Holistic Nutrition & Prevention

Ask a Nutritionist

Top 5 foods to avoid to maintain good health

By Nonie DeLong, ROHP, CNP

Dear Nutritionist,

I want to know if there are also foods you recommend I avoid as I change my health this year (finally committed to doing that). Appreciate it.

Thank you,

Dear Collin,

For sure, I have a solid list of things to avoid. I won’t waste time, but get right down to it.

In my opinion, these are the top five foods to avoid to maintain good health:


A lot of people know sugar isn’t good for them, but they mistakenly think it’s an empty calorie; it adds nothing, but doesn’t really deplete anything. They mistakenly think that if they skip other meals they will have a low calorie count and sugar won’t adversely affect them. But nothing could be further from the truth. It’s true sugar doesn’t have any nutrients to speak of, but it isn’t that simple. While it gives nothing to the body but abundant energy, it taxes the body to be metabolized and stored – namely the pancreas via the insulin response. And it taxes the body to heal the damage it does while it’s circulating in the bloodstream waiting for the insulin response to get it to a safe level (retinopathy, neuropathy, atherosclerosis, etc.) It further taxes the liver to metabolize and fatty liver – a byproduct of this – is quickly rising in incidence.

In those who have eaten sugar so repeatedly that they become insulin resistant, a chromium deficiency is common. Other deficiencies are usually present because people eat sugar to the exclusion of other foods due to the dopamine response it has on the brain, not unlike that of drugs. It makes us want the taste and rush of sugar and associate it with pleasure, which makes it very addictive. I have heard nutritionists say foods cannot be addictive but they are misguided. Rat studies clearly demonstrate the sugar is more addictive than cocaine.

Sugar further dysregulates the hormones that signal appetite and satiety so that even large meals do not satisfy us. So it makes us crave more and more, depletes the body of nutrients, and makes us unable to be satisfied when we eat. In addition to all of this, and possibly more detrimental, it produces an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the gut – and the mouth – which leads to a number of disease states.

Now, when I say sugar, I really mean sugars, as this includes white sugar, brown sugar, demerara sugar, organic sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, agave sugar, sucrose, fructose, rice syrup, corn syrup, and others. Any sugar that spikes blood sugar, whether natural or not, is detrimental to the health of the body. Honey may be the only exception, when used in very small doses intermittently, because it still spikes blood sugar and we are living in a time when this is epidemic. Parents mistakenly think because their kids are slim or active that some sugar is safe. But there really is no upside to sugar and it should be omitted and replaced with healthier options for the entire family, not just those who are dieting.

Artificial Sweeteners

When we started to realize how detrimental sugar is to the body, artificial sweeteners were developed. We were told they were safe and they were added to a plethora of food items. We were told they would help with weight loss, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, studies show that long term consumption of artificial sweeteners does not help weight loss and actually increases glucose intolerance and risk for metabolic disease, just like sugar does. We now also know that artificial sweeteners have been linked to damaging the gut biome, which is quite possibly the most important prerequisite to good health.

With a myriad of new, natural options that don’t have the same impact on glucose tolerance, it’s quite easy to replace these with healthier options.

Vegetable Oils: Canola, Safflower, Sunflower, Corn, and Soybean Oils

These are the oils that are virtually everywhere. If you buy take-out or processed food, it’s likely bathed in them. Why? They have been pushed by our government sanctioned food guide as recommended healthy products for a number of decades. It’s now understood that these oils are detrimental to every cell in your body – because every cell is encased in a cell membrane that is formed from the oils/ fats we eat and these ones aren’t what we were told they were.

First, they are anything but natural. They are industrially created and are highly unstable. Watch these videos on how coconut oil is created, how olive oil is created, and how vegetable oils are created to better understand the issue. Or listen to this explanation of the corn oil process.

Vegetable oils are largely comprised of Omega 6 fatty acids, which trigger inflammation in the body. They significantly (40 percent) reduce the conversion of Omega 3’s to their active forms – DHA and EPA – which are used by the body and brain to reduce inflammation. This increases the risk for various diseases.

Dr. Joseph Hibbeln from the National Institutes of Health has researched the impact of omega 6  and omega 3 fats on our health. He explains that over-consuming omega 6 fats (vegetable oils and commercially produced meat) and under-consuming omega 3 fats (fish oils, fish, and grassfed, sustainable meat) significantly increases:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetesIrritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome
  • Macular degeneration (eye damage and blindness)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Autoimmune diseases

Low fat foods

Contrary to popular belief, low fat foods are not wholesome. When fat is absent in foods, the only way to give them flavour is to add excess sugar, salt, or artificial flavours. The rendered product is more processed, less natural, and less satisfying. In fact, fat plays a huge role in satiety: when fat is present in the gastro-intestinal tract, the body signals satiety to reduce hunger.

In addition, the brain is the fattiest organ in the body, comprised of nearly 60 percent fat and the nerve cells are sheathed in a protective fatty layer, called the myelin sheath. Despite decades of advice against eating saturated fats, they are most beneficial for these tissues. It’s understood now that the recommendation to reduce saturated fat was politically motivated and based on faulty science. Newer data has demonstrated it was a huge mistake. As such, low fat foods are of no benefit and only promote overeating and obesity through overly processed, nutrient deficient foods.

Homogenized Dairy

This is dairy that has been treated to make the fat globules distributed evenly throughout the liquid instead of rising to the top, as they naturally do. It’s thought that consumers don’t like the skin that forms in natural dairy products, so the product is pushed through a very fine screen to change the particle size of the fat molecules. This only applies to bovine (cow) dairy, as goat and sheep milk is naturally homogenized. The problem with this type of dairy is that your gut didn’t get the memo that it’s the new kind of milk fat: the altered structure makes it unrecognizable. Normally fat globules have a specific size that helps your body identify them, so messing with the structure changes the way the body is able to ‘read’ them. In the case of dairy I suspect it has everything to do with why so many people have grown intolerant to it, particularly those who become intolerant to the casein portion of it, as in Autism Spectrum and psychiatric disorders.

Because of commercial dairy production where cattle are treated poorly and milk takes longer to reach the table, pasteurization is essential to kill off unwanted and dangerous bacteria in the milk. Raw milk that hasn’t been pasteurized is arguably much more nutritious, but it is only safe when the dairy products are produced in a very healthy manner with healthy cattle that are responsibly maintained with milk delivered quickly to the consumer. This is ideal but obviously not the case at present for most of our dairy products. Health food stores do offer higher quality products from smaller, more sustainable farms and even non-homogenized milk. Of course, buying full fat dairy is another way to avoid homogenization. We can also support farmers fighting for the right to sell raw milk to give the choice to consumers.

These are five food products I recommend it best to forgo if you are serious about your health.

As always, if readers have their own health questions, I welcome them. Just send me an email. And if you’re looking for more specific health information check out my website and sign up for my free newsletter at nonienutritionista.com. I also offer 1:1 health coaching and several group classes, including a weekend KETO workshop, a hands-on fermenting class, and a six-week sugar detox. Upcoming events are posted in the newsletter, as well as delicious recipes that are guaranteed to be guilt and gluten-free!

Nonie Nutritionista

Nonie DeLong is a registered orthomolecular health practitioner, licensed nutritionist in both Canada and the U.S., and student of the Ontario College of Homeopathy. 

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