Processed foods are foods that have been altered from their natural states in order to extend their shelf life. Foods that come in a box, can, bag or carton are processed. They are often poor quality and usually cheap. About 90% of the money Americans spend on food is used to buy “edible foodlike substances” as Michael Pollen, well-known author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and professor, calls them.
Processed foods have been implicated in most of today’s chronic diseases and health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. What makes processed foods so bad? Many processed foods contain trans fats (or hydrogenated) a dangerous type of fat, which raises the bad cholesterol and lowers the good. Most processed foods are extremely high in salt, which is also not good for the heart and addictive. Have you ever tried to eat just one potato chip?! Another addictive ingredient you'll find in processed foods is high fructose corn syrup, linked to obesity and diabetes. Sugar is burned and turned into energy; high fructose corn syrup turns into fat. Potato chips and French fries often contain Acrylamide, a carcinogenic substance that forms when foods are heated at high temperatures, such as during baking or frying.
Processed foods also contain a lot of additives. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains a list of over 3,000 chemicals that are added to the processed food supply to add color, stabilize, texturize, preserve, sweeten, thicken, etc. Some of these additives have never been tested for safety and require no government approval. They belong to the FDA's "Generally Recognized as Safe" list.
So what should we eat? As with anything moderation is the key, so limit your intake of processed foods and eat whole foods. As Michael Pollen says, keep it simple - don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Eat only foods that have been cooked by humans, not corporations. Always read the label and choose wisely.
Click here to see which fruits and vegetables you should always buy organic: http://betsywild.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/the-dirty-dozen-and-the-clean-fifteen/
Information compiled from SixWise.com; report by Lorie Johnson, CBN News Medical Reporter and Food Rules by Michael Pollen.
For more green tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.