why processed food is bad for you

Is processed food bad if it feeds so many people?

Processed food, bad or good, is here to stay. I’m having a childhood flashback to Tang, an orange-flavored powdered drink. Tang shot to fame when NASA included the General Foods instant drink on their mission menus. Veteran astronaut Buzz Aldrin admitted recently, “Tang sucks.” But whether the quote referred to Aldrin’s lack of advertising contract with General Foods, or to the taste itself, is unclear.

If I’d known Buzz thought that way back when he was my childhood idol, I may have had a different attitude towards processed foods and other bad eating habits I allowed myself over the years. If Tang was good enough for an astronaut, it was good enough for me.

What Is Processed Food?

I grew up on macaroni-type product, like spaghetti, penne and elbows. Do you love fast food burgers, baked goods and delivery pizza? All of these are processed foods. When you take a bite out of an apple or eat a banana, you are enjoying a wholesome food free of processing. As long as the apple is not dipped in caramel, and the banana is not found in a banana cream pie, you are eating wholesome food. Your health improves the more you limit your intake of processed foods.

The International Food Information Council Foundation defines processed food as:

“Any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat.”

So, by that definition, chopping up vegetables before you eat them qualifies for processed food. In most cases, processed food means:

“Any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration, or milling.”

That is the definition from the United States Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. In cooking your food, for example, you are technically processing it. The more processes your food goes through before it gets into your body, the less nutrition it provides.

Looking at the above definitions, you can see that foods you eat at restaurants, baked goods, sodas and many of the “ready-to-eat” meals you buy at your grocer are heavily processed. Food manufacturers use:  (but are not limited to)

  • refined sugar
  • salt
  • monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • preservatives
  • steroids
  • trans fats

and other unhealthy additives to extend the shelf life of the products they sell.

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Unfortunately, most heavily processed foods deliver little nutritional value.

The more things you do to a natural ingredient like a fruit or vegetable, the further you strip it of its nutrients, minerals and vitamins. When all the nutritionally poor ingredients mentioned above are added to that product, it becomes even unhealthier.

This leads to “empty calories”. That is why you can eat an overabundance of processed foods, and your brain will still send a hunger signal. It notices you have received little or no nutrition, so it tells you to eat more. Since processed food often is addictive, you reach out for the nutrient-poor food you just ate and create an unhealthy eating cycle.

Chemicals like sugar and salt, found in high quantities in processed foods, can lead to:

  • heart conditions
  • overweight and obesity
  • diabetes and other health problems.

This is the danger of addictive processed foods. They deliver next to no nutrition, and trade naturally healthy ingredients with unhealthy chemicals and compounds. Eat more raw foods, whole grains and fruits and vegetables. All  with little processing and you can avoid the unhealthy negative side effects of processed food.

Are you addicted to any processed foods? Let us know with a comment, thanks!

 

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