Here is a list of foods that are not part of a healthy diet:
- Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils or trans fats - These fats have a hydrogen atom added chemically to allow a vegetable oil that would naturally be liquid at room temperature become solid, and therefore more shelf stable. You can often read this on the label as "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" palm, cottonseed, or corn oil. These fats are a synthetic alteration that the body is not designed to utilize, and can cause a host of problems. Anything that is synthetically altered should be strictly avoided, and is not part of a healthy diet.
- Highly synthetic sweeteners and refined sugars, including high fructose corn syrup, and synthetic or 'fake' sugars, such as saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame, neotame, and sucralose.
Some of these sweeteners go by the brand name of 'Equal' or 'Sweet and Low.' Synthetic modified food substances are lower in calories, but they are intensely sweet. They are used in diet sodas, gum, mints, and many other products.
Holly Strawbridge, former editor of Harvard Health interviews Dr. David Ludwig to see if he agreed with the claims made by the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Diabetes Association (ADA) that the use of artificial sweeteners may help people consume fewer calories leading to less weight gain. Less weight gain means lower risk for heart disease and diabetes. Ludwig has a few concerns about this logic. First, he is concerned that people will replace the lost calories from consuming no or low-calorie diet sodas containing artificial sweeteners with other sources, in as he says an "I'm drinking diet soda so it is okay to have cake" kind of rationale.
He believes the intensity of the sweetness may cause people to lose their taste for natural foods like fruits and vegetables. He also points out that the San Antonio Heart Study found that those who drank 21 diet sodas per week were twice as likely to become overweight to obese as those who didn't drink any. This can be due to several factors, however, many people play the deny and rationalize game, deluding themselves about their actual intake of food. The synthetic sweeteners have also been linked to headaches or migraines, and other health issues. Artificial foods that have been created in a lab are simply not part of a healthy diet.
- Junky snack foods that are dry, salty, high in sodium, and contain other chemicals and flavoring agents, including cheese flavored corn chips are not part of a healthy diet, and should be avoided or greatly minimized. Substitute a baked chip, or learn to enjoy other foods to get your crunchy fix on, like crisp fresh vegetables. Too many dry crunchy salty snacks leads to dehydration, which leads to an excessive intake of fluids which taxes the kidneys. I also discuss this in Make Every Bite Count.
- Foods with food colorings, and anything written on the label that you can not identify as a real food are definitely not part of a healthy diet!
- Essentially, most foods that come in a box are foods that have been overly processed are not part of a healthy diet. That being said, some are far worse than others, but in general, eating a healthy diet involves reducing reliance on packaged foods.
- Sodas with food coloring, and artificial sweeteners or refined sugars are avoided in healthy diets, as explained in the second recommendation above. There are healthier alternatives, including plain mineral water (our favorite is Gerolsteiner), or sparkling water with natural fruit flavor added, such as those made by Sprouts or Trader Joe's. Otherwise, purified water, and various teas, coffee, or coffee alternatives are recommended as your main beverages.
- Refined grains and sugars, including products made with 'wheat flour', 'enriched flour' or any processed and milled grain, and refined sugar.
- Many people may also need to avoid whole and refined wheat, products made from wheat, or other gluten-containing grains, such as barley, rye, and possibly oats, kamut, spelt or other whole grains. Those with Chron's disease or irritable bowel may want to experiment with avoiding beans and legumes, and products made from them as well.
- Genetically modified foods should be avoided to the best of ones' ability given the lack of food labeling laws. Corn, wheat and soy are at the top of the list.
Sodas with artificial flavoring, and lots of sugar, along with dry crunchy processed snacks are not recommended to be consumed regularly as part of a healthy diet. An occasional treat can be enjoyed by those in decent health, although best to totally avoid them. They are harmful, expensive, and not worth the brief satisfaction they may provide. Photos courtesy of Pexels.com