When you think of unhealthy foods that you should being avoiding, the first one that comes to mind is most likely sugar; however, there are far more unhealthy foods to be considerate of. Some of them may even be masquerading as healthy foods.

The following is a list of sixteen foods that are unhealthy, and should be avoided.

1. Trans-Fat

Unhealthy eating

Trans-fats are a man-made fat, occurring during the hydrogenation process that turns liquids into solid fats.

Trans-fats are extremely toxic to the human body, and correlations have been found between the consumption of trans-fats and various diseases, including cardiovascular disease.

In fact, eating foods rich in trans-fats contributes to the clogging of your arteries which can, in turn, cause a heart attack.

A study published in the Oxford Journals sought to examine the relationship between trans-fat intake and the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

At the conclusion of the study, it was deduced that trans-fats contributed to the development of CHD, especially in younger women.

Trans-fats can also contribute to type II diabetes. A study conducted by Rob M. van Dam MSc et. Al for the Harvard School of Public Health examined the connection between trans-fatty acid intake and type II diabetes in men, concluding that a higher intake of trans-fat was associated with a higher risk of diabetes.

A further study, evaluated the same relationship in women and concluding similarly.

Key Point : While originally thought to be a healthier alternative to saturated fats, it has been proven that trans-fats are extremely dangerous to your health and should be avoided.

2. High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup is made from corn starch, and is often used in the production of processed foods as the sweetener because it is cheaper than cane sugar, and sweeter than cane sugar.

However, even when consumed in minimal amounts, HFCS can cause obesity, cancer, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and many more.

One study found that consuming fructose, especially fructose corn syrup, can have an adverse effect on insulin sensitivity. An additional study, found that consumption of high amounts of fructose can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Key Point : Fructose corn syrup is a highly processed, unnatural sweetener with innumerable health risks.

3. Fast Food

Fast food menu

Eating fast food can cause uncountable health problems ranging from high blood pressure, to insulin resistance, to obesity and high cholesterol.

A fast food meal contains an extremely high number of calories, some of which can contain your daily recommended calories in one serving.

They offer very little to absolutely no nutritional value; they are completely empty calories.

Fast food is just that – fast. It contains high amounts of added sugars, sodium, fats and carbohydrates in addition to being highly processed.

Some may argue that occasional consumption can’t be too harmful to your health, but a study published in JAMA Pediatrics shows that people actually consume far more calories eating at fast food restaurants than they do at home.

It’s not just the calories that pose a problem, either. A link has been established between fast food and depression.

In fact, according to the study conducted in Spain, people who regularly eat fast food are more than fifty percent more likely to suffer from depression than people who do not eat fast food.

Fast food not only poses a problem to your waist line, and your mental health. It can also have a detrimental effect on your cardiovascular health.

A study published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health found that areas where there were a large number of fast food restaurants had a correspondingly high number of people diagnosed with cardiovascular problems.

Key Point : The instant gratification of a fast food meal is not worth the risk to your physical and mental well-being.

4. Soft Drinks

Bottles of multi-color drinks with ice on white

The amount of evidence supporting the damaging effects of soft drinks has been piling up for a long time.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, drinking sugar filled soft drinks will increase your risk of developing heart disease, type II diabetes, and countless other chronic illnesses such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

A study conducted by the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, Israel proved that when there is too much sugar in the body, it turns to fat in the liver.

This occurs because the body does not burn off the amount of sugar that is ingested.

The study concluded by cautioning patients, and advising them to change their drinking habits in regards to soft drinks.

Drinking soft drinks can also have a detrimental effect on your bone health. Sugary soft drinks contain phosphate, and according to a study done at the Harvard School of Public Health, consuming more phosphate than you do calcium can result in bone loss.

Also on the list of countless health problems that can be caused by drinking sugar filled soft drinks is cardiovascular disease.

A review published in the International Journal of Obesityexamined a number of studies conducted on the relationship between fructose consumption and cardiovascular problems.

It summarized that fructose, a sugar found in high concentrations in soft drinks, is the most damaging sugar when it comes to cardiovascular disease.

Key Point : Soft drinks contain high amounts of fructose, a sugar that has been proven to cause health problems ranging from bone loss to cardiovascular disease.

5. Ketchup

Fresh ketchup

Ketchup may be one of the most purchase condiments.

Though made from tomatoes, ketchup is far from being a healthful food. In fact, one tablespoon of ketchup contains four grams of sugar; that sugar most commonly comes from high fructose corn syrup.

Furthermore, ketchup contains monosodium glutamate, or MSG.

While the Food and Drug Administration still has MSG on the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) list, monosodium glutamate has been linked to obesity, numbness, headaches, and depression to name but a few.

