Most of us know that sprinkled pop tars aren’t the key to a balanced breakfast, but what about the lesser known, innocent looking suspects behind the shiny looking bags in the breakfast aisle? The fact is, as we become more health conscious, we are ever more susceptible to being mislead by companies ‘healthy and natural’ label claims, ingredients and marketing.
Below are a few core reasons why avoiding processed food is one of the greatest decisions you can make for your health and wellbeing.
- Sneaky Sugar:
Salad dressings, yogurt, sauces, and other packaged items are usually hiding sugar, or sugar’s cheaper, ugly cousin high fructose corn syrup. Besides the empty calories and energy-draining effects, refined sugar usage is linked to some of the world’s deadliest diseases; diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer.
2. Processed foods are designed to be addictive:
Made in science labs, not kitchens, these products are formulated to trick your tastebuds into eating more and more, without signalling your brain your are full. Companies make flavours that can pleasure the reward center in your brain more than any whole food ever can. That’s why you can eat chips endlessly without feeling any sense of satisfaction. The end result is you are spending your dollars on something that provides instant gratification but deteriorates your health and increases your waist line.
3. Artificial Ingredients:
Those unrecognizable ingredients on the package aren’t added for your wellbeing. They are short cuts to longer shelf life, cheaper products and higher profits for the company. It is not uncommon for processed food to contain:
- Preservatives: to extend shelf life, prevent product from rotting.
- Artificial Colours: to give the food a more desirable colour.
- Flavour: favours that don’t belong in nature, or are more addictive to the brain. Eg. blue raspberry, pink lemonade, all-dressed
- Texturants: added to give product a more appealing texture, appear fresher, crunch or mouth feel.
To make matters worse, manufactures are not obligated to list specific artificial flavours or chemicals. So they could contain dozens under the inconspicuous category of ‘barbecue flavour’
4. Refined Carbohydrates:
Almost as detrimental to your health as their sugary counterpart, refined grains are hidden in many ‘healthy’ label claims in the cereal, granola and cracker department. These ingredients contribute to obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders because they are generally over processed, containing little fibre and stripped of their protein.
Refined carbs are digested in the body just like sugar- meaning they are quickly broken down in the digestive tract, leading to rapid peaks and valleys of blood sugar.
5. Dangerous Oils:
If you look at the back of your bagged popcorn or frozen french fries you can probably point out soybean oil, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or canola oil. These highly refined oils are so widely used because of their availiblilty (aka genetically modified) and low cost, without any concern for the long term health of the consumer.
These fats also contain a higher ratio of omega 6 fatty acids, which when consumed in excess can lead to oxidation and inflammation of tissues (the root cause of most disease). In some of the lesser quality products you might even find partially hydrogenated oils, which is a red flag that they are one of the most disease-causing things you can put in your body (Kraft peanut butter I am looking at you).
6. Nutritionally Empty:
We have roughly 3 meals a day and 2 snacks to give our body everything it needs to breath, circulate, detoxify, recover, regenerate, grow and ward off disease. Overtime we eat is an important opportunity to give your body the fuel you need to be your best. Most processed foods are empty calories and contain little to no nutrients. By eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and healthy oils you are giving your body a proper balance of what it needs; protein, fat, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
Processed and stripped of all nutrients, scientifically formulated to keep your brain hooked, manufactured with chemicals and additives to last, and sitting in a box for months at a grocery store- does that sound like something meant to be inside your body?
Let me know in the comments what your biggest struggles are with staying away from processed food!