Hard-and-fast food rules royally suck. But some foods can seriously mess with your health.
“It doesn’t mean you’ll get sick, get cancer, or die if you eat a dangerous food once,” says Nneka Leiba, deputy director of research at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which catalogs studies on potential toxins found in specific brand-name foods and ranks their safety in a massive database. “But there are certain foods you should avoid as much as possible if you have a choice.”1. Processed Meats Made With Nitrates or Nitrites:
Step away from the deli counter. Processed meats in the U.S. such as ham, salami, hot dogs, and bacon aren’t just full of unhealthy fats. They can have up to 400 percent(!) more sodium and 50 percent more preservatives than unprocessed red meats.
The worst part: Some contain nitrites and nitrates, chemical additives that have been linked to various cancers, but are still used to enhance color, promote taste, and prevent spoilage. These ingredients must be listed on food labels, so look out for them and opt for meats that don’t contain them.
Because margarine is made from vegetable oils and has less cholesterol and saturated fat than butter, it’s long been considered the healthier option. But now that experts say dietary cholesterol isn’t as harmful they thought, margarine, which is high in salt and contains artery-clogging trans fats, isn’t looking quite so healthy.
“Trans fat, like saturated fat, increases blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease,” explains Melissa Rifkin, a registered dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center in New York and a Rise nutrition coach. Margarines sold in tubs tend to contain less trans fat than margarine sticks — the softer the spread, the better for you — but olive oil (or another source of monosaturated fat) is still a better bet. Real butter is a close second, according to Rifkin.