Many (if not most) diseases are either related to or caused by the way we eat. Studies have shown that in some cases, a poor diet can be deadlier than smoking, which is pretty alarming.

Being a minimalist, I believe that what you don’t do is as important as what you do. When applied to the way we eat, this can be a powerful — and relatively effortless — way to improve our levels of energy, vitality, and health.

There’s literally no point in consuming the best foods, or supplements, if you are poisoning your body every day. Here’s a list of five foods you should avoid.

1. Dairy

Yep, dairy.

Milk, cheese, butter, sour cream, yogurt… but also cake, and ice cream. Don’t worry, I’ll show you some dairy-free alternatives in a moment, so you can still enjoy your favorite dessert.

Why is it so bad?

I stopped eating dairy five years ago and health wise, it’s been one of the best decisions I ever made.

Dairy is very hard to digest, whether you’re intolerant or not. It also has other negative side effects, such as causing acne (partly because of the cows being fed hormones), causing inflammation, and increasing the risk of certain types of cancer.

Moreover, it’s an artificial food — no other animals on this planet consume milk once they become adult — and it’s not very ethical: some practices of the dairy industries are quite appalling. You can check out the full list of reasons dairy is bad for you in this article.

What are some great alternatives?

Coconut milk, hazelnut milk, almond milk, oat milk, rice milk… there’s at least ten different vegan alternatives to traditional cow’s milk. You can find them in most supermarkets. They are cheap — and delicious!

2. Excessive sugar

Processed foods such as cereal, cookies, soft drinks, jelly, and candy bars contain way too much sugar. Let’s take a look at why you should avoid it.

Why is it so bad?

First of all, it’s very addictive, and that’s precisely the reason why some companies put extra sugar in their products — so we constantly want to consume more.

Unfortunately, large amounts of simple carbohydrates are linked to many diseases including depression, anxiety, diabetes, and inflammation. When your body receives too much sugar, your blood sugar levels become unstable. This, in turn, can cause tiredness, headaches, and mood swings.

As if that wasn’t enough, there’s two more reasons you want to reduce simple carbs: they increase the risk of tooth cavities, and age your skin faster by reducing collagen.

What are some great alternatives?

Again, the issue isn’t sugar itself, but eating excessive amounts. If your typical breakfast consists of highly processed foods, such as cookies, try and replace those with fruit, or raw juices. They’re still sweet and delicious, but contain far less sugar and many more nutrients.

3. Caffeine

Much like sugar, caffeine can be very addictive. Because our body develops a tolerance to it, most people find that over time they need to increase their daily intake to feel the same level of energy.

Why is it so bad?

If you consume small amounts, and notice no side effects whatsoever, it’s probably fine. Coffee does have some benefits: it contains antioxidants, and may reduce the risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, and dementia.

However, you should probably avoid caffeine completely if:

  • You suffer from insomnia, anxiety, or stress (and if that’s the case, you should avoid all stimulants)
  • You rely on it for energy (it’s true that caffeine improves mood and mental clarity, but if you depend on it to feel better, it’s probably not a good sign)
  • You have digestive issues, such as IBS or GERD
  • You are pregnant

Keep in mind, caffeine is also found in a lot of supplements (especially weight loss supplements), energy drinks, and even chocolate.

What are some great alternatives?

If you don’t want to quit caffeine completely, you may want to try green tea, Matcha tea, or even decaf coffee.

If you rely on coffee to get you through the day, particularly in the morning, keep in mind: there’s many ways to boost your energy levels naturally, such as improving your sleep hygiene.

4. Processed meat

This is any meat that has been modified in order to extend its shelf life or make it taste better. Examples: ham, salami, cured meat, hot dogs, sausage.

Why is it so bad?

In short, processed meat has officially been classified as Group 1 carcinogen. This means there is strong evidence that consuming it causes cancer. Some of the ingredients added to processed meats include dyes, chemical preservatives, and large amounts of salt.

What are some great alternatives?

Most people eat processed meat simply because it’s convenient. If that’s the case for you, consider eating healthier snacks such as pumpkin or sunflower seeds, fruit, or almonds.

Some protein-packed alternatives to processed meat are chickpeas, lentils, eggs, beans, hummus, and almond butter.

5. Anything that…

Makes you feel lethargic, upset, or irritable. Also, anything that gives you headaches or takes ages to digest.

We’re all different. When you listen to your body, you can easily identify which foods or ingredients you should avoid — regardless of what the experts tell you.

For instance, if you consume caffeine and one hour later you notice an increase in anxiety or irritability, it probably means you shouldn’t consume it. Similarly, you may find that a high calorie, high salt, high fat meal affects your mood negatively, and takes way too long to digest.

Is there any food you stopped eating recently (because you noticed it was bad for your health, or for any other reasons)?

Let me know by leaving a comment below!