Skip to content

5 Foods A Physician With 20+ Years Of Health Knowledge Would Never Eat

Woman eating food at a market
Image by Michela Ravasio / Stocksy
August 4, 2022
Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.

Most people don't respond well to being told what not to eat, but when it comes to protecting your gut health, there are some foods that really may be better left out of your diet or eaten in moderation to make sure you're feeling your best. By now, you've certainly heard that processed foods are some of the worst culprits for wreaking havoc on your body, but there are some specific foods and drinks that you should keep an eye out for if you're aiming to create a healthy and holistic approach to wellness.

In a recent TikTok, William Li, M.D., physician, vascular biologist, and author of Eat To Beat Disease, shared the five things he would never eat after 20 years of experience in the health world, and we're taking notes:

This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Anything with artificial sweetener.

Artificially sweetened coffee and soda aren't great for your health—a shocker, we know. But do you know just how impactful these drinks can be on your gut? "These artificial sweeteners actually contain chemicals that [negatively impact] our gut microbiome—these are the healthy gut bacteria. Some of these artificial sweeteners kill the healthy gut bacteria," explains Li.

Healthy gut bacteria help with a number of positive functions in the body, so when they're thrown out of whack by artificial sweeteners, you'll likely feel the effects. "Our healthy gut bacteria also text messages our brain and helps our brain release healthy social hormones. So when you eat artificial sweeteners, you're actually [affecting] a lot of other healthy systems in your body," Li adds.

This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Movie theater popcorn butter

Love going to the movies and getting a big tub of buttery popcorn? You may be doing your gut a disservice. "It's not really butter. It's actually a mix of chemicals with a lot of synthetic preservatives that are just made to taste like butter," warns Li. While enjoying this undeniably delicious treat on the occasion won't really do any harm, if you're frequently going to the movies it may be a good (and cost-effective!) idea to bring some of your own snacks.


Coffee from an airplane

Listen, if you're taking an early morning flight, we don't blame you for needing a coffee. But as Li warns, getting your java straight from the plane may not be a great call. "The coffee on an airplane is made from hot water from the tanks of an airplane, and most airlines don't clean their tanks except maybe four times a year," he explains. "Think about it, if you had a tank of hot water that you didn't clean that much at all, what do you think is going to be in that cup?" There's a reason there are so many coffee shops situated in the airport—take advantage of them before you board!

This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Shrimp cocktail in a buffet line

If you raise your eyebrow at seafood from the buffet table, just know you're not alone. "Shrimp that has been cooked, peeled, and laid out on the counter—you have no idea how much handling has gone into it," warns Li. Think about it this way: The less someone else has handled your food, the better. While this is less about the nutrients that this particular food provides, your gut will thank you for avoiding potential contaminants (especially bad microbes).


Maple syrup in diners

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Moderation is key. But when it comes to maple syrup from a diner, you might want to think twice. "It's imitation maple syrup, which means it's made out of high-fructose corn syrup, and it's got food coloring, artificial flavorings, and it's got a ton of sugar," explains Li. "If you're going to go for the maple syrup, go for the real thing."

This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

The takeaway.

The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to support your gut, starting with a targeted probiotic. May we recommend mbg's probiotic+? Formulated with four strains to support healthy digestion, soothe bloating, and promote abdominal comfort, this would be a great habit to nurture your gut.*

At the end of the day, you can enjoy whatever foods you love, but if you're considering your gut health, it can be helpful to avoid fueling your body with less nutritious ingredients that may cause undue irritation. Li's list offers some pointers for keeping your health in check. And regardless, taking a probiotic can give your gut the extra love it needs.*

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.
Merrell Readman
Merrell Readman
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor

Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career, and formerly worked at SheFinds. Her byline has also appeared in Women’s Health. In her current role, she writes and edits for the health, movement, and food sections of mindbodygreen. Readman currently lives in New York City.