American’s are always looking for convenience and simplicity when it comes to planning their next meal. It has become quite commonplace to fill our refrigerators and cupboards with easy to cook, easy to eat convenience foods to satisfy our appetite. Fast food restaurants can be found at almost every corner serving foods fried in trans and saturated fats and the freezer section at the grocery store is sometimes larger than the fresh produce department.
Our busy lifestyles force our diets down this path, so it is no wonder our society is consuming an astonishing amount of unhealthy, processed foods. And as scary as it seems, about 90 percent of the money that Americans spend on food is used to buy processed items.
Our taste buds have been trained to crave foods which are sweet, salty, spicy, and probably unhealthy. With cancer and heart disease all around us, researchers are now studying the dangers of processed foods which are a staple in most American’s kitchens.
What Exactly Is Processed Food Anyway?
What are processed foods? Any food that is altered from its natural state. Basically, the majority of the foods you find in the grocery store. Processed foods are usually depleted of nutrients – including good fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber. If the label of the can, box, bag or jar has ingredients listed which you can’t understand, you can be quite certain there has been some processing going on to keep that food fresh to extend shelf life, make it an appealing color, or filled with and artificial flavor to satisfy the demanding taste buds.
Here are some of the top dangers of processed foods which just might make you rethink the way you’re eating:
Trans fats are the real fat substitute in our modern diet and are in most fast food and processed foods. Trans fat has been linked to digestive disorders and degeneration of joints and tendons. Restaurant foods, especially fast food chains, often serve foods laden with trans fats.
Don’t be fooled by breads that are simply the color brown, or that say 7-grain, wheat, or multigrain. They are often just white flour colored with molasses and sprinkled with oats.
HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP
A large majority of processed foods contain high fructose corn syrup which has been associated with obesity, diabetes, high triglycerides, and heart disease. Foods with high fructose corn syrup are lacking in nutrition – and ones you probably won’t be surprised about are soda, candy, cookies, cakes, cereals, or ice cream. But there are lots of other foods with HFCS that probably come as a surprise.
BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydrozyttoluene are used to preserve common household foods. They are found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils. They are oxidants which form potentially cancer-causing reactive compounds in your body.
This is a preservative, coloring, and flavoring commonly added to bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, smoked fish, and corned beef. Studies have linked eating it to various types of cancer.
MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE (MSG)
MSG is an amino acid used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and restaurant food. It can cause headaches and nausea, and animal studies link it to damaged nerve cells in the brains of infant mice.
Watch out for foods with added sugars, such as baked goods, cereals, crackers, sauces and many other processed foods. It is unsafe for your health, and promotes bad nutrition.
FOOD COLORINGS: Blue 1, 2; Red 3; Green 3; Yellow 6
Five food colorings still on the market have been linked with cancer in animal testing. Blue 1 and 2, found in beverages, candy, baked goods and pet food, have been linked to cancer in mice. Red 3, used to dye cherries, fruit cocktail, candy, and baked goods, has been shown to cause thyroid tumors in rats. Green 3, added to candy and beverages, has been linked to bladder cancer. The widely used yellow 6, added to beverages, sausage, gelatin, baked goods, and candy, has been linked to tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney.
Processed foods should be limited or avoided. In order to maintain a proper diet free of unneeded ingredients and unwanted effects, choose items that aren’t packaged heavily, if at all. This will ensure that you are eating on the best products in a form closest to natural. You body will thank you in the end.