Foods to Avoid for Better Health

The holiday season is upon us. That means family meals, seasonal snacks, and parties with even more snacks and alcohol.  

Did I mention all the snacks and alcohol?  

During this time of year, its easy to drop some of our healthy habits. Despite the best new year's resolutions, damage done to our health is rarely as easy to undo as it is to cause. 

The good news is that changing your diet is one of the best ways to have a positive impact on your health. Our doctors put together a naughty-list of foods to avoid. Check it twice, and put it into practice so you can live a longer, healthier life. 

 

Processed Foods 

Can you name many mainstream foods that aren't processed? The truth is, processed foods encompass most of the foods on this naughty-list. We can't stress enough how important it is to avoid eating most modern processed foods. Never in human history have we had access to such quantity of food. With the increase in quantity of food available, the quality of food has fallen. 

If we’re not careful, we could base our diet off of a sales pitch instead of actual facts about what’s in our food.  

Processed foods have a strong foothold in American's diets, and there are some good reasons why. Processing certain foods can add vitamins, minerals and fiber to foods that are low in them.  Even 'healthy foods' are sometimes processed to stay fresh longer or be available all season long. If we're not careful, we could base our diet off of a sales pitch instead of actual facts about what's in our food.  

Here are some of the reasons why you should avoid eating processed foods:

• Processed foods usually contain added sugar, such as high fructose corn syrup.

• Many processed foods were designed in a lab to trigger the rewards center of our brain. Think of the Lays motto “Bet you can’t eat just one.” This means these foods were created for us to overeat. 

• Processed foods are laden with artificial colors, preservatives, texturants and flavorings. Those aren't natural, and our bodies don't know what to do with them.  Many of those processing agents have been linked to everything from allergies to cancer. 

• Processed foods are high in refined carbohydrates, low in fiber and low in nutrients.

• Many processed foods contain seed oils and trans fats. 

Read on to find out why seed oils are so bad...and why saying you should avoid that garbage is accurate.

 

Seed Oils 

"What was garbage in 1860 was fertilizer in 1870, cattle feed in 1880, and table food and many things else in 1890 – Popular Science ” (Graham, 2012).  Many of the cooking oils commonplace today were industrial waste products less than 100 years ago. 

Processing grains and seeds into cattle feed, produced oil as a byproduct. Companies used to have to pay to dispose of these industrial seed oils.  

Then they had an ingenious idea.  

They hired marketing companies to convince the government and the public that these oils could be used for cooking. Because these oils were cheaper than animal fats and had a longer shelf life, it sounded like a great idea!  

Since then we have discovered that consuming a diet high in omega 6’s has many negative effects on our health. (Patterson et al., 2012) 

In the past, it was believed that humans had an omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of 4:1. Due to our increased intake of seed oils, (rich in omega 6’s), it is estimated that this ratio is now as high as 20:1. This means that the inflammatory burden in our bodies is exponentially increased. Once an individual becomes inflamed they tend to remain inflamed. Systemic inflammation has been linked to cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease, neurodegenerative disease and many other conditions. (Straub and Schradin, 2016). 

Many of the cooking oils commonplace today were industrial waste products less than 100 years ago. 

Many fast food chains and restaurants use seed oils because they are inexpensive. 

Unless you want to ring in the new year by cooking more like Micky D's, we recommend ridding your home of all seed oils. Instead, increase your intake of healthy fats such as olive oil, grass fed butter and avocado oil.

Next up, don't eat so much sugar, Sugar.

 

Sugar/ Refined Carbohydrates 

When the low-fat craze began, food producers had to find a way to remove fat from their food and still make it taste good. Their solution to this was to add sugar to their products. That's when something interesting happened. As the intake of sugar increased so did the rates of obesity as well as Type II diabetes. 

How bad has it gotten?  

Estimates show that 1 in 3 Americans currently has diabetes or prediabetes. (CDC, 2017).  Death from liver disease is overtaking heart disease; a fact directly related to increased carbohydrate intake. (Williams et al., 2017). 

The average American now consumes 82 grams of added sugar per day or 66 pounds per year. (Ervin and Ogden, 2013).  Fun fact: this does not include intake of fructose or refined carbohydrates such as white flour which the body also recognizes as sugar.  So even if you think you're doing awesome at cutting straight sugar out of your diet, you might want to think about that.  

Soft drinks and fruit juices are two of the main sources of increased sugar intake in our diets. Just cutting these two things from your diet will drop your sugar intake and benefit your health. 

Our doctors relate that they often see drastic changes in patients’ health when they cut sugar out of their diet.

Do you like to eat meat? Read on to find out why you might be messing with more hormones than the average teenager.

 

Conventionally Raised Meat, Dairy, Eggs

Cows evolved eating a diet rich in grass and pigs and chickens evolved eating an omnivorous diet. This one's really sad, but we're not the only ones that are eating processed foods.  

Todays cattle, poultry and pigs are fed processed carbohydrates and seed oils. They're locked in cages and forced to eat large amounts of corn and soy. They're injected with hormones to increase their growth rate and fat production; given antibiotics so they won’t spread disease while living in such close quarters.

The reality is that a lot of the meat that ends up on people's tables starts out in those hellish conditions. Besides being an ethical issue, it has also has a severe impact on human health. 

The nutrient profile of conventionally raised versus pasture raised animal products is vastly different.  (Leheska et al., 2008)(Daley et al., 2010).  Pasture raised meat, dairy and eggs have more robust micronutrient profiles and improved omega 3:6 ratios. (Lopez-Bote., 1998). 

For ethical and health reasons we advise our patients to consume only pasture raised/ grass fed meat, dairy and eggs.

As the year winds down, consumption for our next item on the naughty-list goes up. Read on to see what the doc's recommend about alcohol.

