What are the unhealthiest foods on the planet?
From sugary drinks to deep-fried foods, sugar-laden desserts, and sodium-filled frozen foods, there are a lot of unhealthy foods in the world.
Balanced nutrition is an ongoing journey where educating yourself on dangerous chemicals, ingredients, and manufacturing processes is key to understanding what makes food healthy.
This article contains the worst foods you can put in your body, chemicals and ingredients to avoid, and smart, nutritious swaps you can make to change your eating habits.
The 50 Unhealthiest Foods On The Planet
The most dangerous foods on the planet can cause a slew of health concerns and diseases. Eating junk food occasionally is fine, but not when it becomes a part of your daily routine.
With the information from this article, you’ll be able to avoid unhealthy foods at the grocery store or at a restaurant.
Here’s our list of the 50 unhealthiest foods on the planet:
50. Fruit Juices
Unhealthy Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup
Fruit juice can be deceiving because the sugar content is much higher than the amount of fruit used to make the juice. High fructose corn syrup is a known contributor to increasing belly fat and risk of obesity. Opt for a green superfood drink instead.
49. Frozen Entrées
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium, preservatives
Frozen food is typically more affordable than fresh food, and it’s convenient when you’re in a pinch and need to prepare a meal quickly. However, the downside to frozen entrees is the sodium packed into those meals, along with the preservatives used during manufacturing.
48. Canned Soup
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium
Homemade soup made with fresh ingredients is healthy on a balanced diet; it’s canned soup that is chock full of sodium that can be harmful to your health if consumed regularly. You’re much better off making your own soup from scratch, so you know exactly what’s in it.
47. Hot Dogs
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium phosphate, corn syrup, sodium, sodium nitrite
America’s favorite ballpark food is linked to heart disease, kidney disease, and weak bones, due to the sodium phosphates and sodium nitrites used in hot dogs. There are many better options available, so if you’re in the mood for a hot dog, go for one of those instead.
46. Frozen Pies
Unhealthy Ingredients: Hydrogenated soybean oil
Partially hydrogenated oil (PHO), including soybean oil, is the primary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods. Trans fat has a direct link to heart disease. Many frozen pies and other frozen foods contain PHO, so be wary in the freezer aisle, and make sure to buy items free of PHO.
45. Chinese Food
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium
There’s nothing like sitting down to eat Chinese takeout. Unfortunately, the high levels of sodium used in Chinese dishes for flavor enhancement can be harmful if consumed regularly. Opt for steamed veggies and marinated chicken for a healthy serving of protein instead.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Vegetable oils, margarine
Croissants are undoubtedly one of the best pastries money can buy, but you’re paying for saturated fat in large quantities. Margarine contains trans fat, which raises cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease. Choose a healthier option for breakfast and avoid vegetable oil altogether.
43. Fish & Chips
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium
Any deep-fried food should be avoided or consumed infrequently. Fish and chips are at the top of the list of foods to avoid because of their high sodium count and the imbalanced ratio of fat per serving. Grill your fish to avoid the fat and extra sodium.
42. Pork Rinds
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium and fat
While pork rinds are a low-carb snack, the amount of sodium per serving is alarming. They contain over 1,000 milligrams of sodium, which is more than half the recommended daily limit. Find another crunchy snack to satisfy your salt craving.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium
Nachos are rich in calories and fat and low in nutritional value. From tortilla chips to gobs of cheese, they’re high in fat and won’t fill you up for long. The health benefits of nachos are slim to none, so it’s best to avoid them if possible.
40. Diet Ice Cream
Unhealthy Ingredients: Polysorbate 80
Polysorbate 80 is used in diet ice cream to extend its shelf life and maintain its creamy texture. It’s also linked to inflammation in the intestines. Any ingredients cooked up in a chemistry lab are best avoided, so try a low-calorie ice cream or frozen yogurt instead.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium, sugar, preservatives
Any food or condiment that can sit on a shelf for years and not go bad is suspicious. Mayo is one of these items, and that alone should be a reason to avoid it. The condiment is rich in preservatives and sugar, making it one of the most unhealthy foods in the world.
