These Pantry Foods May Be Doing You More Harm Than Good

In the information age we live in, it seems that people are more aware than ever of what they’re consuming on a daily basis. As we’re finding out, some foods that were previously thought to be healthy, like margarine, can actually be more harmful to you than what they were said to replace. For example, you may be shocked to discover the dirty secrets behind foods like agave nectar, rice cakes, and fat-free dressing. Even the foods you know are unhealthy, like frosting, may be surprisingly foul. Read on to see what foods you may want to consider banning from your pantry.

Rice Cakes Have A High Glycemic Index

Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Harvard Health Publishing reports that rice cakes fall into the high glycemic index (GI) category, meaning that they have a GI of 70 or more. Why this matters is that the higher the GI, the more quickly your blood will rise when you eat it.

Aside from being a poor choice for diabetics, foods with a high GI flood you with energy and then leave you hungry shortly after. This imbalance can lead to increased hunger and cravings, which may tempt you to overeat.

Cream-Based Soups Are Full Of Fillers

DeAgostini/Getty Images
DeAgostini/Getty Images

Dr. Taz Bhatia reports that cream-based soups are something she tries her best to avoid. That’s because they are full of empty calories, meaning that they deliver a low amount of nutrition per calorie.

Take cream of chicken soup for example, which has more than twice as much fat as it does protein per gram and almost half your daily intake of sodium per serving. Dr. Bhatia adds that these soups often have fillers that may have adverse effects on your health.

Baked Goods Often Have Trans Fat

sprinkles-cupcake
Charles Etoroma/Unsplash
Charles Etoroma/Unsplash

Trans fat is a byproduct of hydrogenation, which is the process of turning a liquid unsaturated fat into a solid fat by adding hydrogen. Since hydrogenated oil is less likely to spoil, some manufacturers will use it to increase the shelf life of a product.

Often the baked goods that you see on display contain these trans fats which enable them to last as long as they do. The Mayo Clinic warns that these fats raise your LDLs (the bad cholesterol) and decrease your HDLs (the good cholesterol), increasing your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Ketchup Is Full Of Sugar

woman-squirting-ketchup
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Ketchup is sneaky because you don’t often consume more than a few tablespoons of it, but even that may be enough to have adverse effects on your health. There are 8 grams of sugar in two tablespoons of ketchup, typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

To avoid the health risks associated with sugar and still enjoy ketchup, try making your own. Some homemade ketchup recipes use little to no sugar along with healthy, flavorful ingredients like olive oil, garlic powder, and smoked paprika.

Coffee Creamers Are Often Full Of Artificial Ingredients

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Artificial sweeteners, carrageenan, and artificial coloring are a few of the “fake” ingredients that dietitian Gina Consalvo finds concerning. She warns that some of these ingredients may increase your LDL cholesterol, which is related to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

Gina recommends half and half with only milk and creamer ingredients. Non-dairy drinkers may enjoy almond or oat milk, but watch out for fillers. If you must have a sweetener, try adding a small amount of pure sugar or honey with a dash of cinnamon. At the very least, look for creamers that list only natural ingredients and watch for the sugar per serving.

Cereal May Increase Your Sugar Cravings

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Given how heavily processed cereal is, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that they often contain high levels of sugar. Starting your day out with high levels of sugar can lead to a crash before lunch, at which point your body may crave more sugar, and the cycle begins.

It’s best to opt for a cereal that’s low in sugar and high in fiber and to make sure that you get enough protein. Rather than relying solely on the milk in your cereal for protein, add in some nuts or have an egg on the side for an added boost.

Nutella Is Packed With Sugar And Palm Oil

scooping-out-nutella
Mikael Stenberg/Unsplash
Mikael Stenberg/Unsplash

While Nutella does contain hazelnuts, its nutrition facts are nothing like what you’d find in the actual nut. If you compared two tablespoons of Nutella to two tablespoons of hazelnut, you’ll find that the chocolaty spread has double the fat, seven times more carbs, and half the fiber.

That’s because the top two ingredients in Nutella are sugar and palm oil. Fortunately, not all nut butters are created equal. Many almond butter brands are made with nothing but almonds, providing a quarter of the carbs and four times more protein and fiber as Nutella.