 

Alcohol 

It should go without saying, but increased alcohol consumption is associated with negative effects on health. For our purposes, we're going to look at alcohol from an oncology perspective.

A study published in 2012 showed that alcohol contributed to 5.5% of all cancer occurrences and 5.8% to all cancer deaths. (Praud et al., 2016).  A study recently published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology linked alcohol consumption to the development of multiple forms of cancer. (LoConte et al., 2017).  The world health organization estimates that alcohol is responsible for 3.3 million deaths yearly. (World Health Organization, Alcohol). 

Both the US Department of Health and Human Services and American Cancer Society recommend that men drink no more than two drinks per day and women no more than one (DeSalvo et al., 2016)(Kushi et al. 2012). 

Are people the world over going to stop drinking anytime soon? Doubtful. If you aren't going to stop drinking, following the guidelines above is a start.

Our doctors believe that the less alcohol you drink the better.

 

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are often seen as the 'healthier' choice when compared to sugar. Creative marketing angles can't hide why we put these sweeteners on our naughty-list. 

Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than normal sources of sugar and our bodies and brain do not know how to handle this new stimulus. 

One study found that individuals who had the greatest intake of diet soda also had greater rates of obesity. (Fowler et al., 2008).  Increased diet soda intake has also been associated with greater rates of metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. 

We advise our patients not to consume any artificial sweeteners and instead use natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup or monks fruit.

 

Grilled Food

Cooking foods at high temperatures creates heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  These toxicants are known mutagens that have been implicated in the development of various forms of cancer. (Di Maso et al., 2013).

Uhh...what?

What that means is that when food is cooked at a high temperature (like when it's grilled) compounds harmful to our health are produced. Some of these compounds are the amines and hydrocarbons mentioned above.  

Any time you eat food, it gets broken down by your body and dispersed throughout it and used to keep it running.  But when the amines and hydrocarbons mentioned above interact with our cells, they cause the DNA in the affected cells to mutate.  At the same time, they can disrupt the mechanism for the cell to identify that it's mutated and self-destruct.  

When cells mutate and reproduce instead of going through programmed cell death, we're looking at cancerous cells.

(And I thought that I was choosing the 'healthier' option when I picked grilled chicken instead of crispy).

If you can, we recommend limiting your intake of grilled food and foods cooked at high temperatures. If you can't help firing up the grill, we recommend marinating your meat and vegetables. This has been shown to reduce the levels of Has and PAHs created during cooking. (Farhadian et al., 2012). 

Best yet, we recommend cooking your food at lower temperatures using methods such as baking and boiling.

 

Gluten 

We do not think that eating gluten free is a fad.

If you do a pubmed search on “Non-celiac gluten sensitivity” over 150 articles come up. The number of papers published on this topic grows every month. What we know for certain is that wheat is a very immunogenic food. The molecule of gluten itself is an inflammatory molecule that irritates the intestinal lining (Biesiekierski et al., 2011). 

Gluten also mimics different proteins in the body which can lead to an autoimmune type response. This can lead to a plethora of symptoms typically experienced by patients who are sensitive to gluten. 

gluten increases the overall inflammatory burden on the body

While many individuals may not have an overt reaction, eating gluten increases the overall inflammatory burden on the body.

Making positive choices for your health shouldn't only be as a last resort. Eating gluten has an inflammatory effect on our body. On every body. It is for this reason that we recommend our patients eat a gluten free diet. 

 

Genetically Modified Crops 

GMOs are plants or animals that have been altered genetically with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. The outcome is essentially a new species of these modified plants and animals that do not occur in nature. 

There are two types of GMO crops: 1) Those that are genetically altered to withstand large amounts of toxic herbicides, namely glyphosate; and 2) those designed to produce their own poisonous insecticide in each cell. 

There are a ton of ways that people come into contact with GMO's in their food. The six major GMO crops to watch out for are soy, corn, canola, cottonseed, sugar beets and alfalfa.  Also of note include rice, sweet potato, Hawaiian papaya, some zucchini and squash and many other crops. Currently there is no scientific consensus on whether consumption of GMO’s are safe or not. (Antoniou et al., 2015). 

We don’t want our patients to be experimented on by the food industry.
— Naturopathic Specialists. LLC

This is a heated ongoing area of debate with no clear end in sight.

Besides the debate on health, there are many ethical and legal issues surrounding the use of GMO crops.  Issues such as human and environmental safety, labeling and consumer choice, environmental conservation, intellectual property rights, increased pesticide use killing bees, and the crossbreeding of GMO crops with wild plants. (Bawa and Anilakumar., 2013). 

We don't want our patients to be experimented on by the food industry. For that reason that we recommend against the consumption of GMO’s.

 

What Now?

This list wasn't about vanity, or how to lose a few pounds.  We wanted to put together something that would get people thinking about how small choices contribute to overall health.  

The holiday season will be over before you know it, and the next one will be here just as fast.  Between now and then, there won't be any single health choice you make that will be more important than the ones you make every day.

There's a lot of spin out there to get people to believe this or that, and it's easy to Google something and find an answer that seems like it makes sense, until you read the next article.  With this doctor recommended list of foods to avoid for better health we hope you'll be inspired to make good choices for your health today!

 Written by Adam Kozin. ND.

Written by Adam Kozin. ND.

 

(Our blog isn't designed to provide specific medical advice or replace a medical professional.  If you have any specific questions about your health, how to make changes responsibly, or would like to set up an appointment with our clinic, head to our Contact Us page and let us know)!

 

 

 

References: 

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Bawa, A. S., & Anilakumar, K. R. (2013). Genetically modified foods: safety, risks and public concerns—a review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 50(6), 1035–1046. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-012-0899-1

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