Top 7 Unhealthy Foods to Avoid Like The Plague

Girl Eating Unhealthy FoodEating bad foods can make you feel like crap, lead to weight gain and cause all sorts of health problems.

Here are 7 unhealthy foods you should avoid like the plague.

1. Added Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup

You’re probably not surprised to see sugar at the top of the list.

In the last few decades, sugar has been considered unhealthy because it provides empty calories… and it’s true. Refined sugar has a lot of calories but NO essential nutrients.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. New data links sugar to diseases that are killing people by the millions: obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

A new study that came out recently reveals how sugar can make you fat. The calories in fructose (50% of sugar is fructose) do not fill you up and make you satiated (6).

And there’s a reason sugar is so damn hard to get rid of. It is downright addictive, leading to vicious cycles of cravings and binges (7, 8).

A stimulated appetite and addictive features leading to cravings and binge eating… that’s a recipe for fat gain disaster.

Bottom line: Avoid all fruit juices and sugar-sweetened beverages, sugary treats and dried fruit. Agave syrup is no better than sugar. Read labels!

2. Grains – Especially Gluten Grains

There is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that people, even those who don’t have celiac disease, react poorly to foods that contain gluten.

Yes, that also applies to the “heart-healthy” whole wheat, which actually isn’t healthy at all. One study reveals that whole wheat can raise small, dense LDL (very, very bad) by a whopping 60% (9).

Whole wheat also happens to have a very high glycemic index, leading to the blood sugar “roller coaster” that makes you crave another high-carb snack soon after eating (10).

Evidence is mounting that gluten sensitivity is fairly common in the population. Gluten appears to cause harmful effects on digestion and other aspects of health, even in individuals without celiac disease (11, 12, 13, 14).

Studies on low-carb diets (which eliminate sugars and starches like grains) suggest that people who need to lose weight or have metabolic issues should avoid ALL grains, which are the largest source of carbohydrate in the diet (13, 14).

For people who exercise and don’t need to lose weight, there is no proven reason to eliminate healthier, non-gluten grains like rice and oats.

At the end of the day though, grains are a food group that contains NO essential nutrients that we can’t get in much greater amounts from animal foods or vegetables.

Bottom line: Everyone who cares about their health should avoid gluten grains, especially wheat. Healthy people who don’t need to lose weight can eat some non-gluten grains like rice and oats.

3. Trans Fats

Trans fats, also known as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” fats, are unsaturated fats that have been chemically modified to increase shelf-life and make them solid at room temperature.

This process requires hydrogen gas, high pressure and is very disgusting. It is baffling that anyone ever thought these nasty, industrially produced fats would be suitable for human consumption.

Trans fats increase levels of small, dense LDL cholesterol, lower HDL (the good) cholesterol, increased abdominal fat and may lead to various serious health problems (15, 16, 17).

Bottom line: Avoid artificial trans fats as if your life depended on it (it does).

4. Seed- And Vegetable Oils

Often portrayed as health foods, seed- and vegetable oils like soybean and corn oil are extremely unnatural for the human body as we didn’t have access to them until very recently in evolutionary history.

These fats contain an abundance of Omega-6 fatty acids, but we need to get Omega-6 and Omega-3 in a certain ratio to ensure optimal functioning of the body.

Eating too much Omega-6 and too little Omega-3 can lead to inflammation, a leading cause of many modern health problems

Polyunsaturated fats are also very sensitive to oxidation due to their abundance of reactive double bonds.

Excess consumption of processed seed- and vegetable oils may lead to systemic inflammation, cardiovascular disease and even cancer (18, 19, 20, 21, 22).

Bottom line: Avoid excess Omega-6 fats from seed- and vegetable oils. Increase intake of Omega-3 from fatty fish or cod liver oil instead.

5. Artificial Sweeteners

Even ingredients that are calorie free can still harm you and this may be especially applicable to artificial sweeteners.

Consumption of artificial sweeteners shows consistent and strong associations with preterm delivery and various diseases like metabolic syndrome, obesity (ironically) and type II diabetes (23, 24, 25).

