Food serves many functions. For some, food is simply a source of energy required to survive, while others see mealtime as a regular highlight to their day. Food also plays an essential part in regulating health. Whether you live to eat or eat to live, recognizing the way food affects the body is something we should all be thinking about more.
The goal here is not about losing weight. Sure, if you choose your foods better, a slimmer waistline could very well happen. And if that’s the incentive, you need to change your eating habits — great. But simply getting rid of refined carbs and added sugars isn't enough. In fact, there are a whole host of other foods that pop up in regular diets that can cause distress to your body in ways you may not have even imagined.
Here are 11 worthless foods that you'd be better off cutting out of your diet altogether.
1. Arizona Iced Tea
It’s a hot day, you’re low on energy and a refreshing caffeinated beverage sounds like a good idea, right? Wrong. “It’s a nice example of a beverage loaded with more sugar than you need in a day, masked with the healthy and healthful label of’ 'iced tea,'” registered dietician Abby Calcutt tells GQ.
Just one 24-ounce bottle of lemon Arizona Iced Tea contains 59 grams of sugar. While sipping this stuff could give you a buzz in the short term, it’s sure to make you crash in the end.
2. Low-fat fruity greek yogurt
“But it’s low-fat,” you say. That may be true, but after you add the pre-blended chocolate granola and various other flavors and fruits, that label starts to lose a bit of its meaning. If you think you’re replacing all that sugary cereal you used to eat with, say, Chobani’s Blackberry Fruit on the Bottom Greek Yogurt, you may be surprised to learn it contains 15 more grams of sugar than a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
3. Flavored coffee creamers
The bitterness of coffee makes it a difficult beverage for some to drink unsweetened. If you’re trying to avoid sugar in your diet, you might use coffee creamer instead. Lori Zanini, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells GQ this could be a bad idea.
“What we usually don’t realize is that the majority of coffee creamers contain hydrogenated oils, which are trans fats that can actually harm our heart health by lowering our good cholesterol and increasing our bad cholesterol — while providing additional, empty calories,” Zanini explains, adding that the best option is probably just to take your coffee black.
4. Sweet cereals
You probably already knew this food was bad for you. How bad? Well, it really comes down to how often you dip into the Cap'n Crunch. A bowl on occasion probably won’t do too much harm, but as these things tend to go, if the box is around, it’s going to be eaten.
Once again, like the yogurt, just because the cereal might contain the words “healthy,” “fresh fruit” or “whole grains” doesn’t amount to much when it comes with loads of sugar. Dietician Jim White suggests to GQ that if you really crave a bowl of cereal “choose high fiber cereals with eight grams of sugar or fewer per serving.”
5. Granola bars
Yep, yet another breakfast-type food you may think is healthy but often proves to be quite the opposite. The reason — you might start to see a bit of a pattern here — has to do with all the extra processed ingredients added to make these bars so addictive.
This is another one of those obvious ones you probably already know about. You may think that avoiding a Big Gulp and instead drinking smaller cans of regular — or worse, diet — soda is better for your health. But just because you’re not ingesting all that sugar, doesn’t mean you’re avoiding soda’s ill-effects.
"Artificial sweeteners and aspartame in diet soda in particular can mess with our body's regulatory system,” Carissa Bealert, a registered dietician, tells Health.com. “Plus, soda doesn't nourish you. It doesn't give your body anything at all."
7. Fried foods
It’s hard to give up the tasty stuff, nor should you completely. But be sure to enjoy it as a treat and not the main course. A large, long-term study conducted by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health found that people who eat a lot of fried foods may have a higher risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
“Because there is not enough research to date to clearly confirm that one type of oil is best to use for frying," said Leah Cahill, lead author of the study, "it is probably wisest to alternate a variety of oils to provide you with a mix of fatty acids — much the way you would eat a variety of vegetables or fruits rather than just choosing one.”
8. Fat-free dressing
This is another example of how the phrase “fat-free” is a misnomer. Believe it or not, sometimes enjoying a salad dressing with certain “good” fats can be really good for you. What are those? Monounsaturated fatty acids, for instance, found in olive oil and avocados help to lower cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease.
Cheese is another example of the dangers of enjoying too much of a good thing. For a better understanding of why, read about the good things that happen to your body when you cut dairy out of your diet.
10. Soy sauce
Delicious with some sushi, but also “really bad for blood pressure,” registered dietician Keren Gilbert told Health.com. If you’re going to pour soy sauce all over that raw fish, make sure it’s the low-sodium variety.
11. Flavored Waters
In an effort to replace your soda in your diet, many people start drinking flavored, or enhanced water. This is not an improvement. In fact, those fancy flavors usually tend to come with a bunch of artificial sweeteners, which contribute to similar sorts of cravings you get from drinking soda.