What Foods are BAD for Your Health?

Last week, we talked about the BEST foods for your health.

The natural follow up is which foods are the WORST for your health.

The truth is there are foods that significantly contribute to illness and disease. It’s the cold and hard truth.

We know certain foods increase your risk of early death. The bad news is Americans often eat way too much of these foods.

Where does this information come from? It comes from a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

So which four foods should you avoid to decrease your risk of early death? Read on for the details!

Sugar Sweetened Beverages


Sugar sweetened beverages are drinks that have sugar added to them. Examples include sodas and soft drinks, flavored juice drinks, sports drinks, sweetened tea, coffee drinks, energy drinks, and electrolyte replacement drinks.

While sugar sweetened beverages may seem innocuous, they are anything but. They are associated with 15% of deaths related to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

If you’re a die hard soda or sweet coffee drinker, it may take time to wean yourself. However, I know you can do it. And to help, here are some healthy swaps.

  • Instead of Coca-Cola or Pepsi, try La Croix La Cola.
  • Instead of sodas, try sparkling water (Trader Joe’s sells a variety of flavors - lemon, lime, berry, and pina colada to name a few).
  • Instead of Gatorade or Powerade, try water with fruit infused (think oranges, limes, or stawberries).
  • Instead of sweet tea, try iced tea with lemon. Or make iced tea with naturally sweet tea leaves (basically anything with licorice).
  • Instead of a caramel macchiato, try an Americano with milk.
  • Instead of energy drinks, try black coffee.

Processed Meats

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Processed meats are meats that have been preserved (by canning, curing, salting, smoking, or drying). Commonly consumed processed meats include sausages, hot dogs, salami, bacon, ham, corned beef, salted and cured meat, smoked meat, dried meat (think beef jerky), and canned meat.

Processed meats are associated with 8% of deaths related to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Patients often cite convenience and cost as a reason for turning to processed meats, which I completely understand.

The good news is there are healthy, affordable, and convenient alternatives to processed meats.  

Instead of making a ham sandwich or hot dog, try a nut butter and fruit sandwich on whole grain bread. Instead of beef jerky as a snack, try nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds are great this time of year). Or some veggies and hummus. Your heart and health will thank you.

Unprocessed Red Meats

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I know this one may surprise you.

Especially because some popular diets sing the praises of red meat.

The reality is red meat consumption is associated with 15% of deaths related to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

You may be thinking red meat was eaten by our ancestors. Which in some cultures is true. However, the quality of meat consumed by our ancestors was much different from what most people today consumed. The animals roamed free and ate grass, insects, and whatever else was available in the environment. Today most red meat is raised in factory farms and the nutrient profile of the meat is very different from the meat of our ancestors.

Instead of red meat, try to increase your intake of legumes. Beans and lentils have a rich and sturdy texture and can fill you up. Or try mushrooms. Mushrooms have a meat like texture and pick up the flavor of marinades well.

High Sodium


Sodium. Salt. Table salt. Whatever you call it, too much is associated with 10% of deaths related to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Most salt in American diets come from processed foods (think processed meats, packaged foods) and fast food. If you avoid these, you should be in good shape.

Now What?

I love recommending foods to ADD to people’s diet instead of focusing on what to ELIMINATE.

But there are cases where you should eliminate or decrease your consumption of for your wellness.

Things you should eliminate entirely? Trans fats and sugar sweetened beverages.

Foods you should eliminate or decrease? Processed meats and red meat.

And salt is something you need to be mindful of.

So take an assessment of what you eat and determine where you can make tweaks to boost your wellness.

Until next week,