Why exactly are processed foods bad for us?
Well here’s an example:
Over the holidays, I asked my 17 year old daughter to go to the supermarket to pick up a bottle of cocktail sauce, among other ingredients, as we were having company. She happily did.
However, she came home with a bottle of cocktail sauce containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Which is a cheaper ingredient than sugar. But very processed. And not very good for you.
But how would she know?
And that got me to thinking, as I often do, that knowledge is power. And as we all know, most foods are processed to some degree, to make them more edible for humans. Processing can be something as simple as boiling a potato. It can be great.
But many foods are processed to a large extent - to such a large extent that we don’t even understand what is in them. And this is where part of the problem arises.
For example, this cocktail sauce had sugar added during processing that is not a natural source of sugar. So, what’s the problem?
HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) adds enzymes to our bodies that convert some glucose into fructose, another simple sugar.
The "high" in HFCS refers to the amount of fructose compared to pure-glucose corn syrup. The typical form of HFCS contains either 42 percent or 55 percent fructose, which is high. High fructose like this can both punch holes in your intestinal lining if consumed in large amounts and asks your liver to produce large amounts of LDL (aka “bad”) cholesterol.
And this is just one example.
A good rule of thumb is, if you don’t understand the ingredients in a packaged food - don’t buy it. Highly processed foods have ingredients that our bodies literally do not know how to process into energy. Words that are difficult to pronounce likely indicate added preservatives, coloring, flavoring, or texturants (ie: thickening agents).
Here’s just a few examples of food additives to avoid: sodium nitrate, monosodium glutamate, aspartame, artificial food coloring (ie: Red 3, Yellow 6), Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).
I mean, come on!!
Trans Fats and Oils:
Another culprit hiding in processed foods are harmful trans fats and oils. Many oils - particularly seed oils such as canola, corn, cottonseed, safflower, and sunflower oils - are cheap and so used frequently in food manufacturing processes.
Unfortunately, they are rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAS) which are inflammatory and can suppress your immune system, lead to obesity, low good (HDL) cholesterol and increase bad (LDL) cholesterol.
The problem is compounded because so much of our processed foods contains these items that many Americans are ingesting them at fairly high rates. Trans fats and oils currently make up the largest share of fat in the typical American diet.
This is why booking a Discovery Session with a functional medicine health coach like me can be instrumental in helping you achieve your health goals. Sometimes, when you think you are eliminating one thing, you can indirectly be increasing something more harmful.
And this is not to scare you! A holistic approach is a beautiful way to gain power by gaining information. You are your best advocate.
We take a holistic view of your health - including diet, lifestyle, and physiological indicators - as well as those symptoms that you’ve been trying not to complain about like anxiety - and of course your previous annual physical lab work, to get a whole picture idea of how to make you your best self.
It is possible!
In good health,