worst processed foods

Top 5 Worst Processed Foods to Buy

At The Green Apple Club, we aspire to eating fresh, natural produce. Every ingredient used in the website’s clean eating recipes contribute in some way to promoting our good health.

The following list of the top 5 worst processed foods, contain very few ingredients that promote good health, they also contain a significant number of ingredients that actively promote ill health.


1. Diet Coke

The world’s top selling brand of diet cola includes the colour, Caramel E150d, and the artificial sweeteners, aspartame and acesulfame K. Caramel colouring might sound sweetly innocent, but it contains an unpleasant contaminant called 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI). In 2007 the National Toxicology Program issued a report showing that exposure of mice to 4-MEI showed ‘clear evidence’ of increased risk of developing lung cancer1. In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer went on to conclude that 4-MEI is possibly carcinogenic to humans2.

Recent research has also shown that the risk of Type II Diabetes doubles with the consumption of two or more 200ml servings of sugary or artificially sweetened soft drinks a day3. To read more about the dangers of aspartame, read the article ‘Natural & Chemical Food Additives’.

Best alternative: still or sparkling water, herb and fruit teas, water flavoured with fresh fruit.


2. Weight-Watchers Rich Toffee Bar

Weight-Watchers is an extremely popular weight-loss plan, with followers around the world. The brand produces a wide variety of different foods that can be eaten along with its calorie restricting plan.

For people who aspire to a whole-food lifestyle, these ‘diet’ products should not be on the menu. This is the ingredients list of the branded Rich Toffee Bars (taken from the Weight Watchers website):

Nougat (42%) [Bulking Agent: Polydextrose, Crisped Cereal (13%) (Rice Flour, Wheat Flour, Sugar, Malted Barley Flour, Salt, Rapeseed Oil, Raising Agent: Sodium Bicarbonate, Emulsifier: Soya Lecithin), Sugar, Honey, Humectant: Glycerol, Egg White, Stabiliser: Cellulose, Flavourings, Emulsifier: Mono and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids], Milk Chocolate (31%) [Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Skimmed Milk Powder, Whey Powder (Milk), Lactose (Milk), Butter Oil (Milk), Emulsifiers (Soya Lecithin, Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate), Flavouring], Caramel (27%) [Bulking Agent: Polydextrose, Skimmed Sweetened Condensed Milk, Invert Sugar Syrup, Butter Oil (Milk), Emulsifier: Mono and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids, Salt, Flavourings].

Each 19g bar contains 5.8g of refined white sugar (in fact there are five different sugar sources listed in the label. The amount of refined white sugar in our modern day diet has directly contributed to the rise in obesity and obesity related disorders. A diet in which calories are restricted, but still contains considerable amounts of refined white sugar, is not a sustainable lifestyle change that will lead to prolonged weight loss. You can read more about how low fat diets have contributed to obesity in this article: Why a Low Fat Diet May Not be the Answer.

Best alternative: a fresh, whole food diet that does not restrict calories, but does remove refined sugars.


3. Starbucks Gingerbread Latte

It has become increasingly apparent that the speciality hot drinks from popular coffee shops are loaded with sugar. But did you know that they also contain artificial preservatives and flavourings?

This is the ingredients list for a Starbucks Gingerbread Latte (taken from the Starbucks website):

Milk, Brewed Espresso, Gingerbread Syrup [Sugar, Water, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid], Whipped Cream [Cream (Cream, Milk, Mono And Diglycerides, Carrageenan), Vanilla Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid)], Nutmeg.

As well as a whopping 38g of sugar in a large drink, this latte also contains artificial flavours combined with sodium benzoate (which can cause hyperactivity and dizziness). As a consumer market, we increasingly avoid these artificial additives in our food. However, people often don’t consider the ingredients list when purchasing a coffee from a coffee shop.

Best alternative: an Americano or breakfast tea. Or try a homemade Cacao Frappuccino.


4. Vegetable Oil-Based Margarine

For years, refined vegetable oil-based margarines have been promoted as being a healthier alternative than butter spreads. Cheaper and cheaper versions of these margarines were produced and were bought gladly by households around the world.

Unfortunately, these margarines contain very high levels of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and it is now widely thought that excessive amounts of these PUFA’s in the western diet have contributed to the rise in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and autoimmune disorders4.

Best alternative: You could use fresh butter in moderation to spread on your toast, or a drizzle of olive oil, hummus or avocado butter all make tasty alternatives.


5. Luncheon Meat/Hot Dogs

Highly processed meat products such as luncheon meat and hot dogs, usually contain a large amount of chemical preservatives and additives to make it look and taste more appealing to consumers. If the meat has come from a mechanically separated source then it is likely to contain pieces of the animals spinal cord and skin, you can read more about mechanically separated meat in this article: The Horror of Hotdogs.

This is the ingredients list for a luncheon meat currently available at Tesco:

Pork (78%), Water, Salt, Pea Starch, Stabilisers (Sodium Triphosphate, Sodium Polyphosphate, Tetrasodium Diphosphate, Tetrapotassium Diphosphate), Dextrose, Honey, Sugar, Spices, Antioxidants (Sodium Ascorbate, Ascorbic Acid), Preservatives (Potassium Nitrate, Sodium Nitrite, Sodium Nitrate), Spice Extracts, Potato Fibre.

The phosphate stabilisers used to bulk out the meat and they are also often used in chemical detergents and other household products. This meat product contains seven different, laboratory produced chemicals, none of which contribute to your good health.

Best alternative: home-roasted, carved meats such a chicken, beef or pork. Parma ham is generally considered to be a better choice than deli hams as it doesn’t contain any chemical preservatives.



Not all processed food contributes to ill-health, however the above food products are shining examples of foods that do. A diet of fresh, whole foods provides the building blocks for a health body. If you’d like to join a community of like-minded, health conscious people, then join The Green Apple Club today.



  1. http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/results/pubs/longterm/reports/longterm/tr500580/listedreports/tr535/index.html
  2. http://www.foodinsight.org/Questions_and_Answers_about_4_MEI
  3. http://www.eje-online.org/content/175/6/605.long

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909

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