5 Reasons Processed Foods Are Killing You

Processed foods are one of the main reasons people all over the world are getting fat and sick. We eat TONS of them as a nation and globally. But what are processed foods and why are they so dangerous?

Many foods are processed in some way, peanuts are churned into natural peanut butter, gourmet cheeses are made from milk, and homemade bread is made from a recipe. But there’s a difference between mechanical processing and chemical processing

that creates so many dangerous junk foods like chips, candy, soda, fast food, and cookies. Processed foods have a host of added junk that’s downright crappy for you. In fact, over time processed foods can make you fat and sick too.

1. You can’t stop. You won’t stop.

Processed foods often contain sugar or worse, high fructose corn syrup. Both are a nasty use of calories that deplete your body of nutrients. But high fructose corn syrup actually makes so you can’t stop eating. Consumption of high fructose corn syrup slows the release of leptin, the hormone in your body that tells you when you’re full. Basically, you can’t stop munching until it’s too late.

Read more about making your own processed foods at home.

2. They contain dangerous preservatives.

If your fav foods have a shelf life that’s a decade long, it’s reason to be nervous. Often times, preservatives make this possible and some of the preservatives we depend on to keep fats and oils in junk food stable are also possible carcinogens. The preservative BHA for example, “is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”. Yikes.

3. Mindless eating.

Another way we get fat and sick from processed foods is because we dual binge on endless episodes of Orange is the New Black and a bag of Cheetos all at the same time. Mindless eating has no place in our diet because we’re not paying attention to when we’ve had enough. Step away from the Ding Dongs.

4. Living in color isn’t always such a good thing.

Today only seven colors remain on the FDA’s approved list of artificial colors. Over the years we’ve lost a good plenty to health fears and the few that remain are also mighty scary. Research is linking them to increased symptoms of ADHD and focus problems in our kids. What’s more, caramel coloring (often added to our favorite brown-colored sodas) contains a known carcinogen called 4-methylimidazole (4-Mel).

5. Who knows what’s in artificial flavors.

Unlike artificial colors, which must be individually named on U.S. products, artificial flavors are a blanket term for hundreds of chemical flavorings that are made to mimic flavors that occur in nature. Bottom line--if the label on that box of Fruit Loops says artificial flavors, who knows what’s been added.

Read more about processed foods banned in other countries, but not the U.S.

If you’re a big fan of processed foods, don’t worry, we’re not asking you to churn your own butter. Just choose high quality, natural processed foods without these additives like Barbara’s and Uncle Matt’s, for example.

[Editor's Note: If you want to eliminate unhealthy ingredients and chemical additives from your diet for good, click here to sign up for a Naturally Savvy Get Healthy Challenge.]

Image: Sascha Wenninger

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By Sara Novak| November 05, 2014
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Sara Novak

Sara Novak

Sara Novak specializes in health and food policy writing for Discovery Health. Her work has also been featured on TreeHugger, HowStuffWorks.com, TLC Cooking, and Animal Planet. After graduating from the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia, Sara headed up the communication efforts for a national scholarship program in Washington, D.C. Sara has also handled copy writing and public relations for a global environmental consulting firm. She loves fiddling with healthful recipes, traveling, and exploring life atop her yoga mat. Today, Sara lives in Charleston with her husband and two lovable cocker spaniels, Madison and Bella.

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