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In the featured article,1 Donna Gates, author of The Body Ecology Diet, explains 10 reasons why you might want to think twice the next time you’re tempted to eat processed foods.
1. They’re Addictive and May Cause You to Overeat
Processing modifies or removes important components of food, like fiber, water and nutrients, changing the way they are digested and assimilated in your body.
Unlike whole foods, which contain a mix of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fiber and water to help you feel satisfied, processed foods stimulate dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, making you feel good even though the food lacks nutrients and fiber. This artificial dopamine stimulation can lead to excessive food cravings and, ultimately, food addiction.
2. They’re Linked to Obesity
Processed foods are virtually guaranteed to contain additives that are linked to obesity. This includes monosodium glutamate (MSG), high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and more. Plus, refined carbohydrates like breakfast cereals, bagels, waffles, pretzels, and most other processed foods quickly break down to sugar.,
This increases your insulin and leptin levels, and contribute to insulin resistance, which is the primary underlying factor of nearly every chronic disease and condition known to man, including weight gain.
3. They Break Principles of Food Combining
Some nutrition and health experts, such as Wayne Pickering, believe that eating foods in certain combinations helps your body’s digestive processes to work more efficiently and absorb more nutrients. Wayne actually constructed a very useful food combining chart that can be obtained on his website. According to one such premise, eating proteins and starches together, which is common in processed foods (such as a pepperoni pizza), inhibits digestion leading to putrification of your food, acidic conditions in your blood and supports disease-causing pathogens in your gut.
4. Processed Foods Lead to an Imbalanced Inner Ecosystem
The microorganisms living in your digestive tract form a very important “inner ecosystem” that influences countless aspects of your health. Processed foods disrupt this system, suppressing beneficial microflora and leading to digestive problems, cravings, illnesses and chronic disease. Beneficial organisms in your gut thrive on whole, unprocessed foods.
5. They’re Detrimental to Your Mood and Brain
Mood swings, memory problems and even depression are often the result of a heavily processed-food diet. In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression and aggression, is found in your intestines, not your brain! Your gut and brain actually work in tandem, each influencing the other. This is why your intestinal health can have such a profound influence on your mental health, and vice versa – and why eating processed foods that can harm your gut flora can have a profoundly negative impact on your mood, psychological health and behavior.
6. Processed Foods Encourage ‘Eating on the Run’
Processed foods are quick and easy, making them ‘perfect’ to grab when you’re on the go. But eating on the go, or while you’re multi-tasking, can cause you to lose touch with your body’s natural signals telling you you’re full, leading to overeating and weight gain. It’s also more difficult for your body to digest properly when you’re busily engaged in other tasks.
7. Nutrition Labels Can be Misleading
A processed food may be labeled ‘natural’ or ‘sugar-free,’ but that doesn’t make it healthful. For instance, the natural food label on a processed food has no standard definition and really no meaning at all. A “natural” product is meaningless as it can legally be genetically modified, full of pesticides or made with corn syrup, additives, preservatives and artificial ingredients.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also allows processed food manufacturers to use absurdly tiny serving sizes on their labels, which can lull you into a false sense of security when it comes to determining how much of each stated nutrient or toxin, like trans fat, you’re actually consuming.
8. Processed Meats Are Linked to Cancer
Processed meats are those preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or the addition of chemical preservatives, which includes bacon, ham, pastrami, salami, pepperoni, hot dogs, some sausages and hamburgers (if they have been preserved with salt or chemical additives) and more. Particularly problematic are the nitrates that are added to these meats as a preservative, coloring and flavoring.
The nitrates found in processed meats are frequently converted into nitrosamines, which are clearly associated with an increased risk of certain cancers. Meat cooked at high temperatures, as many processed meats often are, can also contain as many as 20 different kinds of heterocyclic amines, or HCAs for short. These substances are also linked to cancer.
9. Processed Foods May Increase Your Risk of Infertility and Malnutrition
Because processed foods are stripped of nutrients your body needs, you could be eating a large number of calories but still become malnourished. In just three generations, a nutrient-deficient diet can lead to infertility, which is on the rise in the US.2 Plus, processed foods often contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients, which are also linked to reproductive problems.
10. Processed Foods Lead to a Long Shelf Life, Not a Long Human Life
Processed foods can last a long time on the shelf without going bad, thanks to their chemical cocktails of preservatives and other additives. Unfortunately, their makers put a lot of money and time into strategies to increase shelf life and create attractive packaging, with little attention put on the foods’ nutrient value or how it will actually detract from lasting health.