The Unsettling Reality of Processed Foods
What's It All About?
I hope I’m not alone in saying this, but it’s only been recently that I really tuned into the term “processed foods”. And, up until the moment I conducted a little research, I wasn’t altogether certain what these words referred to. Now, I know, and, through my efforts, I’ve also uncovered some pretty startling facts about the foods we (including myself) eat.
Processed food is anything that is boxed, bagged, canned, or jarred and has a list of ingredients on the label. Historically, food processing was a way for people to preserve foods through canning, freezing, and dehydration. These traditional methods were perfectly acceptable. But, with the Industrial Age, came commercially processed foods – and the hidden dangers that put consumers’ health at risk.
The Food We Eat
Today’s processed foods contain such ingredients as additives, artificial flavorings and colors, preservatives, sweeteners, salt, manufactured fats, synthetic vitamins, and other unnatural things. At the same time, nutrients like soluble fiber, antioxidants, and “good” fats are stripped away during processing.
It's estimated that 6,000 chemicals are used in processed foods. Moreover, a study conducted at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families videotaped 32 families, including their dinner routines for a three-year period. Although 70 percent of the dinners were home-cooked, most included moderate amounts of packaged food. Even worse, the advent of commercial processing has brought a rising trend of cancers and heart-related diseases. Studies indicate many of the artificial ingredients in processed foods could cause most of our illnesses.
If you’re like me, you’re asking yourself at this point if processed foods fortified with vitamins are at least a little healthier. The answer I discovered is no. Writer Melanie Warner reports many of the vitamins we consume, whether in supplements or a box of cereal, come from China. They are produced in enormous factories that account for at least half of all global vitamin production. And these vitamins are nothing like those made by Mother Nature.
Synthetic vitamin C, for instance, starts with a corn ingredient and then undergoes a complex, multi-step bacterial and chemical process. Vitamin A comes from acetylene gas, a chemical derived from petroleum refining. And vitamin D starts with sheep grease. Ships loaded with sheep wool regularly depart from Australian ports and make their way to China for the very purpose of making vitamin D.
If you’re not yet convinced of the complete lack of quality in processed foods, consider these facts:
- Your taste buds become used to the strong flavors of processed foods and make you want to add more salt or sugar to the natural flavors of whole foods.
- Some processed foods are filled with indistinguishable parts and pieces, like snouts, ears, and esophagi.
- Eating a diet high in processed foods can lead to diabetes and liver overload.
Abstinence Is Key
To get away from unhealthy processed foods, you need to cut them from your food choices. The best way to do this is to eat foods that come straight from the source – the earth. These include fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, cheese (not in a can or American Cheese Food), unprocessed meats (no sausage, bacon with nitrites or bologna), whole wheat flour, and honey.
While thinking about restructuring your diet, here are those you’ll want to avoid: soda, anything with refined and enriched white flour, chips, fast foods, processed meats and cheeses, candy, pre-packaged cookies, and most nutrition drinks/shakes.