10 foods that will make you feel bad

While superfoods like whole grains, fruits, nuts, and leafy greens inhabit one end of the good-for-you spectrum, you might wonder which foods live on the other end. You know, the ones you sometimes crave but know deep down are bad for you? From sugary soda and potato chips to candy bars and fast food, some of these duds may seem obvious because they make you feel lethargic and unsatisfied immediately. And then there are the ones that seem like they're "healthy" when you pull them from the shelves at the grocery store, but can actually make you feel worse in the long run. Which foods should you avoid so you can feel your best? Here's a list of the most common culprits for low energy, nagging hunger pangs, and upset stomachs.

Soda

While you may know that drinking too much soda is bad for you due to the high sugar content and lack of nutritional benefits, you may not realize just how bad. In addition to being a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic and a catalyst for diabetes, soda can lead to various other health problems. According to Rodale's Organic Life, the artificial caramel coloring that makes many sodas brown has been shown to cause cancer in animals. Additionally, the phosphates in soda that help it to last longer might have degenerative effects when consumed in excess, possibly bringing on the effects of premature aging. Yikes!

If you enjoy the fizzy sweet taste of soda but want to cut down on extra calories and sugar, try flavoring sparkling water with freshly chopped fruits. It's an easy way to satiate your need for a refreshing beverage without sacrificing your long-term health.

White bread

White bread is made with refined grains as opposed to the recommended whole grains you should be getting in your daily diet. Refined flours have been stripped of wheat bran and germ, which are the parts of the grain that contain fiber. You need fiber in your body to help keep you regular and flush out your colon as part of a natural cleansing process. Consuming only white bread can make you feel constipated and uneasy. However, you can counter these negative physical effects by incorporating more whole grain bread products into your daily meals and snacks.

If you know that whole grain breads are better for your body but genuinely prefer the taste of white bread, try buying products made with white whole wheat. Yes, this is a thing! You can have the best of both worlds.

Fruit juice

Fruit juice is often seen as being good for you. After all, "fruit" is right there in the name. You might be surprised to realize that many store-bought fruit juices contain as much sugar as soda. While they may contain some some vitamins and minerals, the high sugar content blows away the benefits. In order to process most commercial fruit juices, natural flavors are extracted and artificial ones are added to replace them. So what you end up with are drinks that seem like they're healthy but that are actually no better than cans of soda — lacking in fiber and loaded with sugar.

Homemade smoothies are a great way to incorporate fruits into your diet without succumbing to the allure of sugary, store-bought fruit juices. Actually use your blender for once and feel good about what you're drinking at the same time.

Vegetable oils

As alternatives to animal-based fats like butter or lard, you might be led to believe that vegetable oils are better for you. Think again. Oils extracted from seeds are highly processed. Commercial vegetable oils are pumped with hydrogen gas to increase the shelf life of the oil, but partially hydrogenating these oils also gives them trans fats. Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been modified to be more stable, but according to the American Heart Association, consuming trans fats puts you more at risk for heart disease and stroke.

Cook with unsalted butter, olive oil, or less processed fats to avoid the risk of adding trans fats to your regular diet. Your heart will thank you!

Gluten-free snack foods

The demand for gluten-free products is on the rise as the dietary trend continues to gain momentum. This multibillion-dollar industry has made the phrase "gluten-free" commonplace in grocery stores and restaurants, but is it always a good thing? One study showed that consuming an excess of gluten can instigate a 70 percent increase in factors related to leaky gut syndrome. Celiac disease and other gluten allergies are dangerous and can be life-threatening, but not everything gluten-free is inherently healthy. (And only 1 percent or less of the world population has Celiac disease.) While many gluten-free snack foods have dodged these glutinous wheat proteins, they could be chock full of refined sugars instead. They might also contain the same cheap and harmful ingredients — like vegetable oils full of trans fats — used in wheat products.

If you're maintaining a gluten-free diet, remember to keep it well-balanced. Opt for gluten-free products made with natural wheat alternatives like the varieties of nut flours available, and enjoy them along with foods that contain fiber and other vitamins and minerals to help keep your energy levels up.

Agave nectar

A syrup made from the Mexican agave tequilana plant, agave is a popular alternative sweetener widely thought to be healthier than regular sugar. Natural sweeteners like it are popular, but are they really better for you? According to experts, the agave nectar found in stores is equivalent to high fructose corn syrup. While naturally occurring agave contains good-for-you antioxidants, processed agave not so much.

How should you sweeten your cup of tea then? Try using honey instead. It's still sweet (82 percent sugar by weight) and should absolutely be used sparingly, but current scientific evidence suggests it's "a lot less bad for you than sugar."

Low-fat yogurt

If you often choose low-fat yogurt over its full-fat counterpart at the grocery store, maybe it's time to reconsider. First, low-fat varieties need to replace that lost flavor somehow, and it often happens with sugar. (Healthy fats like those naturally found in dairy products can still have lots of added sugars, so read your labels.) Second, studies have shown that healthy diets tend to be higher in good, unsaturated fats and lower in saturated and trans fats. Other studies found that people who ate full-fat dairy products instead of low-fat ones did not increase their risk of developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Full-fat dairy products were even associated with slightly lower body weights compared to low-fat dairy.

The next time you're in the chilly yogurt aisle of the store, check your yogurt's nutritional label to make sure you're not getting more sugar than you bargained for.

Processed cheese

There's a big difference between real cheese and "cheese products." Cheese products are those eerily perfect orange slices commonly used for grilled cheese sandwiches and snacking. That perfection comes at a cost, mainly loads of artificial coloring, chemicals, and additives. Cheaper varieties may even contain milk protein concentrates instead of actual milk. Processed cheese and real cheese are also rife with saturated fats that are harmful to your heart.

Real cheese made from actual milk is good in moderation. In addition to being absolutely delicious and incomparable, cheese is a great source of protein, calcium, and other minerals you want for your body.

Fast food meals

If you need more confirmation, the American Heart Association warns that eating fast food without making informed choices can be detrimental to your health. Many of the options you're likely to encounter at these convenient eateries are bound to be loaded with fat, salt, and sugar — the deadly trifecta. You should avoid foods that are covered in salt (hello, french fries), as consuming too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure. The ones that are super sweet (hey, frosty milkshakes) contribute to obesity. And the items cooked in oils that are high in trans fats could increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.

If you must stop at a fast food restaurant, try checking out the nutritional information for menu items online before getting in line to order. Doing so at least lets you know what you're getting into and can help you make better choices.

Specialty coffee drinks

Before you order that enormous coffee drink that costs $6, stop to consider what goes in it. Many of these fancy beverages contain as much fat and sugar as an entire dessert. When you take into account the sugary flavoring syrup, the large amount of milk, the whipped cream, and the caramel or chocolate topping, you start to get the picture. Instead of an afternoon pick-me-up, you might be in for way too much sugar.

If you don't want a large sugar-coffee bomb to the gut, try enjoying a simple cup of coffee with a little milk alongside an actual sweet treat like a small cookie.

With food culture playing an increasingly large role in society, it will become ever more important to be aware of what you're actually eating. Hopefully, you can avoid some of the bigger culprits of poor health. Luckily, the healthy options are pretty darn tasty, too.