Why do we fancy creamy, crispy, salty, sugary, or fried foods that cause obesity, bulging tummies, higher cholesterol, and soaring blood pressures? Because they taste oh so good, obviously! However, the less you consume these foods, the healthier you will be.
Read on to find out some of the worst foods that we all consume or have consumed at some point, that is bad for health and needs to be substituted and avoided.
1. Sugary drinks
Most store-bought carbonated or soft drinks fall short on nutrition and are filled with calories and unhealthy sugar. Rich in sucrose, glucose and caffeine, fizzy beverages skyrocket your blood sugar level. Added sugar is one of the worst ingredients for your body. When there is an intake of liquid calories, it drastically increases your total calories for the day. Sports drinks, although rich in electrolytes, also serve up a load of unnecessary calories and sugar (61 grams of sugar and zero fibre) which is bad for health. They are far better off on the store shelves than your stomach.
Energy drinks are 11% more corrosive to your teeth than regular soda and once into the system, they even team up with stomach-churning additives like artificial dyes. Apart from fat gain and obesity, regular consumption of such drinks is bad for health and can give rise to various serious conditions, like type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, acute hepatitis, and heart disease. A healthier alternative would be drinking regular water, fruit-infused water, buttermilk, coffee, or flavour teas instead.
2. Most pizzas
Pizza is one of the world’s most favourite junk foods of all time and we all love pizza. Sadly, most commercial pizzas are made with unhealthy ingredients like highly refined dough, densely processed meat, and cheese making them extremely high in calories and bad for health.
Frozen pizza is the worst of the lot and has high sodium counts and cheap food additives. Sure they can save you time than ordering one from your local pizza shop or making one of your own but they can be a seriously detrimental influence on your health. Frozen pizzas are often constituted of L-Cysteine hydrochloride (a salt used to tackle overdoses) and ammonium sulphate (lawn fertilizer), along with heaps of sodium which makes it bad for health. A few of the frozen brands even contain BHT and BHA which are synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in cosmetics.
A good substitute would be homemade pizza where you would be in complete control of the ingredients. You can make whole-wheat pizza dough, prepare your own sauce sans artificial flavours or preservatives, add some cheese, and healthy veggies or grilled/shredded lean meat as toppings.
3. White bread
White bread is low in fibre and essential nutrients and often leads to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Most commercial bread options are bad for health as they’re made from refined wheat that contains chemicals such as azodicarbonamide (which makes bread dough fluffier) that after baking becomes carcinogenic.
Whole-grain bread or brown bread is a healthier option than white bread. A slice of whole-wheat bread offers 2 grams of healthy fibre, and nutrients like selenium, magnesium, and potassium. The fibre fills you up, making you eat less. A slice of white bread offers little more than 65 calories and causes your blood sugar to rise and crash, leaving you feeling hungry for the fibre and vitamins your body actually craves.
4. Fruit juices
Fruits are healthy, so fruits juices are bound to be healthy right? Well, there’s a catch. 100 per cent fruit juice packs up to 36 grams of sugar per cup and that’s a lot of sugar to have. You’ll get this amount of sugar from three or four glazed doughnuts.
Although in juices, the source of sugar is natural, your body treats it the same way as refined sugar which is bad for health. The sweetness comes from fructose, a kind of sugar related to the development of adipose tissue in obese people. They might contain some amount of antioxidants and vitamin C but are packed with liquid sugar. As it happens, fruit juices contain just as much sugar as sugary drinks like Coke and at times, even more!
5. Breakfast cereals
Breakfast cereals are processed cereal grains, such as wheat, oats, rice, and corn which are consumed widely by children and adults. The main downside of most breakfast cereals is their high sugar content and sugar wreaks havoc on the body. Consuming too much of this stuff leads to obesity, which often causes diabetes and heart disease.
To exacerbate the situation, many popular cereal brands even include carcinogens like Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) or BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole). They are banned in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and much of Europe as these substances are bad for health since they cause an imbalance in hormone function, cause multiple organ problems and blood coagulation.
You should choose breakfast cereals that are high in fibre and low in added sugar or no added sugar at all. You could try making your own oat porridge from scratch at home or make muesli out of mixed grains.
6. Fried food
Frying is one of the unhealthiest cooking methods. Foods cooked in this manner are calorie-dense and full of certain types of unhealthy chemical compounds that are formed when food is cooked under high heat. These include chemicals like acrylamides, acrolein, oxysterols, and polycyclic, which are bad for health and have been linked to an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.
Fried stuff like calamari, pork rinds, chicken-fried steak is high in fat and contains high levels of inflammatory Advanced Glycation End-products or AGEs. These compounds form when animal-derived products are cooked at high temperatures for a prolonged period and studies have revealed that exposure to AGEs leads to the erosion of native defences, giving rise to inflammation, the precursors of disease. A better way to cook your food is to opt for milder and healthier cooking methods, such as boiling, grilling, stewing, steaming, baking, or just sauté with a light drizzle of healthy oils.
7. Pastries, cookies, and cakes
Most often, store-bought muffins and pastries contain over 400 calories and are loaded with carbs, fat, and sugar. Most pastries, cookies, and cakes are generally made with refined sugar, refined wheat flour, and saturated fats making them bad for health. Many commercial muffins are also spiked with waist-widening oils and additives like mono- and diglycerides that work as addictives and make you hooked to the food item that is bad for health. They are stripped of essential nutrients and include copious amounts of calories and artificial preservatives.
8. French fries and potato chips
Whole, white potatoes are very healthy but french fries or potato chips with lots of oil are definitely not. For example, one ounce of regular potato chips has 152 calories and about 10 grams of fat. They are very high in calories and saturated fats that lead to weight gain. These foods are bad for health as they are composed of large amounts of acrylamides (carcinogenic) which get formed when potatoes are fried or roasted.
For a healthier alternative, make sweet potato fries in an air fryer at home and enjoy the goodness of crunchy starchy potatoes. You could also try sauteed tempeh or dry roasted edamame for a satisfying crunch.