Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
March 16, 2024 ·  6 min read

The 9 Worst Foods To Eat For Your Health

In recent years there’s been a lot of conflicting information floating about which foods are truly unhealthy. Knowing which foods are good for you and what foods to avoid can be pretty confusing to say the least. Luckily, Jared Koch, the founder of Clean Plates, has come out with a comprehensive list of foods you should avoid at all costs!

Koch is a nutritional expert and certified health coach who founded Clean Plates in 2009 after a successful career in business (1). He is a leader in the field of nutrition and wellness, and often speaks to large corporate organizations, like Google and Bank of America, about the topic (1). Koch created Clean Plates, a healthy living website, in the hopes of helping individuals make more informed decisions about what they’re putting into their bodies (2). One of his most notable pieces of work is his list of the nine worst foods to eat.

9 Unhealthy Foods You Should Stay Away From

worst foods to eat

1.Canned Tomatoes

Although you may think canned tomatoes are healthy, they’re actually a bad food for your health. Canned foods often contain BPA, a toxic, industrial chemical that is added to many commercial products (3). BPA can alter hormone levels and lead to hyperactivity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer (3).The high acidic levels in tomatoes cause more BPA, which is often lined on the inside of cans, to leech into your food (4).

Try to buy tomato sauce in glass jars instead of the canned variety (4).

2. Margarine

Margarine is often thought of as a healthy alternative to butter, but its ingredients aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Margarine often contains:

  • Free radicals: Free radicals result from the high temperature processing of vegetable oils and have been linked to a number of health problems including heart disease and cancer (5).
  • Hexane and other solvents: These toxic industrial chemicals are used in the extraction process when making margarine (5).
  • Trans fats: Trans fats are used to turn liquid vegetable oil into solid fat via a process known as hydrogenation (5). Trans fats are unnatural and extremely unhealthy, contributing to heart disease, cancer, hormone imbalances, infertility issues, and skin disease (5).

Don’t be scared of the saturated fats contained in butter, they can actually be healthy when they aren’t artificially manipulated (6). Good old-fashioned butter is the way to go (just try your best to stick to organic, grass-fed options).

3. Vegetable Oils

Vegetables oils are incredibly unhealthy despite the fact that their name has the word “vegetable” in it. Polyunsaturated canola, corn, and soy vegetable oils contain a large amount of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are harmful when consumed in excess (7,8). When heated to high temperatures, vegetable oil introduces oxidized cholesterol and converts good cholesterol into bad cholesterol, which can lead to vascular disease (7). On top of that, hydrogenated oils have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer (7).

Stick with coconut oil when you’re cooking, it’s much less susceptible to heat damage (7).

4. Processed Meats

Processed meats like ham, sausages, and hotdogs have been linked to colorectal cancer when consumed in high quantities due to the amount of haem iron and fats in them (9). When cooked at high temperatures, other cancer-promoting chemicals are released from these processed meats, including heterocylic amines (HCAs) and polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (9). HCAs have been linked to an increased risk of stomach, colon, and breast cancer (7).

Kick processed meats to the curb and opt for organically raised and grass-fed protein sources instead (you can even have grass-fed and antibiotic-free options delivered with brands like Butcher Box, which is a great option if your local supermarket doesn’t have what you’re looking for!).

5. Microwave Popcorn

There’s nothing quite like eating popcorn while watching a movie, but popcorn made using microwavable bags is one of the worst foods to eat. There are a variety of chemicals that are used to line popcorn bags and stop grease from soaking in, some of which include perfluoroalkyls, perfluorooctanoic acid, and ferfluorooctane sulfonate (10). These chemicals leach into your popcorn when exposed to heat and have been deemed “likely carcinogens” by the Environmental Protection Agency (10). They have the potential to cause cancer, thyroid issues, and mess up your endocrine system (10).

Stop buying these chemical-filled bags and instead try to pop your popcorn in a glass bowl covered by a plate (10).

6. Table Salt

Salt is a universal seasoning loved by many, however, “table salt” is not made the same as natural salt (7). Both are made up mainly of sodium choride, but the remaining ingredients make one an unhealthy food and the other a healthy food (7). Table salt contains dangerous synthetic chemicals such as aluminosilicate and ferrocyanide while natural salt is made up of naturally occurring minerals like silicon, vanadium, and phosphorous (7).

