One of the most popular movements in American food today is the “whole foods” movement. This is the trend where people are beginning to cook foods from scratch using ingredients like fresh fruits and vegetables, dry brown rice or beans and fresh meats and dairy. Interest in this has led to the rise of Slow Food clubs and other clubs all around the country dedicated to bringing back old ways of cooking.
One of the reasons for this is because more and more people are being turned off by the unhealthy – and sometimes frankly dangerous – ingredients in processed and pre-packaged foods that are made in a factory with the cheapest products possible. Below are some of the most notorious ingredients that appear in far more processed foods than most people realize.
As the obesity rates rose in the United States, more and more people tried to diet to shed those excess pounds through consuming more “diet” or “lite” products sweetened with ingredients like aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. Unfortunately, far from being a weight loss aid, these artificial sweeteners have been associated with weight gain, the development of Type 2 diabetes and other serious chronic health problems. (1)
Trans fats are nothing new. They have, unfortunately, been part of the American diet since 1911, when Crisco first came onto the market. They are now found in a huge variety of processed foods, including baked goods, pie crusts, margarines and other butter substitutes. Trans fats are so bad in part because they are based on vegetable oils but go through an industrialized process to hydrogenate them. Because of this, they cause low-grade inflammation in the body and have been linked to heart attacks and strokes. (2)
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is mostly associated with Chinese food, but in fact is found in a wide range of processed food products, including things like microwave or prepackaged dinners. Apart from the fact that it can cause severe – and sometime fatal — anaphylactic shock if consumed by those who have an allergy, it has been associated with other health problems, including eye damage, rapid heartbeat, fatigue and even depression. (3)
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Popular belief seems inclined to the idea that high fructose corn syrup is no worse for the body than table sugar. However, this has proven to be a myth. Because of the fact that it is so highly processed, however, the body has a more difficult time breaking it down. It has been associated with obesity (especially abdominal obesity), heart disease and Type 2 diabetes development. And unfortunately, it is nearly everywhere, showing up in sodas, processed foods, TV dinners, canned foods and even fruit juice cocktails. (4)
These ingredients are all excellent reasons to embrace whole foods cookery, where the ingredients come from a farm and not a factory and where the consumer is aware of exactly what is going into the dishes that they are consuming and serving up to their families.
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