These epidemiological studies don’t prove that the artificial sweeteners caused the diseases, but until there are controlled trials that prove their safety I recommend you AVOID artificial sweeteners.

If you must use a sweetener for something, choose Stevia, which may improve glycemic control in diabetics and lower blood pressure (26, 27).

Bottom line: If you must sweeten, use Stevia. Artificial sweeteners have NOT been proven safe and are potentially harmful.

6. Anything labelled “Low-Fat” or “Diet”

Some of the marketers working at the junk food companies are shameless liars… and unfortunately, they get away with it.

Even products marketed towards children as healthy, with labels like “diet” – “low fat” or “whole grain” are often high-sugar, high-wheat, processed garbage.

Bottom line: Be smart and read labels. Even foods disguised as health foods often turn out to be little more than processed crap.

7. Foods That Are Highly Processed

Foods that are highly processed are low in nutrients and high in unhealthy ingredients and artificial chemicals.

If the ingredients list contains more than five ingredients or something that you don’t understand, it’s probably bad for you.

Real food doesn’t need an ingredients list. Real food IS the ingredient.

Easy rule to remember: “If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it!

89 Comments

  1. Nice write up, very well written and informative.

    I don’t trust artificial sweeteners at all whatsoever, many are pretty spanking brand new and who knows what long term side effects will show in time?

    I personally along with some of my athletes had weird side effects from strongly sweetened (and flavored and colored) supplements, very weird indeed.

    Short and sweet? If nature made it, you might be good to go. If man made it? Don’t friggin’ touch it!

    Mark

    • Mark,

      You are not alone in having “weird” side effects from consuming products containing artificial sweeteners. The list of side effects are astronomical.

      I hope that your side effects have now subsided, as they usually do shortly after consumption of artificial sweeteners has ceased.

      If you want to know what key ingredient made you feel this way, look up “methanol” and have your mind blown. Tell your friends the same.

      Best of luck.

  2. Nice new site Kris. Very clean and easy to navigate.

    I just discovered coconut oil and started cooking with it. Actually, I’m discovering a ton of awesome benefits with coconut milk and coconut water, too. But I just wanted to mention it as an alternative to vegetable oils.

    Excellent list :)

  3. Also good to keep in mind that if the food has a barcode on it – don’t eat it :)

  4. What about natural peanut butter?

    • Natural peanut butter is fine if you can keep it in moderation, but it is one of those foods where you can start with a teaspoon and end up eating the whole jar.

      That’s how it is for me at least, so I choose to stay away from it.

      • I have A LOT of sweet cravings, so I am trying to find some “healthy” substitutes. Any suggestions???

        • Mark Fickler says:

          You may be deficient in L-Glutamine or other amino acids. Check out a book by Julia Ross called The Diet Cure.

        • My mother and I make a Raw/Vegan Chocolate Truffle to combat those sweet cravings. I gained a lot of weight while pregnant (severe medical issues, not related to overeating) and have spent the past two years losing over 115 lbs. This recipe got me through many sweet cravings.
          http://www.sweetonveg.com/2009/07/sweet-raw-bliss/

          • In case you are concerned about your acidic level, peanut butter is in the group of “very acidic” compared to “almond butter” which is in the group of alkaline.

        • First port of call would be to have a blood test.

          You are most likely deficient in Zinc, and if you are, your body will compensate by looking for something sweet.

          If you want to hit both problems in one hit, I recommend purchasing some raw chocolate. The higher the cocoa content, the better. It is not only sweet, but it is packed with zinc.

    • Victoria says:

      I’d use almond butter instead.

  5. Interesting article, thanks! I found the Stevia comment interesting. I am a new diabetic and never knew that it was okay for diabetics. I would rather use that than sweeteners. Will have to buy some and see how it goes!

  6. What kinds of protein would you recommend to someone who can’t eat soy, dairy (though I eat a little cheese once a month if that (2 slices tops), all nuts (peanuts/tree nuts) and I am a pescetarian? I do use Stevia but Sugar is straight banned in my house! I’ve just recently started using Coconut oil as well! :) LOVED this article!

    • A pescetarian is someone who is vegetarian; but eats seafood. So I don’t eat red meat, pork, chicken, turkey, etc but I eat seafood to include fish, shellfish, shrimp, etc.

