Let me guess. You have been trying to lose weight for quite some time now, but it just doesn’t seem to be coming off. Does this sound familiar?
According to Women’s Health Magazine, weight loss is 80% about what you eat and 20% about how much exercise you get. So, are you giving your body the fuel that it needs to get you through your day or are you weighing yourself down with junk food?
As of September 2016, adult obesity rates exceed 35% in four states, 30% in 25 states, and are over 20% in every state.
Because of these alarming rates of obesity, the CDC projects that the number of Americans suffering from diabetes will double or even triple by 2050.
These statistics are largely caused by the junk food that is made available in our grocery stores today. The term “junk food” refers to foods that have no nutritional value because they have been processed from their original source.
According to Dr. Phil Maffetone, an internationally recognized researcher, teacher, clinician, and author in the fields of nutrition, biofeedback, exercise, and sports medicine, these foods are processed and manufactured with added chemicals, sugars, and other harmful ingredients that can adversely affect your health.
Indeed, some junk foods contain ingredients that are downright harmful to your health.
However, these harmful foods are usually tasty, cheap, and easily available. Here are some of the unhealthiest junk foods in America that you should do your best to stay away from if you are trying to lose weight.
Why is America Hooked on Junk Food?
Processed junk foods are now a staple in American diets, and people working in an under-regulated food industry have developed some very unhealthy ways to get people hooked on their brands. In Michael Moss’s Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Moss explains that the processed food industry holds much of the responsibility for America being hooked on junk foods because they are eager to use heaps of sugar, salt, and fat to make their food products low in cost, convenient, and full of flavor.
Government agencies are failing to regulate the processes in food factories like they are supposed to. For example, the government gave incentives to the dairy industry to create so much cheese that it piled up.
Washington then created a plan to allow the industry to raise millions of dollars for marketing to urge people to eat more cheese additives and processed foods containing cheese. America’s cheese consumption has tripled over the past 40 years, making it now the number one source of saturated fat that Americans are getting.
A Calorie is Not Just a Calorie
You may think that if you are given a 1700 calorie limit per day, you can use those 1700 calories however you wish. But, Harvard Health reports that not all calories are created equal.
Burning more calories than you consume each day is now outdated advice. Instead, it is important to focus on eating the right kinds of calories that come in the form of whole foods while avoiding processed carbohydrates.
In fact, A 2016 review in JAMA Internal Medicine notes how far our knowledge of nutrition has come since the 1980s when regulations did not require researchers and physicians to announce their affiliations, which resulted in the potential for research to be swayed by money and funding. Due to the fundings of nutritional studies done in the past, reports given to the public were not only false, but they directly benefitted the sugar industry by compelling people to eat sugar rather than fat.
Now we know that fat does have more calories than carbohydrates, but with that one-dimensional thinking, a soda is better for your health than a handful of almonds. If you only look at calories and ignore the metabolic effects that it has on your body, you are using an outdated method that has been proven to be wrong.
The source of a calorie changes how your body digests it and how the energy is retrieved from the food.
The Worst Offenders
While most foods are okay to eat in moderation, many people don’t pay enough attention to their serving sizes and portion control. One cookie might be ok in the long-run, but eating an entire package will likely max out your fat and calories for the day.
Here, I have sorted through the junk food aisle to find the worst offenders when it comes to fat, salt, sugar, and calories. Give a little more consideration to these foods the next time you are in the junk food aisle and are tempted to buy them.
1. Pop Tarts
Kellogg’s Pop Tarts have been on our grocery store shelves for decades. They have a sweet filling and most are glazed with sugar as well.
This food presents itself as being a good solution if you are in a rush in the morning because you can put one in your bag and head out the door. However, their convenience also lends to their highly processed ingredients such as soybean and palm oil and refined flour.
Despite what you see on the packaging, Pop Tarts have a very small amount of actual fruit in them. Additionally, there are artificial colors added to Pop Tarts to make them more appealing.
People working in the food industry figured out that people buy more food if it looks colorful and bright, but research has since linked the use of artificial dyes with behavioral problems in children such as increased hyperactivity. These neurotoxic substances that are added to Pop Tarts are purely cosmetic.
As of 2016, many companies are phasing out the use of artificial dyes, but Pop Tarts continue to have them.
Additionally, Pop Tarts have the controversial additive TBHQ in them. Tertiary butylhydroquinone is a petroleum derivative that is used to stop oils from becoming rancid. Ingestion of large doses of TBHQ can lead to nausea and delirium, however, the food industry spent years convincing the FDA to approve it as a preservative.
