6 Reasons to Cut Out Processed Food
I travel to other countries as much as possible. I love experiencing new cultures around the world. I’ve started to notice something recently though. Obesity only seems to be an issue in some parts of the world. Through my research, I’ve learned that every time a population adopts a “Western” diet that is high in processed food, the population gets sick. Rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and a host of other diseases skyrocket.
What’s so unique about a western diet? Out diet has more ultra processed foods than has ever occurred in history on the planet.
What are Ultra Processed Foods?
Technically, most foods we eat are processed. Ground beef has to be ground. Fruit has to be picked and refrigerated. Butter has to be churned. Some processing is necessary and unavoidable.
There’s a distinct difference between mechanically processed and chemically processed. Even mechanically processed food taken to its extreme is unhealthy. IE “Refined Grains”. Every step in the process, away from food found in nature, deteriorates it’s nutrients and adds a host of other issues. Below is a list of issues related to processed foods.
Lower Fiber Content in Processed Foods
Let’s take a look at grains. A staple that is supposed to make up a large percentage of our diet. Wheat loses 75% of it’s fiber after it is processed. Rice (white rice), loses 66% after it is processed. It’s processed and white for no other reason than to extend shelf life.
Why is Fiber important?
Fiber is mostly found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Fiber has a host of health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and maintaining a healthy weight. It’s imperative to your digestive system and slows down the rate in which sugar is absorbed into your body.
High Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup
Ultra processed food is loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup. When making a Frankenstein food product that has a shelf life of 12 months, it’s naturally not going to taste very good. So instead, food companies load these foods with sugar to try to make them taste edible.
Why is Sugar and HFCS important?
Sugar and more specifically HFCS, when consumed in excess, is a plague on western society. In 1800 we ate about 2 pounds of sugar a year. All of this came naturally through fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have naturally occurring fiber to help slow digestion. This is not the case with processed foods. Today we eat roughly 150 pounds of sugar a year.
No wonder there’s rampant obesity and diabetes. It’s easy too blame people for these problems. Maybe instead, we should be looking at our food system.
Health Effects of Sugar
Below is a short list of all of the things that increased sugar intake is linked to.
Obesity, Cavities, Higher Blood Pressure, Greater Risk of Depression, Inflammation, Increased Risk of Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis, Poor Skin Quality Due to Inflammation, Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, Heart Attacks, Strokes, Kidney Failure, Erectile Dysfunction, Colon and Breast Cancer, and Poorer Memory.
Do I need to go on?
Foods with Added Sugar
Almost everything. Seriously. I’m not even going to try to create a list here. It’s just easier to say that unless you’re eating whole food, what you’re eating has added sugar.
High Levels of Salt
Salt, sugar, and fat are all added to processed food to make them appealing and addictive. Without adding these substances, much of the processed garbage would be unfathomably unappetizing.
Why is Salt important?
Too much salt can lead to increased blood pressure, which in turn contributes to heart disease and stroke. According to the CDC “more than 70% of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed and restaurant foods. Only a small amount comes from the salt shaker, either during home cooking or at the dinner table.”.
Hundreds of Unnamed Chemicals
Go look at a healthy bar like an Atkins bar. Do you recognize much of the food on the label? Me neither. It’s because it’s not food. There are so many chemicals in processed food that I’m convinced that smoking may actually be healthier than eating many processed foods.
Below is an Atkins Milk Chocolate Delight Shake label. Sodium Hexametaphosphate anyone? I can’t even pronounce that.
Why are chemicals in our food important?
Our bodies are a complex system that science still doesn’t fully understand. Many of these chemicals aren’t put on the label for us to understand what we’re eating. Secondly, these generally recognized as safe chemicals haven’t been tested on over long periods of time and in the quantities that we’re currently consuming.
Low in Nutrients
Processed foods are extremely low in nutrients compared to whole, minimally processed food. Yes, many foods are “enriched” to add some of the nutrients back, but that doesn’t solve the issue for two reasons.
1. Synthetic vitamins and minerals are not the same as natural ones occurring in foods.
2. There are thousands of trace nutrients that science is just beginning to understand.
This is the same reason why you can’t just expect a multivitamin to fill all of your nutritional needs. It just doesn’t work that way.
Requires Less Energy to Digest
About 10% of the calories you consume go to digesting your food. For processed food, it’s half of that. So even if you ate the same amount of calories (you won’t), you would have 5% more excess calories that can be turned into fat.
That 5% of excess calories translates into 8 pounds of extra fat per year. To my point above, because processed foods have less fiber, you’ll actually consume more to feel full. So that 8 pounds is realistically more like 15.
Importantly, for those that are serious about wanting to know what to do about all of this, go to 7 Steps to Becoming Healthy Through Good Eating. It’s the best advice you’ll get on how to eat healthy, lose weight the right way, and have more energy than you ever did before.
We should be eating food as close to how nature intended us to. Jungle sourced spices are about as close as you can get to that and Maya Mountain has the best.