Most processed foods are, quite frankly, filled with junk. Sugar, and many other ingredients found in these kinds of products, can have damaging effects on the body. Some processed foods even contain toxins.1 If you’re hooked on processed foods, you need to start cutting them out.
Here’s some information on why processed foods are really that bad for you, and some of the steps you can take to avoid (or eliminate) them entirely from your diet.
Why Are Processed Foods So Bad for the Body?
There are a lot of reasons why you need to avoid processed foods whenever possible. One of the most important is that they are usually loaded with sugar. Consuming too much sugar can really do a number on your system. It can make it harder, for example, for your body to process insulin. If that happens, it could lead to serious health issues.3 It can also lead to an increase in not only “bad” cholesterol (LDL), but also the accumulation of fat in the liver.4
Many types of processed foods are specifically made to be rewarding – too rewarding, in fact. They basically act against our body’s natural inclination to eat only what we need. We eat these foods, and we immediately want more … and more … and more. This can make it extremely hard for us to keep our weight at a healthy level.5
Processed foods typically contain a lot of artificial ingredients. These are chemicals that are added to food for several different reasons. Preservatives, for instance, keep food from spoiling. Coloring is used to make a product more attractive. Flavors and textures are added as well. One of the more common processed food additives is monosodium glutamate, or MSG. This is actually a type of toxin that can damage cells in the body. Studies show that people can develop a sensitivity to MSG that can lead to headaches and muscle pain.6
Eating processed food can even introduce heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, and arsenic to the body. These toxins get into food for many reasons. Contamination can occur during the preparation and storage of the food, for instance. A heavy metal can also get into your body due to the equipment used to process products, as well as equipment used to package them.7
Breaking Free From Processed Foods
It can be challenging to try and cut processed foods out of a diet entirely. You’re so used to grabbing that sugar-filled snack that it becomes second nature. But there are ways to break free of processed foods and begin clean eating. Here are some tips that might help:
1. Buy local.
Your nearby farmer’s market offers a wide variety of fresh, wholesome foods that aren’t processed. Some grocery stores even feature sections of foods fresh from local farms. If you’re unsure of the source of your food, ask your grocer for help. You might also consider asking them to stock more fresh foods in the future (hey, it can and does work!).
2. Read the labels.
The next time you’re in the supermarket, pay close attention to the artificial ingredients listed on the labels of the products you’re thinking of buying. A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, steer clear of that product.
3. Eat in.
It’s fun to go to a restaurant, but do you know all of the additives in the foods you’re being served? Either ask your server to give you a list of ingredients, or simply make your meals at home, using all-natural ingredients. That way, you’ll be in total control of what’s going into your body.
4. Sugar alert.
One of the best things you can do is to try and find products that are free of sugar. But corn syrup, one of the most common ingredients you’ll find in food, can be just as bad for your body.8 Again, this is where checking the label will be key.
5. Substitute good for bad.
So, you’ve got a potato chip addiction? It happens. But if you want to avoid processed foods, you’ll need to find an alternative. Non-fat popcorn might be a good choice. And if you’re a morning cereal eater, try switching to non-sweetened oatmeal for breakfast. You’ll eliminate loads of sugar that way.
6. Steer clear of fast food.
Not all processed foods are found in a grocery store, of course. Most fast food dishes are loaded with processed ingredients. While fast food is convenient, it’s usually bad for your body. Bring some natural snacks with you on your next trip, and pack some homemade meals as well. And during the week, bring your lunch from home. Prepare some yummy salads or some grilled chicken to enjoy at the office. This way, you won’t be tempted to hit up a fast food joint on your break.
The Bottom Line
If you’re making healthy changes to your diet, start by nixing processed foods. It’s going to take a little time to adjust, but by finding good substitutions for your favorite “bad” foods, you will slowly adapt and begin to enjoy your good choices. By eating clean and eliminating the toxins from processed foods, you’ll know you’re doing the best thing you can to keep your body healthy!