The term processed food gets thrown around all the time. Do most people really know what processed food is? Why do health experts say to avoid processed foods? How do processed foods make you fat?
Processed food is food that has been altered from it’s natural state. Any food that you can buy in a can, jar, packet or bottle is processed.
There are three big problems with processed food: what is added, what is removed and what is left. Look at every ingredient the next time you pick up a jar, package or bottle and if you don’t know what all of the ingredients are then I highly recommend that you find out more before you put that food into your body.
Additives are used in food to give it a longer shelf life and to make it taste, look and smell good. Additives enable food to sit on a supermarket shelf, or in our cupboards, for several months without going bad. In nature, if a food is left long enough, it loses its nutritive qualities and is no longer fit for human consumption, so it spoils, or insects and bacteria consume it. However, when food is pumped with additives, the insects and bacteria find it too poisonous and toxic; in fact it would kill them if they ate it, so they don’t. Although additives prevent our food from spoiling, allowing us to eat foods that would otherwise have gone bad, they do not help the food retain it’s original nutritional value; often by the time we eat a processed food, it has no nutritional value whatsoever.
Many people say additives are safe, but no one knows for sure. Although many kinds of tests have been done, (on rats and on humans), to establish their safety, most tests are done for just one additive within a given limited time-frame. No tests have been done to establish the effect of combinations of additives over longer periods of time, and we don’t know the lasting effects of consuming huge amounts of additives in the long term.
It has been estimated that we consume about 5 kilograms of food additives, such as preservatives, colors, bleaches, flavors, emulsifiers and stabilizers every year. This not only results in extra work for our body to remove them, but frequently triggers asthma attacks, rashes, respiratory disturbances, headaches, hyperactivity in children, and in some, an abnormal sensitivity to prescribed medications, particularly aspirin.
Apart from what is added to processed food, it is important to consider what is removed: during the processing or “refining” of food, much of the fiber and other nutrients, vitamins, minerals, etc., are destroyed from high heat and irradiation used in the processing. So what is left? Not much. Often the food industry attempts to add some of the lost vitamins and minerals and will label their food as being “fortified with Vitamins and Minerals” to make it sound good. The truth is that fortifying food will not bring back the phytonutrients and phytochemicals that can only be found in wholesome unprocessed food.
HOW PROCESSED FOODS MAKE YOU FAT
So how does the body metabolize all this processed food? Many processed foods: white flour, white rice, white pastas, white breads, white crackers, cakes and cookies are recognized by the body as sugar because these products have been so highly refined. Therefore when you eat these highly processed foods your blood sugar level goes up and your body releases insulin which basically alerts your body to hold onto it’s fat and burn off the sugar in your blood stream to decrease your blood sugar and bring it back to normal. When this is done repeatedly over and over several times a day you increase your risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
By choosing wholesome foods that have not been highly processed, like brown rice, oatmeal, nuts, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables and high fiber breads, you can avoid many negative side effects from processed foods.
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