The Top 10 Foods to Avoid for a Long, Healthy Life

What we eat has a huge impact on our health and longevity. While no food is inherently “bad”, there are certain foods that can wreak havoc on our bodies if consumed regularly and in large amounts. Here are 10 of the unhealthiest foods that you should avoid or limit for optimal health and longevity.


Sugar is public enemy number one when it comes to your health. Not only does sugar contain empty calories with no nutrients, but it also has numerous detrimental effects on the body. Here’s why you should steer clear of added sugars:

  • Spikes Blood Sugar Since sugar is made up of 50% glucose, it rapidly spikes blood sugar when consumed. Over time, these blood sugar spikes can lead to insulin resistance, setting the stage for type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
  • Causes Fatty Liver The fructose component of sugar is metabolized by the liver. Consuming too much fructose overwhelms the liver and causes fat to accumulate, leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Addictive For many people, sugar is addictive. Eating even a small amount can trigger cravings for more. An excess of sugar promotes overeating and obesity.
  • Empty Calories Unlike whole foods, sugar contains no beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals or fiber. It simply provides empty calories that fill you up without nourishing your body.

While small amounts of sugar from natural sources like fruit are fine, you should avoid added and processed sugars as much as possible.

Vegetable and Seed Oils

Vegetable oils like soybean, corn and canola oils are highly processed oils that are unhealthy to cook with or consume. Here’s what’s wrong with vegetable oils:

  • High in Inflammatory Omega-6s Vegetable oils are extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids. Although some omega-6s are healthy, consuming too much can promote inflammation in the body.
  • Heavily Processed To extract the oils from seeds and grains, harsh chemical solvents and high heat are used. This damages the fragile polyunsaturated fats in these oils, creating free radicals and toxic byproducts.
  • Increase Heart Disease Risk Multiple studies show that consuming vegetable oils increases markers of inflammation, oxidative stress and atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of arteries), all major risk factors for heart attacks and strokes.

It’s best to avoid vegetable oils completely. Instead, cook with nourishing fats like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and red palm oil.


Margarine was created as a butter substitute and is even more processed than vegetable oils. Here’s what makes margarine unhealthy:

  • Contains Trans Fats To make margarine solid at room temperature, hydrogenation is used to convert liquid vegetable oils into semi-solid fats. This creates artificial trans fats, the unhealthiest type of fat that raises heart disease risk.
  • Inflammatory Like vegetable oils, margarine is high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. It also contains oxidized cholesterol, which accelerates atherosclerosis.
  • Nutrient Poor Since margarine is highly processed and artificially fortified, most of the vitamins and minerals it contains are poorly absorbed by the body.

Instead of margarine, use grass-fed butter, coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil on your bread and toast. They are minimally processed and contain nutrients that nourish the body.

Fried Foods

It’s no secret that fried foods are unhealthy. The combination of cooking with vegetable oils and high heat creates oxidized, inflammatory fats that wreak havoc on your arteries and cells. Here’s why you should avoid fried foods:

  • Oxidative Damage When vegetable oils are heated to high temperatures, oxidation occurs. This creates toxic aldehyde byproducts that contribute to cancer, liver damage, inflammation and atherosclerosis.
  • Glycation Frying also causes glycation, where sugars bind to proteins. This forms advanced glycation end products (AGES) that activate oxidative stress and inflammation pathways.
  • Acrylamide Formation Starchy foods like fries contain sugars and amino acids that combine during frying temperatures to produce acrylamide, a potential carcinogen.

It’s best to bake, broil or grill foods rather than fry them. Choose olive oil, ghee or coconut oil for high-heat cooking when needed.

