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10 Alternatives to Common "Unhealthy" Food

Alternatives to Unhealthy Food

Who can resist a bowl of ice cream or a big pack of chips in good company? For most people, this task is probably from the "impossible" category. At the same time, contrary to popular belief, you don't have to overhaul your diet to improve your health completely. In this article, we will consider the top 10 unhealthy foods and the best alternatives to them. With these healthy alternatives, you will be able to pamper yourself with tasty treats without compromising your health.

Sugary Drinks

According to a 2017 study by The Obesity Society, 50% of adults and 60% of children consume sugar-sweetened beverages every day. These drinks are considered especially problematic as they are high in sugar and calories but low in nutrients vital to our health. Besides weight gain, excess sugar consumption is also linked to tooth decay, heart disease and diabetes. In addition, sugary drinks often send your appetite into overdrive and make you less sensitive to sweet tastes, leading to the increased consumption of sweet foods. 

Best alternative: Homemade golden milk and smoothies. What's more, you can add a slice of lemon or lime to your water or tea to bring a touch of taste. All these options are rich in nutrients and can help you cut back on added sugar.

It is also crucial to note that modern technologies allow you to control your health at a high level and quickly respond to any problems in the body. To date, some companies offer a biological age blood test to help people to determine how old their physical body is compared to their calendar age. It can help you to understand if there are any problems with your diet and lifestyle and make immediate changes.

Fruit Juices

Many fruit juices available on supermarket shelves today include large amounts of fructose, which is linked to insulin resistance and liver damage. Regular consumption of these drinks leads to fatty liver disease and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Best alternative: To add sweetness without compromising your health, you can substitute fruit juices with nutrient-rich homemade lemonades and smoothies. Also, you can use a mix of fruits and vegetables to make juices that complement your diet. Moreover, one small study found that such vegetable-fruit juices could increase the amount of nitric oxide in the blood, improving blood flow and decreasing damaging fats in the body.

Fast Food

Alternatives to Unhealthy Food

It's essential to keep an eye on your intake of processed meats and fast food products like hot dogs, pizzas and most types of bacon as they are high in calories, fat and salt. They are also linked to the increased risk of numerous diseases, including cancer. Besides this, manufactured pizzas use highly refined flours, which lack nutrients compared with whole grains, so even a homemade pizza can be a healthier choice.

Best alternative: You can leave the pizza in your diet but make sure it is made with fresh, wholesome ingredients. For example, you can top it with onions, mushrooms, broccoli, bell peppers and other nutritious vegetables.

Pastries and Cookies

Most pastries, cakes, cookies and candy are loaded with sugar, low in fibre and nutrients and most often contain preservatives. Baked sweet treats usually contain extra fat, refined sugar and refined wheat flour that can promote inflammation, lead to a weight increase and reduce "good" HDL cholesterol levels. A high intake of ultra-processed foods can also increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and depression. 

Best alternative: There are plenty of healthy sweets recipes like fruit crumbles in the mug, black bean brownies, or avocado chocolate puddings that are easy and nutritious alternatives to refined cookies and cakes.

Fried Food

All fried food lovers are at increased risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart failure. Moreover, most of them usually suffer from higher body weight. Cooking meat using high-temperature methods like pan-frying or grilling over an open flame produces genotoxic chemicals that may cause genetic (DNA) damage and increase cancer risk. 

Best alternative: To stay healthy, it's best to choose milder cooking techniques, such as boiling, stewing, steaming or blanching.

Low-Fat Yogurt

Alternatives to Unhealthy Food

Despite the widespread belief that low-fat dairy products are beneficial to your health, they may have the opposite effect. To reduce the fat content without sacrificing flavour, manufacturers often replace it with sugar and additives, such as modified food starch or gum. If not to mention sugar-related health risks, these products can lead to allergies, headaches, diarrhoea, bloating, other forms of digestive distress and fatigue. 

Best alternative: Not all yoghurts are the same. When choosing the low-fat yoghurts, check their compositions and consider options like Greek yoghurt, which is high in protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and magnesium. Greek yoghurt also contains beneficial bacterial cultures, making it an excellent source of gut-friendly probiotics.

French Fries

Potatoes are rich in nutrients, although when they are processed into french fries or chips, the nutrient content plummets, and the risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes increases. Moreover, when fried for an extended time, potatoes may create acrylamides - compounds that are associated with cancer.

Best alternative: Carrots, popcorn, and nuts are the best crunchy alternatives to chips. However, if you feel these products can't replace your favorite french fries and chips, you can enjoy them from time to time.

Processed Meat 

Sausages, canned meat, and ham are just a few examples of foods that have been processed to improve their flavour, extend shelf life and preserve quality. These products are linked to an increased risk of colon cancer and have been classified by the WHO as a carcinogen. 

Best alternative: High-quality chicken, fish, turkey, lentils and beans are just a few examples of nutrient-dense substitutions for processed meats.

Ice Cream

Alternatives to Unhealthy Food

Ice cream is another option, which is hard to resist. Most ice creams on the market are calorie-dense and contain refined sugar. Many of these options also contain artificial flavours and additives. Cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cane juice and the table sugar contained in ice cream are linked to different health problems, such as heart disease, dental cavities, higher body weight and type 2 diabetes.

Best alternative: When you feel you can't live without a bowl of ice cream, choose more nutritious brands or make your own ice cream or popsicles, substituting refined sugar with natural fruit.

White Bread

Most commercial white bread is made from refined wheat, which doesn't contain fibre and other vital nutrients. These products may cause an increase in blood glucose levels, leading to diseases like heart disease, stroke, vision and nerve problems and kidney disease. 

Best alternative: One of the best substitutes for white bread is sprouted whole grain bread, which provides plenty of dietary fibre, promotes gut health and reduces weight. Additionally, sprouted grains have higher antioxidant levels and can reduce antinutrients, allowing you to absorb more nutrients from the grains.

Final Thoughts

The list of unhealthy treats that may have detrimental health effects is vast and keeps growing, making more and more people the hostages of another pepperoni, cookie or ice cream. 

Luckily, you can get nutrients without feeling left out just by making a few swaps to foods close to your heart but undesirable to your stomach. With our alternatives to popular "unhealthy" foods, you will be able to prevent any diet-related health problems and improve both your physical health and mood.

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