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Processed foods are foods that are handled and altered in some way before they get to your pantry or refrigerator. The more harmless kinds of processing are things like cutting and peeling a variety of fruit and packaging those things as a “fruit salad.” The next step in processing is canning food, which can either reduce the nutritional content of food or introduce some unhealthy quantity of natural elements, like adding sodium. The next step is changing foods by chemically altering them.

There are many reasons why these chemically altered foods are really bad for you. The most obvious is that they’re often full of chemicals! Even those lists of artificial ingredients on the food labels of heavily processed foods don’t reveal the whole story. Proprietary rights on secret ingredients, for example, allow food companies to omit a lot of details about what’s in their products. The term “artificial ingredients” can have several unnamed chemicals lurking behind it.

Here are some other specific reasons why heavily processed foods can be bad:

● They often contain too much sugar and fructose syrup, refined carbohydrates and trans-fats.
● Lots of processed foods have refined grains like rice and white flour with many nutrients stripped out of the whole grains they came from.
● Competition between food manufacturers encourages creating foods that reward your brain in ways that are similar to drug addiction, leading to obesity.

Reading labels can help, but it may be close to impossible to avoid all processing. One way to cut down on a lot of processed foods is to remember to avoid these things:

● Processed meats, like sausages, hot dogs and those you’d find in a deli. They’re linked to cancer and have lots of saturated fats.
● Mass-produced baked goods, which often have trans fats.
● Meals you can cook quickly often have too many sugars and salts along with lots of refined carbohydrates.
● Sodas have more sugars than you should ever have in a drink.

Not all processed foods are bad. Things like peanut butter, yogurt, canned tuna and whole-grain cereals can be good for you.

The key thing to remember is that most foods in our supermarkets that can’t be found in nature (like cheese puffs, pasta, muffins or gummy bears) have probably been processed in some way. Combine avoiding the worst effects of food processing along with adding whole foods whenever possible and you’ll make some significant improvements to your health!

Key Terms and Ideas:

Processed foods are foods that are handled and altered in some way before they get to your pantry or refrigerator. The more harmless kinds of processing are things like cutting and peeling a variety of fruit and packaging those things as a “fruit salad.” The next step in processing is canning food, which can either reduce the nutritional content of food or introduce some unhealthy quantity of natural elements, like adding sodium. The next step is changing foods by chemically altering them.

While food labels list many ingredients of particular food items, a lot of important details can be left out. Proprietary rights on secret ingredients, for example, allow food companies to omit a lot of details about what’s in their products. The term “artificial ingredients” can have several unnamed chemicals lurking behind it.

Not all processed foods are bad. Things like peanut butter, yogurt, canned tuna and whole-grain cereals can be good for you (but make sure to read the food labels on these items to double-check).

LINKS & RESOURCES:

Lisa Cantkier, “Refined Carbs: Are They Our Worst Enemy?” University Health News Daily, December 19, 2018, https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/nutrition/refined-carbs-worse-enemy/, accessed April 2019.

Chris Gunnars, “Nine ways that processed foods are harming people,” Medical News Today, August 1, 2017, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318630.php, accessed April 2019.

Chandra Johnson-Greene, “Processed Foods: 5 Reasons to Avoid Them,” University Health News Daily, June 4, 2018, https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/nutrition/processed-foods-five-reasons-avoid/, accessed April 2019.

“Not all processed foods are unhealthy,” Harvard Health Publishing, June 2015, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/not-all-processed-foods-are-unhealthy, accessed April 2019.


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Direct download: 31_Spartan_HEALTH_Processed.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:30am EDT

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