texture but without sodium, mix a spoonful of cottage cheese into half a cup of yogurt and add lots of fruit (via Editor Choice).
Bacon has more fat and calories than just about any other meat, making it a prime factor in weight gain after the age of 40 (via Best Life). Furthermore, those fats are not the healthy fats found in fish, avocados, and nuts. However, rather the saturated fats that cause heart disease. Additionally, bacon is high in sodium and nitrates. Sodium leads to heart disease and numerous other problems, and nitrates have strong links to cancer. Check the sodium content before you start gorging on turkey bacon because turkey bacon can have just as much as pork bacon (via Editor Choice).
Nut kinds of milk have exploded in popularity. Why? Mainly due to concerns over the factory farming of animals and how animal agriculture, especially bovine, has been contributing to climate change (via Best Life). However, dairy remains an excellent source of calcium. Unless nut milks have been enriched with calcium and other nutrients found in dairy, drinking nut milk will cause you to lose out on your health. Look for nut kinds of milk and other plant-based milk that have been fortified with enough calcium to make them comparable to dairy (via Eat This).
You may have heard that Asian food is very healthy and that as a result, many Asians have fewer allergies and other health problems. This is very true, but that does not mean that ordering Chinese takeout is healthy (via Best Life). What we call Chinese food in America bears little similarity to a traditional Chinese diet. It is so high in sodium that you may need cardiac paddles afterward! Find another cuisine, such as Indian, for your takeout treats, and remember, takeout is a treat (via Eat This).
When you were in your twenties, you may have enjoyed drinking a lot and even getting drunk for fun. Once you turned 40, though, you need to seriously cut back on the alcohol and only drink it to help relax after a long day or as a side with dinner. The dangers of excessive alcohol consumption include fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, alcohol poisoning, osteoporosis, and memory loss (via Best Life). You are never too young or too old to cut back on the alcohol, and once you are past 40, you absolutely need to stop getting drunk (via Editor Choice).
We all know that soda has a high sugar content. It is terrible for you, so one might reason that diet soda is fine. After all, no sugar, no problem, right? Diet soda is worse for you than regular soda! The sugar alternatives devastate your microbiome or the bacteria in your gut, which is essential for healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients (via Best Life). Furthermore, those artificial sweeteners are loaded with harmful chemicals linked to cancer and brain damage. Not only that, but they still cause the insulin spikes associated with regular sugar. If you are over 40, nothing beats a glass of water (via Editor Choice).
Did you just turn 40 and want to have a party? The ultimate party chips are not orange-colored because of the cheese. No, they are orange because of the artificial colorings, which have been known to cause cancer and other health concerns. Doritos are also loaded with sodium and unspecified artificial flavors, so need we say more? If you need some party chips, go for homemade nachos that have organic tortilla chips, lots of veggies, and cheese that is not artificial (via Best Life). Binging on Doritos may have been fun in middle school, but once you start nearing median age, they are nothing but trouble (via Eat This).
Most of what you buy in the grocery store labeled as “crab” is really “krab,” and no, we don’t mean the Mr. Krabs from SpongeBob SquarePants. Krab is composed of processed white fish and fillers, including the “meat glue” known as transglutaminase. Avoid the California roll, with its krab filler, as well as the krab dip at the supermarket (via Best Life). Instead, look for real seafood that is wild-caught, and when you really have a hankering for crab, get the real thing (via Eat This).
You may have grown up thinking that bagels are a healthy alternative to donuts. However, now that you are 40, you should know that one bagel is the equivalent of six pieces of white bread (via LA Times)! Sure, a warm, toasted bagel smothered with cream cheese is an indulgent breakfast that might make you actually want to get out of bread. Nevertheless, bagels are made with refined carbs that will cause your blood sugar to spike. Whole wheat bread with some cream cheese is a much better alternative to a bagel that will send your insulin soaring (via Editor Choice).