You may have heard the expression, “There is no such thing as junk food. There is junk, and there is food.” In this fast-paced society where convenience foods are easily obtained and appeal to the palate, it’s easy to forget that food is basic fuel and nourishment for the human body. Take pride in how you fuel your body — and avoid the foodlike products shown to cause more harm than good.
Skip the Soft Drinks
- According to the Harvard School of Public Health website, a “soft drink” refers to a beverage with added sugar or other sweetener including soda, fruit punch, lemonade, sports and energy drinks. A study published in the August 2013 issue of “Pediatric Obesity” found that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages contributes to weight gain and increased risk for metabolic syndrome and fatty liver disease. Conversely, reducing intake of soft drinks was associated with less weight gain and metabolic improvement. Avoid soft drinks and opt for sparkling water with lime or iced green tea with orange and mint.
Ditch Diet Soda
- Diet sodas are typically sweetened with aspartame, sucralose or saccharin. A study published in the September 2012 issue of the “Journal of General Internal Medicine” found that daily diet soda consumption is associated with increased risk for stroke or heart attack. According to Susan Swithers, author of a July 2013 review published in “Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism,” evidence suggests frequent consumption of artificially sweetened soda may be linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Steer Clear of White Bread
- A whole grain of wheat is composed of three layers: the bran, germ and endosperm. In the process of milling flour for white bread, grains are stripped of the nutritious bran and germ — leaving only the starchy endosperm. The refining process then removes virtually all vitamin E, 80 percent of the iron and 50 to 80 percent of B vitamins, among many other nutrients, according to osteopathic physician Joseph Mercola. White bread typically includes high fructose corn syrup among its ingredients. A Princeton University research study published in the 2010 issue of “Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior” found that rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when caloric intake between the two groups was equivalent. Try whole-grain bread without high-fructose corn syrup or make your sandwich using lettuce instead for an extra serving of vegetables.
Avoid Artificial Trans Fats
- Artificial trans fats are formed when vegetable oil is converted to a semisolid substance by treatment with hydrogen at high temperatures and pressures. Trans fats are found in margarine, shortening and many processed foods such as refrigerated pie crusts, biscuits and snack cakes. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, trans fat consumption raises levels of low-density lipoprotein — the “bad” cholesterol — and decreases high-density lipoprotein, or the “good” cholesterol. It also stiffens arteries and increases risk of diabetes. In November 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared that artificial trans fats were no longer “generally recognized as safe.” Avoid trans fats by choosing whole, fresh foods while removing processed and convenience food products from your diet.
Pass on Processed Meats
- The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund reviewed thousands of research studies and found consumption of processed meats including hot dogs, bacon and deli meats is linked to increased risk for colorectal cancer. The preservatives sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate may change into cancer-causing compounds called nitrosamines in the body. If hot dogs are on your menu, choose white hot dogs — or bockwurst — which are nitrate-free.