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You’ve probably heard about the dangers of processed food. So many health experts are telling us to eat more vegetables and fruits, and to avoid manufactured foods. But what exactly is manufactured, processed food?
Just about anyone can look at a chicken nugget and realize that whatever chicken might be present has gone through an extreme alteration. By the time it gets to our plate, it doesn’t resemble the chicken it was intended to be.
Some foods that qualify for the definition of processed are “improved”. Some milk, juices and other beverages have vitamins added to them to make them healthier. For the most part, however, processed foods should be avoided. Because a lot of the processing that gets them from nature to your table includes packing them with preservatives, salt, sugar and trans fats.
By definition, processed food is food that has been altered from its natural state. So a package of chopped lettuce is actually a processed food. It has been made more convenient, and then bagged. Those types of processed foods are usually good for you. The types of manufactured foods you want to avoid are those that involve combining raw ingredients and chemicals into food-like items.
Pesticides can also be a part of the process. When foods are being grown, they are often treated with chemicals to ward off hungry bugs and insects. That’s why eating clean or organic foods can cut down on the amount of toxins a human being consumes every day by as much as 80 percent, according to the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org). By the way, I highly recommend you check out EWG on a regular basis. They have wonderful information and lists that are updated to keep us informed as to what will support our health and what will harm us.
When ingredients such as sugar, fat and salt are added to food to enhance flavor or make it last longer, this type of processed product can end up getting more than the recommended amounts of those items into our bodies. Health hazards and addictions to salt and sugar are often the result. Those types of items are also usually higher in calories, which means they will help us pack on the pounds. Trans fats added to foods have been altered by adding hydrogen atoms because the fat then becomes more stable and lasts longer on the shelf. Good for big food, but bad for your health!
If you eat a lot of red meat that has been processed, you run a much higher risk of contracting certain forms of cancer. It’s in your best interest to consume grass fed meats and to eat smaller servings of them. When you consider these meats are more expensive, but factor in the smaller portions, you will be eating smarter and healthier.
As a general rule, you want to avoid products that have lost nutrients and gained unhealthy and unneeded chemicals and alternatives. Go for whole fresh foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, not in a box, and you’ll be heading in the right direction!