Fruit Yogurt Has More Additives Than Fruit

Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dietitian Sydney Greene warns against fruit yogurts, especially those with the fruit on the bottom. That’s because they contain a mixture of sugar, cornstarch, and fruit that is far less nutritious than simply adding fruit to plain yogurt.

She uses Dannon Blueberry Fruit On The Bottom as an example, which has the equivalent of four packets of sugar added to the yogurt. Instead, opt for plain yogurt that you can add to, or at least a low sugar, high protein yogurt like Siggi’s.

Pretzels Are Full Of Sodium

pretzels
Michael Longmire/Unsplash
Michael Longmire/Unsplash

Though sometimes thought of as a healthy snack, pretzels are loaded with sodium. Take for example Rold Gold tiny twist pretzels. Just one ounce, or 17 of the tiny pretzels, has 20% of your daily intake of sodium.

What’s worse is that they don’t have very much nutritional value, so it can be easy to overdo it while munching on the salty snack. Live Science reports that eating too much sodium holds extra fluid in the body, leading to higher blood pressure and increased risk of osteoporosis, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, and stomach cancer.

Soda Contains High Levels Of Acid And Sugar

woman-drinking-a-coke
Fernando Camino/Cover/Getty Images
Fernando Camino/Cover/Getty Images

Soda’s adverse health effects have become increasingly well-known over the years. One of the most obvious reasons is its high sugar content, which combined with its lack of nutritional value make it easy to overconsume.

Additionally, researchers have found that sugary drinks like soda may increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Soda and diet soda may cause tooth decay from its high levels of phosphoric and carbonic acid. And diet soda may be linked to kidney disease, according to a study published by NCBI.

Fat-Free Dressings Make Your Vegetables Less Beneficial

Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post via Getty Images
Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

According to Mario Ferruzzi, a professor of food science at Purdue, the absence of fat causes some of the benefits of fruits and vegetables to become lost. That’s because fats help your body absorb carotenoids, a phytochemical that acts as an antioxidant in the body.

Dietitian Lily Nichols warns that fat-free dressings are often full of harmful ingredients, such as hydrogenated oil, xanthan gum, carrageenan, and corn syrup. In short, it’s more important to be critical of the ingredients in dressings and to be sure that you’re getting adequate healthy fats.

Fake Maple Syrup Is Full Of Additives

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

If you’re a big fan of pancake syrup brands like Aunt Jemima, you may want to check out the label. The ingredients list doesn’t even include maple syrup! Instead, manufacturers mix corn syrup and caramel color to give the look of maple syrup, but at the cost of additives.

Other ingredients you can expect to find are cellulose gum, artificial flavoring, preservatives like sorbic acid, and sodium hexametaphosphate. Since some of these additives have potentially harmful effects, it’s better to stick with the real thing. At the same time, real maple syrup is a form of sugar and should, therefore, be used sparingly.

Agave Nectar Is Extremely High In Fructose

Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Andrew Weil, M.D., warns that agave nectar may not be as ideal of a sweetener as some have thought. The reason is that the substance is extremely high in fructose, even higher than high fructose corn syrup! That’s why agave has such a low glycemic index, as fructose does not spike blood sugar levels.

Its high fructose content is concerning because consuming too much may disrupt liver function and increase risk of Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Weil suggests converting to a lower fructose sweetener like pure maple syrup.

Processed Cheese Is Full Of Artificial Ingredients

The Washington Post via Getty Images
The Washington Post via Getty Images

Processed cheese like American cheese, Velveeta, Cheese Wiz and the stuff they pour on top of nachos at baseball games, are only about 50% actual cheese. The other half are salt, food dyes, other forms of dairy (such as whey), emulsifiers, and artificial ingredients.

Aside from wanting to make something extra gooey, manufacturers opt for this extremely processed food because it lasts long and sometimes doesn’t even need refrigeration. Aside from being full of questionable ingredients, these cheeses tend to be higher in sodium than regular cheese.

Frosting Is Full Of Bad-For-You Ingredients

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

While it may not be a surprise that frosting is primarily sugar, that’s not the only ingredient that may be adverse to your health. Depending on the brand, you can expect to see hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, palm oil, corn syrup, artificial coloring, modified corn starch, xanthan gum, and a host of other preservatives and fillers.

