Seven Foods You Should Never Eat

Seven Foods You Should Never Eat

Looking forward to hearing what everything thinks of this one:

Clean eating means choosing fruits, vegetables, and meats that are raised, grown, and sold with minimal processing. Often they’re organic, and rarely (if ever) should they contain additives. But in some cases, the methods of today’s food producers are neither clean nor sustainable. The result is damage to our health, the environment, or both. So we decided to take a fresh look at food through the eyes of the people who spend their lives uncovering what’s safe–or not–to eat. We asked them a simple question: “What foods do you avoid?” Their answers don’t necessarily make up a “banned foods” list. But reaching for the suggested alternatives might bring you better health–and peace of mind.

flickr: cogdogblog

1. The Endocrinologist Won’t Eat: Canned Tomatoes
Fredrick Vom Saal, is an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A.

The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people’s body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. “You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that’s a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young,” says vom Saal. “I won’t go near canned tomatoes.”

The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe’s and Pomi.

Budget tip: If your recipe allows, substitute bottled pasta sauce for canned tomatoes. Look for pasta sauces with low sodium and few added ingredients, or you may have to adjust the recipe.

2. The Farmer Won’t Eat: Corn-Fed Beef
Joel Salatin is co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming.

The problem: Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. But more money for cattle farmers (and lower prices at the grocery store) means a lot less nutrition for us. A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. “We need to respect the fact that cows are herbivores, and that does not mean feeding them corn and chicken manure,” says Salatin.

The solution: Buy grass-fed beef, which can be found at specialty grocers, farmers’ markets, and nationally at Whole Foods. It’s usually labeled because it demands a premium, but if you don’t see it, ask your butcher.

Budget tip: Cuts on the bone are cheaper because processors charge extra for deboning. You can also buy direct from a local farmer, which can be as cheap as $5 per pound. To find a farmer near you, search

3. The Toxicologist Won’t Eat: Microwave Popcorn
Olga Naidenko, is a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group.

The problem:
Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize–and migrate into your popcorn. “They stay in your body for years and accumulate there,” says Naidenko, which is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.

The solution: Pop natural kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dillweed, vegetable flakes, or soup mix.

Budget tip: Popping your own popcorn is dirt cheap.

4. The Farm Director Won’t Eat: Nonorganic Potatoes
Jeffrey Moyer is the chair of the National Organic Standards Board.

The problem:
Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes–the nation’s most popular vegetable–they’re treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they’re dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. “Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won’t,” says Moyer, who is also farm director of the Rodale Institute (also owned by Rodale Inc., the publisher of Prevention). “I’ve talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals.”

The solution:
Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn’t good enough if you’re trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh.

Budget tip: Organic potatoes are only $1 to $2 a pound, slightly more expensive than conventional spuds.

5. The Fisheries Expert Won’t Eat: Farmed Salmon
Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, published a major study in the journal Science on contamination in fish.

The problem: Nature didn’t intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. According to Carpenter, the most contaminated fish come from Northern Europe, which can be found on American menus. “You could eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer,” says Carpenter, whose 2004 fish contamination study got broad media attention. “It’s that bad.” Preliminary science has also linked DDT to diabetes and obesity, but some nutritionists believe the benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks. There is also concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. When you eat farmed salmon, you get dosed with the same drugs and chemicals.

The solution: Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it’s farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon.

Budget tip:
Canned salmon, almost exclusively from wild catch, can be found for as little as $3 a can.

6. The Cancer Researcher Won’t Drink: Milk Produced With Artificial Hormones
Rick North is project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society.

The problem:
Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers. “When the government approved rBGH, it was thought that IGF-1 from milk would be broken down in the human digestive tract,” says North. As it turns out, the casein in milk protects most of it, according to several independent studies. “There’s not 100 percent proof that this is increasing cancer in humans,” admits North. “However, it’s banned in most industrialized countries.”

The solution: Check labels for rBGH-free, rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, or organic milk. These phrases indicate rBGH-free products.

Budget tip: Try Wal-Mart’s Great Value label, which does not use rBGH.

7. The Organic-Foods Expert Won’t Eat: Conventional Apples
Mark Kastel, a former executive for agribusiness, is codirector of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods.

