7 Junk Foods to Avoid - 9 Things You Need to Know

By Summer Banks FNS, SPT on Sep 16, 2020

There are lots of reasons to stay away from junk foods or unhealthy foods. They make you gain weight and lead to health issues. They even worsen your mood and lower your motivation. Sometimes, it seems like every “guru” out there has their own list of what’s good and bad. Fortunately, our team of experts has boiled down the real information for you into this clear, easy-to-read list of foods to stay away from.

Vegetable and Seed Oils

Until very recently in our evolutionary history, we weren’t exposed to the kind of oil that comes from vegetables and seeds. Thus, oils like corn oil and soybean oil are unnatural for our bodies. The issue with seed and vegetable oils is their high omega-6 fatty acid content. To be healthy, we need omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a certain ratio. You should try to get more omega-3 than omega-6 in your diet.

Junk foods - oils

If you eat too much omega-6, you can end up suffering from inflammation, according to the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. This leads to other health problems that make your life uncomfortable.

Another issue with seed and vegetable oils is that they contain polyunsaturated fats. These have abundant reactive double bonds, which makes them sensitive to oxidation. In short, overusing seed and vegetable oils in your cooking can cause health issues. Try to limit your intake of omega-6 fatty acids while increasing omega-3. You can do that by incorporating more fatty fish into your diet.

Low-Fat and Diet Food Options

The companies that mass produce junk food have very smart people doing their advertising. Often, they dishonestly market their products as “diet” and “low-fat” to convince people to buy. But the truth is that these products aren’t as healthy as the manufacturers would like you to believe.

In fact, foods that are “diet,” “whole grain,” and “low-fat” typically have higher amounts of sugar.

Always read the label before buying a new product. Don’t be fooled by flashy terms like “low-fat” and “diet.” Pay careful attention to the nutritional content.

Gluten

Research from The Journal of the American College of Nutrition and The Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggest some people don’t respond well to gluten or whole wheat. Another important reason to stay away from whole wheat is that it has an extremely high glycemic index number. The result is that you’re left anxious for more high-carb food soon after eating the whole wheat.

Junk foods - Gluten-Free

There’s been a lot of research done on the effects of low-carb diets (see The Annals of Internal Medicine and The Lancet). These diets avoid the consumption of sugars and starches. According to these studies, people who want to lose weight are better off eliminating all grains from their diet.

If weight loss is not an issue, then eliminating grains and replacing them with healthier, non-gluten grains like oats and rice is a smart choice. The main point is that grains contain no essential nutrients that aren’t found more abundantly in vegetables or animal-based foods. If you want to maintain a healthy diet, it’s best to reduce the number of refined grains you eat. While you can eat grains like rice and oats if you’re in good health, it’s best to make vegetables and animal-based products the basis of your diet.

Are Sugar and Corn Syrup Junk Foods?

It’s no surprise that sugar is on junk foods. Sugar holds little nutritional value and is a source of empty calories, according to The Nursing Journal, The New Zealand Medical Journal, and The Journal of the American Dietetic Association. It’s true that refined sugar offers no essential nutrients in exchange for its high-calorie content. But that isn’t the only reason sugar is bad for you.

Junk foods - sugar

According to multiple research in Diabetes, PLoS One, JAMA Internal Medicine, and Nutrition sugar is directly associated with some of the biggest health issues affecting western society.

And there’s the fact that sugar tends to be very addictive, a study in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews says. It’s easy to binge on. Weight gain is inevitable. Stay away from sugar at all costs. Especially keep away from sweetened drinks (including soda and fruit juice), sweet snacks, and dried fruit.

Junk Foods Containing Trans Fat

Trans fats have been modified to increase their shelf life and to be solid at room temperature. When you think of the intense chemical changes these fats are put through, it’s no surprise they’re bad for you. When you eat trans fat, it raises LDL cholesterol (the bad kind of cholesterol) while lowering HDL cholesterol (the good kind), according to Paediatrics Child Health

Are Processed Foods Junk Foods to Avoid?

Why avoid junk foods that are processed? They’re convenient, but are they unhealthy foods? The concern with processed foods relates to the artificial ingredients (see BMJ Open and Public Health Nutrition). Choose real food over processed food. It’s better for you, tastes fresh, and gives you more energy!

Junk foods - artificial sweetener

Artificial Sweeteners Hidden in Junk Foods

Artificial sweeteners are generally considered safe; plus it’s calorie-free. One of the few sweeteners not listed on a junk foods list is stevia. One study published in Nutrition Today found that stevia may be able to aid in weight loss.

What Users Are Saying

“A good alternative is making your own chips! I’ve made my own sweet potato chips, zucchini chips, even Parmesan crisps. Many recipes on Pinterest and google. The biggest thing is to bake them and use less fatty and light oils. You can also season then with whatever seasoning you like many recipes with give you yummy seasoning options! Hope this helps, I too am a chip and snack addict!”

“Yeah. Junk food isn’t really that bad. It is just really bad if you eat it to much and to little nutritious food to complement it. And junk food is so so rewarding. It is so good and triggers cravings for a lot of people so it can be almost addictive and hard to just eat in moderation.”

“So, if you ask 10 people this question you’re going to get 10 different answers. There are a lot of different theories out there on what the healthiest diet is, and honestly it’s going to vary a bit from person to person. Generally speaking, mostly lean proteins, whole veggies and fruits. People are divided on carbs; some people think they should be eliminated completely, others are fine with occasional complex carbs and grains. Some people do well with dairy, others find they feel best cutting it out. Generally speaking, I’d say find whatever works best for you in this regard. As far as treats and “junk” goes? Again, what works for you while feeling good and maintaining a healthy weight. Some people work in a small treat every couple days, others might only have one every few weeks. Some people cut out sugar, carbs, and fried food entirely, though most people have trouble sticking to that and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to most people.”

Conclusion on Junk Foods

Living healthy is often about making the right choices. You don’t have to sacrifice taste. Many great-tasting foods are also good for you. Avoiding the foods on this list will keep you in better health and give you more energy to get through your day.

About the Author:

Summer Banks has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with professionals in the weight loss industry and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University.

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