To top it all off, there is virtually no nutritional value in frosting. Aside from moderation, you can enjoy a number of healthy frosting recipes that are cashew or avocado-based and provide nutrition rather than harmful additives.

Breakfast Pastries Have Little To Offer

pop-tarts
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

When it comes to breakfast pastries like Pop-Tarts or Toaster Strudel, their ingredients list looks oddly similar to that of frosting, with the addition of enriched flour. Full of sugar, oils, corn syrup, and fillers, these foods are hardly worth having as a dessert, let alone indulging in at the start of the day.

Just one Pop-Tart has 35 carbs, 170mg of sodium, and a mere 2 grams of protein. That means the “breakfast” food will offer you little more than a sugar spike that even its modest list of vitamins and minerals won’t make up for.

Barbecue Sauce Is Full Of Sugar And Sodium

RitaE/Pixabay
RitaE/Pixabay

Unlike mustard, which has only 3 calories, most barbecue sauces have around 75 calories per serving, many of which come from sugar. You can typically find sugar or high fructose corn syrup listed as the first or second ingredient, meaning it is one of the most predominant ingredients.

Additionally, barbecue sauce typically has around 10-20% of your daily intake of sodium, which is especially high for a condiment. While its contents make it a perfect mixture of salty and sweet, that’s also why its health impact is double the trouble.

Maraschino Cherries Are More Sugar Than Cherry

Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Maraschino cherries are preserved in a thick coat of high fructose corn syrup, hence their shine. They can last years since they’re so heavily preserved, but the process of preserving them strips the cherries of just about all of their nutritional value.

Though cherries are naturally red, maraschino cherries are pumped with artificial coloring to give them a more vibrant tone. They are essentially a real cherry turned into a fake cherry at the cost of all nutrition and the addition of sugar; you’re much better off eating fresh cherries.

White Grains Are Stripped Of Their Nutrients

Peter Lewicki/Unsplash
Peter Lewicki/Unsplash

Whether it’s white rice, white bread, or white pasta, they’re all essentially stripped of the nutrients that make them worth the extra carbohydrates. One of the most essential nutrients that’s depleted is the fiber.

They lose their nutritional value because the grains undergo far more processing than whole wheat variations do. On top of that, white flour is sometimes bleached to look brighter. That’s why it’s often suggested that you either opt for a healthier option altogether or only partake in these foods moderately.

Granola Bars Aren’t Worth The Calories

BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Physician Lara Devgan states that she avoids granola bars since they are high in calories and yet don’t seem to fill you up. Granola bard typically have around 200 calories and a couple of packets worth of sugar in them.

Those that are lower in sugar may use sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners that may not be better for your health in the long run. Despite their content, many of these bars don’t satisfy your hunger for long despite their fat content and micronutrients.

Diet Ice Cream May Be Hard On Your Digestive System

Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Diet ice creams like Halo Top, which sports less than 400 calories a pint, seem like a dream come true for some dessert lovers. The problem is that they lower the calories with ingredients like erythritol, carob gum, and guar gum. WebMD states that sugar alcohols, including erythritol, do not absorb in the small intestine and therefore add fewer calories to your body.

The downside is that this can lead to digestive issues when overly consumed, which is precisely what these diet ice creams promote. Likewise, Natural Health Journal reports that people with gastrointestinal problems are more likely to have a negative reaction to gum thickeners.

Egg Beaters Aren’t The Healthier Choice

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As a general rule of thumb, eating an all natural food tends to be the better choice compared to a heavily processed item. Egg Beaters have the exact opposite presumption: that natural eggs are the enemy due to their cholesterol and saturated fat.

As such, Egg Beaters remove the yolk and add in a bunch of fillers to provide similar micronutrients and far less fat and calories. What you end up with is gum, matlodextrin, and nutrients that may interact differently than they do when they occur in natural food. If you’re cutting down saturated fat, cut the chips before you cut the eggs.

Premade Fruit Smoothies

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Freshly made fruit smoothies can be a wonderful choice for a boost of nutrition throughout the day, especially if you add in some vegetables. However, many of the premade fruit smoothies you’ll find and the grocery store have a highly concentrated about of sugar.

