Foods with unhealthy, weird side effects, packaged snacks targeted for fit consumers, and convenient cheat meals you indulge in from time to time do more damage to your health than you think—or care to admit. Aside from keeping your abs sheathed in a layer of fat, the preservatives and potentially dangerous chemicals lurking in your pantry and fridge can cause a slew of long term problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
These 25 foods have no place in a fit guy's diet. Go through the list and make note of the ones you eat on the regular—there are some obvious carb and sugar bombs like bagels and ice cream, but then there are lesser-known bad-for-you eats like soy and certain fish—and remove them from your food plan.
Is shark meat worse than its bite? Probably not, but hey, it’s still awfully unhealthy, according to a CNNreport. When consumed, the mercury levels in shark meat can cause coordination loss, blindness, even death. Scientists believe sharks have such a dangerously high mercury content because they prey on large quantities of small fish. To be safe, stay away from swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, too; these varieties also have high levels of mercury, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's guidelines. Feast on shrimp, light canned tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish instead.
Too much soy could have unfortunate side effects for men. According to a study published in the Oxford Journal, men who consumed just half a serving of soy-based foods daily over the span of three months had 41 million sperm/ml less than men who didn’t consume soy foods at all (the average concentration of sperm ranges between 80 and 120 million/ml). Researchers believe isoflavones—plant compounds with estrogen-like effects—found in soybeans may be to blame. If you're a vegan or a vegetarian, look to other meatfree muscle-building foods.
Doughnuts, cake, cookies, and muffins—dammit if they aren’t delicious, but man are they sugar bombs. One measly donut will cost you anywhere from 200 to 500 calories and packs 25 to 50 grams of sugar. Wonder how your favorite packaged cookie stacks up? Three Chips Ahoy! Chocolate chip cookies yield 160 calories and 8 grams of fat. But let’s be honest: Do you ever stop after three? We didn’t think so. Whether you’re hitting up the local bakery or Little Debbie, any and all baked goods will cause rapid weight gain and poor digestive function.
Passing on an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese is no small feat for mortal man. Bagels are sinfully delicious; but definitely more sinful. They come in around 400 calories and have about 70 grams of carbohydrates—before any spread. If you smear sparingly—that is a pat of butter, or a smear of cream cheese, you’ll add on approximately 40 and 35 calories, respectively. But it’s not just the calories you have to worry about. Bagels have a massively high glycemic index (which increases insulin and inflammation within the body), so it could accelerate aging and worsen acne.
Most breakfast cereals—even the ones that aren’t neon or loaded with marshmallows—are sugar-laden. This, in addition to high gluten content, is a sure-fire way to cause inflammation in your stomach lining. Opt for oatmeal instead; and be sure to go for steel-cut oats, not the prepackaged packets—those are just as bad for you. Here's everything you need to know about oatmeal.
Not all chocolate is created equal. In this case, the health benefits among varieties are black and white (and brown). Dark chocolate is an excellent antioxidant-filled superfood and the healthiest variety of chocolate (though by no means should you be wolfing down a bar a day); milk chocolate is less nutritious and contains more milk and dairy fat than dark chocolate; and white chocolate is the worst in terms of health benefits—a 3 oz. serving has 50 grams of sugar (that’s over 12 tablespoons). Eat too much sugar and you can suffer tooth decay and obesity. For the most part, stay away from the sweet stuff. But when you need a chocolate fix, opt for a 1 oz. piece of dark chocolate.
French fries are deep-fried in oils and trans fats, a major cause of heart attacks. Strike one. The potatoes themselves are high on the glycemic index, leading to an increase in insulin levels, which is bad for your health—and waistline. Strike two. French fries also contain acrylamide, a known carcinogen that forms when foods are baked or fried at high temperatures. Strike three.
Popcorn seems harmless enough, what with air pop and stovetop options that turn the movie theater staple into a decent source of satisfying fiber. But most times, popcorn is overloaded with unhealthy fats, sky-high sodium levels, and in some cases, laced with carcinogens. Diacetyl is a cancer-causing chemical found in popcorn’s artificial fat, while Perfluorochemicals, linked to thyroid disease and ADHD, are added to make the microwavable bag grease-proof.
The label reads cholesterol-free, and it’s supposed to be the healthier alternative to butter, but in actuality, margarine is just a tub of trans fat. And ironically enough, trans fat elevates cholesterol levels and damages blood vessel walls, boosting your risk for cardiovascular disease and heart attack. You want good fat in your diet, like omega-3 fatty acids, not trans fat.
Artificial sweeteners in diet soda, much less your diet, offer no health benefits whatsoever. The only thing they’re good for is contributing to weight gain and health problems. According to a Purdue University study, these chemically made sweeteners fool your body into thinking you’re eating real food and, because they’re so much sweeter than actual sugar, your body pumps out insulin to regulate your levels, which in turn, becomes stored fat.