    • Maybe eat a lot of fish then? If you can eat eggs, then they’re a great protein source and very nutritious.

    • U can take Biotrust as a protein shake…Not Cheap but u can try it once a week…

      I eat Salmon, chicken breast [Not Breaded] and Unsalted Roasted Almonds [100% times better than just almonds] for protein…

      U can also eat Smart Carb bread from julian bakery which has like 16 grms of protien from one slice and 3 grams of Carb…again NOT CHEAP….

      • Connie Rice says:

        Brown rice protein is really good too, unflavored, no sugar or stevia and just add it to your smoothie. I use no flavor as the the others are not good. Mix with any fruit or greens… tasteless.

    • Plain pea protein – alkalising and vegetarian.

  7. “If it looks like it’s made in a factory, don’t eat it” – Surely, this does not apply on supplements?

  8. Just a little note about stevia from someone who does a lot of baking – in med to large amounts stevia can have a VERY laxative effect, so go easy!

  9. Kris,

    Great post! Eliminating all those foods is definitely a good idea. I’m a fan of Stevia and about to switch over to BioTrust for protein powder.

    Alykhan

  10. Good post and great site.

    If people could stick to this we would have a much healthier world. The problem is that most of this is hidden in the foods we buy. You can find loads of sugar in foods you never thought contained sugar. I guess the food manufacturers keep pouring it in because people are so used to getting large amounts of sugar on a daily basis so they wouldn’t like it without it. Another aspect is the possibility to use something legal and highly addictive to make the food itself addictive, which of course will increase the sales.

    Keep up the good work with the new blog.

  11. Thank your for a helpful list Kris.
    What about honey, biologically cultivated? Is it any good?

  12. I have been eating Muesli a lot lately, I usually stick to the brands with less ingredients and know what additives I should be avoiding and get it from Health Food Stores with no added sugars. Should I swap the Muesli for just oats? I’m not trying to lose weight or have any health problems just conscious of what I’m putting in my body.
    Thank you. :)

    • Well it kind of depends on what’s in it, if it’s high in wheat then personally I wouldn’t eat it. I think muesli is among the better cereals out there though, but of course it depends on the ingredients in it.

  13. Drew Peters says:

    I enjoyed the article, thanks for the advice. I have spent time working in food production and I have to concur that factory made food products are just that- products. They alter the ingredients in any way they see fit to benefit the company in handling, production, and sales etc. Just about anything that can be pumped through a pipe is to save time moving it around, and then it’s pumped into a mold or or a box and called food/drink. Then it sits in a warehouse for a while, gets trucked to a store eventually, and sits on the shelf there until someone buys it. They’ve done everything they can to turn food into product that is there to make them money as easily as possible, not whatever they can to make sure you eat something that will nourish your body.

  14. Hey Kris,

    Are you supplementing your diet with fish oil?

    -Kelly

  15. Wenchypoo says:

    Question: what about natural trans-fats that occur naturally in foods such as butter (our kind) and other animal fats?

    Maybe you should specify artificial trans-fats, so the good ones don’t get thrown out with the bath water.

    • I think it’s pretty clear that I’m referring to factory made trans fats, but I’ve added the word “artificial” in there for the sake of clarity. Thanks for the tip.

  16. Danny Wong says:

    I agree that sugar should be at the top of the list…. What do you think about juices with no added sugar… the “100% juice blends” that are not from concentrate?

    • Most of these juices contain just as much sugar as soft drinks, so I’d say they’re no better. It’s easy to get enough Vitamin C from other foods or a daily multivitamin.

      But all of this depends on the individual. People that are lean and exercise a lot can probably drink fruit juice without problems, but I think their calories would be better spent on foods.

      Like your site btw and excellent logo.

  17. This is a great list. I think that, even in the Paleosphere, it’s easy to forget how dangerous seed and vegetable oils can be. They sneak into restaurant food, prepackaged snacks, and salad dressings. I think that even just cutting out those alone would make a huge difference for a lot of people! Great post. Thanks.

