Processed foods have a bad name for wrecking one’s diet. It is blamed for the increasing rate of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
The term ‘processed’ can be confusing when pertaining to food. Most foods today are somehow processed. For instance, vegetables are chopped or sliced, red meat has been ground using a machine and milk is treated with heat to make it safe for public consumption. However, there is a big difference between mechanical and chemical processing. An olive with no chemicals infused is still real food, whether they are cooked or placed in a jar.
The ‘processed food’ that is known today are foods that are chemically processed, made from artificial substances and refined ingredients, not to mention different additives and preservatives. There are three reasons why processed foods are bad for your health.
Processed Foods Lack Nutrients
To extend the shelf life of processed foods, it needs to undergo excessive healing and cooling processes and this can significantly affect the vital nutrients of the food. Milling grains separate the bran from the husk, which contains the most essential nutrients. Blanching veggies may diminish water-soluble vitamins.
When you eat processed foods, you mainly get empty calories – which mean calories that contain only few or no essential nutrients. On one hand, if you are eating nutrient-dense foods, you both get the right nutrients that you need with only few calories. In a nutshell, this is one of the main things that processed food lacks – nutrient density.
Hidden Sodium, Sugar & Fat
It’s fine to eat processed foods – but only in moderation. Processed foods often have hidden sodium, fat and sugar so always be on the lookout for these things.
A product that contains high fructose corn syrup can be a cause of concern. Sugar is not only hidden in processed foods. Besides adding sweet flavor, they have other purposes such as giving bread the pleasant browned crust. The amount of carbohydrates on the label also comes from the ingredients which may be naturally high in sugar like fruits and yogurt.
Check the ingredient list and look these sugars listed among the first 2 to 3 ingredients such maltose, sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup, brown sugar, fruit juice concentrate and honey.
Majority of canned goods contain added sodium to enhance taste and as a preservative. Our body need sodium but we usually consume it more than the daily recommended amount of 2,300 milligrams per day. High sodium intake is associated to high blood pressure or hypertension.
According to studies, processed foods take up 75% of our sodium intake, which means the salt shaker isn’t to blame for this problem.
However, canned vegetables can contain lots of nutrients so don’t exclude them yet in your shopping list. But rather, check out for reduced or low sodium on labels. Also, rinse canned veggies to lessen sodium by almost 40%.
While trans fats – the one that can raise the bad cholesterol – are declining in many processed foods, you still need to read the food labels. The Food and Drug Administration reported that, while a product may claim it has no trans fat, it may still have some amount of it, especially for products with very small serving size. Check the label if it contains hydrogenated vegetable oils. If the product contains this ingredient, it is going to have that amount of fat in it.
Processed Foods Contain Chemicals
To restore flavor removed from extensive processing, food manufacturers add different substances to increase the flavor. One of the most common food additives used is hydrogenated fats and are found in vegetable shortenings, margarine, cookie filling and peanut butter. Unfortunately, these fats increase bad cholesterol level, which increases the risk of developing heart disease.
Another common chemical added is nitrite. Nitrites are added in processed meats, mainly hotdogs and salami, giving them that distinct pink color. While this chemical can prevent growth of bacteria, it is found to increase the risk of cancer.
Eat Real Food Instead!
Accept it – replacing traditional, real foods like meat, vegetables and fruits with crappy, oily processed foods can make you sick and fat. Stick to real food as much as possible. It is definitely one of the keys to good health.