Though there may not be added sugar, these juices often condense the fruit into such a small amount that they lose filling nutrients like fiber and deliver too much sugar at once. You’re better off eating a ton of fruit and feeling the added satisfaction.

Fruit Juice Is All Sugar And No Fiber

Houin/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Houin/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

First and foremost, it’s vital to be sure that if you are consuming juice, it’s 100% juice. Many juices have sugar listed before the fruit they’re derived from, and only contain 10 or 15% actual juice.

Secondly, even the 100% fruit juice is essentially the fruit stripped of its fiber, which leaves you feeling less full and more likely to overdo the sugar. From a nutritional standpoint, it’s best to eat the actual fruit to get all of the benefits. If you must drink juice, keep it moderate by watering it down.

Granola Can Cause Weight Gain

Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images
Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images

Depending on the brand, granola can end up doing more harm than good due to its high calorie content, especially if sugar is the primary culprit. Many granola serving sizes are only 1/3-1/2 a cup, so it can be easy to overdo it.

Especially if its a low fat variation, the sugar content may be surprising. Just look at Kellogg’s Low Fat Granola, which has 14 grams of sugar in half a cup. For an added crunch to your yogurt or cereal, opt for nuts or seeds that are high in protein and fiber.

Packaged Baked Goods Can Be Loaded With Chemicals

Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Gastroenterologist Rebekah Gross discourages buying packaged goods that are deemed “low-fat” since they often make up for the lack of fat with chemicals. The same can be said about low sugar alternatives.

She says that the more natural the ingredients, the more likely they are to satisfy. Additionally, highly processed foods are more likely to cause stomach upset since they can have ingredients that our bodies more poorly digest. Moderate indulgence is better than trying to cut corners with questionable ingredients.

Deli Meats Can Be Highly Processed

Jan Woitas/picture alliance via Getty Images
Jan Woitas/picture alliance via Getty Images

The World Health Organization classified processed meat as carcinogenic, and found that eating 50 grams of it a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Nutritionist Joy McCarthy suggests avoiding lunch meats that contain nitrates/nitrites, BHA, BHT, smoke flavour, corn syrup, and aspartame.

She also recommends opting for organic options since they come from animals that had a pesticide-free diet. It’s also important to be wary of an excessive sodium content in these meats.

Hot Dogs Are High Risk

hot-dogs-on-a-bbq
BHarner30/Pixabay
BHarner30/Pixabay

As with other processed meats, hot dogs contain carcinogens that may increase your risk for certain health complications. Additionally, they are high in saturated fat and sodium. One hot dog link includes a quarter of your daily value of sodium and four grams of saturated fat.

Though they are naturally low in carbohydrates, a link only contains about 5 grams of protein, which is not enough to sustain a meal. Since they are made from multiple types of meat, they are also more likely to have a food recall or cause an allergic reaction.

Bouillon Cubes Are Packed With Sodium

Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Bouillon cubes are an easy way to flavor homemade soups, but they tend to have little to offer nutritionally aside from high levels of sodium. Many brands also sport less than ideal ingredients lists, too.

Hydrogenated oil, food coloring, monosodium glutamate, TBHQ, and maltodextrin are a few of the more common ingredients in these cubes that may have adverse effects on your health. Making your own broth is the best way to ensure you’re getting natural nutrients without the risk of processed ingredients.

Chicken That Isn’t Antibiotic Free

HOANG DINH NAM/AFP via Getty Images
HOANG DINH NAM/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization reports that the use of antibiotics in animals contributes to the risk of superbugs in humans. While the FDA requires chickens to be weaned off antibiotics before being processed, consumming antibiotics at any point in their life still presents a risk of illness to humans by creating drug-resistant bacteria.

That’s why it’s important to ensure that the chicken you select is antibiotic free. If you really want to go the extra mile, opt for organic chicken. To be considered organic, the chicken has to be antibiotic free, fed organic feed, and given access to the outdoors.

Fruit Snacks Are Basically Gummy Bears

Inspired Images/Pixabay
Inspired Images/Pixabay

Don’t let the name fool you; fruit snacks are more or less candy marketed as a snack. If you compare them to gummy bears, you’ll see that both consist of glucose syrup, natural and artificial flavors, food dye, citric acid, oil, and wax.

