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Foods to Avoid (Really)

Well, there are many foods worth avoiding if it means they are high in chemicals and contain dubious ingredients no one is sure how to pronounce. There are also almost a billion different articles across the web telling you which foods to never eat. While for most people who received a health class in grade school this is common knowledge, many others tend to forget for cost or other reasons that certain foods are downright destructive.

Coming across a more reputable source of foods to avoid information, I found an article of note from Prevention where experts gave sound reasoning to steer clear of several common food items. One of my former favorites as a lazy, inconsistent eater, microwave popcorn made the cut – just as I had always been led to believe. People had always told me those steaming bags of saltiness were going to ruin my liver and give me cancer, and they were right. It’s been years since I last ate popcorn, however, and my insides have since forgiven me thanks to organic foods.

Based on the opinions of medical professionals and others who know their nutrition, here are some of the top foods to eliminate from your diet.



Conventional Root Vegetables

According to Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board, “I’ve talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals.” Root vegetables like potatoes absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that end up living in the soil. Particularly potatoes are subject to poisoning from fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides before harvesting to eliminate fibrous vines. Once again, potatoes are doused with chemicals after they are removed from the ground.

Alternatively, purchase organic potatoes (and other vegetables). Washing them does not eliminate the chemicals that have been absorbed throughout the entire vegetable.


Canned Tomatoes

Not just canned anything? No. In particular, tomatoes, due to their acidity and the resin lining of the can, pick up the bisphenol-A (BPA) in that lining – which you may be familiar with from the “BPA-free” labels of most recently made plastic products. BPA is a synthetic estrogen, which has been a proven contributor to a host of health problems including heart disease, obesity, reproductive complications, and diabetes. According to Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Mississippi who researches BPA, “You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that’s a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young… I won’t go near canned tomatoes.”

Instead, try fresh tomatoes, or those in a glass jar – organic is always your best bet. Other packaging types are available without a resin lining, as well.


Corn- and Soybean-Fed Beef

Why should we care that cattle are grass-fed these days? Likely because they evolved to have such a diet, and being raised on other, less nutritious foods has created a huge lack of nutrition on the consumer end. Most animals without the grass-fed certification are eating diets of corn and soybeans in order to fatten them up more quickly for slaughter. A recent USDA study discovered that comparing grass-fed and corn-fed beef side-by-side, grass-fed beef contains more beta carotene, omega-3s, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). It is also lower in saturated fats and inflammatory omega-6s connected with heart disease.

Clearly, eating grass-fed beef is the only reasonable way to replace regular beef and other animal products. It’s not only more ethical (give the cows what they want!) it tastes better and feels better for us. You can find it at natural food stores, farmers’ markets, and groceries like Whole Foods.


rBGH Milk

Milk with hormones is to be avoided at all costs. As many of us know by now, dairy farmers give their cows recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) to increase the amount of milk they make. This can have grave consequences in humans, and surely the animals aren’t big fans either, as it leads to udder infections and can create pus in the milk. On our end, we have seen that a high presence of IGF-1 could cause prostate, breast and colon cancers in humans.

According to Rick North, project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, “when the government approved rBGH, it was thought that IGF-1 from milk would be broken down in the human digestive tract.” He also says that we aren’t 100 percent sure it elevates the risk of cancer, but it is outlawed in most industrialized countries.

Look at your milk and find out if it’s rBGH-free by labels like organic, rBGH-free, rBST-free, and made without artificial hormones.


Microwave Popcorn

Like the canned tomatoes, the lining of the bag is where the problem lies with microwave popcorn. Filled with chemicals, the lining of a microwave popcorn bag contains perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which may lead to infertility in humans according to a recent study. Animal testing of these chemicals has lead to cancer of the liver, testicles, and pancreas. Research has shown evidence that in the microwave, these chemicals evaporate and settle into the food.

Senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, Olga Naidenko, PhD, says, “They stay in your body for years and accumulate there.” (I should probably be worried.) Researchers are concerned that the amount of chemicals consumed by humans could reach the quantities found in the cancerous lab creatures. While chemical manufacturers have agreed to gradually decrease and eliminate PFOA by 2015, there will be many bags of popcorn eaten before then.

To avoid cancer and other health problems, make popcorn in a skillet. Use sea salt, cinnamon, or any other spices of your choice for a healthier flavor boost. (Still not great for your teeth, though.)


Farmed Salmon

Another unethical practice that results in bad food, salmon living in pens and eating a questionable diet or poultry excrement, feathers, and soy (?!) are right up there with corn-fed beef. How can be expect to benefit from those healthy fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals we expect from a good filet if this is the case. Farmed salmon is thus high in contaminants such as PCBs, carcinogens, pesticides, and flame retardants, with reduce levels of vitamin D. These fish also increase your risk of cancer, as well as diabetes and obesity due to the pesticide DDT, when eaten on a regular basis. Farmed salmon are also given a high level of antibiotics and pesticides, which you consume in turn.

Check where your salmon are from. Wild Alaskan: perfect. Fresh Atlantic: not so much. Atlantic salmon are entirely farmed at this point.


Nonorganic Apples

One of the top produce items with the most pesticides, apples not grown organically are sprayed continually as they don’t develop a resistance to insects. While those who grown and spray such fruits assert that these are not harmful, it is more practical to believe that consuming chemicals is going to have some negative consequences. Mark Kastel, formerly of the Cornucopia Institute, a pro-organic food, farm-policy research group, says, “farm workers have higher rates of many cancers.” Many studies have also tied pesticides to causing Parkinson’s Disease.

Easy solution: buy organic apples. If organic food is too expensive in the store, try your local farmers’ market or wash your apples thoroughly and never eat the skin.





1. Anne Underwood. Prevention. 7 Foods That Should Never Cross Your Lips.

2. Image: Cleanerplateclub.com