20 Foods You Never Knew Were Terrible For You

There are some foods that you just know are bad for you, like candy and soda. But there's some foods that, while they certainly aren't located in the health food aisle, you never really deemed them as 'bad'. Eat This has done some researching into the additives and chemicals in your every day foods and found 20 that you should just stop eating.

1. Microwave Popcorn

Harmful Ingredients: Diacetyl, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and trans-fats

If you thought the movie you were watching was terrifying, you probably haven’t taken a very close look at your popcorn. When air-popped, this snack has filling fiber and whole grains we love, but the microwaveable varieties are an entirely different beast. Many major brands like Jolly Time and Jiffy Pop not only contain heart-harming trans fats but also line their bags with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the same toxic stuff found in Teflon pots and pans. What’s more, butter-flavored favorites are almost always laced with diacetyl (DA), a chemical that has been found to break down the layer of cells that protects one of our most vital organs: the brain. Now that’s some scary stuff!

bw snacks popcorn
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Eat This Instead: Air pop kernels or make your own microwavable popcorn for a low-calorie snack. Here’s how: Add your favorite popping kernels to a small paper lunch bag, fold the top down a few times. Then, zap it in the microwave until you hear only a few pops every five seconds. Challenged in the kitchen? We’re also big fans of Quinn Popcorn. It’s one of the only microwavable popcorns that’s free of chemicals and won’t wreak havoc on your waistline.

2. Fruit Juice

Harmful Ingredients: Fructose

It’s natural! It’s packed with vitamin C! It comes from Florida! What could be wrong? Well, while 100 percent fruit juice is a better pick than sugary drinks like Sunny D, even the all-natural stuff still packs up to 36 grams of sugar per cup — or about what you’d get from popping four Krispy Kreme glazed donuts into a blender and hitting frappe. What’s more, most of the sweetness in juice comes from fructose, a type of sugar associated with the development of visceral adipose tissue — yep, that’s belly fat.

grape juice
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Drink This Instead: Trick your belly into shrinking itself by filling your glass with some refreshing detox water. Just add fresh sliced fruit like oranges and grapefruit to plain ole’ H20 and chill. The key is to keep the peels on: citrus peels are rich in the antioxidant d-limonene, a powerful compound that helps flush out toxins from the body and allow it to release stored visceral fat.

3. Jelly and Jams

Harmful Ingredients: Pectin and added sugar

These classic spreads look innocent enough, but they’re really just pieces of fruit smothered in calorie-laden sugar and pectin, a natural fruit fiber that makes the spread nice and sticky. What’s so bad about a natural fiber? Well, just as it causes jelly to stick to your fingers, pectin also sticks to health-boosting antioxidants like beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein, carrying them out of your system before your body can benefit from them. Smuckers Strawberry Jam and Concord Grape Jelly both contain high levels of pectin and quite a bit of added sugar, so be sure to keep your distance.

bagel jelly
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Eat This Instead: Your safest bet is to top your peanut butter sandwiches with fresh pieces of fruit like banana and strawberries. You’ll get a similar taste with none of the added sugar or pectin. Not willing to ditch your spread? Try Polaner All Fruit Spreadable Fruit Apricot. Apricots are naturally low in pectin and the spread is free of added sugars.

4. Candy

Harmful Ingredients: Artificial coloring, added sugar, saturated fats

You already knew all the artery-clogging fats and addicting sugars in candy weren’t doing you or your family any favors, but you likely didn’t realize that certain candies can actually make it more difficult for your little ones to concentrate. A few years ago, researchers discovered that the artificial colors, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 (found in Butterfingers and M&Ms), promote Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in children. In fact, Norway and Sweden have already banned the use of these artificial colors, and in the rest of the EU, foods containing these additives must be labeled with the phrase: “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

jars candy
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Eat This Instead: Amy’s Natural Creamy Candy Bar. While this bar has about the same amount of calories, fat and sugar as Butterfinger, it’s free of all artificial colorings. M&M fans should check out Unreal’s Candy-Coated Milk Chocolates. It’s a similar product, but free of all the scary chemicals. If there’s no way you could ever trade in your go-to candy for another sweet, here’s hoping your sweet of choice is made by Nestlế. By the end of 2015, the company will have phased out the use of all artificial dyes. If you have the time, try making one of these healthy desserts.

5. Sugary Cereal

Harmful Ingredients: Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), refined carbs, added sugar

There’s no sugar-coating it: Sugar wreaks havoc on the body. Consuming too much of the white stuff can lead to obesity, which often causes other health problems like diabetes and heart disease. And many cereals pack more sugar into one bowl than you’ll find in a Boston Kreme Donut! To make matters worse, many popular varieties like Frosted Flakes and Fruity Pebbles are also laced with Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) or BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole), ingredients that are banned in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and much of Europe because they are thought to be carcinogenic.

sugary cereal
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Eat This Instead: Cascadian Farms Chocolate O's and Nature's Path Peanut Butter Panda Puffs are both flavor-packed, low-sugar picks that don’t contain any scary chemicals.

