Processed Foods You Should Avoid Immediately

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You’ve probably read countless times that processed foods aren’t good for your health—they're cheap to produce, designed to last without easily spoiling, convenient and engineered to taste good. And while almost all are irresistible to your tastebuds (thanks to sugar, fat, and salt), there are some processed foods that you should avoid at all costs and that, while low-cost, come at too high a price to your health.

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Potato Chips & French Fries

If you have a crunchy habit you won’t like this one. Chips are too easy to eat and too easy to overeat! But why so bad—they’re from potatoes!? Well, it’s mostly in the cooking process: fried in oil at high temperatures means the potato loses most of its nutrients leaving the thinly fried chip or fries an empty calorie. Chips are high in fat, high in calories, and typically served salted or flavored which gives them a high sodium content and can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Deli Meats

As a meat lover myself, certain meats (like filet mignon, New York strip, and sirloin) can be part of a healthy diet, but deli meats are another story. They might seem like a quick, inexpensive and convenient source of protein, but in reality, processed meats from the deli like baloney, pepperoni, ham, bacon, hot dogs, and sausage are full of preservatives, sodium, and fillers that are anything but healthy.

Soda & Sugary Drinks

Most modern diets are rich in added sugar, but some sugars are worse than others—and sweetened drinks are the worst! The average American is drinking about 45 gallons of pop every year. In total that is 375 pounds of pop that pass through your system in 365 days! Soda is full of sugar and contains no nutrients but adds to your waistline and increases your risk of heart disease. Leave the energy drinks, soft drink, and fruit punch on the shelf and enjoy some zero-cost H2O instead.

Cookies, Pastries, Cakes

In other words, anything that is white, floury, and has a long expiration date is generally loaded with calories, preservatives, sugar, and has no nutrients to deliver. Yes—they’re tasty and you might even view them as a reward or “treat”, but your body won’t think so! Crowd out the cravings with some fresh fruit, munch on some almonds, or try 70%+ dark chocolate.

Breakfast Cereals & Cereal Bars

Breakfast cereals in brightly colored boxes and granola bars for when you’re on-the-go are a staple in many households. Despite their healthy marketing image, they’re made from refined grains, highly processed, full of added sugars that digest quickly, they don’t satisfy your hunger for long, lack dietary fiber, don’t offer much in the way of good nutrition and pose a huge problem for diabetes. Need I say more?

In an ideal world where we weren’t all so busy, we’d shop at the local farmers market every day for fresh, whole foods and make everything from scratch. And while that’s far from most people’s reality, you can go a long way to improving your health by NOT bringing these processed foods home with you in the first place and changing what’s in arm’s reach on a daily basis. Your body will thank you for it.

Dan Madsen

Dr. Madsen is a family doctor in Chillicothe, Ohio.