The first step in establishing healthy eating habits is to know what foods to avoid, and reduce or eliminate these foods from your diet. No matter how healthy the other foods you eat, if your diet still contains high amount of food containing refined sugar and hydrogenated oils, even the healthiest foods will not be able to reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes. The following overview of the worst foods for your health will show you which items to keep out of your grocery cart in order to make way for healthier choices.
First of all, eliminate bad fats from your diet. This includes trans fats and hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are among the most important foods to avoid. Hydrogenated oil is used in most processed foods, so buy food as unprocessed as possible and check the nutrition label to be sure it doesn't contain any hydrogenated oil.
A healthy diet plan includes eating a moderate amount of healthy fats. These include a good amount of monounsaturated fats (such as from nuts and avocados), some saturated fats (butter, for example), and few polyunsaturated fats, which are usually in the form of vegetable oils high in omega 6 fatty acids, a type of fat most people get too much of.
Some foods to avoid are products advertising themselves as low fat foods, as they are usually packed with other unhealthy ingredients that are no better for your waistline and perhaps even worse for your health. These are rarely real foods, with excess sugar and sodium added to make up for the lack of flavor caused by the removal of fat. Read more about this and other fats to avoid...
Next, reduce the amount of refined sugar you consume, which most often these days comes in the form of high fructose corn syrup. One of the keys to building a healthy immune system and reducing your weight is to cut down on sugar. The facts about sugar are eye-opening. Today, the average American consumes two to three pounds of sugar a week. This includes sugars added to foods during processing or preparation and sugars and syrups added at the table. The skyrocketing number of people with Type 2 diabetes is due in large part to the huge amounts of high fructose corn syrup and other sugars that are used in most processed foods. Even a food such as ketchup, which you would not think was among the foods to avoid due to high sugar content, is actually made of one-third sugar!
High intake of added sugars, as opposed to naturally occurring sugars, is implicated in the rise in obesity. Sugar raises insulin levels quickly, and chronically elevated insulin leads to insulin resistance, obesity and, in many cases, Type 2 diabetes. It's also associated with increased risks for high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Snack foods are a big problem for kids and adults, because most packaged snack foods are cheap and easily available, and consist mostly of empty calories with little nutritional value. These snacks are filled with a host of chemicals and preservatives so they will last on store shelves, containing few real nutrients.
We often consume snack foods distractedly, in front of the television or computer, or eat for comfort, when we are stressed or sad. None of these habits is based on your body's true need for food, although some experts suggest that the body may desire more food in an attempt to find the nutrients it isn't getting.
This doesn't mean you can't enjoy any snack foods, just watch your portion size and your appetite. You can have some “extra calories” every day, depending on how active you are, and you should enjoy them. Just keep in mind that a handful of snack chips is 100 calories: potato chips, corn chips, and the like. That's 6 large tortilla chips or 20 potato chips or mini-pretzels.
It is possible to find healthy snacks that will both satisfy your hunger and be tasty too. Hummus on whole grain crackers or as a dip for some raw veggies is a good choice to include in a healthy diet plan. And baked, multigrain, and vegetable chips -- like carrot and sweet potato -- have more nutrients and contain less of the unhealthy fats.
Genetically modified food (GMs or GMO foods) is definitely one of the foods to avoid, although so many processed foods contain them now that it is nearly impossible to be sure they are GMO-free. U.S. and Canadian manufacturers are not required to label foods that contain GMOs, as they are required to do in Europe.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) advised “physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid genetically modified foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning genetically modified foods and health risks.”
They asked for a moratorium on GMO foods, and encouraged long-term independent studies and labeling. The AAEM stated, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
We share tips on how you can identify genetically modified food, how to avoid them, and tell you of some unlikely places where they commonly show up.
In general, refined foods are the foods to avoid as much as possible, as most of the nutrition content has been removed. And even though manufacturers add back nutrients to replace those that were lost in processing, they are never as good as the natural nutrients the ingredients originally came with, and many micronutrients are lost in processing that are not replaceable. In addition, they often contain unhealthy hydrogenated oils, refined sugars, and high levels of sodium.
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