Key Point : If you absolutely cannot live without ketchup, look for sugar reduced, organic alternatives, or simply make your own at home.

6. Vegetable and Seed Oils

Vegetable oil in plastic bottle closeup

Vegetable and seed oils often get promoted and marketed as healthy because of their omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content.

However, the majority of vegetable and seed oils are unnatural, unhealthy food-products that are full of trans-fats and have been linked to many health problems.

Vegetable and seed oils are high in polyunsaturated fats, which are known to cause inflammation.

A study conducted at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in conjunction with the University of Potsdam evaluated the relationship between polyunsaturated fats and inflammation.

At the close of the study, Michael Toborek et. Al concluded that dietary fatty acids, specifically unsaturated fatty acids, contribute to inflammation.

Why is inflammation within the body so dangerous?

Inflammation is caused by the oxidization of polyunsaturated fats. Chronic inflammation has been identified as a contributing factor in the development of certain cancers, arthritis, diabetes, and even depression.

Furthermore, there is a strong correlation between highly processed vegetable oils and cardiovascular disease, as demonstrated in this study published in The Journal of the American Medical Associationand similarly in another study published in the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology.

Key Point : Most vegetable oils are marketed as healthy, but have hidden health risks. Choose healthy, cold-pressed oils such as olive oil and coconut oil as your cooking fats instead.

7. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) in wood spoon

Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, was first discovered in the mid-eighteen hundreds by a German chemist by the name of Karl Heinrich Ritthausen.

Since then, it has become a popular additive in many processed and pre-packaged foods.

The Food and Drug Administration classifies MSG as generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

The European Union, however, classifies MSG as a food additive and it is therefore subject to measurable limits;and with good reason.

Consumption of MSG can cause a short term reaction called ‘MSG Symptom Complex’ or ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’in people particularly sensitive to MSG, according to a study conducted by William H. Yang M.D., et. Al at the University of Ottawa. 

Symptoms of MSG Symptom Complex include tingling, chest pain, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, weakness, numbness, and a burning sensation.

When reading food labels in search of MSG, keep an eye out for ‘glutamic acid’; it is what manufacturers may sometimes place on food labels instead, because they are aware people are trying to avoid purchasing products containing MSG.

Key Point : Sticking to whole, fresh, healthful foods is the only way to ensure that you are safe from this toxin.

8. Artificial Sweeteners


A sugar substitute is a sweetener that is used in the place of common table sugar, or cane sugar.

They have become increasingly popular as calorie-free alternatives to sugar – aspartame, for example – for people who are hoping to lose weight.

Artificial sweeteners have been labeled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food additive.

This means that they have to be examined and approved by the FDA prior to being made available for public sale.

Current artificial sweeteners that have been generally recognizes as safe by the FDA are sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame, and advantame.

Most often, artificial sweeteners are using in the preparation of processed foods, sugary soft drinks, canned foods, jellies, jams, and in countless other food products.

Despite their widespread use, artificial sweeteners are linked with many health problems.

One study, conducted by Anne Raben et. Al, demonstrated a correlation between the high intake of artificial sweeteners and increased body weight and high blood pressure.

A separate study, conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health, demonstrated a correlation between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and an elevated risk of developing type II diabetes.

Key Point : As with many other laboratory-made food substitutes, artificial sweeteners are unnatural and terribly unhealthy, increasing your risk of developing many diseases and chronic medical conditions.

9. ‘Light’ or ‘Fat-Free’ Foods

Fat-free food labeling, macro

Many people may consider light and fat-free foods to be healthier alternatives to their full fat counterparts; however, this is not true.

Your body needs fat in order to function properly.

Furthermore, the additives manufacturers insert into foods in order to remove the fat content are unnatural, chemical, and extremely unhealthy.

In fact, low fat diets can lower your good cholesterol levels.

According to a study conducted at the University Of Illinois School Of Medicine, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.

Furthermore, according to a study published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry, low fat diets can also lower testosterone levels.

This is damaging because lower testosterone levels can cause depression, weight gain, and decreased muscle mass.

Key Point : Your body needs fat in order to function properly.

10. Sodium

Sodium bicarbonate

The ideal sodium intake varies by age group.

People between the ages of fourteen and fifty should aim to consume fifteen hundred milligrams per day; people between the ages of fifty-one and seventy should aim to consume thirteen hundred milligrams per day; people over the age of seventy one should aim to consume only twelve hundred milligrams per day.

It is important to observe these recommendations, because a diet too high in sodium can cause kidney disease, bone loss, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

A study published in the Journal of Nephrology concluded that a high sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure, which in turn can cause calcium loss that leads to bone deterioration.

