An unhealthy diet fails to provide your body with the correct amounts and types of nutrients for maximum health. The average American diet contains too many calories and not enough fruits and vegetables. In addition, certain types of foods are more likely to cause medical problems than others. Know what makes up an unhealthy diet and avoid those nutrition pitfalls.
Too Many Calories
Too many or too few calories create an unhealthy diet. With 67 percent of Americans overweight or obese, many people consume too many calories regularly. Overeating leads to a host of health problems, including heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and certain types of cancer. You can reduce your risk of these problems by taking steps to control your calories and maintain a healthy weight. However, if you do not eat enough calories due to engaging in anorexic or bulimic behaviors, your body can suffer as well. Too few calories can result in loss of muscle mass, heart problems and death.
High in Fat
A high-fat diet is associated with an increased risk of stroke or heart attack. Eating certain types of fats, such as saturated fats found in butter, cream and fatty beef, can elevate your blood cholesterol and result in the formation of plaques in your arteries. These plaques can occlude your blood vessels or break off and travel through your body, causing damage to heart or brain tissue. Other unhealthy fats to avoid include the trans fatty acids found in hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats. Trans fatty acids are often used in commercial baked goods and fried foods.
Too Much Sugar
Diets high in sugar can lead to obesity and health problems associated with obesity. Sugar comes in many forms and may be listed as fructose, sucrose, corn syrup and molasses. Sugars provide empty calories that lack nutrition and increase your odds of becoming overweight or obese. The American Heart Association recommends that women limit sugar to 6 tsp. per day, and men avoid eating more than 9 tsp. per day.
Fad diets make unrealistic promises of rapid weight loss. Some of these programs restrict or eliminate healthy foods, such as grains and legumes, or require you to drink unhealthy cleanses. Fad diets can be risky for your health and rarely result in permanent weight loss. Avoid fad diets and lose weight with the tried and true method of moderate calorie restriction and exercise.
- Weight-Control Information Network; Statistics Related to Overweight and Obesity; February 2010
- National Institute of Mental Health; Eating Disorders; August 2010
- MedlinePlus; Fat; August 2009
- American Heart Association: Sugar and Carbohydrates
- National Institutes of Health; Weight-Loss and Nutrition Myths; March 2009