The reasons for America’s love affair with processed foods are obvious. They are inexpensive, accessible and simple to prepare and serve. This convenience is particularly attractive to hard-working parents or to the elderly who live alone and do not want to spend much time in the kitchen. Unfortunately, while these foods may be kind to the schedule and the budget, they are not so kind to the body. What is wrong with them?
1. They Increase the Risk for Heart Disease and Diabetes
This risk stems from the fact that many processed foods contain partially hydrogenated oils that the FDA’s Federal Registration has deemed no longer “generally recognized as safe” and that are a rich source of trans fat in the diet. These chemically engineered oils have been linked obesity and elevated cholesterol levels, which in turn can lead to the development of cardiac problems or diabetes.
2. They Intensify Cravings
Processed foods are composed of empty calories with little nutritional value, but they do contain excessive amounts of salt and fat which can stimulate a pleasure response in the brain. The food tastes good due to the overload of these additives and causes the body to crave it and to consume it in unhealthy amounts.
3. They Increase the Risk of Cancer
The partially hydrogenated oils previously mentioned have been linked to cancer development, but many processed foods contain other compounds which can increase this risk as well. Chemically engineered ingredients such as butylated hydroxanisole and diacetyl have been shown in various studies to have carcinogenic properties.
4. They Promote Weight Gain
The link between overconsumption of processed foods and weight gain has long been understood in the medical community. Even as far back as 2003, a brief put out by the World Health Organization made the case for processed foods being one of the root causes of the obesity epidemic that is springing up all around the world. The combination of sodium, trans fat, artificial sweeteners and empty calories can easily lead to becoming overweight or obese.
5. They Raise Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as the “silent killer” because it can often carry no warning signs but can lead to fatal incidents of heart attacks or strokes. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently issued a report that fully three-quarters of Americans’ salt intake comes from either processed foods or from eating out. Cutting out processed foods, therefore, can greatly reduce the chances of developing or exacerbating high blood pressure.
6. They are Linked to Attention Deficit Disorder
Many processed foods contain the additive called Allura Red AC or Red 40. This additive has been outlawed in Europe for a long time, mostly due to the links which scientific studies have found between its consumption and the development of attention deficit disorder (ADD). However, it is still the most common such dye used in the United States. What’s more, this dye has produced from the crushed carapaces of cochineal insects, which most people find thoroughly unappetizing.
The facts outlined above are all great arguments for eating food in its natural state. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meat and dairy can help avoid exposure to many of these harmful chemicals and reduce the risk of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
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