  18. Dear Mr Chris.

    I have been reading all your articles and have made a lot of changes in my diet as per your articles. I would like to know your opinion on sugarcane juice and honey. I feel as they are natural and least processed and not just empty calories, they should not be bad as sugar. I have switched over to stevia from sugar after reading your articles. Please let me know your view on this.

  19. It’s pretty clear that you are against the most grains. What’s you opinion about oats? For instance oatmeal porridge in the morning, before exercise. I have read it has got pretty good GI, not raising the blood sugar too bad, and that it also has cholesterol lowering properties.

    • Oats are among the healthier grains if you ask me. I don’t think there’s any reason not to eat oats if you’re healthy and active.

      But as with everything, this depends on the individual so it’s important to experiment and figure out what works best for you.

  20. Dear Chris,

    Many thanks for your emails.

    I am following your tips about high fats dishes together with vegetables, but I am still a little bit skeptical about grains. I have always been taught since I was a little girl that bread of any kind was healthy, white or brown, and according to my country diet, Mediterranean, bread is an essential food in every meal: breakfast, lunch, afternoon, even dinner.

    That is why I would like to ask you, what would you suggest as a healthy breakfast? I am really not used to eggs, or sausages early in the morning. My typical breakfast would be a two brown bread slice sandwich with cooked ham and butter, or a tomato and olive oil bread slice and a glass of milk.

    Would I have to give up everything that includes bread like a sandwich, cookies, toasts, the bread used in hamburguers or hotdogs or pizza?

    By the way, the same old sugar you use to add to milk to sweeten it, is it also forbidden in your schedule? And what about Macaroni, Spaghetti, Noodles or any other kind of pasta? Are all of them left out in your schedule too?

    AH! I almost forget. If fruit juices are forbidden, what other drinks can be taken in meals? It is said that it is not good to drink water in meals since it makes you gain weight. What do you think about this?

    I hope this is not so much trouble and I really appreciate your effort.

    • Hello Maria.

      On a low-carb diet, bread, sugars, pastas and all that is definitely out of the question because it’s too high in carbs. You could eat it every now and then, but if you eat these every day then you won’t be doing a “low-carb” diet.

      I’m not quite sure which type of sugar you are referring to, but generally sugars are incompatible with low-carb. Water is best both during and between meals and it doesn’t make you gain weight.

      However, the mediterranean diet can also be very healthy. If that is something that works for you and suits your lifestyle then perhaps you should do that one instead. The best diet for you is the one that gives you results and that you can stick to in the long run.

  21. Brilliant site now Kris, I’m really enjoying it.

    A quick note about Stevia; be careful which brand you buy in the UK. Stevia Blend is very high in carbs (crazy) but Stevia Hermesetas sweet has 0 carbs and has some protein.

    I use Stevia in cooking as we use a lot of tomato based sauces.

  22. Right on! Being that I have celiac disease, I like how you touch base on gluten grains compared to a healthier gluten free grain. Completely agree about whole wheat as well. Before I went gluten free I stayed away from wheat bread too because I’ve been told by my dietitian that the wheat bread is harder for your body to digest.

  23. How about rice? Rice is high in carbs, and in your opinion is that ok to eat everyday?

  24. Conie rice says:

    I have high cholesterol, in July of 2012 went vegan almost 100 %, fish once a month and and some cheese when I had no choice… no dairy… did not change my levels, in fact triglycerides went up. Did not loose hardly any weight, just about 5 lbs… and I am so frustrated I can not stand it. I eat green smoothies, some oatmeal, a little honey, no bread hardly, lots of squash, veggies and hardly any pasta but maybe three times a month, rice about 3 times a month, lots of veg. soup and some tofu all natural organic but not often, try to avoid sugar and no canned drinks.. no oil that I add.

