What is processed food?
Processed is any food that comes into our hands without being fresh, but has been tweaked to prolong its life on the shelf of a supermarket or to enhance its taste. In addition, anything that is in a package, a bottle or a container is in most cases processed. Start checking the ingredient label when you make your purchases in the supermarket. If there are more than 2-3 ingredients take it for granted that it has been processed.
Why processed foods are harmful
There are many potential negative health effects from eating highly processed foods.
Increased risk of cancer. A five-year study of over 100,000 people found that every 10% increase in the consumption of highly processed foods was associated with a 12% higher risk for cancer.
Too much sugar, sodium and fat. Heavily processed foods often include unhealthy levels of added sugar, sodium and fat. These ingredients make the foods we eat taste better, but many of them lead to serious health problems such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Lack of nutritional value. Heavy processing removes essential nutrients, which is why many foods today are enriched with fiber, vitamins and minerals. They have a lot of addictive calories! It is very easy to overeat unhealthy foods and consume more calories. For example, an Oreo cookie contains about 50 calories, while a whole cup of green beans has only 44 calories. Processed foods are designed to stimulate the dopamine center, “feel-good”, of our brain, making us crave them more and more.
More easily digestible. Processed foods are more easily digestible than unprocessed and whole foods. This means that our body burns less energy (calories) in order to assimilate them. It is estimated that we burn half the calories that would be needed for unprocessed foods. This fact in combination with their high calorie content leads to obesity.
They are full in artificial ingredients. There are about 5,000 substances used as prosthetics in processed foods. Most of them have never been tested by anyone other than the company that uses them. This includes additives to change colour, texture, taste and smell, as well as ingredients such as preservatives and sweeteners.
Most processed foods contain
Trans fats should be avoided at all costs. They are created when hydrogen is added to the oil. Most vegetable oils such as canola, corn, etc. contain trans fats. And margarine as well. Most fast-food uses cheap quality oils to fry food, so you should avoid french fries, chicken nuggets and any such food.
Sodium nitrate is usually found in processed meat such as salami, ham, sausages, etc. Sodium nitrate has been linked to cancer and other health issues. It helps to give a pink shade to processed meats and make them more attractive. Sodium nitrate reacts with creatomyoglobin to cause colour changes, first by converting it into nitrosomyoglobin (bright red), then, when heated, into nitrosoemochromin (pink pigment).
Dextrose is a type of sugar that is usually derived from corn or wheat. It is often used in food as an artificial sweetener or preservative. Because it is everywhere, it is unknown how much someone, who feeds mainly on packaged foods, consumes.
Excessive dextrose can lead to obesity, diabetes, diseases in the heart, liver, kidneys, skin diseases, acne and depression.
Sodium Glutamate (MSG)
It is created from a chemical called glutamic acid. It enhances the taste of savoury dishes (e.g. Chinese food and fast food). There have been many reports that people exhibit, due to its consumption, reactions such as headaches, flushing, sweating, numbness, heart palpitations, nausea and much more.
Most foods that have a certain percentage of colouring should of course be avoided.
High fructose corn syrup
The king of prosthetic substances. A very cheap ingredient to enhance the taste of packaged foods, it provides the sweet taste that consumers want. It is hidden in so many foods and increases the daily intake of sugar without being particularly noticed by people.
One more sweetener found in many sodas, chewing gum and much more. It is 200 times sweeter than regular sugar! Stay away from it!
Other common additives are sodium benzoate, BHA and BHT, sulfur dioxide, Propylparaben.
Processed foods lead to weight gain
Processed foods are an important factor for weight gain. The reason is the combination of foods high in fat and carbohydrates together, and foods high in poly-unsaturated fats and with low nutritional value. This lead us not to get enough and eat more because hormones do not send a signal of satiety to the brain!!!
Move step by step
Perhaps the article scared you because you understood how many harmful substances are in our food. But it is important to move forward step by step and lay the foundations. Do not try to go straight from 0 to 100. In the range of all foods it is advisable to make the best choices and not to consider as our failure if one day we did not eat perfectly.
- Try to choose products that have no more than one or two ingredients.
- Choose fresh, and if possible organic, foods such as meat, fruits, vegetables.
- Buy quantities that will allow you to always have food at home and not have to resort to a delivery or take away.
- Processed foods are harmful to health and are one of the main reasons we gain weight.
- Learn to read food labels and choose the ones that are less processed.
- Avoid all drinks or soft drinks, such as Coca-Cola and of course fast-food.
- Always prefer fresh and when possible organic products.