As a gastroenterologist in a busy urban hospital, I come face to face with the repercussions of poor nutritional choices on a daily basis. Awareness of the long-term results of what you choose to put into your body is important if longevity and sustained health are your goals.
Eating well doesn't require deprivation. Armed with little understanding of what foods (and food-like substances) you should avoid will be a huge part of guaranteeing you will not become one of those statistics in my waiting room.
Here are my top 10 offenders when it comes to foods to avoid:
1. Refined carbohydrates
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: we should eat the way Mother Earth intended without any processing. Refined carbs (breads, pasta, pastries) are nothing more than an empty shell that have had their nutrients, fiber and natural flavor removed. They also spike your blood sugar; and what goes up, must come down.
2. Heated or hydrogenated oils
These often include the dreaded, man-made, industrialized and highly processed trans-fats. Research has shown time and again that trans-fats wreak havoc on your health. Enough said.
Excess salt is a risk factor for high blood pressure. Extra salt in your diet needs to be metabolized, which taxes your body's performance .
4. Canned tomatoes
Aluminum can lining contains bisphenol-A (BPA), a compound similar to estrogen that has been linked to reproductive problems, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Additionally, acidic foods (like tomatoes) cause BPA to leach into your food. Choose tomatoes in glass bottles or Tetra Pak boxes.
5. Corn-fed beef
Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains. Unfortunately, ranchers can rear a larger number of cows in a smaller area if they are fed corn and soybeans -- this also fattens them up faster for slaughter. Grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium and is lower in the pro-inflammatory omega-6s and saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. Cows are herbivores and should not be fed anything but grass.
6. Microwave popcorn
Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of microwave popcorn bags, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans. In animal testing, these chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes these chemicals to vaporize and migrate into your popcorn. Pop your own corn the old fashioned way -- it tastes better too!
7. Non-organic potatoes
Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in the soil. Potatoes are treated with fungicides during the growing season and then again before harvesting. They are sometimes treated again after harvesting to prevent sprouting. Buy organic potatoes when possible.
8. Farmed salmon
Nature didn't intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. Farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. There is also rising concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon.
9. Conventional apples
Apples unable to develop a resistance to pests and are therefore treated with more pesticides than any other fruit. If possible, buy organic apples.
10. Processed meat
During the cooking process, nitrates combine with amines (naturally present in meat) to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds . These compounds are known carcinogens and have been associated with cancer of the oral cavity , urinary bladder, esophagus, stomach and brain.
According to a Swedish epidemiological study conducted by Professor Sussana Larsson (Karolinska Institute; published in the British Journal of Cancer), just 50g per day of processed meat (the equivalent to one sausage) increases your risk of pancreatic cancer by 19 percent. Eating 100g of processed meat per day doubled the risk to 38 percent, according to the study that included data from 11 trials and 6,643 patients with pancreatic cancer. The importance of this study was emphasized because although pancreatic cancer is relatively rare, it has an extremely low survival rate, especially when treated with conventional means.
Remember to create an awareness of the foods you are putting in your body!
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