Doughnuts, Soda, and Other Common Treats: The Five Absolute Worst Foods You Can Eat
October 18, 2003
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By Dr. Mercola
There are no "bad" foods, right? Only food you should eat in moderation? Well, not really. The following foods are so bad for your body that I cannot see any reason to eat them. Not only do they have zero nutritional value, but they also give your body an unhealthy dose of toxins, which should make the idea of eating them really hard to swallow.
Doughnuts are fried, full of sugar and white flour, and most all varieties contain trans fat. Store-bought doughnuts are made up of about 35 percent to 40 percent trans fat, and an average doughnut contains about 200 to 300 calories, mostly from sugar, and few other nutrients.
Trans fats, found largely in commercially prepared baked and fried foods, have become notorious in recent years because they not only raise "bad" LDL cholesterol, but also lower levels of heart-healthy HDL cholesterol. High trans-fat intake has been linked to coronary heart disease, in which fatty plaques build up in the heart arteries, sometimes leading to a heart attack.
Furthermore, when foods are cooked at high temperatures, carcinogenic substances like acrylamide can form.
It's too bad that Americans view doughnuts as a breakfast food as, nutritionally speaking, eating a doughnut is one of the worst ways to start off your day. It will throw off your blood sugar and doesn’t provide any real nutrients, which means you'll soon be hungry again. You are better off eating no breakfast at all, or better yet grabbing a quick glass of
One can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup), 150 calories, 30 to 55 mg of caffeine, and is loaded with artificial food colors and sulphites. I can't think of any good reason to ever drink it. The diet varieties are even worse, as they are filled with harmful artificial sweeteners like aspartame and/or sucralose.
Studies have linked soda to osteoporosis, obesity, tooth decay, and heart disease, yet the average American drinks an estimated 50 gallons of soft drinks each year. Plus, drinking all that sugar will likely suppress your appetite for healthy foods, which pave the way for nutrient deficiencies.
A 20-ounce glass of cola contains the equivalent of 16 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This is nearly three times the maximum daily sugar intake recommended by the American Heart Association. HFCS typically contains a mixture of 45 percent glucose and 55 percent fructose (although recent investigations have found that many brand-name sodas actually contain 65 percent fructose!). Once ingested, your pancreas rapidly begins to create insulin in response to the sugar. The rise in blood sugar is quite rapid.
Here’s a play-by-play of what happens in your body upon drinking a can of soda:
- Within 20 minutes, your blood sugar spikes, and your liver responds to the resulting insulin burst by turning massive amounts of sugar into fat.
- Within 40 minutes, caffeine absorption is complete; your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, and your liver dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. As you could see in this report above, Yunji DeNies’ blood glucose level was 79 at the outset of the experiment, and after 40 minutes it had risen to 111!
- Around 45 minutes, your body increases dopamine production, which stimulates the pleasure centers of your brain – a physically identical response to that of heroin, by the way.
- After 60 minutes, you’ll start to have a blood sugar crash, and you may be tempted to reach for another sweet snack or beverage.
Chronically elevated insulin levels (which you would definitely have if you regularly drink soda) and the subsequent insulin resistance is a foundational factor of most chronic disease, from diabetes to cancer.
Lately, the media has finally begun reporting on the science of fructose, which clearly shows it is far worse than other sugars. Fructose is processed in your liver, and unlike other sugars, most of it gets shuttled into fat storage. This is why fructose is a primary culprit behind obesity—far more so than other sugars. According to the news report above, drinking two bottles of soda per day can make you gain a pound of fat per week! If you routinely drink soda--regular or diet--eliminating it from your diet is one of the simplest and most profound health improvements you can make.
French Fries (and Nearly All Commercially Fried Foods)
Potatoes are bad enough when consumed in their raw state, as their simple sugars are rapidly converted to glucose that raises insulin levels and can devastate your health. But when they are cooked in trans fat at high temperatures, all sorts of interesting and very unpleasant things occur.
Anything that is fried, even vegetables, has the issue of trans fat and the potent cancer-causing substance acrylamide. Animal studies have shown that exposure to acrylamide increases the risk of several types of cancer, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers acrylamide a "probable human carcinogen." It has also been linked to nerve damage and other neurotoxic effects, including neurological problems in workers handling the substance. While this chemical can be formed in many foods when they're heated to a temperature above 120 degrees Celsius (248 degrees Fahrenheit), French fries and potato chips are the biggest offenders.
Foods that are fried in vegetable oils like canola, soybean, safflower, corn, and other seed and nut oils are particularly problematic. These polyunsaturated fats easily become rancid when exposed to oxygen and produce large amounts of damaging free radicals in the body. They are also very susceptible to heat-induced damage from cooking. What is not commonly known is that these oils can actually cause aging, clotting, inflammation, cancer, and weight gain.
Furthermore, in the US, canola, soybean, and corn oils are made primarily from genetically engineered crops, which come with their own set of health risks.
It is theoretically possible to create a more "healthy" French fry if you cook it in a healthy fat like virgin coconut oil. Due to its high saturated fat content, coconut oil is extremely stable and is not damaged by the high temperatures of cooking. This is why coconut oil should be the only oil you use to cook with.
I am fond of telling patients that one French fry is worse for your health than one cigarette, so you may want to consider this before you order your next "Biggie."
Most commercial chips, and this includes corn chips, potato chips, tortilla chips, you name it, are high in trans fat. Many also contain genetically engineered ingredients. Fortunately, some companies have caught on to the recent media blitz about the dangers of trans fat and have started to produce chips without trans fat. However, the high temperatures used to cook them can still cause the formation of carcinogenic substances like acrylamide, and this risk remains even if the trans fat is removed.
“Natural” chips are increasingly popular, but it’s important to realize that this means very little in terms of its health impact. A fried, genetically engineered corn chip is still going to wreak havoc in your body—even if it’s low in trans fat.
Fried Non-Fish Seafood
This category represents the culmination of non-healthy aspects of food. Fried shrimp, clams, oysters, lobsters, and so on have all the issues of trans fat and acrylamide mentioned above, plus an added risk of mercury.
Seafood is loaded with toxic mercury and shellfish like shrimp and lobsters can be contaminated with parasites and resistant viruses that may not even be killed with high heat. These creatures, considered scavenger animals, consume foods that may be harmful for you. Farmed seafood may be even worse than wild-caught, as they’re fed concoctions of antibiotics and other synthetic chemicals.
Eating these foods gives you a quadruple dose of toxins--trans fat, acrylamide, mercury, and possibly parasites or viruses--with every bite. The only fish I now eat is wild red Alaskan salmon that has been proven through independent lab testing to be virtually free of harmful levels of mercury and other contaminants.