Most people know that processed food items aren’t good for them, yet most American’s diet consists primarily of processed food items. Is it a lack of education or just a lack of concern? For the uneducated, I’m going to go over the 4 most common things found in processed foods that contribute to diabetes and heart disease…both of which are a growing epidemic in our country. I’ll also briefly talk about why you should avoid such foods and what to look for in the list of ingredients and nutrition label to make better food choices.
“We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.” ~Alfred E. Newman
The 4 Big Offenders to Your Health
- Trans Fats – Trans fats are used in processed foods as a cheaper alternative to butter, lard and coconut oil (saturated fats). You’ll find them in most baked goods, crackers, chips, microwave popcorn and fast foods. Trans fats wreak havoc on your arteries by increasing “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and decreasing “good” HDL cholesterol levels. And unlike saturated fats, trans fats also increase your levels of artery clogging triglycerides, which are estimated to cause 30,000-100,000 premature heart disease deaths in America every year. Check the ingredients list for “partially, fractionated, or hydrogenated” oil. These are synonyms for trans fat.
- Refined Grains – Food items containing refined grains include white bread, dinner rolls, sugary low-fiber cereal, baked goods, and white pasta. Choosing refined grains over whole grains can increase your risk for heart attack by 30% and also increase your risk for developing diabetes and high blood pressure. Check the ingredients list on grain products before making your purchase. Better grain choices will have these ingredients listed first: whole wheat, whole grain, or oats. The fiber content should be at least 3g per serving. Avoid food items that list flour as the dominant ingredient…even if its whole wheat flour. Once the grain has been broken down and processed into flour it has lost the health benefits that fiber offers.
- Sodium (Salt) – High amounts of sodium are hidden in most of the processed food items you eat. It’s used to increase shelf life (as it is a natural preservative) and also to enhance flavor. Sodium is essential to the body to maintain and regulate numerous metabolic processes; however, only in very small amounts. The average American consumes 3x the amount of the USDA’s recommended daily intake for sodium of 1,500 milligrams. Look at the nutrition label on food items for the sodium content and check the % of your daily value that it contains. If it’s more than 25%, put it back!
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup – Another chemically modified compound created to be used as a cheaper substitution for traditional sweeteners. Not only does it cost less to make than other sweeteners, but it’s also 10x sweeter. It’s used primarily in sweet beverages, but can also be found in many baked goods and frozen foods. Research suggests that this liquid sweetener interferes with numerous normal metabolic processes, and raises your risk for heart disease and diabetes. Look for the words “corn sweetener, corn syrup, or high-fructose corn syrup.” If it’s listed high up on the ingredients list…put it back!
Make better food choices by reading the nutrition/ingredients label on all the food items you buy and avoid any that contain high amounts of the above mentioned ingredients. By choosing non-processed or minimally processed food items, you can greatly reduce your risk for many of the leading self-inflicted, killer diseases in America and have a much easier time maintaining a healthy weight.
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