Modern Wheat

Wheat has changed dramatically in the past 50-70 years due to genetic modifications and hybridization. Modern wheat is grown for yield rather than nutrition and contains concerning compounds not found in ancestral varieties. Here’s what’s different about modern wheat:

  • More Gluten Modern wheat contains much higher amounts of gluten, a sticky protein that is difficult for many people to digest. This has contributed to the rising rates of gluten intolerance and celiac disease.
  • High Lectin Content Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins that can damage the gut lining and contribute to leaky gut syndrome when consumed in excess. Modern wheat is high in lectins.
  • Modified Carbs Through breeding techniques, wheat has been altered to contain extra chromosomes, different proteins and a high starch content. This increases blood sugar spikes.

Look for ancient varieties of wheat like einkorn and emmer, or try gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa and buckwheat instead.

Diet Soda

Although diet soda has zero calories and sugar, it can still harm your health in many ways:

  • Artificial Sweeteners Disrupt Gut Bacteria Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin and sucralose kill beneficial gut bacteria, impairing immune function and potentially leading to obesity and diabetes.
  • Increase Appetite Studies show artificial sweeteners boost appetite, food intake and cravings for sweet foods. This effect is attributed to their disruption of appetite hormones and gut flora.
  • Metabolic Changes Regular consumption of artificial sweeteners has been associated with increased belly fat, insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction, even in people who are not overweight.

While small amounts of natural low-calorie sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit are fine for most people, it’s best to avoid artificial sweeteners completely. Drink plain water, sparkling water or unsweetened tea instead of diet soda.

Low-Fat Dairy

When the fat is removed from dairy products to make them low-fat or skim, they become highly processed and unnatural. Here’s what’s wrong with low-fat dairy:

  • Often Sweetened Since fat provides flavor, low-fat dairy products have added sugar to make up for the lack of taste when the fat is removed. This spikes blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Lower in Vitamins Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, meaning you need fat to absorb them. Non-fat dairy products are lower in these nutrients.
  • Increase Inflammation Full-fat dairy contains anti-inflammatory fats like conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3s. These beneficial fats are missing from low-fat dairy.

Stick to full-fat, unsweetened dairy products from grass-fed cows to avoid the issues caused by highly processed low-fat dairy.

Breakfast Cereal

Cereal is one of the most popular breakfast foods, but most types are highly processed and made with refined grains. Here’s what’s unhealthy about cereal:

  • Spikes Blood Sugar Even “healthy” cereals made with whole grains are often puffed, flaked or otherwise processed to increase their surface area. This causes your blood sugar to skyrocket when you eat them.
  • Usually Contains Added Sugar To make cereal taste good, most brands add tons of sugar. This excess sugar promotes insulin resistance, fat storage and obesity when consumed daily.
  • Often Fortified Synthetic vitamins are added to nutritionally empty cereals in an attempt to make them seem healthier. But these isolates are poorly absorbed compared to vitamins naturally found in whole foods.

Choose low-sugar whole food cereals like steel cut oats, or better yet – skip cereal altogether and start your day with eggs, yogurt or leftovers. Your body will thank you.

Processed Foods

From frozen pizzas and microwaveable meals to store-bought desserts and snacks, processed foods dominate the modern diet. Here’s why you should avoid them:

  • Loaded with Chemical Additives Preservatives, artificial flavors, stabilizers and other additives are used liberally in processed foods. These foreign chemicals overload your detoxification systems.
  • Nutrient Poor Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are destroyed during industrial food processing. Processed foods lack the fiber found in whole plant foods as well.
  • Alter Hunger Hormones Ingredients like cornstarch, sugars and vegetable oils cause rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar. This leads to increased hunger and overeating.
  • Contribute to Chronic Disease Frequent consumption of processed foods has been linked to depression, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other conditions.

For optimal health, eat mostly whole, single ingredient foods. Limit consumption of packaged and convenience foods whenever possible.

The Bottom Line

food choices have a big impact on longevity and disease risk as you age. While no food needs to be avoided 100% of the time, overconsumption of the foods on this list can lead to negative effects on health over the long-term.

Aim to base your diet on whole, minimally processed plant foods, high-quality proteins and healthy fats. Limit sugar, refined grains, processed foods and unhealthy oils like vegetable and seed oils. This will help you live longer with abundant energy and good health.

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