We hear it all the time – eating processed foods is bad for your health, will make you fat and they don’t stand up to natural organic food whatsoever. It’s hard to know which processed foods to avoid – most food that you can purchase in a supermarket has been processed in some way or another! The trick is to avoid ‘highly’ or ‘ultra’ processed foods – they’re the evil ones that doctors and nutritionists warn you about.
What’s the difference between processed and highly processed food?
‘Processed’, when applied to food, can mean a number of things. Foods that are processed can include fruits and vegetables that have been washed, treated or chopped in any way. Highly processed foods include: cereals, confectionery, snack food, bread, ice cream, fizzy drinks and of course, frozen convenience meals.
Here’s some reasons why you should be avoiding these super-processed foods like the plague:
Sugar, Sugar, Sugar
We all know too much sugar is bad for you, you’ve probably heard it enough times from your parents! The problem with sugar is the empty calories. Sure, it gives you a boost of energy but it’s at the cost of zero nutritional benefit whatsoever. It’s also been proven to mess up your metabolism and insulin resistance – your bad cholesterol levels can skyrocket if you’re over-sweetening. Even if you think you’re eating a normal amount of sugar, if your diet contains highly processed foods, chances are you’re getting way too much of the sweet stuff from them. Try checking labels, but be aware they can be sneaky. Sugar comes under many other names – dextrose, glucose, cane juice and the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup (avoid at all costs!)
All Sorts Of Hidden Fats
Ultra processed foods are often high in processed vegetable oils, which are super cheap to produce. Often these vegetable oils are then hydrogenated, turning them into trans fats. Trans fats are the worst – they boost your bad cholesterol while cutting your good cholesterol and they up your chances of a heart attack – trans fats are even twice as bad as saturated fats in their ability to wreck your health! Luckily, the FDA have called for a stop to trans fats being used in food production by 2018 – until then, keep an eye out for labels that have ‘hydrogenated vegetable fat’ high up on the ingredient list.
Refined Grains Aren’t A Good Thing
Refined carbs like those found in white bread, pasta or rice are essentially just sugar. They give you a little boost of energy as they’re easy to digest and this sugar spikes your energy levels – you’ll feel hungry soon after eating though. When you consume a lot of these kinds of carbs, you’re putting yourself at risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Labels can be deceiving – processed foods labelled whole grain are just as bad for you as refined carbs – so opt for whole foods made with whole grain for a healthier option to the processed stuff.
It’s Super Easy To Overeat Processed Food
There’s a reason we all find it easy to eat some much highly processed food – it tastes good! It’s supposed to! If you have a busy schedule, it seems much easier to buy a pre-made microwave meal than to whip yourself up a meal from scratch at home. Evolution makes us crave these processed foods – they’re high in sugar, salt and fat, which are all essential for survival. Your brain literally rewards you when you eat these foods – you’ll feel great now, but it all adds up. If you want to be healthier, you need to drop this stuff, and soon!