Ok, let's start with the main question - what is food processing? Food processing is the transformation of agricultural products into food, or of one form of food into other forms. Food processing includes many forms of processing foods, from grinding grain to make raw flour to home cooking to complex industrial methods used to make convenience foods.
Recently, we did a blog post about dangers of not reading ingredient label and it gained incredible amount of views. In that blog post we covered that if you would look at the ingredient label you would not be able to recognise many of the items on the list. And the reason was because most of those ingredients were artificial additives or E numbers (to enhance taste, extend shelf life of the product or to improve texture of a product). That lead us to writing new blog post and draw a parallel.
Here are our 10 motivating reasons to reduce processed foods intake (or at least to think twice before adding them to your shopping bag).
1) Processed foods lack natural nutrients
Processing foods often involves nutrient losses, which can make it harder to meet your needs if these nutrients aren't added back through fortification or enrichment (hello additives and E numbers). For example, using high heat during processing can cause vitamin C losses. Another example is refined grains, which have less fiber, vitamins and minerals than whole grains. Eating refined grains, such as those found in many processed foods, instead of whole grains may increase your risk for high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.
2) Too much added sugar
While you don't need to limit the sugars found naturally in whole, unprocessed foods like fresh fruit, eating too much added sugar, or its evil twin - corn syrup - found in many processed foods can increase your risk for heart disease, obesity, cavities and Type 2 diabetes.
Keep your eyes on energy drinks like Monster, Red Bull, Coca-Cola and other soda drinks. They are loaded with sugar.
3) Processed foods can be very addictive
Your body processes whole foods, such as fruits, much differently than it does refined, processed, or "junk" foods. Processed foods tend to overstimulate the production of dopamine known as the "pleasure" neurotransmitter, which makes you consume them constantly. In the end, your body ends up surrounding to temptation to continue eating junk foods in excess (especially if you are keen on McDonald's, Subway, Burger King, KFC etc.), which can lead to obesity and other health problems.
Good example is potato chips - "once you pop you just can't stop".
4) Processed foods often contain phosphates and other additives that causes health problems
Many processed foods contain phosphate additives that augment taste, texture, and shelf-life (learn more about E numbers and additives here). These additives are known to cause health problems like rapid aging, kidney deterioration and weak bones, according to studies.
5) Processed food raise your sodium levels
Too much sodium leads to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk elevation. Sodium is added to prevent spoilage, add flavour and improve the texture of such foods. Recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams per day for healthy people, and more than twice the limit of 1,500 milligrams per day for those at increased risk for heart disease.
6) Processed foods harm digestion
Since processed foods made the food lack of natural fibers, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, that kind of products tend to wreak havoc on the digestive tract. Overconsumption of such foods, can throw your internal ecosystem off balance, harming beneficial bacteria and exposing your system to infection. First sign of digestion issues is constipation. If you have stool once a day (and you eat quite a lot) that's a solid yellow flag for you. If longer then it's a red flag.
Next time you see gummy bears on that sweet and delish piece of cake, think of them as small doses of poison for your system. Opt out if possible.
7) Processed foods contain trans fats
Foods that have undergone processing, including some commercial baked goods, desserts, margarine, frozen pizza, microwave popcorn, and coffee creamers, sometimes contain trans fats. This is the most unhealthy type of fat, and may increase your risk for high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke.
Our best recommendation would be keeping your trans fat intake as low as possible, or to opt out completely.
8) Processed foods affects your mind
A recent study out of Oxford University having found that junk food consumption can cause people to become angry and irritable. Nutrient-dense whole foods, on the other hand, can help level out your mood, sustain your energy levels, and leave you feeling calmer and more collected. In other words, to have a clear mind eat more fruits and vegetables.
9) Processed foods are loaded with pesticides
Sadly, many farmers (and big companies) have to apply Roundup (glyphosate) and other pesticides and herbicides (read more about it here), many of which end up in the final product, in order to grow their crops. Some researches are concerned that breakfast cereals alone have been found to contain up to 70 different types of pesticides.
Morpheus meme quote: "what if I told you bread (seeds to be precise) and flour are also covered with pesticides". Makes you wonder, right?
10) Processed foods sometimes might not be real food
One of the ways you can assess the nutritional value of food is to see how animals, insects, bacteria, and fungi respond to it. Real foods will actually rot or grow mold, for instance, while fake, processed foods remain largely the same in appearance and shape no matter what their age. In other words, processed food is essentially synthetic, and the industry that produces it admits that heavy tampering and crafty modifications are necessary to make it taste real, even though it is not.
Food processing does have some benefits, such as making food last longer and making products more convenient. However, there are drawbacks to relying on a lot of heavily processed foods. Whole foods and those that are only minimally processed, like frozen vegetables without any sauce, tend to be more healthy. An unhealthy diet high in fat, added sugar and salt, such as one containing a lot of highly-processed foods, can increase the risk for cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to the World Health Organization.
Liked the article? Great. Do us a favour and share it among your vegan (and non-vegan) friends too. After all, we are all in the same boat. Let's build the best online vegan shop together :)