38. Belgian Waffles
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium, simple carbs
This fluffy waffle contains sugary batter, maple syrup, butter, and sweet cream. It contains way too many simple carbs and won’t leave you feeling full for very long. Try making waffles at home or choosing a vegan protein pancake.
37. Onion Rings
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sugar, saturated fats
Anything that is deep-fried should be avoided, and onion rings are no exception. Even when compared to French fries, onion rings have more calories, saturated fat, and sugar.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium, sugar
Any packaged or frozen biscuits are packed with preservatives and sodium to extend the food’s shelf life. The added sugar and trans fats in biscuits are astonishing and you’re better off finding a low-sugar version, or making your own from scratch.
35. Ready-Made Pie Crust
Unhealthy Ingredients: BHA and BHT
Store-bought pie crusts are packed with preservatives, including BHA & BHT, which are notoriously unhealthy ingredients. Food manufacturers do what they can to pass the FDA food regulations, and ready-made pie crusts are one of the biggest offenders of harmful ingredients.
34. Brown Rice
Unhealthy Ingredients: Arsenic
While brown rice has impressive health benefits, a study by the FDA shows that arsenic is found in heavy quantities in brown rice. Arsenic exposure is linked to skin, bladder, and lung cancer, along with heart disease. Find a white or jasmine rice that you enjoy instead, and enjoy similar health benefits.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Beef serving, sodium, and fat
In controlled quantities, red meat has its benefits. Meatloaf, however, is jam-packed with sodium and fat — enough to hit the recommended daily limit in a small serving. If you aren’t ready to quit this old-school dish, try using ground turkey instead.
32. Charred Meats
Unhealthy Ingredients: Dangerous heat levels
HCAs, or heterocyclic amines, develop when meat is cooked at high temperatures, which can lead to colon, pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancer. If you like charred meat, try using rosemary on your beef before grilling to prevent the production of HCAs.
31. BBQ Sauce
Unhealthy Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup
Nothing says American cook-out better than sweet and tangy BBQ sauce. Unfortunately, bottled sauces are full of added sugar and sugar variations that can lead to heart disease and other illnesses. You’re better off making your own sauce or finding something with low-sugar content.
30. Honey-Roasted Nuts
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sugar, sodium
Pre-packaged honey-roasted nuts are just like any other food sold in stores — they’re made with preservatives to maintain a longer shelf life. Honey-roasted is synonymous with sugar-coated, so don’t let the protein factor fool you. You’re basically eating candy.
29. Processed Cheese
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium, saturated fats, preservatives
Processed cheese can contain up to double the amount of sodium as natural cheese. It also has sodium phosphates, which can lead to kidney damage. If you can swing it, buy organic cheese instead. It’s made without antibiotics, growth hormones, or pesticides and contains high levels of calcium and protein. Happy cows = healthy cheese!
28. Cool Whip
Unhealthy Ingredients: Hydrogenated vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup
The first three ingredients in Cool Whip are water, vegetable oil, and high fructose corn syrup. To avoid eating one of the most unhealthy ingredients you can put in your body, try alternatives from other milks, like coconut, almond, or oat milk.
27. Slim Jims
Unhealthy Ingredients: Preservatives, sodium, corn syrup, caramel color
Anyone still eating Slim Jims knows the detriments to their health; you can’t plead ignorance any longer. Packed with sodium and preservatives (never seen a moldy Slim Jim, have you?) and hazardous caramel coloring, Slim Jims aren’t doing you any favors.
26. Bottled Smoothies
Unhealthy Ingredients: Caloric intake, sugar content
The convenience of bottled beverages is not lost on us, but you should know that the only bottled beverage you should be consuming is water. Bottled smoothies will spike blood sugar after a few sips while missing the fiber that occurs naturally in fruit. High sugar intake on a regular basis is a common factor in weight gain, so drink with caution.
