The Foul Four: Food that inhibits your Digestive Health

If you’ve read anything I’ve written before you’ll know right off the bat that I believe keeping our digestive tracts in tip top shape is the key to a lifetime’s worth of health and wellbeing. From healthy bowel movements (I leave no subject untouched!) to the best foods for keeping our GI tracts running smoothly–the time is now to take charge over what we put into our body. If you’re tired of being a passive consumer; keeping tabs on your intake of these four foods will help you really begin to eat better and feel better:

Worst foods for digestive health

1)     Cured Meats (think: bologna, sausages, bacon and ham): these items are readily available and certainly tasty but harmless they are not. Researchers at The University of Southern California recently published an article about the link between ingestion of processed meats and the rise of colorectal cancers in genetically predisposed individuals. You may have notice the words “genetically predisposed” and you might already be thinking “I probably don’t have that genetic variant!”

Unfortunately, it is a common one: 1 in 3 people have it. Furthermore, the allele in question isn’t solely responsible for the risks associated with eating processed meat—it only increases it.

According to lead author Jane Figueiredo PhD “the baseline risk already associated with meat is pretty bad” to begin with. She also notes that “diet is a modifiable risk factor for colorectal cancer”. Reduce your risks of digestive cancer by cutting out the cured—meats that is!  If you’re not ready to go vegetarian and still want access to protein look to my article “best protein sources for bodybuilders” or watch this for the nutrition in different types of protein.

2)     Table and Artificial Sugars: It’s sweet to taste but not sweet to our organs. I’ve written before about the issues related to artificial sweeteners, but the body of evidence against refined and processed sugars continues to grow. Sucralose is the latest culprit. According to Dr. Susan S. Schiffman PhD and her team at the National Institute of Health it has a profound effect on a variety of your systems.

More importantly, it is responsible for reducing the number and variety of beneficial bacteria in your gut (i.e., your digestive health), which can lead to weight gain and other chronic health issues. It is so bad the study concluded it was on par with “drugs, pesticides and industrial chemicals”.

Just because refined sugar and sweeteners aren’t healthy doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy sweet things; you simply should opt for agave or honey instead (the health benefits of which, I’ve written about) or my top picks of honey (hint: they’re not all created equally).

3)     Processed grains and soy: if you’re American you’ll remember learning about the food pyramid in your youth. As such, you might recall the base of the pyramid (the foundation of nutritional eating if you will) was the whole grain. Today, companies are quick to slap the “whole grain” label on their products—but what does whole grain really mean? Fortunately, the project HEALTHGRAIN EU has successfully sought out the answer to that question. Whole grains traditionally include the 3 components of the grain and thus are “unrefined”. They’re thus superior sources of fiber, and nutrients like selenium, potassium and magnesium. Refined or processed grains are stripped of 2 of the 3 major components to provide a smoother texture and longer shelf life. However, with that stripping much of the nutritional value is lost.

Examples of whole grains include: barley, brown rice and buckwheat.  To avoid missing out, forego the processed versions and look for “unrefined” in the labeling.  Here’s more on how your body digests grains .

4)     Fried Foods: much of the problems that stem from fried food arise due to improper cooking. This leads to “oil deterioration”—and rancid tasting byproducts that are potentially toxic; this includes acrylamide a known carcinogen. These toxins could be alleviated by the process of deep frying under a vacuum—but it is not an industrial standard due to the high costs involved. Toxins aside, the scientific literature shows that limiting your fried foods leads to a longer life. The Journal of Health, Nutrition and Aging ran a study that concluded that “A dietary pattern including plenty of fruit while limiting meat and fried foods may improve the likelihood of aging successfully”.

Just because these foul four are off the table doesn’t mean you can’t eat foods that are delicious and enjoyable. Ancestral Mediterranean, and one ingredient foods can be tasty—and are actually good for you too! I’m building a whole brand focused on how to keep your digestive tract healthy for the lifelong. I promise to deliver a unique message that will help take the guesswork out of truly being healthy!

Making the switch is well worth it; facing the wrath of an unhappy GI tract isn’t pretty. More often than not it can lead to less than pleasant symptoms like constipation (I write about the chronic type that could literally drive you nuts!) So take matters into your own hands, and start making active choices to improve how you feel and perform; you’ll be happy you did.