As a woman with an autoimmune disease (linked to inflammation) it is so important to me to avoid anything that can flare or aggravate that condition. One thing I have learned over many years of trial and error, research and education is that processed foods are loaded with inflammatory agents.
What is a processed food?
This is a food that has been chemically altered to create a longer shelf life, taste change, texture change or other production reason.
These are foods that may or may not have come from nature, but no longer possess the nutrient values or components our body needs and can use effectively for energy.
Examples: chips, pretzels, white rice, white pasta, white bread, soda, cookies (from a box), cereal (most), granola bars (most), and many more.
Does this make any difference to our bodies?Our bodies are genetically built to process real/whole foods. They were never meant to filter and break down so many chemicals and man-made food components.
Chemicals and man-made food components are what make up processed foods.
Why does this distinction matter?
Cancer risk is increased with regular consumptionFoods that contain artificial colors and flavors, additives, and emulsifiers—are linked to an increased risk of cancer. The rate of consumption directly correlates to risk. i.e. those who consumed 10 percent more processed foods had a 10 percent higher risk of cancer.
Genetics! Our bodies have no code to break down and use chemically processed foods as energy sources. However, our digestive systems and bodies were meant to break down natural food sources. It’s their awesome amazing job!
You are more likely to overeat and be excessively hungryBecause our body is seeking nutrients from whole food sources, when it’s not provided to them and they are only pulling limited nutrients from processed foods and working so hard to flush out chemicals it asks for MORE! You feel hungrier quicker after eating and your body will keep craving more food. It will take you longer to feel full on these foods (thus creating an overeating situation). Your body is meant to recognize and cue based on natural whole foods.
This directly relates to your metabolism rate as well. As mentioned above your body knows exactly how to break down natural foods and do it efficiently. When bogged down with unknown chemicals it can’t process it all out at the speed or efficiency as a whole food. Thus creating adrenal health issues and SLOW metabolism.
The rate of autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases has increased with more consumption of processed foodsBecause your body is working so hard to eliminate these chemicals (which some mimic actual body components needed for adrenal health and more) it gets bogged down. The chemicals can alter cells creating chronic disorders and chemical reactions we didn’t intend. Your gut is thrown off and digestion becomes difficult or impaired.
Processed foods contain many artificial flavors, dies and sweeteners
The way to know whether you are choosing a packaged item that is highly processed or not is to read the ingredients label. If there are many names listed and you don’t know what they are – they are likely processed items. Many of which are dyes, flavors, and sweeteners that alter our bodies.
If you look up these ingredients you will find that a lot of them are linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, blood clots, obesity, and some may aggravate ADHD symptoms in children.
Processed foods have a lot of added sugars, sodium, and unnatural or unhealthy fat
Our fat sources are very important. The wrong types of fats or processed fats lead to unhealthy heart conditions, stroke and more. The same is true for sodium. Processed foods are high in sodium, to a level that you would not get in a home-cooked meal or food item. Having added sugars can lead to obesity, diabetes and other health complications.
Are there some worst offenders?
While most processed food is something we avoid (there are a few exceptions that are not chemically altered and can be a healthier alternative), there are some foods that we really should always avoid due to heavy processing.
Deli meats, bacon, sausage, hot dogs and sausage
Some exceptions to this would be if you made your own bacon from your own pig source and the same for sausage. But in terms of purchasing it pre-made at the store, these meats have been cured and packaged with many additives.
The amount of soda and sweetened beverage consumption has risen dramatically over the last few decades. This has been linked to higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and other health disorders. Using sweeteners for your water and other drinks is also linked to this. A natural sweetener might be an alternative, such as maple sugar (100% only), but there is no need to sweeten beverages.
Anything you are buying from a box or bag that is an entire meal you eat from it, or dump and warm is highly processed. These are almost always full of sodium and sugar and other chemicals to make them taste better and extend shelf life. Read your ingredients first, and then your nutrition facts following. Or best yet – cooking from whole foods in your own kitchen avoids the whole risk!
Commercially made sweets, treats, bakery items
Anything you are buying in a package that has been shipped and made for commercial shelf life has many additives to make it last, and still taste good. Plan ahead, grab your ingredients and get to baking something yourself. This will also help you keep those cravings in check. You have to really want it to put the work in, so taking the ease out of sweet treats and bakery items can help you cut down your consumption of higher sugar treats.
What should I be eating?
This is the BEST part of all. The most delicious and nutritious food is from simple ingredients that you make yourself at home. You will be able to control your waistline with ease, and no calorie counting and you will know you aren’t consuming all those chemicals, dyes and additives, or just non-nutritious food.
You want to focus on getting food that comes from natural sources, or as close to the natural state as possible. That is from meats to plants, and veggies, and herbs.