Avoid these 7 less-than-healthy fruits and veggies

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, for MDLinx
Published December 12, 2019

Key Takeaways

According to the CDC, only about 10% of adults consume enough fruits and veggies. Depending on age and sex, adults should eat between 1.5 and 2 cups of fruit and between 2 and 3 cups of veggies a day. In some states, like West Virginia, only 6% of people eat enough veggies and 7% eat enough fruits!

Fruits and vegetables are good for you, of course, and people should be eating more of them. But, some fruits and veggies are less healthy than others for a variety of reasons. Here are seven to watch out for.


Technically, potatoes are vegetables, but nutritional experts recommend thinking of them as grains when placing them on your plate due to their high carb content. One medium-sized potato contains about 110 calories, and because they are high in simple carbs, potatoes can pose health problems to those with diabetes and weight concern—even when cooked in a healthy fashion.

In a high-powered study published in The BMJ, researchers found that increased consumption (four or more servings per week vs less than one serving per month) of boiled, baked, or mashed potatoes, as well as French fries, predicted hypertension.


The majority of fruits have a low glycemic index (GI). Sweet fruits like melon and pineapple, however, have medium GIs. These sweeter fruits should be carefully portioned in those with diabetes.

You may be wondering about watermelon, which is a sweet summertime treat. Although the GI of watermelon is high (above 70), its glycemic load is low, so it is a safe food choice for those with diabetes.

Bean sprouts

While not necessarily unhealthy, bean sprouts are grown in moist, warm conditions that promote the growth of Salmonella, Listeria, and Escherichia coli. Various outbreaks of foodborne illness have been associated with bean sprouts. Simply washing bean sprouts will not clear the bacteria. Instead, sprouts need to be steamed thoroughly. Young children, pregnant women, and the immunocompromised should steer clear of bean sprouts. Only consume raw sprouts that are labeled “ready to eat.”


A “vegetable” that’s really a grain, corn contains about 180 calories and 40 g of carbohydrates per cup. Corn is known to spike blood sugar levels, so people with diabetes and those interested in weight loss should limit their corn consumption.

In a high-powered study published in PLoS Medicine, researchers examined the influence of fruit and veggie intake on weight change. The authors found that “many vegetables were inversely associated with weight change, but starchy vegetables such as peas, potatoes, and corn had the opposite association in which increased intake was associated with weight gain. Although these vegetables have nutritional value (potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, fiber, and protein), they have a higher GL (lower carbohydrate quality) that could explain their positive association with weight change.”


On the upside, mangoes are a good source of certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In fact, one mango will supply you with your entire daily requirement of vitamin C. Mangoes are also high in vitamin A, folate, and potassium.

On the downside, one mango has about 30 g of carbohydrates and about 26 g of sugar. It also has a middle-to-high value of 60 on the glycemic index, along with a glycemic load of 9. And, as a mango ripens, its glycemic index rises. So, if you like mangoes, go for a smaller serving—and also watch out for them as sweetening ingredients in your smoothie and guacamole. 


People don’t usually eat coconut raw, but coconut oil is used in baking. Coconut oil contains between 11g and 12 g of saturated fats, and saturated fats have been related to higher cholesterol levels and heart disease, although the evidence is mixed. Moreover, little research exists supporting any health benefits of coconut oil. When cooking, it’s probably best to reach for olive oil rather than coconut oil.


Kale has become pretty popular. It’s used as a garnish in salad bars and blended into smoothies. But, apparently, kale has a dark side.

The Environmental Working Group found that 60% of US kale samples were contaminated with the pesticide DCPA, which the EPA classifies as a possible carcinogen. Yikes! Experts have pushed for discontinued use of DCPA in agriculture.

Bottom line

Mom and Dad always said to eat your fruits and veggies—and you still should, of course. But now we know to choose them wisely, eat them in the right proportions and, last but not least, make sure they’re well washed, cleaned, or grown organically. 

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