We all eat processed foods, whether as a quick dinner substitute for a home-cooked meal, to satiate a craving, and even as a snack on a long car ride when there is nothing else available. But when processed foods are directly compared to whole foods, in a way, it feels like we are punishing our bodies.
A great question considering many of us grow up eating foods that we assume are part of a well-balanced diet. Although the list is long, consider anything from a fast-food source, that has the word instant in it, or everything that has a long list of ingredients, many of which are unrecognizable.
Now, you should know that not all processed foods are created equal. What separates the good from the bad is often the ingredient list. So, buying a container of processed hummus where you can read and understand everything on the list versus a box of cookies that list yellow dye number five among other unfamiliar names, tells you the level of how much it has been processed.
According to carolinawellness.com processed foods can greatly increase our chance of suffering from a chronic disease. From high blood pressure to obesity, the possibilities are many, but why are processed foods connected to these diseases in such a way? Once again, carolinawellness.com offers us a few reasons.
The first reason is, perhaps, in the name of this type of food, it is, you guessed it, processed. The process of high-temperatures is believed to create contaminants and alter the protein structures of the food; when it is altered, our bodies see the processed food as inflammatory.
Additionally, many processed foods include heated vegetable oils (think high in omega 6) which is very inflammatory to the body. Vegetable oils have been linked to elevated inflammatory markers and are thought to increased the risk of cardiovascular disease (source)
Next are those pesky additives, or synthetic chemicals, that are incorporated into the processed foods. These are foreign substances, and our bodies have a hard time recognizing them as real food. Many of these additives and chemicals are highly addictive and cause our body to crave more and more of these damaging foods.
If we take a look at the ingredients on a package, then chances are, we aren’t talking about whole foods but rather processed foods. Whole foods are exactly that, they wholly exist of a single ingredient, such as fruit, vegetables, meat, legumes, food that comes directly from nature without being altered. Whole foods also are a great help with our brain health; be sure to check out our post on 7 ways to improve brain health such as eating empowering, whole foods.
One of the direct differences between whole foods and processed foods, as viewed by blog.mission-health.org is the way that whole foods are nutrient-dense and how processed foods are mostly empty calories.
Because whole foods have not been altered, they are packed full of nutrients, and in turn, these nutrients help feed the needs our bodies crave. From vitamin and mineral consumption to fighting against chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases that can be caused due to a rise of inflammation within the body.
When we focus on a heavy whole-food diet, we nourish our bodies with foods that aid in keeping us better satiated with fiber, protein, and healthy calories. This also makes us less likely to fill ourselves up on the alternative empty calories that processed foods are often known for, think chips and soda. As a bonus, a whole-food diet helps our body to lose weight, as we discuss in our post on 7 easy weight loss without exercise tips.
The fact that processed foods have become a staple in our diets is quite apparent not only in the wide selection we are offered, but also how readily available they are to us. However, just because these foods are accessible, that does not mean we should eat these foods with any regularity.
I have experienced moments in my life, such as my university days when eating processed food was the bulk part of my diet. I have also experienced the opposite, where I cooked every meal I made and focused on feeding my body with nutrient-dense, whole foods.
And while it may feel difficult to omit processed foods completely from our diets, it is important to remember that processed foods fuel addiction, weight gain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammation and all kinds of chronic disease. Any time we can choose foods that have one or two recognizable ingredients, the better off we will be.
Take a moment to listen to your body, and see how it reacts to the foods you eat. Maybe, challenge yourself to give up processed foods for a week and feel the energy boost your body gives you. In the end, we only have one body, so let’s take care of it the best we can and nourish it with nutrient rich foods.
My Toolbox Genomics empowers individuals in their healthcare journey by creating reports focused on genetic predispositions derived from published research. Test results and suggestions are intended to lead to consultation with one’s healthcare practitioner. MyTBG reports do not diagnose disease or medical conditions. Any lifestyle changes should result from consultation with qualified healthcare practitioners.