7 Foods to Cut Out of Your Diet for Optimal Health
By Lee Flynn
Moderation in most things is key. Too many sweets will make you gain weight, but a little dark chocolate daily has health benefits. The deleterious effects of too much alcohol are well known, but a daily glass of red wine is good for your heart. However, there are some foods that lack any redeeming qualities. If you cut the seven foods below out of your diet, you will lose nothing and gain in health.
Sodas are tasty, and they pack a punch of caffeine and sugar that makes for a great if temporary pick-me-up. But whether they come in the diet or regular varieties, from a health standpoint, there is nothing good about soda. The regular variety has too much sugar, and diet sodas are not much better. Diet soda drinkers tend to weigh more than people who do not drink sodas and are at greater risk for Type II diabetes as well as a host of other diseases.
Processed meats are high in sodium, and that raises the risk of high blood pressure. Furthermore, they also increase your risk of colon cancer. The worst thing about processed meat is that there’s really no particular reason to eat them. Roasting your own chicken, ham or beef and making sandwiches with that is cheaper, tastier and healthier.
When it comes to white bread, the news is all bad: It’s low on nutritional value, makes you gain weight and leads to blood-sugar crashes. The same can be said for rice and pasta. It’s basically caloric filler in your diet. Crackers can be even worse. These carbs convert to sugar that coat your teeth and contribute to tooth decay. As with processed meat, this is an easy substitute as well. Look for whole grain bread with a high fiber content and substitute brown rice and whole-wheat pasta for the white varieties.
There’s nothing wrong with foods that are naturally fat-free like spinach or oranges. There are a lot of things wrong with so-called “fat-free” versions of regular foods. Some of them are psychological. People eating fat-free foods tend to overeat because they think it’s okay. Fat-free foods also shift your focus away from the fact that is actually not the culprit. Some fats, such as those found in olive oil and avocados, are good for you. Finally, fat-free products often substitute large quantities of sugar in place of fat, and that’s no improvement.
Sweetened Breakfast Cereals
Like some white breads, sweetened breakfast cereals might be enriched with vitamins and minerals, but that is all they have going for them, and you would be better off skipping the sugar entirely and going straight to a vitamin pill. If you enjoy cereal in the morning, try switching to oatmeal or whole-grain cereals such as bran flakes.
Microwave or Movie Theater Popcorn
Popcorn isn’t an inherently unhealthy food. In fact, air-popped at home, it can be a healthy snack. But microwave popcorn comes with a lot of chemicals that leech into the popcorn itself, and the popcorn you get at the movie theater is laden with fat and sodium. If you love the convenience of microwave popcorn, pick up a food storage set, make some air-popped at home and store the leftovers.
Sugar occurs naturally in many foods such as fruit, and it isn’t practical or necessary to try to eliminate any form of it from your diet. However, if you are adding sugar to drinks like tea and coffee or eating sweets as anything more than an occasional indulgence, you are raising your risk factor for heart disease and adding empty calories to your diet.
Another thing all of the foods above share is that once you are out of the habit of eating them, you are unlikely to miss them. Most have healthier alternatives, and none of them make you feel great. If you’re struggling to improve your diet, begin by eliminating just one at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be on a much healthier journey.