Finally, it is important to note that the nutritional information on the Pop Tarts’ label is only for one pastry, however, each package contains two pastries, leading people to eat twice as much as they may initially think if they read the label.
One Frosted Strawberry Pop Tart has 200 calories, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 16 grams of sugar, less than 1 gram of fiber, and 4 grams of protein. This high-sugar, low-nutrition junk food makes for a very unhealthy start to your day.
2. Corn Dogs
Another one of the unhealthiest junk foods in America are corn dogs. This State Fair favorite is made by dipping a hotdog in cornbread batter before deep-frying it in oil.
Although the calorie and macronutrient amounts in corn dogs are not quite as bad as they are in some other junk foods, there are other concerns that come into play. Corn dogs largely made out of processed meat, which has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.
Additionally, corn dogs are deep-fried in processed vegetable oil, which is not only unnatural, but it is harmful for human consumption.
3. Soda Sweetened with Sugar
Soda that is sweetened with sugar is an extremely unhealthy liquid junk food due to its high fructose content. Research published in 2015 suggests that drinking fructose rather than eating it may be especially risky when it comes to cardiovascular disease and obesity.
One study actually shows that overweight adults who consumed a quarter of their total calories in the form of fructose-sweetened beverages while on a weight-maintenance diet had reduced insulin sensitivity, worsened cardiovascular health markers, and increased belly fat.
One 16-ounce bottle of soda that you may grab on your way out of the store contains 148 calories and 48 grams of sugar, with at least half of that sugar being fructose.
4. Microwaved Popcorn
Sure, you probably think popcorn is light and airy, so how unhealthy can it be? Turns out, there is a lot more to popcorn than just air.
The microwaveable varieties of popcorn that are made by companies such as Jolly Time and Jiffy Pop contain trans fats that are detrimental to your heart. Additionally, popcorn that is butter-flavored almost always include a chemical called diacetyl (DA), which studies have found to break down the layer of cells that protects the brain.
The bag that the popcorn comes in is lined with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This is a toxic chemical that can also be found in Teflon pots and pans. When PFOA is heated, it has been shown to lead to infertility, cancer, and other diseases in animal studies.
Also, even though the popcorn kernels are not genetically modified, there are several other GMO ingredients such as oil and emulsifiers that can be found in microwaved popcorn. GMOs are linked to a variety of health concerns that are rising in America.
5. Fast Food Chicken Nuggets
Chicken nuggets contain a variety of synthetic ingredients, including diglycerides, Red #40, and carrageenan. These toxic chemicals help make chicken nuggets possible to survive the trip from the factory to the restaurant because they keep the very few organic materials that are in the chicken from going bad.
What’s worse, a recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that 60% of the chicken in a fast food chicken nugget is composed of fat, gristle, blood vessels, and ground bone.
Some other unhealthy ingredients that can be found in fast food chicken nuggets include:
- Autolyzed Yeast Extract (often contains MSG)
- Dimethyl Polysiloxane Anti-foaming Agent
- GMO Corn
- Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
- Sugar (dextrose)
- Bleached Wheat (gluten)
The salt content alone is rather scary if you are sensitive to salt. While the recommended daily intake of sodium is 2000 – 3000 mg, 10 nuggets alone contain nearly 1000 mg. Furthermore, there is no potassium in fast food chicken nuggets to counteract the sodium.
Chicken nuggets are another junk food that contain the dangerous chemical TBHQ. This preservative can lead to:
- Liver damage
- Biochemical changes
- Cellular mutation
- Reproductive effects
Finally, when it comes to the wheat content, modern day wheat has been hybridized. This process has not only doubled the gluten content but also raised the levels of starch in food products.
There are over 300 symptoms linked to gluten intolerance, meaning that it is resulting in a host of diseases for many people. Today’s wheat also contains endorphins that act as appetite stimulators. These chemicals cause the consumer to get hungry quickly after eating, causing them to eat more chicken nuggets.
6. Fruit Juice
While the idea of fruit juice may seem healthy, it is actually often just sugar and water. 100% fruit juice is better for you than than sugary drinks such as Sunny D, however, even all-natural juice has up to 36 grams of sugar in each cup.
This is the equivalent to 4 Krispy Kreme glazed donuts.
The fruit juice that you buy at the store is likely not what you think, even if it is labelled as being “100% pure”.
During the process of making juice, the juice is squeezed from the fruit and then stored in very large oxygen-depleted holding tanks. It can sit there for up to a year before it hits the shelves of your supermarket.
