[By Helen Gilmore]
What’s lurking on supermarket shelves, hiding in refrigerators and, in some cases, disguising itself as good for you? The five food felons you should avoid are items that have no redeeming social value, and worst of all cause aging.
To stay healthy, you need to look for these felons in the ingredients of your favorite foods — and avoid them. Without these felons in your diet, you can significantly lower your chance of disease and premature aging.
1. Trans Fat
Trans fat is number one because it’s the worst of the bunch. Also called trans fatty acid, trans fat alters metabolic processes and increases the hardening (and thus aging) of your arteries. Studies show that the more trans fat a person eats, the faster the cardiovascular system ages.
Be careful when looking for trans fat on food labels, since the label may not actually say trans fat. Watch for the words partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. And if you spot a label that says it has zero grams of trans fat, don’t necessarily believe it: In the United States, if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the food label can read 0 grams trans fat. While that’s a small amount, if you eat multiple servings, it’s easy to consume too much. If partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or vegetable oil blend is near the top of the ingredient list or is listed before healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the product most likely contains plenty of the bad stuff.
Found in: cookies, crackers, chips and in many foods cooked at fast food restaurants — especially fried foods
2. Saturated Fat
Unlike trans fat, which is created artificially, saturated fat occurs naturally. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Saturated fat ages your arteries by causing the buildup of fatty tissue on their inner linings. Saturated fat makes it easier for the level of bad cholesterol to rise in the bloodstream.
Found in: red meats, full-fat dairy products, palm and coconut oils, and to a lesser extent in poultry skin and other animal products.
3. Added Sugar
There are two main types of sugars — sugar that occurs naturally in foods like milk, vegetables and fruits, and refined sugar (aka simple sugar), which is added to foods for sweetness. Added sugar is any sugar that does not naturally occur in the food.
Extra sugar causes the proteins in your body to be less functional and, as a result, directly ages your immune and arterial systems and even your joints
Found in: brown sugar, corn sweetener, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, table sugar. Also watch out for concentrated fruit juice and expeller pressed organic rice extract.
4. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
When it comes right down to it, a sugar is a sugar is a sugar. Which means that syrups — corn, maple, malt and others — are as bad for you as the other added sugars discussed above. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a man-made sugar that does the same things as sugar, including increasing risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — including increased blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Found in: a wide range of processed foods, from ketchup and cereals to crackers and salad dressings. It also sweetens just about all of the (regular) soda Americans drink.
5. Refined flour
When you eat these carbohydrate-rich foods made from refined, white flour, your body quickly converts this carbohydrate to sugar in your bloodstream and we’re back to the same health problems you get from consuming added sugars.
Found in: breads and pastas made with enriched, bleached, unbleached, semolina or durum flour.
* Selected as Article of the Month Dec 2013*