American diets have been almost completely taken over by processed and packaged foods.
Unfortunately, almost all processed foods are packed with salts, factory-created fats, and chemicals to alter textures, sweeteners, artificial flavors, colorings and preservatives.
The trouble, however, is not only what has been added to these products, but also what has been taken out of them. Often processed foods are stripped of nutrients, which naturally protect your heart, for example, antioxidants, soluble fiber, and healthy fats. With all that combined with additives, you have a recipe for complete disaster.
What Is The Definition of Processed Food?
What defines processed food can vary slightly. However, it typically refers to foods that have been packaged in bags, cans or boxes. These foods must be extensively processed to ensure they are edible. On top of going through a variety of complex processing steps, often processed foods also contain artificial flavorings, additives and other chemical ingredients.
It is best to avoid processed foods and have a diet that is based on whole foods that provide you with the highest levels of nutrition to maximize your health.
So, What Is Considered Processed Food?
By looking over the list of ingredients you can quickly determine whether or not a food is processed. The longer the list of ingredients, the more likely the food is processed.
You can usually find processed food in your grocery store´s center aisles and they will probably contain ingredients that you would normally not have in your kitchen and not recognize most of the ingredients. Avoid food that you would not be able to make or produce in your own home.
Opt for foods that are natural and unprocessed, most of these would be found in the periphery of a grocery store. For example fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs and other foods that contain a single ingredient.
What are the Health Risks of Processed Foods?
There are so many disadvantages of eating processed foods. Here are the four main ingredients found in processed foods, the ones that you really need to be aware of (1):
You can find Trans fats in crispy crackers and moist bakery muffins, fast food French fries and microwave popcorn, even in the stick of margarine, that you may have opted for as your healthy heart alternative to butter, that is packed with saturated fat.
Once believed to be a heart friendly and inexpensive replacement for lard, coconut oil and butter, a nutrition expert from Harvard has denounced Trans fats as being "the largest disaster of food processing in the history of the U.S." But why? Research has now proven that when compared to saturated fats, Trans fats are actually twice as dangerous for your heart, and on a yearly basis, they are responsible for around thirty thousand to one hundred thousand deaths due to premature heart diseases.
Due to the fact your levels of "good" HDL cholesterol are decreased and levels of "bad" cholesterol are increased with trans fats, which makes them worse for you heart than any saturated fats. This spells double trouble for the arteries. Trans fats, unlike saturated fats also resist the levels of lipoproteins triglycerides which can clog the arteries.
Look over the list of ingredients for any of the following words; "fractionated," "partially hydrogenated," or "hydrogenated," fats that are fully hydrogenated are not a threat to the heart. However, many trans fats are mislabeled and state "hydrogenated." The higher up on the list of ingredients that the phrase "partially hydrogenated oil" is the higher the amount of Trans fats are contained by the product.
Your heart attack risk could be cut by a significant fifty three percent by replacing Trans fats with healthy fats.
Opting for refined grains, such as rolls, white rice, white bread low-fiber sugary cereals or white pasta, over whole grains can increase your risk of heart attack by as much as thirty percent.
It is important to be a savvy shopper. Do not let deceptive label claims stating things like "seven grain," or "made with flour" fool you. Do not be tricked into purchasing white bread that are colored brown with molasses or topped with a sprinkling of oats.
Most of the time these are the exact same old refined product which raises your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, heart attacks, belly fat and diabetes.
There have been at least seven major studies that show that men and women who consume more whole grains, which includes whole grain breakfast cereals, cooked oatmeal, bran, dark bread, popcorn, brown rice and other grains, such as kasha or bulgur, have twenty to thirty percent less heart disease. A complete contrast is those who prefer refined grains that have more insulin resistance, heart attacks and high blood pressure.
Three quarters of the sodium that we consume does not originate from the saltshaker. It comes from processed foods such as canned soups and vegetables, fast food burgers and of course fries, condiments in Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce, and preserved and cured meats such as ham, bacon and deli turkey.
There is some sodium that naturally occurs in some edibles that are unprocessed, which includes celery, beets, milk and even some drinking waters. This, however, is a good thing: sodium is a necessary part of life. It helps to maintain the body's fluid balance, makes muscles such as the heart contract, helps regulate blood pressure, transmits nerve impulses and helps to keep the senses of smell, taste and touch properly functioning. Every day you need a little bit to replace what is lost to tears, sweat and other excretions.