25. Processed Salad Dressing
Unhealthy Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup, soybean oil
Avoiding high fructose corn syrup can aid in the prevention of diabetes and obesity. Soybean oil is infamous for inflaming the gut and increasing appetite. The double whammy of unhealthy ingredients in salad dressing is motivation enough to make your own from olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
24. Processed Meats
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium, preservatives
Just a few slices of processed deli meats contain nearly the recommended daily limit of sodium. Consuming high levels of sodium can put you at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. The nitrates in uncured deli meats also pose a threat, so trying to cut back on processed meat consumption is best.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sucralose
Splenda gained popularity for being zero-calorie, but it’s just as guilty of harmful ingredients, even if it offers fewer calories. Artificial sweeteners like sucralose are linked to weight gain and the risk of heart disease, so dump the Splenda and find a natural sweetener for your coffee or tea.
22. Pastries, Cookies & Cakes
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sugar, preservatives
Any pre-made or boxed cakes and cookie items are guaranteed to be made with refined sugars and preservatives to extend the life and taste of the product. Baking is a great hobby, so start making more of your favorite treats from scratch so you know exactly what you’re eating.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Artificial flavors, aspartame, acesulfame potassium
Jell-O is chock full of artificial sweeteners and flavors, which can hinder any weight-loss journey. It may be easy to snack on after surgery or during a hospital stay, but otherwise, avoid the wiggly snack as much as you can.
20. Refried Beans
Unhealthy Ingredients: Lard, hydrogenated lard
Refried beans have more saturated fat than any other bean or legume by a landslide. If it’s a healthy snack you’re after, try a vegetarian version, or go for the classic black bean.
19. Potato Chips
Unhealthy Ingredients: Acrylamide, sodium phosphate, preservatives
Not only is there little nutritional value in potato chips, but the sodium and fat content is just too high. When potatoes are cooked at high heat levels, the substance acrylamide is produced, which can be dangerous to the human body. Put the chips away and grab some fresh veggies!
18. Restaurant Desserts
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium, sugar, fat, calories
After enjoying a nice meal out at a restaurant, ordering dessert seems like the perfect ending to the evening. However, beware of the calorie content of any dessert you may choose. The most popular American restaurants offer sweets with upwards of 1,000 calories per serving.
17. Flavored Rice
Unhealthy Ingredients: Diglycerides, corn syrup solids
Diglycerides are food emulsifiers that contain trans fats, paired with corn syrup solids, which are essentially a fattening sweetener that provides no nutritional value and extra sugar. We suggest cooking some simple brown rice and adding spices and seasoning as you see fit.
16. Ice Cream
Unhealthy Ingredients: Added sugar, calories, artificial ingredients
Ice cream isn’t even close to one of the worst foods in the world. However, if you eat the frozen goodness regularly, your sweet tooth may get you in trouble. The added sugar and calories in ice cream add up quickly. Ice cream contains artificial sweeteners, dyes, and colors, making it a no-no for daily consumption.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Palm oil
Margarine tastes creamy because of the vegetable oil used in manufacturing. Oil blends, like canola oil, have high saturated fat content and can lead to a myriad of health issues if consumed too often. Instead, opt for almond butter or coconut oil.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sodium, additives
Whether frozen or fresh from a pizza joint, sodium content is always a concern. Frozen pizzas are riddled with additives and preservatives, and some brands use harmful ingredients like BHT, BHA, and ammonium sulfate to preserve their products. Leave the frozen pizzas behind and get creative in the kitchen, making your own.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, caramel color, artificial colors, propylene glycol
Frosting has a long shelf life and contains more sugar than anyone needs in one serving. Many ingredients in frosting can lead to a slew of health concerns, including chronic kidney disease. Healthy frosting may not exist, but there are better ways to meet your daily sugar intake.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Artificial coloring, added sugar, saturated fats
There’s no secret around the scary chemicals used in candy – artificial dyes, colors, and sweeteners are used to entice kids and adults alike to indulge. The sugar used in candy is highly addictive, making candy one of the most dangerous foods in the world (if eaten consistently in large quantities).
11. Energy Drinks
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sucrose, glucose, caffeine
Monster, RedBull, Bang, Yerba Mate… pick your poison! On second thought, skip it. Energy drinks contain harmful amounts of sugar and caffeine. When digested, sucrose can raise blood sugar and cause internal issues. Opt for green tea or clean protein shakes instead of a sugar-filled energy drink.
