Every time you open a restaurant’s menu or walk into a grocery store, you are presented with a wide variety of foods that may taste good but have few or no health benefits. Some foods, those that contain trans fat, high amounts of sodium or high fructose corn syrup, actually do more harm than good to your body. If you are pregnant or nursing, you should also avoid foods that can potentially harm your baby.
Foods That Contain Trans Fat
Look at the ingredients lists on a food product. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated oil,” that food contains trans fat. Adding hydrogen to oil solidifies it, making it less prone to spoilage. It also creates trans fats, which can have a negative impact on your heart because they raise bad, LDL cholesterol levels and lower good, HDL cholesterol levels. Trans fats also raise the levels of triglycerides in your body. High levels of LDL and triglycerides put you at risk for either a heart attack or stroke.
As of 2006, nutrition labels have listed the amount of trans fat in a product. But don’t rely on the nutrition label alone. Food producers are allowed to claim their product has zero grams of trans fat if in fact it has 0.5 grams or less per serving. Scan the ingredient list. If “partially hydrogenated oil” is listed anywhere in the list, the food contains trans fat and you would be better off setting it back on the shelf.
Soda and Other Sweetened Drinks
Soda may taste good, but it does little for you except help you gain weight. Even zero-calorie diet sodas may not be so good for you, as a 2007 study from the University of Texas showed that people who drank diet soda were more likely to gain weight than those who did not.
Scientists at Princeton University found that the high fructose corn syrup in soda and sweetened juice drinks and teas caused lab rats to gain more weight than rats who did not consume the corn syrup. The rats accumulated fat around their bellies, a risk factor for high blood pressure and diabetes.
Certain Types of Seafood
Fish is generally a healthy food to eat since it contains lean protein and plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. Certain types of fish should be avoided, especially if you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant. Larger fish may contain high levels of mercury, which can cause damage to you and to your baby’s nervous system. Avoid eating shark, swordfish, bluefin tuna and king mackerel. Also avoid eating raw fish and shellfish if you are pregnant, since they can contain harmful bacteria.
Overfishing is another concern. Certain fish are at risk of becoming extinct if people continue to catch and eat them at the current rates. The method of raising some types of fish, such as farmed salmon, causes harm to the environment, according to Seafood Watch.
Food High In Sodium
The body needs a small amount of sodium to function properly. Too much sodium in the body can lead to kidney problems and high blood pressure. Canned soups, frozen dinners and salty condiments such as soy sauce all contain a lot of sodium. Most people should get between 1,500 and 2,400 mg of sodium daily. When shopping, check the nutrition labels on the foods you choose. Aim for about 800 mg or less of sodium per meal. If a frozen meal or serving of soup contains more than 800 mg, put it back on the shelf and look for a lower sodium option.