- Nutritionists generally advise to avoid sugary, processed items in favor of healthy whole foods like fruits, nuts, and whole grains.
- But even a few traditionally "healthy" foods and drinks can have negative side effects when consumed in excess.
- We rounded up a few nutritious items that have been found to contain certain toxins or cancer-causing properties.
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We’ve all been told that swapping starchy potatoes for a plate of green beans is good for our bodies. But not all nutritionist-recommended food and drink is unequivocally healthy.
A few of the "healthy" foods you’ve been told to eat, including spices, nuts, fruits and veggies, and even nutritional supplements, could actually have negative side effects when consumed in excess. But that doesn’t mean you should stop eating them.
One of the general principles of toxicology is that the dose makes the poison. We can get sick when we’re exposed to chemicals in extremely high amounts, but it’s usually difficult to consume so many servings of a single food that we see negative health effects.
That said, scientists are constantly learning more about the relationship between food and our bodies. Here are a few foods and drinks that have been found to contain certain toxins or cancer-causing properties, as well as a few that may lead to higher risk of bleeding or liver damage.
Red wine has an ingredient that could help your heart, but drinking too much of it could increase your risk of cancer or stroke.
Kelsey Knight / Unsplash
There’s an ongoing debate over whether red wine’s salutary properties make up for the fact that it’s — well, alcohol. Studies have shown that antioxidants in red wine could help ward off heart attacks by reducing the risk of blood clots, inflammation, and high cholesterol.
But drinking any amount of alcohol in excess isn’t recommended for your health. Too much alcohol (more than one drink a day for women or more than two drinks a day for men under 65) could increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and certain types of cancer.
Fish oil supplements contain essential omega-3s, but they might also increase your risk of bleeding.
Baoyan zeng / Shutterstock
Americans spend more than $1 billion a year on fish- and animal-derived supplements, with many under the impression that these nutrients can reduce inflammation or cardiovascular risk. This seems to only be the case for people who don’t consume any fish or have elevated triglyceride levels.
The Mayo Clinic even suggests that high doses of fish oil supplements could increase your risk of bleeding or stroke, or potentially hinder your immune response. Though the clinic says the supplements are "generally safe," doctors tend to advise that people get their omega-3 fatty acids from whole foods, if possible.
Store-bought cinnamon is generally considered a healthy treat, but it could be toxic for your liver.
Cinnamon is often touted as a yummy way to consume antioxidants that reduce inflammation and blood sugar levels, which can in turn lower your risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. But not all cinnamon is created equal.
The spice actually comes in two main forms: the kind we see most often in stores, known as cassia, and the rarer, more expensive version known as ceylon.
Store-bought cinnamon has a much higher percentage of coumarin, an organic compound that could damage liver cells and potentially lead to cancer. Because of this, the average person is generally advised not to consume more than one to one-and-a-half teaspoons of cassia cinnamon each day.
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