    So what is up with this? Started taking some vitamins and minerals I read that are suppose to help… I can not be perfect but really 97% of time I am… I do get some of the bad things in some of the food my dear sweet husbands insist on eating and I loose the will power over a chocolate mint or a piece of cake from time to time. Don’t drink or smoke.. so now what? I need to lose about 15 lbs of fat on me even tho my weight for my age says it is okay, it is not when you feel that fat and know it is killing your heart. In my early 60s… and I exercise doing yoga and the stationary bike. HELP

  25. Just discovered your website and have tons of questions. I have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes and it so difficult finding foods with low or no carbs. First of all, I do use Stevia Blend but it does have a bar code on it. Is that OK? Eat General Mills Fiber One 80 calorie honey square cereal every day. I eat it for the fiber but it has 25g of carbs per 3/4 cup and a bar code.

    I drink Silk Pure Almond unsweetened lactose, gluten & soy-free milk. It only has 30 calories per cup and no sugar and a bar code. Have been eating Healhy Life 99% fat free 8 wheat sandwich buns (19 carbs & 3 sugars). Can’t find whole grain bread or wheat bread with low carbs. Eat a FEW squares of Cadbury dark chocolate that has 23 g carb and 20 g of sugar in 7 squares every week because dark chocolate is supposed to be healthy.

    Take Centrum Silver Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplements for adults 50+ every day plus Calcium 600 plus 400 IU of vitamin D which is a Rite Aid brand. Would like to know how much vitamin D, B 12, Omega 3, 6 and 12 to take per day. My doctor said to whole wheat pasta and bread and avoid potatoes, chips etc. I don’t know if I am doing anything correctly. Have lost a few pounds but feel I should be losing more. Am I doing anything correctly? Why are you not supposed to buy anything with a bar code? I try to eat a lot of salads and fruit. I have given up low sugar ice cream, potatoes except for sweet potatoes. Do eat wheat thins for a snack but they have a lot of carbs. Is rye and pumpernickle bread ok to eat? Thank you for any help. Kay

    • Don’t worry about the bar codes, that doesn’t matter.

      Judging from your description you have a very, very bad diet mostly consisting of processed low-fat, high-carb foods. This is just about the worst stuff you can eat.

      Carbs raise blood glucose, fat and protein do not. You need to eat less carbs, more protein and more fat from real, unprocessed foods. Don’t eat wheat, bread, pasta or anything that says “low-fat” – even if it looks like a health food.

      This meal plan here is a good place to start. Watch the video too: http://authoritynutrition.com/low-carb-diet-meal-plan-and-menu/

    • You won’t find low-carb bread because bread IS carbs ;)

  26. Hey Kris,
    Love the blog. You definitely know your stuff. Great list, I would just add one more thing. Soy! I don’t touch the stuff and I tell everybody I care about how bad it actually is.

  27. Adalsteinn says:

    What oils other than coconut oil is recommended as I feel that coconut is totally overpriced.

  28. Adalsteinn says:

    Thanks for the answer but the reason I ask is that not everyone likes the distinctive taste of olive oil and butter burns easily. So any further suggestions, i.e. neutral in terms of taste and temperature tolerant?

  29. Stevia tastes horrible! I like black licorice (bad for me), but Stevia makes everything taste that way and the after taste stays a long time.

    FWIW, even Atkins has fake sweeteners. Consume natural foods for real health!

  30. Beatrice says:

    Oh no. I am on a diet now; trying to lose 10kg in at least 3 months. I jogged 3-4 times per week; around 3.7 km and dinner will be fruits and yoghurts. Once in a while, I will consume unhealthy food. But I stick to one meal per day, usually bread or noodles. But seeing your post now, should I just stop eating bread, noodles or even porridge?

  31. Emma Lowrey says:

    Dear Authority Nutrition,

    Thanks for your posts. I just had to speak up with my one objection to this article: you say that there is no proven reason that oats and rice are bad for you, when in fact they can be quite bad for the great number of people with gluten intolerance who may, due to molecular mimicry, react to these and other grains as though they have ingested wheat. Oats are also often contaminated with actual gluten.

  32. Tony David says:

    Cleveland Clinic has banned all high fructose corn syrup soft drinks from their entire campus (including the chain restaurant vendors), but they still sell diet drinks? Go figure.

  33. I find myself becoming very sleepy some times right after waking up or maybe a half hour or so after waking up.., and I will try to exercise and keep myself doing active things, in hopes to kick the feeling.

    I’m also anemic… I take vitamin B12, just wondering what could be causing me to feel this way?