Stick to seasoning your food with unrefined salt such as sea salt or kosher salt (7).

7. Artificial Sweeteners

Even though artificial sweeteners, like saccharin and aspartame, were created to aid in weight loss, they often do the exact opposite and act as appetite stimulants (7). In one scientific study conducted on mice, it was found that aspartame promoted metabolic syndrome due to its inhibition of phenylalanine, a breakdown product in the sweetener (11). Other studies have also shown that rodents gain weight when fed artificial sweeteners as opposed to regular sugar (11).

Put down those diet cokes and step away from artificial sweeteners for good. Regular sugar eaten in moderate amounts is much better for you.

8. High Pesticide-Contaminated Produce and Non-Organic Potatoes

Pesticides are used in varying amounts depending on the fruit/vegetable and potatoes absorb chemicals particularly easily (7). Population-based studies have found that pesticides affect the development of cardiovascular diseases, dementia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and have negative effects on the nervous system, and male reproductive system (12). These are the fruits and veg that have been found to have the highest pesticide load:

  • Apples
  • Collard Greens
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Grapes
  • Hot peppers
  • Imported Nectarines
  • Potatoes
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Summer squash
  • Spinach (7)

Try to steer clear of these fruits and vegetables and buy organic when you can.

9. Soy Protein Isolate

There’s been a lot of debate over whether or not soy is one of the foods to avoid, but it’s really soy isolate you should be worried about (13). Soy protein isolate is so heavily modified, through a process of removing sugars and fiber from de-fatted soybean flakes, that they’re now unhealthy (13). Soy isolate has been associated with thyroid problems, allergies, and brain damage in animal studies (13).

Look out for this ingredient in processed foods like breakfast cereals and protein bars (13). Opt to make your own food and pre-pack lunches and snacks during the workweek.

So there you have it, a definitive list courtesy of Jared Koch on foods you should avoid. Now you’re better equipped to make healthy food choices going forward. Read this next to learn about 20 healthy recipes you can make in 20 minutes. 


  1. (1) Our Team. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cleanplates.com/our-team/
  2. (2) Woodruff, R. (n.d.). Clean Plates Author Jared Koch on Eating Well, Loving Healthy Food and More. Retrieved from https://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/healthy-recipes/clean-plates-author-jared-koch-eating-well-loving-healthy-food-and
  3. (3) Petre, A. (2016, March 23). What is BPA and Why is it Bad for You? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-bpa
  4. (4)Kotz, D. (2008, September 17). 5 Ways to Keep Bisphenol A, or BPA, Out of Your Food. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/heart/articles/2008/09/17/5-ways-to-keep-bisphenol-a-or-bpa-out-of-your-food
  5. (5) Longo, N. (2018, May 30). The Devastating Consequences of Replacing Butter with Margarine in Our Diet. Retrieved from https://healthimpactnews.com/2013/the-devastating-consequences-of-replacing-butter-with-margarine-in-our-diet/
  6. (8) Gunnars, K. (2013, August 12). 6 Reasons Why Vegetable Oils Can be Harmful. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-reasons-why-vegetable-oils-are-toxic
  7. (9) Meat, fish and dairy products and the risk of cancer. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/exposures/meat-fish-dairy
  8. (10) Shukla, P. (2017, October 27). Deliciously Dangerous: Why Microwave Popcorn Can be Terribly Harmful. Retrieved from https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/deliciously-dangerous-why-microwave-popcorn-can-be-terribly-harmful-745984
  9. (11) Sandoiu, A. (2016, November 25). Diet soda sweetener may cause weight gain. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/314345.php
  10. (12) Nicolopoulou-Stamati, P., Miapas, S., Kotampasi, C., Stamatis, P., Hens, L. (2016, July 18). Chemical Pesticides and Human Health: The Urgent Need for a New Concept in Agriculture. Front Public Health, 4 (148). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4947579/
  11. (13) Hopkins, T.E. (2013, December 17). Is Soy Protein Isolate Bad for You. Retrieved from https://www.wellnesstoday.com/nutrition/is-soy-protein-isolate-bad-for-you
  12. (14) Woo, J., Kwok, T., Leung, J., Tang, N. (2009, July). Dietary intake, blood pressure and osteoporosis. J Hum Hypertens, 23 (7), 451-5. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19092844