The problem: If fall fruits held a “most doused in pesticides contest,” apples would win. Why? They are individually grafted (descended from a single tree) so that each variety maintains its distinctive flavor. As such, apples don’t develop resistance to pests and are sprayed frequently. The industry maintains that these residues are not harmful. But Kastel counters that it’s just common sense to minimize exposure by avoiding the most doused produce, like apples. “Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers,” he says. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson’s disease.

The solution: Buy organic apples.

Budget tip: If you can’t afford organic, be sure to wash and peel them. But Kastel personally refuses to compromise. “I would rather see the trade-off being that I don’t buy that expensive electronic gadget,” he says. “Just a few of these decisions will accommodate an organic diet for a family.”

I won’t lie – the potatoes made me groan a bit, but everything else felt pretty spot on.



By | 2017-06-10T11:23:24+00:00 August 19th, 2014|What Are You Eating?|44 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.


  1. Savannah December 6, 2011 at 12:23 PM - Reply

    Yeah that sounds about right. I had already put my foot down about only buying organic apples. I don’t drink cow’s milk but I definitely will pay more attention when buying cheeses (also trying to switch to sheep/goat cheese or imported cheeses) and the potato thing just made me a bit sad. So organic taters it is! And microwave popcorn? Its my weakness. Time to bust out the skillet and so it the way Moms did!

    • Tiffany September 8, 2013 at 9:38 PM - Reply

      I know the microwave popcorn made me sad too. My kids love popcorn. We make it fun by using store bought kernels and popping them in brown paper lunch bags int he microwave for individual servings or an air popper for a larger servings.

  2. Lara December 6, 2011 at 12:58 PM - Reply

    This is spot on… I’ve purchased organic potatoes for a while now because for some reason, conventional ones smell funny and most times, I find that they rot all too easily.

    It’s good to know about the salmon too. Although I wonder if that also applies to other farmed fish….who’s to say they aren’t using the same feed for all the farmed fish.

    And I wonder if the Walmart milk spoils a lot quicker because of the missing added hormone…I get the Walmat milk but my husband is not a big fan. I’ll ahve to show him this.

    • Tonya December 6, 2011 at 1:29 PM - Reply

      I thought I was crazy but the potatoes I bought at Wal-mart would be looking like ish whereas the potatoes I bought from the local market would stay all right looking for a few weeks and eventually sprout (gross-looking, but harmless). I stored them in the same place and everything.

      I stopped buying potatoes from Wal-Mart after they rotted on me after a few days. The price difference was almost nil, better when you factor I went from buying potatoes every two weeks to almost four. Only person it would really hurt to go to organic is people with large families who eat a lot of potatoes, or people who throw away sprouting potatoes (like my cousin, who hates the things).

    • Terri December 6, 2011 at 2:11 PM - Reply

      you should definitely look for wild caught seafood when you can. If it says farm raised, it is usually fed and harvested the way they described the Salmon.

  3. Sunette December 6, 2011 at 1:20 PM - Reply

    The only thing that didn’t hit me hard was the beef, salmon and microwave popcorn and I think I can live without the others but I love apples and i’m sure all we get on this side of the world are those doused with chemicals…..Sigh! Good looking out though.

  4. Kait December 6, 2011 at 1:21 PM - Reply

    This was mostly easy for me as I follow a plant-based diet and will never eat a non-organic apple now that I’ve experienced organic, locally-grown ones. *Sigh*

    The potatoes thing turns my stomach but when it comes down to it, I don’t eat a ton of them. And that extra $1 or $2 makes a difference when you’re on a budget and nothing is really in season anymore in New England.

    And then there’s the canned tomato issue. *Sigh* I only buy Muir Glen but I have no clue if their cans have BPA. I’ve decided to believe that they don’t and am still researching in the meantime! I can’t find ones in glass bottles, at least not for the price (free) I can get Muir Glen ones with the coupons that have been circulating.

    In the end, I think its better than I’m eating whole foods, regardless of whether they are conventionally or organically grown, rather than processed junk. Ideally I’d like to eat 100% local and/or organic whole foods but when the medical bills pile up, the money has to come from somewhere.

  5. Tess December 6, 2011 at 2:55 PM - Reply

    This was a great post. I had no idea about the popcorn or potatoes. Everything else was consistent with what ive heard. I am a vegetarian….so potatoes and cheese are my “kryptonite”.