10. Fast Food
Unhealthy Ingredients: Phthalates
High exposure to phthalates from eating too much fast food can lead to several diseases associated with weight gain and inflammation. Most fast food should be avoided entirely, but if you can’t fight a craving, try to choose something fresh and made to order.
9. White Sugar
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sugar
The way Americans consume sugar continues to climb at concerning levels. Refined sugar can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Sugar is hard to avoid because it’s in so many of the foods we eat daily, but it’s up to you to educate yourself on limiting sugar intake.
8. Pancake Syrup
Unhealthy Ingredients: High fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring
It’s not a short stack without some delicious pancake syrup poured all over, right? Probably not. Pancake syrup is infamous for its two harmful ingredients – high fructose corn syrup and caramel coloring. We recommend adding pure maple syrup to your favorite breakfast food.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Nitrates and nitrites
Sausage may be your favorite side with eggs and toast, but some of its ingredients cause more harm than they’re worth. Processed meats like sausage have been linked to various forms of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. They’re also high in saturated fat and sodium.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Nitrates and nitrites, cooking methods
As we mentioned in #32, cooking meat at dangerous heat levels can produce HCAs, which can put consumers at risk for certain diseases. Bacon is full of preservatives and sodium to extend its shelf life, making it a wise choice to avoid or at least limit consumption.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Sugar, soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, TBHQ
America’s favorite to-go breakfast snack made this list with flying colors. Pop-Tarts are rich in sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Additionally, TBHQ is a nasty preservative that has been linked to liver and vision problems. It’s best to leave the Pop-Tarts in your childhood and grab a healthy energy bar instead.
4. Sugary Cereals
Unhealthy Ingredients: BHT, BHA, refined carbs, sugar
You may have fond memories of eating sugary cereal as a kid, but truthfully, the chemicals in cereal should not be eaten by anyone. BHT and BHA are dangerous enough to be considered carcinogenic, and the amount of sugar added can amount to more than what’s in a donut.
3. Deep-Fried Foods
Unhealthy Ingredients: Dangerous heat levels, inflammatory oil
We already know fried foods have threatening levels of fat and sodium, but get this — fried foods also contain inflammatory compounds that are directly linked to high oxidative stress reactions and inflammation in the body.
Unhealthy Ingredients: Added sugar
A standard can of soda (12 ounces) contains 42 grams of sugar. Beverages sweetened with added sugar can cause a multitude of issues and diseases including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Skip the sugar and stick to water or green tea for a refreshing treat.
1. Coffee Creamer
Unhealthy Ingredients: Soybean and canola oil
You may start your morning with a cup of joe, but what are you putting in it? Coffee creamer rarely has any cream in its ingredients; it’s usually a combination of water, sugar, and canola oil. Ditch the additives and stick to real, organic milk and add cinnamon for a touch of sweetness.
Creating and maintaining a balanced diet takes work, but the health benefits of eating clean are worth the effort.
Now that you know the unhealthy foods you should try to avoid, grocery shopping will get easier.
Start small and make noticeable changes to your diet, and in time you will notice your health improving, your energy levels increasing, and your mood changing. That’s the beauty of a healthy diet.
Here’s a quick recap of the 50 unhealthiest foods on the planet:
- Coffee creamer
- Deep-fried foods
- Sugary cereals
- Pancake syrup
- White sugar
- Fast food
- Energy drinks
- Ice cream
- Flavored rice
- Restaurant desserts
- Potato chips
- Refried beans
- Pastries, cookies & cakes
- Processed meats
- Processed salad dressing
- Bottled smoothies
- Cool Whip
- Processed cheese
- Honey-Roasted nuts
- BBQ sauce
- Charred meat
- Meat loaf
- Brown rice
- Ready-Made pie crust
- Onion rings
- Belgian waffles
- Diet ice cream
- Pork rinds
- Fish & chips
- Chinese food
- Frozen pies
- Hot dogs
- Canned soup
- Frozen entrees
- Fruit juice