Worst Foods to Eat for Your Health

November 18, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this story:

If you haven’t thought about whether or not the foods that you consume are truly nourishing you, take time to examine your eating habits to ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional goals.

“It’s unreasonable to expect you to eat healthy foods 100 percent of the time, but for better health, aim to eat nutritious foods at least 80 percent of the time. That means sweets, snacks and other junk food should only be occasional treats, rather than the bulk of your diet,” says Jason Sayanlar, M.D., FACC, a cardiologist at Hackensack University Medical Center.

For better health, try to limit the amount of food that you eat from these categories:

Foods with added sugar

Examples: Cookies, cake, ice cream, candy, sugary breakfast cereals, flavored yogurt

Most Americans eat considerably more than the recommended amount of sugar every day. It may lurk in places where you least expect it, like salad dressing, tomato sauce or sliced bread. But if you reach for a muffin at breakfast and ice cream for dessert, you’re knowingly consuming sugar regularly. Too much may lead to weight gain and increase your risk of diabetes.

To eat less sugar, limit sweets. Rather than grazing on sugary snacks throughout the day, try eating them only once a day or a few times per week. Read food labels and avoid items that list sugar as one of the first three ingredients.

Foods with added salt

Examples: Chips, pretzels, breads, crackers, canned soup, processed snack foods

The American Heart Association recommends that adults should limit their sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day, but the average person consumes more than twice that amount. Too much salt may lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease.

To cut back on daily salt intake, eat fewer processed, pre-packaged foods, including canned foods and frozen meals. At mealtime, reach for the pepper mill instead of the salt shaker when you want more flavor. And in the supermarket, read labels and choose low-sodium soup, salt-free nuts and more.

Refined carbohydrates

Examples: White bread, white rice, French fries, crackers, sugary breakfast cereals

Some of the staples of your diet – white pasta, white bread, white rice – aren’t as healthy as their whole-grain counterparts. Foods containing refined carbohydrates are stripped of fiber and other nutrients during the manufacturing process. Eating them may cause spikes in your blood-sugar levels, leading to inflammation, weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes.

To cut back on refined carbohydrates, pick whole-grain varieties of breads, pastas, rice, crackers, breakfast cereals and other foods.

Processed meats

Examples: Cold cuts, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, beef jerky

A plant-based diet is healthier for you than one containing an abundance of red meat, which contains saturated fat; saturated fat may increase your cholesterol levels and raise your risk of heart disease. But an occasional steak or burger is a better choice than cured meats like sausages or salami, which are high in salt and may contain nitrates or other chemicals. People who consume processed meats regularly are at greater risk of cancer or heart disease.

To cut back on processed meats, only eat those smoky, salty foods on occasion, rather than daily, and only eat half as much as usual. To further cut back on saturated fats, limit your intake of red meat to no more than once a day, and consider eating it only a couple of times per week.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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