We all know we should eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods, however everyone has their indulgences from time to time, even registered dietitians. We aren’t perfect either! Ultimately, it is what we consume the majority of the time that matters the most. On the other hand, I will say that there are some foods that I habitually avoid, and I bet they aren’t what you’d think they’d be. Here are my top 5 foods I like to avoid:
1 – Tilefish – Tilefish contains almost three times more mercury than tuna. Mercury is known to be toxic to the nervous system and it is best to avoid foods with high levels. Shark and swordfish are also very high in mercury. Some better options of seafood that are lowest in mercury would include salmon, scallops, or shrimp.
2 – Aspartame – Aspartame is a calorie free, artificial sweetener that is now present in over 6,000 products from diet sodas to chewing gum. In a recent review of scientific evidence on aspartame, scientists found several independent studies showing consumption of aspartame causes cancer in rodents, and one epidemiological study from the Harvard School of Public Health found evidence that aspartame increases the risk of cancer in men. That should be enough for the FDA and other governments to eliminate aspartame from the food supply. In the meantime, consumers should read labels carefully to avoid aspartame.
3 – Maraschino Cherries – Maraschino cherries are so processed and loaded with high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, chemicals, and dyes that they have lost all health benefits of the naturally healthy fruit. I will always choose fresh or frozen cherries instead.
4 – Sugar Sweetened Beverages – Sugar sweetened beverages include most sodas, sweet teas, sweetened fruit drinks, and sugary coffees. These sugary liquids go down quickly, easily, and contain a lot of calories that don’t initiate satiety. Sugar sweetened beverages increase the risk of obesity, high blood glucose levels, high triglycerides, and inflammation. The best choices for zero calorie beverages include water, sparkling water, unsweetened coffee, or unsweetened tea. My favorite herbal sweetener is stevia and contains no calories or sugar.
5 – Trans Fat – Dr. Walter Willet said it best, “Trans fats are a metabolic poison”. We have seen clear evidence in multiple studies showing that higher intakes of trans fat is associated with higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and infertility. The FDA passed a rule banning trans fat from our food supply in June 2018, however due to an extension, we might see trans fat lingering for another few years. Look for “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredient list – these are trans fats.