Processed foods have been around in America now for quite a while. First introduced in the 1800s, it wasn’t until the turn of the twentieth century that the processed food industry started booming. Ironically enough, it was right around that same time when major health issues started to arise. This is no coincidence. Research indicates the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal problems that started to occur around this time were a direct result of inadequate nutrition from processed foods. As the processed food industry gained momentum over the last century, these health issues have turned into chronic diseases.
Perhaps the most damaging of processed foods are those that have been chemically processed. Chemical processes like hydrogenation gained popularity in the 1950s, and people started dropping like flies from heart attacks in the 1970s. When these foods of convenience were introduced in the 1800s, no one knew of their grave health effects. Since then, greed has kicked in and the processed food industry and government have gone to great lengths to shield Americans from the detrimental effects of these slow and silent killers. It’s no surprise that processed foods have almost completely taken over the standard American diet, and it’s no coincidence that chronic disease in America is now at an all-time high.
There is no doubt that processed foods are bad for us, but it’s important to know the reasons why so that you are equipped to make informed decisions regarding the health of yourself and your family. This is important stuff!
Processed foods are loaded with empty calories with little to no nutritional value. The food gets stripped of its nutrients and then gets pumped full of dangerous sugars and refined fats. Most of the time people aren’t getting sufficient nutrients to metabolize the food they are eating, let alone to keep vital organs running. The body will pull the nutrients needed for these processes from precious nutrient reserves in the body, which leads to a variety of nutritional deficiencies. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to serious complications, especially in growing babies and children. Vitamins and minerals are crucial for development and disease prevention, so it goes without saying that the habitual consumption of processed foods sets the stage for a variety of health problems.
If you look at the ingredients listed on processed food labels, you most likely will not recognize most of them. That’s because this “food” isn’t actually food at all. Most processed foods are made entirely of synthetic ingredients to give them their color, flavor, and texture and have been chemically altered to do so. Some of the chemicals used in process foods have carcinogenic properties and are often used in the production of other products like yoga mats, tobacco, embalming fluid and jet fuel. Processed foods are often “enriched” or “fortified” with vitamins, however these vitamins are synthetic and the body does not assimilate them properly. Commercially-sold milk is a perfect example of this. I find a good rule of thumb is to read the label ingredients and if you don’t know what something is or you can’t pronounce it, place it back on the shelf.
Processed foods taste good! Like, too good. They are so incredibly rewarding to the brain, they begin to affect our thoughts and behaviors. Whole foods naturally contain a variety of macro and micronutrients to help us feel satisfied. Processed foods, however, make us feel good even though they have been stripped of their nutrients. Food manufacturers hire food scientists to design complex formulas specifically to make us crave more (which usually involves lots of dangerous sugars and refined fats). They are doing a fantastic job at this – some processed foods have been shown to be more addictive than cocaine. Not only do these highly addictive “foods” promote overconsumption, but they also obliterate the taste buds. These hyper-stimulating substances desensitize the taste buds and make real food taste quite bland when compared to the incredibly salty or sweet processed alternative. The average American’s taste buds are so off-kilter it makes it quite hard to truly enjoy whole, unprocessed foods.
This is just a fraction of the supportive information on why processed foods are bad for us. This is really all I need to determine that it’s out with the processed foods with the laundry list of ingredients and in with the one-ingredient foods (or better yet, no ingredient labels at all!). Every time you buy food, you are essentially casting a vote for the company that produced, packaged or marketed it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the processed food companies to think that I support them, especially after knowing more about the industry. This knowledge gives us the power to change our habits to benefit not only ourselves but our future generations to come. It’s time to start voting with our forks and changing the world one bite at a time!