In terms of nutrition, fruit snacks at least offer some vitamins, depending on the brand. Still, that hardly outweighs the heavy carb count and questionable ingredients list. If anything, they should be considered a dessert.

Margarine Has Artificial Ingredients

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Invented in France towards the end of the 19th century, margarine was initially thought to be a healthier substitution for butter since is was lower in saturated fats. While this is true, the highly processed food resulted in trans fats, which aren’t exactly better for you.

Though many margarine brands today avoid transfats, they still are riddled with chemicals and artificial flavors that turn the oil it’s made from into a butter-looking substance. That’s why it’s ideal to opt for butter and consumme it in moderation.

Sports Drinks Are Loaded With Sugar

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Though its important to replenish electorlytes after an intense workout, certain sports drinks may be misleading you. They often come in large bottles that are anywhere from 12 to 32 fluid ounces and provide about 14 grams of sugar per cup.

The high sugar content sends the calories through the roof, undoing some of the hard work you just did exercising. Instead, try getting an electrolyte mix that you add to water for a recover drink without the sugar.

Fruit Cocktail Is Layered In Syrup

Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Fruit cocktail can seem like a convenient substitute for fresh fruit because it doesn’t spoil, but that’s what actually make it the worse of the two. Fruit cocktails are layered in corn syrup, adding more sugar to fruit, which already has plenty.

Additionally, they are often preserved in more fruit juice, which increases the sugar count that much more while reducing the fiber. As with juice and premade smoothies, you’re much better off eating the piece of fruit whole.

Baked Chips Aren’t Healthy Chips

James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images
James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

Baked chips can be misleading since they seem like the better alternative to high-fat fried chips. While they do have some advantages over their fried counterpart, they are still highly preserved chips full of artificial ingredients.

The best way to conquer your chip craving is to bake them yourself to avoid any unwanted ingredients like soy lecithin, dextrose, and annatto. Simply slice up a potato, layer it in your favorite oil with some light seasoning, and pop it in the oven!

Boxed Mac And Cheese Is Artificial

should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images
should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

Anytime you have a perishable food like cheese in powder form, your preservative alarms should be going off. Indeed, Kraft Mac and Cheese contains very high levels of sodium phosphate, not just for taste but for the sake of keeping it preserved.

Just one serving has a quarter of your daily value of sodium and only 8 grams of protein. You’re better off eating whole wheat pasta with a moderate amount of butter and parmesan.

Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter Loses Healthy Fats

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Being that most of the fat in peanuts are unsaturated fats that are beneficial to your health, cutting the overall fat of peanut butter means losing these benefits. Furthermore, the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat is comparable to that of olive oil, which is generally regarded as a healthy fat.

Worst of all, manufacturers sometimes use harmful solvents to separate the fat from the peanut butter, which can leave behind a chemical residue. Instead of worrying about the fat in peanut butter, opt for an all natural brand with low sugar and low preservatives.

Cool Whip Is More Oil Than Cream

Toa Heftiba/Unsplash
Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

Though Cool Whip looks like a cloud of cream, it hardly contains any dairy. The most prominent ingredient, after water, is hydrogenated vegetable oil, followed by high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and skim milk.

It also contains guar and xanthan gums as fillers and a host of artificial flavors and chemicals. What you’re left with is a heavily processed concoction that’s void of all nutrition and loaded with items that serve to only confuse your body.

Flavored Iced Tea Can Spike Your Blood Sugar

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Flavored iced tea takes a good, antioxidant-filled tea and obliterates its health benefits with high fructose corn syrup, sugar, sucralose, food dye, and more. Diet tea can contain harmful substances like aspartame that aren’t any better than their sugar counterparts.

If you’re going to grab a bottled tea, it’s best to opt for an unsweetened brand and then add some lemon or a packet of honey to keep the sugar contain from getting too high.

Energy Drinks Are Terrible For Your Teeth

energy-drinks
Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images
Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images

While it may not be a surprise that energy drinks can be dangerous for your heart if overly consummed, less talked about is how damaging they can be to your teeth. According to a study by the University of Maryland, energy drinks are more than ten times more corrosive to your teeth than soda.

Plus, drinking too much caffeine in general can cause an array of negative side effects, like increased blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, and more.