Why are processed foods so bad for you?
Processed food is any food that undergoes an intentional change before it is consumed. Most foods undergo some type of post-production processing including cooking, freezing, chopping, fortifying and fermenting. Minimally processed foods such as frozen vegetables retain most of their inherent nutritional and physical properties and don’t pose health concerns.
Heavily processed foods are extremely low in essential nutrients and laden with artificial substances and refined ingredients such as fat, salt and sugar. When people consume significant quantities of processed foods for prolonged periods of time their bodies show signs of distress, usually a rise in blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and/or insulin – which are associated with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity (1).
In case you need a reminder, let’s take a look at some of the additives found in processed food and why we should be avoiding them;
You do need sugar, but you receive sufficient amounts in fruits and vegetables. Excess sugar presents empty calories that don't offer any nutritional value. Processed foods supply sugar in the form of ingredients like high fructose corn syrup or maltodextrin. They are designed to re-program your body to ‘want more' which leads to the need for more calories, contributing to addiction. Your body reacts to this by storing more fats leading to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
While sodium is beneficial to human bodies, it can cause major problems when there's too much of it. Almost all processed foods contain absurd amounts of sodium that make food tastier and addictive. 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. (2)
High-sodium diets are often a factor causing high blood pressure and can lead to heart diseases or stroke. Excess sodium in the body also causes kidneys to hold more water than necessary. This can lead to conditions such as swelling in various body parts.
Trans fats, or trans fatty acids, are a form of unsaturated fat. Trans fat is used to enhance flavor and extend the shelf life of food products and is among the most dangerous substances that you can consume. Found in deep-fried fast foods and certain processed foods made with margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fats are formed by a process called hydrogenation.
Eating trans fat raises the level of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the blood. An elevated LDL cholesterol level in the blood increases your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and contributes to increased inflammation, diabetes, and other health problems (3). Trans fat does occur naturally in the gut of some animals - there have not been sufficient studies to determine whether these naturally occurring trans fats have the same bad effects as the more prevalent (4).
Processed food encourages weight gain and chronic diseases. The solution to improving your health and losing weight is as simple as swapping processed foods for whole organic foods – fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes. Which is why The Green Moustache serves delicious and nutrient-dense whole food dishes that are unprocessed, dairy-free, gluten-free and contain no preservatives or additives.