The term processed foods may have negative connotations, but many people don’t realize how ubiquitous they are in their diets and the effects that they can have on their health. In fact, processed foods aren’t always unhealthy, but when they replace nutrient-rich whole foods, they often contribute to poor health. Even if you choose to eat healthy for most of your meals, it can be easy to slip up on occasion and indulge in the convenient nature of processed foods without even realizing it.
What Are Processed Foods?
Processed foods are usually prepared or packaged to make them easier for people to use. Examples of processed food products include cooked canned meals, frozen dinners, chips and salsa, cereal, canned vegetables, frozen fruit bars, and commercial baked goods. These products are generally less expensive than their raw ingredients; however, they contain higher amounts of saturated fat and added sugars than whole fruits or vegetables that haven’t been prepared. That’s because excess fat and sugar add flavor during preparation.
Adverse Health Effects of Processed Foods
While it’s true that most processed foods are high in sugar, salt, and additives that may be harmful to our health, there are also other ingredients you should watch out for. Here are just a few of them: Preservatives: Some preservatives have been linked to allergic reactions, neurological disorders, and cancer. They may even inhibit normal body functions or slow healing. In addition to avoiding these foods with sulfites (including dried fruits), other common preservatives you should try to avoid include butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). These additives keep food from spoiling too quickly, which is why they’re used in packaged goods such as potato chips and cereals.
The Benefits of Whole, Natural Foods
Whole, natural foods are unprocessed or minimally processed; they’re grown in soil, not in a lab. They contain all their original components, including fiber and nutrients that help keep our bodies strong and healthy. The more of these natural ingredients we eat, the healthier we become (and feel). When we fill up on nutrient-rich whole food sources, our cravings for junk go away. Whole food also happens to be pretty tasty—that is if you’re eating fresh produce and quality meats instead of highly-processed meals full of artificial flavours and chemicals. Give it a try and we guarantee you won’t miss what you didn’t know was missing from your diet.
Natural Alternatives to Processed Foods
Most packaged, boxed, and canned food options are highly processed. Most gyms are the busiest right when they open and right when they close, so working out during those hours can make it difficult to get your Musclesblaze workout in without feeling self-conscious or distracted. If you’re looking to consume a healthier diet, there are a few substitutes you can make in order to reduce your intake of harmful ingredients. Instead of using artificial sweeteners or refined flour products, replace them with natural alternatives such as honey or whole-wheat flour.
Are There Risks Associated with Cutting Out Processed Foods?
In short, yes. Cutting out carbs or fats from your diet might seem like a no-brainer for weight loss but it can actually do more harm than good. When you cut down on fat, you’re cutting out a lot of essential nutrients, too—like omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for healthy brain function and metabolism regulation. And when you cut out carbs (which typically replace fat in many diet plans), it’s tough to get enough vitamins and minerals that help fuel energy levels throughout the day and keep our muscles blaze working at their best. You see where we’re going with this: Processed foods have negative impacts on both our physical health and our mental well-being. Eat fresh instead!
Is it Bad if I Occasionally Eat Processed Foods?
Processed food is any food or beverage with added or extra ingredients. Oftentimes, these extra ingredients are what make a product shelf-stable for long periods of time. Unfortunately, many of these preservatives and additives have been linked to a host of problems and diseases—including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. That’s why it’s important to limit your intake of processed foods; after all, eating fresh fruits and vegetables is much healthier than junk food filled with salt and sugars.