The problem here is that the process tends to remove a lot of the flavor, so manufacturers add “flavor packs” back into the juice.
Even if you are spending the extra money to buy high-quality juice at the grocery store, it is still far from its original state.
The minute amounts of vitamins in fruit juice do not make up for the quantity of sugar that it contains.
7. Sugary Cereal
We are all well aware these days that sugar wreaks havoc on your body. Eating too much sugar can lead to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Many cereals that are offered today have more sugar in just one bowl than a piece of cake.
Many popular cereals such as Frosted Flakes and Cinnamon Toast Crunch also contain the chemical Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) or BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole). These ingredients are banned in the UK, Japan, Australia, and a lot of Europe due to their carcinogenic properties.
Sugary cereal is also full of refined carbs and added sugar, so it will cause your blood sugar to spike and then plummet. This will set you up for an unhealthy day of eating.
8. Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli
This is a great thing to have around the house for a quick dinner after a long day, right? Actually, quite the opposite is true.
While MSG may not be on this ravioli’s ingredients list, it does include MSG’s troublesome compound called glutamic acid in some of its ingredients. After years of hearing about the dangers of MSG, many food manufacturers stopped using it in their products. However, they slipped through a loophole in the FDA which states that they do not have to mention that the product contains glutamic acid if it is hidden in its other ingredients.
So what is wrong with glutamic acid? An excess of this ingredient can cause overstimulation of nerve receptors, contributing to neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. If taken in high doses, glutamic acid can even interfere with anti-epileptic prescription.
Reviews have recently concluded that glutamic acid can cause some people to experience:
- Changes in heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
The bottom line? The caramel coloring, yeast extract, soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, and other chemicals are not worth the convenience of this junk food.
The recipe for Doritos was specially designed by the manufacturer so that there is no single flavor that overpowers another. The truth is, when foods do not have a dominant flavor, you are less likely to feel full, which causes you to eat more.
One of the first ingredients that is listed on Doritos’ label is MSG, the additive known to make foods taste better and increase your appetite. What’s more is that manufacturers also use a tactic on Doritos called “long hang-time flavor”. This tactic is used to lure consumers into eating more Doritos because the taste lingers in their mouth.
That’s right, Doritos are actually manufactured to make you crave more of them.
Oreos are known to be one of America’s favorite cookies, but they certainly are not good for anyone’s health. First, Oreos are filled with palm oil, which can actually lead to toxicity.
Studies have revealed that palm oil, when in an oxidized state, can change the body’s physiological and biochemical functions. Manufacturers of processed foods such as Oreos oxidize the palm oil in their products for several reasons, meaning that the palm oil in Oreos is in an oxidized state.
The dangers of this palm oil are organotoxicity of the:
- and reproductive toxicity
Oxidized palm oil can also create an increase in free radicals, phospholipids, and cerebrosides in the body.
According to a 2013 study, Oreos are actually more addictive than cocaine and morphine. To come to this conclusion, researchers gave rats one of three things: rice cakes, Oreos, or an injection of cocaine or morphine. The researchers found that the cookies had the biggest impact on the pleasure center of the rats’ brain, explaining why it is difficult to eat them in moderation.
11. Salad Dressing
You’re eating a salad, so you think it must be healthy. Think again, as many salad dressings are worse for your health than chocolate syrup.
Aside from giving you a reason to eat vegetables, salads can be an effective way to slim down. They are versatile, which allows you to have different types of salad each day so you will never get tired of it.
However, if you top off your salad with store-bought salad dressing, you are likely ingesting more fat and calories than if you consumed an entire ice cream sundae.
Salad dressings are full of trans fat and sugar. Even worse, store bought salad dressing has high levels of polyunsaturated fat, which causes your body to stop its normal process of digesting fats.
Polyunsaturated fats not only prevent your body from absorbing different kinds of fats, but also the vitamins that are fat-soluble such as vitamins A, E, and K. Other nutrients are lost as well, including lecithin, choline, and phospholipids, all of which the body and brain need in order to be healthy.
To get these vitamins in your body, you have to eat them with saturated fats which can be found in olive oil. Skip the store bought dressing and drizzle your salad with a little olive oil and vinegar instead.
In conclusion, take action to look through your pantry at home and get rid of these unhealthy junk foods that can be downright dangerous. While some are convenient, there are lots of ways to find other foods to replace them that will not take up any more time in your day. Choose whole foods that are as close to their original source as possible, such as almonds and apples.
Finally, stick to water. Drinking your calories is a fast way to increase your blood sugar and your waistline.