One study even goes so far as to recommend a population-wide reduction in sodium consumption to help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Key Point : Too much sodium in your diet can lead to bone loss, cardiovascular disease, and kidney failure.

11. Highly Processed Foods

High processed food

Highly processed foods are food that are chemically processed, and are most often loaded with sugars and large amounts of artificial ingredients like preservatives, artificial colours, artificial flavours, and artificial sweeteners.

Eating vast amounts of processed foods has been proven to have a detrimental effect on your metabolism, as demonstrated in the study conducted at the University of California.

The consumption of highly processed foods can also lead to over-eating.

In fact, people who eat too much can become addicted to food, sometimes referred to as the ‘food reward hypothesis of obesity’.

Basically, food releases dopamine into the brain, similarly to the way drugs do. Over time, your brain builds up a tolerance to the dopamine, and needs more in order to feel that happy feeling; consequently, people begin to eat more.

Key Point : Highly processed foods are loaded with chemical additives and ingredients, including artificial colours, preservatives, and flavours.

12. Gluten Grains

healthy, gluten free grains abstract

Gluten sensitivity is on the rise, and can cause serious health complications; but it’s not just those with gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease who are affected by gluten.

Gluten grains can cause inflammation in the intestines of even those people who have no sensitivity to them, as demonstrated in a studiespublished in The American Journal of Gastroenterology by J.R. Biesiekierski et. Al and Antonio Carroccio et. Al, respectively. 

In addition to those suffering from Celiac disease, a gluten grain free diet has also been proven to help manage other illnesses as well.

Studies have been done on patients with autism, schizophrenia, and epilepsy, all demonstrating marked improvement when on a gluten-free diet.

Key Point : Even those without gluten sensitivity can benefit from removing gluten grains from their diets.

13. Canned Tomatoes (Canned Foods)

tomatoes canning

Canned tomatoes, even the kinds without all the artificial additives and preservatives in them, are surprisingly unhealthy.

This is mainly due to the presence of BPA, or bisphenol A. BPA is an industrial chemical that is used to make plastics, that are then often used in order to store food. 

Troublingly, BPA has been linked from everything to birth abnormalities, to cardiovascular disease.

One study conducted at the Nagoya City University Medical School found a link between BPA and recurring miscarriages.

Another study shows that expose to BPA correlates with a higher risk of developing breast cancer tumors.

Key Point : Any food storage that can cause cancer and miscarriages should be avoided at all costs.

14. Hot Dogs

Two Hot Dogs

Many people turn to hot dogs as a quick and easy lunch option; this may not, however, be a healthy option.

In fact, hot dogs are often packed full of sodium, which we have proven above can lead to such health complications as bone deterioration and kidney failure.

Furthermore, hot dogs are full of saturated fat with approximately seven grams per serving.

While fat is an essential nutrient in order for your body to function optimally, it is very easy to over-eat, especially when such a high serving of fat is found in such a small portion.

Key Point : If you know you can’t limit yourself to one occasional hot dog, it is best to avoid the sodium-laden processed meat all together.

15. Margarine

Canola oil

Margarine is another calorie dense, highly processed food.

Its primary ingredient is vegetable oil, which is then turned into a solid through a process called hydrogenation;as previously discussed, hydrogenation results in trans-fats. 

Proponents of using margarine over butter quote studies that show a decrease in cholesterol as the primary factor behind their reasoning.

While it is true that margarine can help to lower cholesterol levels, it doesn’t just lower your ‘bad’ cholesterol.

The consumption of margarine will also lower your good cholesterol levels, which as demonstrated in this study published in Metabolism, will not help to protect you against cardiovascular disease.

Key Point : When it comes to butter vs. margarine, chose the whole, unprocessed butter instead and practice moderation.

16. Bagels

Bagels and Cream Cheese

Bagels may be a favourite breakfast food of many, but they are yet another hidden danger in your pantry.

Bagels are made from refined wheat flour, which means that the flour has been processed, and consequently all the fiber and nutrients have been stripped from it.

This causes bagels to fall into the category of ‘white foods’, which according to WebMD are processed foods such as white flour, white sugar, white rice, etc.

In fact, a study conducted at the University Hospitals of Cleveland determined that the increase consumption of refined flours directly correlates with the increased prevelance of type II diabetes in the twentieth century.

Key Point : Bagels are carbohydrate and calorie dense foods, that contain no essential nutrients.

Final Thoughts…

Some of the foods listed above may have surprised you.

Did you discover any of these unhealthy foods lurking in your fridges and pantries? Let us know what surprised you most. Is there anything you think we missed mentioning? Leave us a message in the comments section below!

Top 16 Unhealthy Foods to Avoid
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