Hard-and-fast food rules royally suck. But some foods can seriously mess with your health.
“It doesn’t mean you’ll get sick, get cancer, or die if you eat a dangerous food once,” says Nneka Leiba, deputy director of research at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which catalogs studies on potential toxins found in specific brand-name foods and ranks their safety in a massive database. “But there are certain foods you should avoid as much as possible if you have a choice.”
The worst culprits are additives in highly processed foods. “We really don’t know what the long-term consequences of eating these science projects might be,” says Rachel Harvest, a registered dietitian affiliated with Tournesol Wellness in New York.
With that in mind, do your best to steer clear of the foods that scare Leiba, Harvest, and other registered dietitians:
1. American Cheese: “The reality is that American cheese is not ‘cheese’ at all,” says Beth Warren, a New York-based registered dietitian and the author of Living a Real Life With Real Food. Depending on the brand, “it’s a factory creation of a cheese-like food made from a blend of milk fats, solids, some whey protein, emulsifiers, and food coloring.” It’s high in sodium, and so high in fat that one regular slice more closely resembles high-fat meat than anything considered dairy, Warren adds.