What other foods should you be avoiding? Find them on the next page.

6. Diet Sodas

Harmful Ingredients: Caramel coloring, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), Bisphenol A (BPA), aspartame

What do cancer-causing artificial colors, flame retardants and fat-causing fake sugars all have in common? They’re ingredients in all your favorite diet fizzy drinks. Shove all that into a bottle laced with BPA, a chemical that’s been linked to obesity, and you’ve pretty much got the worst drink ever. Nearly all popular diet sodas contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener that raises glucose levels, overloading the liver and causing the excess to convert into fat. And that’s not all: The caramel coloring found in brown beverages like Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper has been proven to cause cancer in animals and is a possible carcinogen for humans. If citrus-flavored sodas like Diet Mountain Dew and Fresca are your go-to, you’re not off scot-free. Instead of caramel coloring they contain BVO, a chemical used in rocket fuel and flame retardants that may reduce fertility and can negatively affect thyroid hormones.

glasses soda
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Eat This Instead: While Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have agreed to phase BVO out of their sodas, it’s still actively used in sodas from Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Inc. Even so, all these drinks contain aspartame, and that’s just not something we can get behind. If you’re sick of plain ole’ H20, opt for one of these 5 Best Teas for Weight Loss or a cup of coffee instead.

7. Coffee Creamer

Harmful Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, trans fats, added sugar

Coffee creamer and sunblock have more in common that you might think. They both contain titanium dioxide, an ultraviolet radiation blocker that doubles as a whitening agent. Besides lurking in many conventional creamers, it’s also found in seemingly ‘healthy’ bottles like So Delicious’ coconut milk-based variety. The additive has been proven to cause liver and tissue damage in mice, and may also have health implications in humans, according to a recent review of the chemical. Coffee creamer is also typically packed with trans fats, often hiding under its lesser-known name: hydrogenated oil. Pretty much all of Coffee Mate’s products have this scary ingredient that has been shown to diminish memory in adults under 45 years old. If you’re working hard or don’t want to forget where you parked your car, this is one ingredient you should steer clear of.

coffee creamer
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Eat This Instead: Plain ol’ cow’s milk or unsweetened, organic soy milk both make for healthy additions to your morning cup. If you’re looking for a hint of flavor, stick with a tablespoon of one of Coffee Mate's Natural Bliss creamers. They’re all made from nonfat milk, heavy cream, sugar and natural flavors — that’s it!

8. Processed Meats

Harmful Ingredients: Nitrate and salt

The bacon and sausage you enjoy for breakfast and the deli meats you use to make your lunch may be putting your life at risk. How? Many of these meats contain nitrates, a preservative that interferes with the body’s natural ability to process sugar, which increases the risk for diabetes. It can also up your odds of developing thyroid and colon cancer. If that wasn’t bad enough, most processed meats are also loaded with sodium, a known contributor to hypertension that can make you bloat and set you up to develop heart disease.

deli meat
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Eat This Instead: At the deli counter, ask for Boar's Head All Natural Roasted Turkey Breast. It’s free of nitrates and is relatively low in sodium. Applegate Natural's Natural Slow-Cooked Ham and Organic Bacon are also good picks that can be found in the meat and cheese section of your grocery store.

9. Ice Cream

Harmful Ingredients: Soybean oil, titanium dioxide, artificial coloring

Most “premium” ice creams are overloaded with sugar and soybean oil, a fat that’s been linked to weight gain. Some even contain harmful artificial coloring agents and titanium dioxide, an additive that gives sunblock its white hue!

strawberry ice cream
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Eat This Instead: To have your cake and eat it, too, stick with one of these Best Ever Ice Creams for Weight Loss. Alternatively, whip up one of these 9 Frozen Banana Ice Cream Recipes.

10. Bottled Smoothies

Harmful Ingredients: Caramel coloring, pectin, fructose, xanthan gum

Busy mornings and grab-and-go breakfasts are practically synonymous — so it’s easy to see the appeal of store-bought smoothies. They seem like the best way to get what you crave in a pinch. But the timesaving drinks have a downside: Compared to fresh-made drinks, most of them fall short on nutrition and are so calorie- and sugar-filled that you’d have to spend hours on the treadmill to burn them off.


Drink This Instead: Play it safe by blending up this Strawberry Pineapple Protein Smoothie instead. It's a great source of vitamin C and still under 400 calories.

What other foods should you stop eating? Get the rest from Eat This.