Heuser Health

 

Why You Should Say “No” to Processed Foods

By: Lauren Berryman

Nowadays, Americans are busier than ever. From working nine to five to picking kids up from school to running errands around town and so on, we crave convenience.

Convenience takes the form of fast food restaurants, microwavable meals and vending machine snacks. However, these processed foods, which are presumed to be convenient, are actually problematic.

Processed foods are chemically modified to have longer shelf lives and are often frozen, canned or dried. If you look at the nutrition label on your bag of snack mix, you may see unfamiliar words like maltodextrin, sodium diacetate and fumaric acid. These sound more like chemical compounds that should be found in a lab rather than ingredients that should be ingested by our bodies.

These foods are also high in sugar and carbohydrates and lack healthy components, like fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Our bodies are tricked into finding these processed foods tasty because the additives cause our brains to release the hormone dopamine, increasing the feeling of happiness. 1

While these foods may make you feel satiated and happy, these feelings do not last long because these foods are quickly digested. Overeating becomes a risk because the body soon feels hungry and desires more dopamine to be released again.

A study in the Cell Metabolism Journal found that diets high in processed foods led people to consume 500 additional daily calories, therefore causing them to gain about two pounds in just two weeks. 2

Added sugars, like high-fructose corn syrup, found in many processed foods increases triglyceride levels and fat storage around the waist line. An increasing waist circumference increases the chance of developing metabolic syndrome. And, an increased chance of metabolic syndrome increases the chance of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. 3

However, these conditions can be easily prevented by monitoring diet. The study concluded that “on the unprocessed diet, their levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone PYY increased while levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger, fell.” 4

Another study in the British Medical Journal also found that people who rarely eat processed foods have a greater life expectancy and decreased chance of heart disease. 5

So, say “no” to processed foods and “yes” to clean eating. Whole grain, all natural and locally grown foods are best. We live in a fast-paced society, but if you run to the local farmer’s market once a week and limit frozen meals, your risk of contracting metabolic syndrome will decrease.

When eliminating processed foods, a good rule of thumb is that fresh is best. Apples are better than apple juice. Fruit salad is better than fruit snacks. And, always steer clear of trans fats.

References:

  1. Gunnars, Kris. “Nine Ways That Processed Foods Are Harming People.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 1 Aug. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318630.php.
  2. O’connor, Anahad. “Why Eating Processed Foods Might Make You Fat.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 May 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/05/16/well/eat/why-eating-processed-foods-might-make-you-fat.html.
  3. “Metabolic Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 14 Mar. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metabolic-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20351916.
  4. O’connor, Anahad. “Why Eating Processed Foods Might Make You Fat.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 May 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/05/16/well/eat/why-eating-processed-foods-might-make-you-fat.html.
  5. Burfoot, Amby. “It’s Trendy to Scorn Processed Food. Now There’s Research to Back up That Attitude.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 June 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/its-trendy-to-scorn-processed-food-now-theres-research-to-back-up-that-attitude/2019/06/21/d19f54d8-929d-11e9-aadb-74e6b2b46f6a_story.html?utm_term=.544854920738.