Food choices can have a dramatic impact on your health. A diet rich in lean proteins, dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals can help support optimal physical health and cognitive function. Unfortunately, Americans commonly opt for food choices based on convenience rather than nutrition. A variety of foods are particularly dangerous to your health.
Donuts are among the worst snack foods available because they are loaded with both refined sugars and simple carbohydrates from refined flours. Both refined flours and sugars can dramatically increase blood glucose levels, which can cause fatigue and contribute to the onset of diabetes. Doughnuts are typically fried in hydrogenated oils, which contain artery-clogging trans fats.
Fast Food Hamburgers
Fast food hamburgers are loaded with saturated fats that can contribute to arterial blockages and heart disease. They are also typically served on white buns, which are made up of glucose-elevating simple carbohydrates. Fast food hamburgers are also commonly high in calories -- a Hardee's Monster Thickburger contains 1,320 calories, and a Triple Whopper from Burger King packs 1,140 calories.
Processed pork products such as bacon, sausage and hot dogs are high in saturated fats. For example, a single slice of pork bacon contains about 1 g of saturated fats, or about 5 percent of your recommended daily intake. Pork products are also typically salt-cured -- the sodium in pork can dramatically elevate your sodium intake, increasing your risk of high blood pressure.
Soft drinks increase your calorie intake without providing nutrients -- a typical 32-oz. soft drink contains about 267 calories. This same-sized serving packs about 69 g of carbohydrates in the form of sugars.
Ghee, or clarified butter, is commonly used for cooking and frying in Indian cuisine. It is made by heating butter to allow the fats to rise to the surface. The fats are then retained, and the remaining liquid is discarded. For this reason, it is higher in saturated fats than butter. Ghee is also commonly flavored with salt.
French Fries and Potato Chips
French fries and potato chips, like other deep fried foods, are typically high in saturated fats and trans fats. Fast food and commercially-packaged varieties are also typically salted heavily. However, potato chips and french fries may pose greater health risks than other fried foods because deep frying potatoes may produce acrylamides, according to the Journal of Food Science. Acrylamides are potential carcinogens, although scientific tests linking these chemicals to cancer are not conclusive.
Although an occasional ice cream cone is fine as a treat, frequent consumption of this frozen dessert may contribute to weight gain. Whole-milk varieties are loaded with saturated fats, which are linked to obesity. Ice cream is also high in simple sugars that can impact glucose levels and add pounds to your waistline.
Buffalo wings are made from dark-meat chicken, which is higher in saturated fat than white-meat poultry. They are deep fried, adding more saturated fats and trans fats to these snacks. The buffalo sauce used to flavor wings typically contains cream, another abundant source of saturated fats.
Snack crackers are easy options between meals -- they are commonly available in vending machines in the United States. However, they are typically prepared in shortening, which is loaded with trans fats. Snack crackers are also typically made from glucose-elevating white flour.
Although eggs are known as abundant sources of protein, whole eggs are high in saturated fats. One large egg provides about 1.6 g of saturated fats, or about 8 percent of the recommended daily intake, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. Opt for egg whites, which are free of saturated fats and cholesterol.
- USDA National Nutrient Database
- "Journal of Food Science"; Reduction of Acrylamide Formation in Potato Chips by Low-Temperature Vacuum Frying; G. Granda et al.; October 2004
- "Fast Food Nation"; Eric Schlosser; 2005
- "Prescription for Nutritional Healing"; Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C.; 2010