For many families, whole foods have become a rare part of their normal diet. Food that has been chemically processed or that has added preservatives is generally inexpensive and easy to find. However, eating these processed foods regularly can have a serious impact on your health. Here are just four reasons to avoid processed foods – there are many more beyond these!
Sugar or High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Many processed foods and snacks contain a lot of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup to give them a sweet, irresistible taste. But, including too much sugar in your diet is sure to have a negative impact on your health.
For starters, sugars provide empty calories, which means that they don’t give your body much of what it needs to function optimally apart from energy. However, the effects of excessive sugar can be far more severe. Too many sweets can cause insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and high levels of triglycerides. These things are associated with diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Different diet plans each take a different stance on carbohydrate intake. For some people, carbs are a primary source of energy. Others avoid eating carbs as much as they can. However, whether you seek out carbs or stay away from them, the important thing is to go for carbs that come from whole foods rather than processed foods.
The carbs that are usually found in processed foods are refined, simple carbs which are quickly broken down by our bodies. This leads to a spike in both blood sugar and insulin levels.
Processed foods often contain high levels of unhealthy trans fats. Trans fats and processed vegetable oils are linked to an increased risk of heart disease. These vegetable oils can be tough to avoid as a part of your diet, since they have so many uses in the kitchen. Instead, try to use more wholesome oils such as olive oil and coconut oil. I generally use olive oil for food that is uncooked, and coconut oil for cooking, since it stays stable at much higher temperatures than olive oil.
Low Levels of Fiber
Processed foods are typically low in fiber, which is also lost or removed during processing. But, fiber has a number of positive effects on our bodies. It helps to get our digestive system going, which makes it effective at fighting constipation. Fiber also helps to boost the helpful bacteria in the intestines, which helps to promote healthy digestion.
One of the most positive effects of fiber is that is slows down the rate that our bodies process carbs, which can help us to feel fuller for longer and stop us sneaking back into the kitchen for a sweet snack.
Processed food can be hard to avoid. Not only is it commonplace at the supermarket, but also most fast food restaurants use processed ingredients in preparing their meals. Shop on the outside perimeter of the supermarket where most of the fresh, unprocessed food is found; and try to steer towards restaurants that are farm-to-table and make as many of their ingredients and dishes on site. Cutting down on processed foods may mean spending a bit more money, but not always – fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and grains such as brown rice are not necessarily any more costly than packaged, processed foods. You may also sacrifice the luxury of being able to pick up a meal on the road at your convenience. But, your body will thank you for it in the long run.