  6. Ashley December 6, 2011 at 4:05 PM - Reply

    Ugh, seriously? I live for canned tomatoes! I make pasta sauce and chili using them all the time. What should I do if I can’t find tomatoes packed in glass? Let me get to googling.

  7. curious December 6, 2011 at 7:52 PM - Reply

    funniest thing. i read this article this morning, and started reading this article just now:

    a list of cheap, good for you foods. what’s on it? canned salmon, apples, and canned tomatoes.

    • Sameena January 16, 2013 at 10:11 AM - Reply

      @ Curious!!! Thank You…Love the site! I mean its nice if you CAN live on an organic, can free diet…however…if you are living on a STRICT budget, and raising a family…Im gonna see the organic apples for 5.49 a bag…then the granny smith apples for 3.49, what do you think Im gonna go for? Or even canned tomatoes…or potatoes…Its Expensive to eat fully organic. It’s sad, but it’s reality. The prices of food costs went up drastically, and I know the old saying, ” you cant put a price on your health”…but the STRESS of the prices are gonna be the death of me. I say, just do the best you can, stay away from processed foods (they’re costly anyways) and trunk the junk.

      • Erika Nicole Kendall January 16, 2013 at 11:46 AM - Reply

        I would sooner tell you to simply not buy the potatoes or apples and just buy something else that *must* be organic or *must* be non-gmo if price became an issue.

        • Sameena January 16, 2013 at 3:53 PM - Reply

          Thanks for replying. hmmm…thats easier said than done when you are feeding a 6 foot 7 husband and a family of 5 LOL. Most times, you have to get food that will “stick to your ribs”, cook as healthy as possible and when I see (for ex.) organic grapes for 4.99 a lb. and regular grapes .99 a lb, (& you could substitute this for any organic item) I just pray over my food, pray for the best, b/c Im gonna go broke, if I buy everything organic. I would love to see organic prices go down…esp. since they arent using any pesticides etc. Shouldnt the prices be less expensive that way? I mean buying organic is the ideal thing to do, but what do families do b/c they cant afford it? & trust their are many families who would love to, but simply can’t. All they could do is not buy processed foods, junk, switch up can (sometimes) for fresh

          • Erika Nicole Kendall January 17, 2013 at 1:39 AM - Reply

            It’s easier said than done to buy some other vegetable instead of a regular version of one that’s listed on the dirty dozen? I mean, if a squash has a harder shell than a potato and you can peel it before you use it, you’re not ingesting as much of the pesticides as you might be otherwise; it might be easier to simply avoid buying what’s on this list (or the dirty dozen, for that matter) than it is to bend over backwards and buy it, or feel guilt in buying the inorganic version.

            tarchy foods are foods that stick to your ribs; this is potatoes, but this is also your squashes, plantains, beans and the like.

            I mean, I have to tell you: I don’t believe organics are the “answer” any more than I believe that “cheap food” is the problem. They’re not the only route to health, and I really wish people would stop repeating this.

            Organics prices will go down…well, long story. In short, if you’re waiting for organics prices to go down… good luck, girl. LOL

  8. Kelekona December 7, 2011 at 2:24 PM - Reply

    It seems like the food industry destroys everything that it touches.

    I did a bit of poking, and it seems like those more-expensive paper packages of tomatoes aren’t guaranteed to be BPA-free either. After digging through a whole bunch of sites that claim that BPA doesn’t effect humans, it seems that the most I possibly have to worry about as an infertile adult is insulin resistance.

    All I can do about this new tomato development is to do what I always do when something turns out to be bad for me, eat what I have and find a better alternative. In this case, I gotta try to find cheap mason jars, wait for summer, and hope I can work out a bulk deal on enough tomatoes to get me through the next winter.

    As for the cows, someday I intend to have a freezer full of packages labeled with Henry, Norbert, and “that stupid calf that stepped in a gopher hole.” Right now, I’m lucky if I can find a post-dated cut to give me a vacation from chicken flesh.

  9. Kait December 8, 2011 at 10:39 AM - Reply

    As a side note, Eden Foods has BPA-free cans for all of their products. You pay for it but there are some coupons circulating if you look.

  10. Kait December 8, 2011 at 10:42 AM - Reply

    And I just found this gem:

    Granted, I do not know how up-to-date it is as the Muir Glen website said they have switched to new cans (and I think they have b/c there is a copper-colored lining on the inside now). <–I'm really pulling for this as I've already stocked up!

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