Top 5 Bad foods

So, you’ve trained hard, recovered sufficiently from your training, and supported your regime with a considered nutritional programme. You’ve provided the stimulus and the building blocks to turn your body into a temple… or more likely, a fortress! Having a few days off isn’t likely to impair these training adaptations, while increasing your calorie intake to the point beyond where it’s beneficial is only going to start making you fatter after a sustained period of excess. However, there are some foods that will actively oppose your fitness gains, unreservedly unbalance your biochemistry and hurriedly harm your health! This article will focus on the top 5 (or bottom 5!) unhealthy foods that are lurking in supermarkets, take-aways and maybe even in your very own fridge! Understanding what these foods contain and what they do to us may help when it comes to steering clear of these pre-packed, processed poisons!

Doughnuts and Fries

This pair of perpetrators defines “empty calories”!  Essentially, these types of foods brake the golden rule of combining fat and carbohydrate, meaning that your body is stimulated to store energy as fat by the insulin-release… and then given plenty of fat to store in the form of vegetable oil! The oils used for deep frying are high in omega-6, already present in excessive amounts in the western diet, which may increase inflammation and compromise recovery from training. In addition, heating these oils may also increase levels of trans-fats, although McDonalds in the UK has switched to using non-hydrogenated oils. If we compare skinny fries with chunky chips, the extra surface area increases the amount of fat compared to carbohydrate, meaning that any potential for carbohydrate-recovery is non-existent, as we’ll just be “Wide-loading”, rather than “carb loading”!  Weight for weight, fries have 50% more fat and 25% less carbs than oven-chips (which are hardly a health food to begin with!). Now if we consider doughnuts, with their additional sugar, as well as the possibility of trans fats being used in some less reputable establishments, then we can see the many levels on which these foods conspire to impair health. Although potatoes are high in vitamin C, this is in the skin, and doughnuts are pretty much devoid of micronutrients. Why would you eat these foods, you doughnut!?

Doner Kebabs

Like many of these “anti-nutrient” foods, this could be healthy if only people didn’t cut corners, use inferior produce, and seemingly make a concerted effort to pollute what we’re eating! Lamb itself is a wonderful food that’s stacked with glutamine and iron, making it ideal for recovery from exercise, immune function, and oxygen transport. So, how do they go about making it so bad? Well, firstly, the name “lamb” covers all different cuts of meat. The tail, being particularly high in saturated fat, is used to keep the kebab moist and succulent, while additional saturated fat is smeared on top of the doner to baste the “meat” throughout cooking. So, they take an already fatty meat and add additional saturates! However gratuitous, that may sound yet more “bad fat” is added in the form of hydrogenated oils, or trans-fats. While writing a recent piece of investigative journalism, a curious reporter took it upon himself to analyse a Mancunian kebab, revealing it to contain of 5.8g trans-fat, compared to 0.87g in a Big Mac (www.manchesteronline.co.uk 2009; drquincy.com 2010). Trans fats decrease insulin concentration leading to insulin resistance – (Bhathena 2006; Lichtenstein, Appel et al. 2006) and cause cancer and autoimmune diseases (Levine and Labuza 1990; Qu, Xu et al. 1992; Wang, John et al. 2008). Too many doners, and you may soon be searching for a (blood/liver/heart/kidney) DONOR!

Aspartame

A lot of the evidence on the negative effects of artificial sweeteners is equivocal, although it does make shocking reading. Even if the studies aren’t conclusive, the numerous reports and physiological links with so many areas of bad health would persuade many people to shy away from these compounds, just to be sure! Aspartame could be potentially toxic due to the following break-down products:
•    Methanol and formaldehyde
i    Methanol > > formaldehyde >> formate
ii    Methanol/localised formate production in retina causes blindness
iii    Formaldehyde from Aspartame may increase neurotoxicity of other compounds such as the aspartate, killing brain cells!
iv    Formaldehyde alters DNA; this is carcinogenic (cancer causing)
•    Phenylalanine
i     Possibly decreases tyrosine and tryptophan uptake into brain, decreasing levels of serotonin and catecholamines.
•    Aspartate and Glutamate
i    Neurotoxicity

While these mechanisms are relatively speculative, studies on humans have revealed that consuming sweetener can actually increase calorie intake (LAVIN, #160 et al. 1997; Fowler, Williams et al. 2008). It seems that priming the body for a sweet reward causes more eating in subsequent days.
This may leave a sour taste in your mouth!