What will happen when you consume more salt than is needed by the body? Simply to dilute the extra sodium coursing through your blood, your body starts retaining fluid, this raises your blood volume and forces your heart to work harder all the while causing the veins and arteries to constrict. This combination raises the blood pressure levels.
Your daily intake of sodium should be no more than 1,500 milligrams, this amount is found in around ¾ of a teaspoon of salt. By the way, table salt is sixty percent chloride and forty percent sodium. Those who are older should consume even less as a way of countering the natural rise in blood pressure associated with age. For those over fifty should try not to pass 1,300 milligrams and for those over seventy should aim for only 1,200 milligrams.
The real sodium count can only be provided by the "Nutrition Facts" panel found on food packaging. Never believe a package that claims to be "sodium-free," as the food may still contain five milligrams per serving. Also "reduced sodium," as all this means is that it contains twenty-five percent less than usual, or "light in sodium," as all this means it's that it contains half of the amount you would usually find.
Too Much Sugar Or The Deadly Alternative of High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Usually, processed foods will be loaded with extra sugar, or sugar´s evil twin, high fructose corn syrup. It is well known that when consumed excessively, sugar can be seriously harmful. We are all also aware that Sugar is an empty calorie, meaning that it provides energy yet no essential nutrients.
However, when it comes to the harmful effects of sugar, calories are really only the tip of the iceberg. Research has shown that devastating effects on the metabolism, which far surpass calorie content, are caused by sugar.
Sugar can lead to high triglycerides, higher levels of fat accumulation in the abdominal cavity and the liver, insulin resistance and increased levels of the "bad" cholesterol. Some of the world's leading killers are associated with sugar consumptions, these include diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.
High fructose corn syrup, when compared to traditional sweeteners is less expensive to make, mixes more easily with various ingredients and is sweeter to the taste. Nowadays, almost sixty-three pounds of this is consumed per person in sweets and drinks, as well as in many other products. Many frozen foods contain high fructose corn syrup, it provides bread with that soft texture and inviting brown color and therefore found in hamburger buns, whole-wheat bread and English muffins. It is also found in bacon, soft drinks, beer, spaghetti sauce, and even ketchup, the list just goes on.
Research has more recently started to suggest that this liquid sweetener could have an effect on the body's metabolism, raising the risk for diabetes and heart disease. Research has found that the chemical structure in high fructose corn syrup encourages overeating. It also seems to cause the liver to pump more triglycerides into the bloodstream, which is threatening for the heart. On top of that, your body's mineral chromium reserves are crucial for healthy levels if insulin, cholesterol and blood sugar, which could significantly be altered by fructose.
The way you can spot fructose on a food label is by looking for the words "corn syrup," "corn syrup solids," "corn sweetener," or "high-fructose corn syrup."
What Are Processed Foods List
Processed foods are more than ready meals such and microwave meals. Any food which has, in some way or another, been altered from its original state is considered a processed food. This could have been done for purposes of convenience or for safety reasons.
What this means is that you have probably been eating more processed foods than you realize. However, processed foods are not all necessarily unhealthy. However, anything that has gone through processing would typically contain extra fat, sugar and salt.
One advantage of cooking from scratch at home is that you are aware of everything that will go into your food, this includes how much sugar or salt you have added. That being said, sometimes even homemade foods use processed ingredients.
Here are some examples of foods that are commonly processed (2):
- Canned vegetables
- Breakfast cereals
- Bacon and other meat products
- Crisps and other savory snacks
- Beverages such as soft drinks and milk
- Ready meals, microwave meals and convenience food in general
What Is Non Processed Food?
Any food that has not been altered and is still in its natural state is considered a non-processed food. The perfect example of foods that are not processed would be fresh vegetables and fruits. There are also some foods that are more processed than others.
Fresh vegetables and fruits are foods that have not been processed, as they've just been picked, washed and are ready to eat. Try to avoid canned vegetables as they have typically been processed.
Avoid Processed Foods And Only Eat Real Natural Produce
When real, traditional foods such as meat, butter and vegetables are replaced with processed, crappy junk foods, we strong chance that we will put on weight and get ill.
The key to good health is real food, not processed foods.
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