    I work and go to school and I go to the gym as often as I can, so I lead a fairly busy lifestyle, I eat right for the most part also.

    • You should probably speak to a doctor, there are many things that can cause tiredness.

    • Liana,

      See a doctor and ask to be tested for Pernicious Anemia – it used to be called Malabsorption Syndrome – your body is unable to absorb ANY of the B complexes. My mother had this for years before it was diagnosed.

  34. Kris, So you say that flaxseed oil is not good? I should stick with only fish oils?

    I suffer from chronic inflammation and have cut out dairy, gluten, and sugars. I added the Flaxseed oil- but now wondering if I need to go to fish oil.

    I’d love your input.

    • Well, if your goal is getting a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, then flax is definitely an inferior source compared to fish oil. Cod fish liver oil is best.

  35. Wonderful article, another great alternative to sugar is Xylitol, with oral health benefits and glycemic regulating properties it is a healthy choice that tastes just like the real thing.

    It is so important that articles like this reach people so we as a population can make the changes to improve our health and demand the best from food producers.

  36. Mary-jane says:

    Hello Kris, I prefer Oats for breakfast, does it have any effect if I eat them everyday?

    • Oats are one of the healthier grains. If you’re trying to lose weight, then it may be best to reduce all grains, including oats. But it really depends on a lot of things, including your goals, activity level and current metabolic health.

  37. Hi, masters in nutrition science student here. I liked this article a lot.

    The scientific backbone of research for all of these recommendations here are very strong. However, I would like to comment on #2, grains.

    The Claim: “Everyone who cares about their health should avoid gluten.” (in summary)

    My question: Is there enough evidence to support this recommendation? All of the studies referenced in this article suggesting that gluten causes health problems for non-celiacs were pilot studies.

    While indeed there is a group of people who seem to be “gluten-sensitive”, I don’t think that gluten sensitivity has been researched thoroughly to conclude that it would be best if the ENTIRE population avoided gluten to benefit their health.

    Let’s wait until we get some more comprehensive trials to tell everyone to give up gluten.

  38. This is an awesome site and explains things very well. I’m going to take the venture. I am 400 lbs and my question is how much and what kind of exercise should I do to be successful in losing weight and being healthy? Vitamins? Thank you.

  39. Really liked this article!! I’m really trying to improve my diet so it is definitely a good starting point! Thanks :)

  40. Hi Kris,

    What about raw honey – is it to be avoided? A lot of fructose-free recipes use it as the sweetener. And Dextrose?

    Thanks!

  41. Hi Kris.

    Great article! What about canned soups, if they don’t have added sugar or pasta?

  42. Mr. Kris,

    Love your site. I understand that sugar is bad for you. I got it. I am a person that is trying to get off of sugar and I can go about a week then I gorge. I really, really, really need some sure fire ways to stop. I am so addicted that its ridiculous. I really need help. Do you have any suggestions?

  43. So why the heck ISN’T the Food and Drug Administration doing something about this? THEY are the ones responsible for this! Maybe they’re getting kickbacks to look the other way?

    How can we continue to trust the government when they have PROOF these additives, sugars and chemicals in processed foods are killing us?

    The elderly can’t always do their own cooking and buy frozen and precooked meals. Children trust the grownups to provide healthy foods, but the FDA continues to let this happen. How many years of death and diseases will it take for someone in Washington to get the message?

    Instead they pad their fat bank accounts with money from the food industry to allow this trickery to continue.

    • There’s too much at stake! And no, I’m not talking about human lives or health. It’s the big $ and nothing else.

      Just imagine what would happen if people suddenly ate well and needed less drugs or came off them completely. Billions of $ would be lost.

      Can’t let that happen…

  44. Alessandra says:

    This is an awesome article, and I realized I am already on the right track. I started using stevia two years ago and even though it costs a bit more, it’s so intense that I use way less.

    My question is: I’ve tried cod fish liver oil for my kids but they really are grossed by taste, texture and smell of it. What would be the best alternative to that?

  45. Very interesting article… is low G.I. bread healthy? Thanks.

  46. Is Quinoa a Carbohydrate?

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