There’s nothing easier than to go over to the supermarket and fill your baskets with cereal, cookies, and frozen dinners! When you don’t have a lot of time to cook or if you don’t want to spend your leisure hours cooking for yourself, it is much easier to simply eat a lot of processed, packaged and refined foods that you won’t have to go through much trouble to prepare. In fact, that’s what people do when they live alone, spend a lot of time at work or doesn’t like to cook for themselves – they prefer to live on pre-cooked frozen meals loaded with preservatives, processed cereals and protein bars, fruit juices filled to the brim with refined sugar and other chemicals, and/or baked goods from supermarkets.
None of these – I repeat, none of these foods is good for your health in the long run.
What are processed foods?
Almost everything delicious and easy-to-eat that you can find in the supermarket can be labelled as “processed” food. However, there is a difference between food that has been “mechanically processed” and food that has been “chemically processed”.
Most of what we eat and get from the supermarket aren’t available in the form we get them in nature. Beef is processed in a machine to make ground beef and butter is churned from milk in a machine, but these aren’t harmful to us. When watermelons are cut into pieces to be sold separately, they may be packaged but are not actually “processed”. These are mechanically “processed” foods, not exactly bought in their natural state, but they are neither changed nor very much processed.
On the other hand, “chemically processed” is also known as refined food, in which a large number of artificial substances and chemicals are added. These are usually the kinds that are found to be overflowing in the supermarket isles, the most delicious one and the easiest to prepare.
Everything from cereal to protein bars, deli meat, frozen dinners, white bread and white pasta, canned fruits, pasteurized milk, salted nuts, energy drinks and bars, microwave popcorn, sweetened dried fruits, instant noodles, ramen and ketchup, salad dressing – everything you can find in the supermarket is some sort of processed food, all extremely harmful for you.
These sort of processed, packaged and refined foods should be kept as far away as possible from your kitchens and dining tables.
Why Shouldn’t you eat Processed Foods?
From obesity to hypertension, from cancer to heart problems, from gastritis to acne – all of these illnesses and health problems are directly connected to consuming a huge amount of processed food. Chemically processed, packaged and preserved food can, at best, make you obese, and at its worst, kill you with cancer and/or heart problems.
There are a lot of reasons why you should avoid processed food as much as you can, and the most important ones are explained in details below.
- They are Filled with Sugar
Eating too much processed food is the number one reason why some people are overweight and obese. It’s not always because they are eating in bulk amounts, but because they are eating everything that’s bad for their health. Almost all the processed food we bring home from the supermarket is loaded with refined sugar, even the food that is spicy and savoury.
Sweet drinks and processed fruit juices, baked goods with sugar in them, dessert items, cakes, pies, and cookies – these are all highly sugary food that has no actual nutrition in them. The calories you eat with these foods are actually “empty calories”; they’ll give you a surge of energy immediately after eating them, but all tire you out quickly. The more you eat processed food with sugar in them, the more weight you gain, and none of that weight is for the wellbeing of your health.
Sugar also hampers our metabolism, making it almost impossible for our body to process and digest what we eat. This also means that almost everything that we eat adds to our weight instead of being digested by our body and passed through a healthy metabolic system. This is one of the most important reasons that we seem to gain weight when we eat more sugar – directly or through food.
- They have no Fibre
The right food for us has an adequate amount of fibre, which has the ability to make us feel more full and content only after consuming a few calories. Fibre also slows down our body’s absorption of carbohydrates, so we don’t unnecessarily eat too much of “empty calories”.
Fruits and vegetables have plenty of fibre, but when they are available in forms of sugary drinks and juices, you are only getting the sugar and the calories, without any fibre. The same happens with white rice, white bread, and pasta, refined cereals and grains, white sugar, etc. The more you consume these refined and processed foods, the more calories you eat, without any significant amount of fibre.
- They are extremely addictive
Anything that’s unhealthy, processed and refined is usually delicious! Whether it is a cookie, a slice of cake, a slice of pizza or a pack of chips, you can’t stop before you’ve overeaten. There’s a particular reason why you end up eating so much of these processed foods that you know are bad for you: they are chemically designed to be so.
Processed foods, such as packaged potato chips, release a special chemical in your body the moment you eat the first one: dopamine. Dopamine is actually a hormone that introduces feelings of pleasure and happiness in your body, and you can’t stop eating. Even when you start eating with a certain limitation on your mind, you’ll soon find yourself eating many more.
The more processed food you eat, the more you are going to continue to eat – and that can slowly develop into an eating disorder.
- They have a lot of Artificial Components
If you look at the ingredient list of your favourite energy drink, cereal or cookies, you can see a long list of chemicals. Remember that the manufacturer doesn’t even put the names of every single one of the chemicals they have used, hiding a lot of them under the terms “Artificially flavoured” and “Seasoning”.
So, what you are putting inside your body isn’t just food, but also a large batch of chemicals that can eventually lead to a number of diseases, including cancer.
- They also Contain Unnecessary Sodium
All crackers, crisps, chips, frozen dinners, and preserved/canned foods contain a huge amount of salt for enhancing the taste and shelf life. The sodium in these snacks can dangerously elevate your blood pressure and increase risks for heart diseases. The recommended daily dose for sodium is only 2300 mg, but only a few pieces of chips can contain much more than that.
- They have Trans Fat and Harmful Oils
Everything that’s good for your body, when refined, comes with additional trans fats and processed oils, such as nuts, seeds, salad dressings, and seasoning. You might want to consume these foods for their nutritional value or for taste, but when you are buying processed food, you are actually consuming more trans fats than what’s necessary for you.
Too many trans fats and processed oils can increase cholesterol in your body, increase the risk of artery-related diseases and even contribute to premature death in people.
There are many other harmful effects of processed foods for our health and body, including lack of sleep, taking in empty calories and no nutrition, indigestion, unstable insulin level in the body, and more. The less processed food we eat, the healthier we can live; on the other hand, the more wholesome and natural our meals, the better we are going to feel even after eating a significantly smaller portion.