Processed foods have been around since the 1910s when Who introduced trans fats to the food supply. Some of these items are still around today, including Oreo cookies, Crisco, and Aunt Jemima syrup. Processed foods have now become mass-produced and distributed. They’re everywhere, contributing to several serious conditions.
What is the processed food?
Technically, pure ground beef has been processed. Butter is another example, as it’s been separated from the milk and then churned. However, there’s a difference between food that has been mechanically processed and chemically processed. If a substance has been processed, yet it’s only one ingredient, it’s still real food.
When food is produced from refined, artificial ingredients, being chemically processed, these items are generally known as ‘processed foods.’ These products are typically found in a can, bag, or box. They do not resemble anything in nature, as they need to be highly processed to create an edible item.
When buying processed foods, take a look at the ingredient list. The longer this list is, typically, the more it has been processed. When it all boils down, do not purchase anything that you could not make at home yourself. This will either be because you do not recognize ingredients or do not have access to the chemicals and other artificial substances that make up that item.
Why Should I Eliminate Processed Foods From My Diet?
It’s important to understand what you’re putting into your body. When you provide your body with very few beneficial ingredients, your mood, cognitive abilities, and overall health will reflect that. The following reasons provide you with some of the vital information:
1. They’re Full of Chemicals and Artificial Ingredients
As mentioned above, there’s a whole lot of added ‘stuff’ to your food products. When you look at an ingredient list and 30+ ingredients, you can guarantee that a large percentage of those ingredients are not real food.
2. When items are processed, they tend to have:
- Preservatives: This is added to food so that it does not rot or spoil. It’s not uncommon for foods to have a shelf-life of five, even ten years. A well-known preservative is sodium nitrite, found in bacon, deli meat, and hot dogs. This preservative has been linked to various cancers.
- Colorants and Flavors: These are artificial ingredients that give a food item a specific color and a specific artificial flavor. For example, Diacetyl is a butter flavoring, which raises concerns regarding brain health and is potentially linked to Alzheimer’s.
- Artificial Sweeteners: When we ingest glucose, our body recognizes what it is. For instance, high fructose corn syrup, which is found in many processed foods and sweetened drinks, does not affect our bodies. A soda pop that is 20-ounces generally has around 15 teaspoons of sugar, all of it being high fructose corn syrup. Once sugar is consumed in doses that high, it becomes a toxin to your body.
The fructose is not broken down like glucose, as it goes straight to the liver. This is linked to ‘fatty liver,’ as many individuals now have Type II diabetes. It is also linked to heart attacks, dementia, cancer, and strokes.
3. They’re Addictive
If you think that processed foods taste good, you’re not alone. The food industry designs food to be addictive. Why? They want to make money, even if it means harming others. They have invested billions of dollars, creating a combination of ingredients that makes their products addictive.
The industry knows exactly how much fat, sugar, and salt to put in their products. We know that they’re bad for us, yet we still eat them. This is because sugar and various junk foods activate the pleasure centers in our brain. We experience a release of dopamine, just as a cocaine addict would.
We have essentially hijacked our brain systems and body, complicating how we regulate energy balance. Since these foods are so rewarding to the brain, we take part in overconsumption. These foods have been engineered to make your body and brain react this way. It’s making us sick, creating an epidemic of obesity.
4. Lack Nutrition
Think about food in its natural state. The more steps it endures regarding processing, the more and more nutrients it will lose. Some products do not originate from any natural food source, which is a real concern. Although some products compensate with synthetic vitamins and minerals, they’re not a replacement for nutrients that are found in whole foods.
We’re an overfed society, yet we’re starving of nutrients. There are so many nutrients that are found in whole foods. These nutrients are linked to improved health and well-being. However, the more processed foods you eat, the fewer nutrients you’re consuming. Your body and mind can not perform if they are not obtaining vital nutrients.
5. Contain Processed Oils and Trans Fats
When you consume processed foods, you are ingesting various unhealthy fats. These fats are typically cheap to produce, which makes them extremely unhealthy. These oils increase the risk of heart disease, which is the most common cause of death within Western society. Replace vegetable oils with coconut and olive oil.
Eat Food the Way It’s Meant to Be Eaten
Fancy labels and packaging aside, it’s not a complex concept. We need to replace processed foods with more traditional, whole foods. When you eat right, you’re bound to be healthier. Being aware is the first step.
Start taking an interest in labels; what’s in the product you’re about to consume? How will this affect your internal systems? Once you get into the habit of being consciously aware, your health will benefit. It starts with awareness, ending in change.