Right now, you probably have about 17 cans of soup stacked in your pantry or cupboards from the last time they were on sale for $.99. Yes, they’re cheap. Yes, they’re convenient. Yes, practically a monkey can open and cook them. But, no, you shouldn’t be eating canned soup on the regular. The infinite shelf life should be your first clue that it’s terrible for you, and has enough sodium to sky-rocket your blood pressure. Most are so processed, nearly all of the nutrients and health benefits have been zapped out.
Greater things have come about since the invention of sliced bread. Not to say all carbs are bad and should be avoided completely (see 7 Reasons to Eat More Carbs), but you should avoid white pastas, rice, and breads. When white bread is made, it’s actually stripped of its essential B vitamins, wheat germ and fiber, leaving a processed byproduct that raises your insulin, plummets energy levels, and increases weight gain when consumed. Opt for whole grain instead; it’ll give you longer-lasting energy.
Aside from slowing your motor skills, decreasing your strength and agility, and inhibiting muscle recovery, alcohol is a diuretic—meaning it dehydrates you. Ever wonder why you wake up at 8 a.m. after a night of binge drinking with your tongue glued to your mouth and the mother of all thirsts that can’t be quenched until you’ve chugged every bottled water and Gatorade in your fridge? Well, now you know.
If your snack bar is a glorified candy bar—or is in fact, a candy bar— you’re in trouble. The added sugars and fats can easily pack on the pounds if you’re not careful. Look for bars with short ingredient lists (with items you can pronounce) and minimal sugar.
For some reason, pretzels have the illusion of being a healthy snack. And we’re not even talking about the jumbo soft pretzels (which will knock you back 500 calories). Ten original hard, twisty pretzels are half the calories, but they’re still high in salt, and lack healthy fat and fiber. You can inhale half a bag, and still be hungry for more.
For the most part, fish is healthy—until you toss it in breadcrumbs and fry it in oil. Now you have a trans-fat-soaked concoction known as the fish stick. Always opt for fresh fish from trustworthy sources.
The humble sandwich is a common lunch staple that packs a ton of sodium (just three slices of deli turkey breast has up to 1,050 mg). All the added salt and nitrates lurking in your sandwich, on average, fulfill 30 to 46 percent of your daily sodium allotment, according to a study from the US Department of Agriculture, and is associated with a higher risk for heart disease and cancer. Buy chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken, or fresh turkey meat instead to stay lean and healthy.
People may criticize skim milk, plant-based alternatives, and other milk varieties for being “watered down” or fake versions of the real deal, but all the extra fat in whole milk raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol. This means you’re clogging your arteries in the long haul. Plus, its sugars are slow digesting, so it may cause stomach discomfort. If you want the texture and thickness of whole milk without all the calories, use coconut milk in your coffee, cereal, and smoothies.
The problem with most juices is they’re loaded with added sugar, so they aren’t particularly nutritious. (The same goes for canned fruit—you're better off with the real deal since most varieties are packaged in syrup and other preservatives.) Unsweetend cherry or grape juice, on the other hand, can help you recover after a difficult workout by keeping your blood flowing properly, boosting your cardiovascular health, and filling your body with antioxidants.
All those “healthy” little snack cups of yogurt with fruit on the bottom, or granola mix-ins are an avalanche of sugar. Essentially you're eating dessert for breakfast or your midday snack. All that does is spike your blood sugar, and prevent you from achieving the lean physique you want. Purchase plain Greek or original yogurt, and flavor it sparingly with honey or a few pieces of frozen fruit like blueberries or cherries.
If everything you eat is smeared with mayo, dipped in BBQ sauce, or dunked in dressing, you’re overloading your body with unnecessary fat, sugar, and calories. Instead of burying your nutrient-dense meal in preservatives and food dye, opt for mustard, pesto, salsa, olive oil, or vinegar instead.
That whopping waffle cone filled with ice cream, loaded with syrup, crammed with sugar is going straight to your pancreas (to produce a rush of insulin) and then to your gut (to live there as fat). The problem with ice cream is it’s actually addicting. The sugar triggers the production of serotonin—the happiness hormone—in your brain, making you crave more of the sweet stuff.
You have your doubts about what’s in sausage, but that doesn’t stop you from having a link or two with breakfast, and grilling up a brat for lunch. But, know this: two links of store-bought breakfast varieties have 420 mg of sodium. And bacon? Three slices boast 450 mg. But the health problems are far worse than the salt. Men who eat processed meat every day have lower sperm counts than those who consume them sparingly. And fast food burgers? They're even worse. A whopping 64 percent of calories come from fat. Cruise home and grill your own.
For the most part, nuts are healthy—until you drench them in yogurt, or chocolate, and mix them in with dried fruit. Now, instead of a hearty fiber-filled snack, you have a tub of candy. In most trail mix, a fourth-cup serving can have up to 150 calories. If you know how small that serving size is, you’ll nix the store-bought stuff for good and serve up your own instead. If your goal is to burn fat and build muscle, stray from added sugar and up the protein profile by adding oats, almonds, and walnuts.