A toxin is something that causes disease or damages tissue when it enters the body. When most people hear the word “toxin”, they think of chemicals like pesticides, heavy metals or other industrial pollutants. But even beneficial nutrients are toxic at high doses. Most people won’t get sick from eating small amounts of these toxic foods. But if you eat them excessively, your brain health will suffer and your risk of developing modern diseases rises significantly.
So if you want to be living optimally, you should avoid these 4 toxic foods:
1. Cereal Grains (especially refined flour)
The major cereal grains – wheat, corn, rice, barley, sorghum, oats, rye and millet – have become the staple crops of the modern human diet. And unfortunately, most people think they are healthy foods.
But they’re not. Humans have only been eating them for the past 10,000 years. Unlike animals, plants like cereal grains can’t run away from us when we decide to eat them. Instead, they have evolved other ways to protect themselves.
The protein gluten, which is present in wheat and many other commonly eaten cereal grains, damages the intestine. Many people can and do react to several other components of wheat as well.
Dr. Kenneth Fine, a pioneer in gluten intolerance research, has demonstrated that 1 in 3 Americans are gluten intolerant, and that 8 in 10 have the genes that predispose them to developing gluten intolerance.
Unfortunately, when you are gluten intolerant – which 33% of people are – you will also “cross-react” with other grains that have similar proteins as gluten.
2. Omega-6 Industrial Seed Oils
Industrial seed oils (corn, cottonseed, safflower and soybean oils) have not been a part of the human diet up until relatively recently. Throughout 4-5 million years of hominid evolution, diets included lots seafood (source of Omega-3s), but very low in omega-6 seed oils. Anthropological research suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fats in a ratio of roughly 1:1.
Today, most people get almost 20% of their calories from soybean oil alone, and almost 9% of all calories from omega-6 fat. Our average intake of n-6 fatty acids is now between 10 to 25 times higher than evolutionary norms, and elevated n-6 intakes are associated with an increase in all inflammatory diseases, including mental health problems.
Not all sugar is created alike. White table sugar is made up of two sugars: glucose and fructose. Glucose is an important nutrient in our bodies and is healthy, as long as it’s consumed in moderation. Fructose is a different story.
Fructose is found primarily in fruits and vegetables, and sweeteners like sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Unfortunately, the average person eats 152 pounds of sugar every year (64 pounds of this comes from HFCS).
Unlike glucose, fructose is immediately directed to the liver where it is converted into fat. A 2009 study showed that shifting 25% of dietary calories from glucose to fructose caused a 4-fold increase in stomach fat.
4. Processed soy
Like cereal grains, soy is another toxin that is often perceived as healthy, and it can be seen in just about every packaged and processed food in the form of soy protein isolate, soy flour, soy lecithin and soybean oil.
As a result, most people are unaware of how much soy they consume. You don’t have to be a tofu-loving hippie to eat a lot of soy.
And the soy products consumed traditionally in Asia were typically fermented and unprocessed. This is important because the fermentation process partially neutralizes the toxins in soybeans. Asians also don’t consume soy foods as a replacement for animal foods, but rather as a side dish.
Soy contains phytic acid, which reduces absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Soy also increases a person’s requirement for vitamin D, which many people are already deficient in.
And most importantly, soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function, lower testosterone, and increase cortisol (the stress hormone). A study at the Harvard Public School of Health in 2008 found that men who consumed the equivalent of one cup of soy milk per day had a 50% lower sperm count than men who didn’t eat soy.
Click here for a complete list of studies demonstrating the harmful effects of soy products.