Cola

Colas contain caffeine and phosphoric acid, which may adversely affect bone-health. In order to neutralise the acidity, calcium may be leached from the bones and studies have shown that Bone Mineral Density (BMD) may decline in women who consume a lot of cola (Tucker, Morita et al. 2006). The mean BMD of those with daily cola intake was 3.7-5.4% lower than of those who drank cola less than once per month. Similar results were seen for diet cola and, although weaker, for decaffeinated cola. “Full fat” Coke will also add another 7 tsp of sugar per can!! The Real Thing? A really, really BAD thing!

Cheap Meat

Again, sausages needn’t be bad, but poor quality meat just isn’t worth considering! A typical “value” supermarket sausage is around 40% “Pork”, the rest being made up with water and rusk. Ammonia is included as a preservative (the smelly chemical from bleach that your body tries so hard to eliminate in urine!), while suplhites are also found in high concentrations. These chemicals can cause breathing difficulties and allergy-like symptoms in sensitive individuals, as well as being known to destroy vitamin B1. The “pork” in these products is what’s known as  “mechanically separated/ recovered meat” (MSM/MRM), a paste-like substance obtained by forcing the pork bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve. Ironically, all these harmful substances are usually added as preservatives – although they will likely preserve the meat far more effectively that the individual eating it!

References

Bhathena, S. J. (2006). “Relationship between fatty acids and the endocrine and neuroendocrine system.” Nutr Neurosci 9(1-2): 1-10.
drquincy.com. (2010). from http://www.drquincy.com/blog/what-are-the-ingredients-of-takeaway-doner-meat/http://www.drquincy.com/blog/what-are-the-ingredients-of-takeaway-doner-meat/.
Fowler, S. P., K. Williams, et al. (2008). “Fueling the Obesity Epidemic[quest] Artificially Sweetened Beverage Use and Long-term Weight Gain.” Obesity 16(8): 1894-1900.
LAVIN, #160, et al. (1997). The effect of sucrose- and aspartame-sweetened drinks on energy intake, hunger and food choice of female, moderately restrained eaters. Basingstoke, ROYAUME-UNI, Nature Publishing.
Levine, A. S. and T. P. Labuza (1990). “Food systems: the relationship between health and food science/technology.” Environ Health Perspect 86: 233-238.
Lichtenstein, A. H., L. J. Appel, et al. (2006). “Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee.” Circulation 114(1): 82-96.
Qu, Y. H., G. X. Xu, et al. (1992). “Genotoxicity of heated cooking oil vapors.” Mutat Res 298(2): 105-111.
Tucker, K. L., K. Morita, et al. (2006). “Colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are associated with low bone mineral density in older women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study.” Am J Clin Nutr 84(4): 936-942.
Wang, J., E. M. John, et al. (2008). “Dietary fat, cooking fat, and breast cancer risk in a multiethnic population.” Nutr Cancer 60(4): 492-504.
www.manchesteronline.co.uk. (2009). from http://www.manchesteronline.co.uk/.

About Matt Lovell

A sports nutritionist and brand ambassador for Kinetica Sports. Matt also runs his own elite performance based company called Perform and Function.

Comments

  1. aspartame is known to cause cancer in laboratory animals so be careful;~`

  2. i thought aspartame can cause cancer in laboratory animals .

  3. Thanks Matt,
    Trying to get a million to vote
    All help appreciated
    Cheers
    Will

  4. i voted on there – i'm not into floride or any of the other shite they put into the eco system and feed to animals or plants.
    more people should vote – maybe one day things will clean up a bit.

  5. Thanks MIke,
    Hoping you will vote on the poll at noaspa.com, follow/promote the campaign about aspartame awareness – and encourage friends/readers here to do the same.
    Very best wishes

    Will

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