Indulging in certain foods is a lot like pounding shots the night before an exam. Sure, you knew it wasn’t a great idea, but there was no way you could have known just how much your night out would tank your marks. The same goes for your diet. You know that things like candy add flab to your frame, but you likely didn’t realize that they can also harm your health. Then there are the stealthier waistline saboteurs—the foods that you erroneously think are healthy. Here’s a quick look at some of the world’s unhealthiest foods.
Harmful ingredients: Fructose
What’s bad: It’s natural! It’s packed with Vitamin C! What could be wrong? Well, while 100% fruit juice is a better pick than sugary drinks, even the all-natural stuff packs up to 36 grams of sugar per cup. What’s more, most of the sweetness in juice comes from fructose, a type of sugar associated with the development of visceral adipose tissue—yep, that’s belly fat.
Harmful ingredients: Titanium dioxide, trans-fats, added sugar
What’s bad: Coffee creamer and sunblock have more in common that you might think. They both contain titanium dioxide, an ultraviolet radiation blocker that doubles as a whitening agent. The additive has been proven to cause liver and tissue damage in mice, and may also have health implications in humans, according to a recent review of the chemical. Coffee creamer is also typically packed with trans-fats—often hiding under its lesser-known name, hydrogenated oil—which has been shown to diminish memory in adults under 45 years old.
Harmful ingredients: Caramel colouring, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), Bisphenol A (BPA), aspartame
What’s bad: Nearly all popular diet sodas contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener that raises glucose levels, overloading the liver and causing the excess to convert into fat. And that’s not all: The caramel colouring found in brown beverages like Coca-Cola has been proven to cause cancer in animals and is a possible carcinogen for humans.
If citrus-flavoured sodas like Diet Mountain Dew and Fresca are your go-to, you’re not off scot-free. Instead of caramel colouring they contain BVO, a chemical used in rocket fuel and flame retardants that may reduce fertility and can negatively affect thyroid hormones.
Harmful ingredients: Nitrate and salt
What’s bad: The bacon and sausage you enjoy for breakfast and the deli meats you use to make your lunch may be putting your life at risk. How? Many of these meats contain nitrates, a preservative that interferes with the body’s natural ability to process sugar, which increases the risk for diabetes. It can also up your odds of developing thyroid and colon cancer. If that wasn’t bad enough, most processed meats are also loaded with sodium, a known contributor to hypertension that can make you bloat and set you up to develop heart disease.
Harmful ingredients: Palm oil, alkali processed cocoa, high fructose corn syrup
What’s bad: Oreos don’t come with a warning, but maybe they should. Not only are they filled with palm oil, a fat that promotes fat-causing inflammation, Oreos have been shown to be more addictive than both cocaine and morphine, according to a 2013 animal study. To come to this finding, researchers fed rats rice cakes, Oreos or gave them injections of cocaine or morphine and found that the cookies had the greatest effect on the pleasure centre of the brain—which likely explains why it’s so hard to eat just one. A second group of researchers found that among all the foods out there, cookies were one of the most difficult to eat in moderation.
Harmful ingredients: Monosodium glutamate
What’s bad: Typically dubbed a healthy, soothing meal, soup truly is one of the least suspicious diet saboteurs of them all. What makes it so addicting? Besides being appealing because of its low cost, many popular brands add monosodium glutamate, a flavouring agent that increases appetite and causes migraines.
Harmful ingredients: Soybean oil, titanium dioxide, artificial colouring
What’s bad: Most “premium” ice creams are overloaded with sugar and soybean oil, a fat that’s been linked to weight gain. Some even contain harmful artificial colouring agents and titanium dioxide, an additive that gives sunblock its white hue.
Harmful ingredients: Diacetyl, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and trans-fats
What’s bad: When air-popped, this snack has filling fiber and whole grains we love, but the microwaveable varieties are an entirely different beast. Many major brands not only contain heart-harming trans-fats but also line their bags with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the same toxic stuff found in Teflon pots and pans. What’s more, butter-flavoured favourites are almost always laced with diacetyl (DA), a chemical that has been found to break down the layer of cells that protects one of our most vital organs: the brain.