So far this year we have purified our bodies, cut down on sugar, and started an exercise program. You should be feeling pretty good by now. If you have not kept up with our Health Steps in 2014, it is not too late to start. In April, we will be reading labels and eating more whole, natural foods.
What are processed foods?
Processed foods usually come in a box or can or are found in the freezer section at your grocery store. The inner isles of the grocery store will house the most highly processed foods. Anything that has been altered from its natural state has been processed. Some examples include margarine, lunch meats, most cereals, ready-made dinners, chips, cake mixes, etc.
What’s wrong with processed foods?
It is important to learn to read labels because most processed foods contain chemicals, preservatives, hydrogenated (trans) fats, and non-foods that are detrimental to your health. Read the label and make sure you recognize everything on the label as a ‘real’ food. Any word that a fourth grader cannot spell is probably a chemical that is not good for you.
For instance, MSG, or monosodium glutamate is found in a high percentage of processed foods and it can be listed on the label in many different ways. MSG is an excitotoxin that can cause damage to your brain cells and it is also used to ‘fatten’ up mice for scientific studies. Ingredient names that contain glutamate include: hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast extract, glutamic acid, anything ‘hydrolyzed’, soy protein isolate, stock, soy sauce, and many more. As you can see, it is safest to avoid ingredients that you do not recognize as ‘real’ food. Actually, it is safest to avoid processed foods altogether.
What are the worst ingredients in processed foods?
The following list has been adapted from an article on www.mercola.com:
1. Artificial sweeteners – Artificial sweeteners are some of the worst chemicals you can put in your body. They have been implicated in weight gain because they enhance your appetite, just like any sweet taste does. Nutrasweet (aspartame) is also a neurotoxin and can cause damage to your nerve cells. And Splenda (sucralose) has been known to inactivate digestive enzymes and alter beneficial gut flora.
2. Synthetic trans fats – These are common in foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, such as crackers, chips, most store-bought baked goods, and any fried foods, just to name a few examples. Synthetic trans fats are known to promote inflammation, which is a hallmark of most chronic and/or serious diseases. Your intake of trans fats should be as low as possible; no “safe upper limit” has even been established because, quite simply, there is none.
3. Artificial flavors – There is no way to know what the ingredient actually is when it is labeled as an artificial flavor. The artificial strawberry flavor in your yogurt may actually be made up of 50 chemical ingredients. Many artificial flavors can legally be listed as ‘natural flavors’, such as diacetyl, the chemical that gives us a buttery flavor on our popcorn. Diacetyl may trigger Alzheimer’s and is detrimental to brain health.
4. Monosodium Glutamate – This flavor enhancer is most often associated with Chinese food, but it’s actually in countless processed food products ranging from frozen dinners and salad dressing to snack chips and meats.
5. Artificial colors – Nine of the food dyes currently approved for use in the US are linked to health issues ranging from cancer and hyperactivity to allergy-like reactions — and these results were from studies conducted by the chemical industry itself.7 For instance, Red # 40, which is the most widely used dye, may accelerate the appearance of immune system tumors in mice, while also triggering hyperactivity in children. Blue # 2, used in candies, beverages, pet foods and more, was linked to brain tumors. And Yellow 5, used in baked goods, candies, cereal and more, may not only be contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals, but it’s also linked to hyperactivity, hypersensitivity and other behavioral effects in children. Many pharmaceutical medications contain artificial colors, also.
6. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – Fructose is primarily metabolized by your liver, because your liver is the only organ that has the transporter for it. Since all fructose gets shuttled to your liver, and, if you eat a typical Western-style diet, you consume high amounts of it, fructose ends up taxing and damaging your liver in the same way alcohol and other toxins do. And just like alcohol, fructose is metabolized directly into fat – it just gets stored in your fat cells, which leads to mitochondrial malfunction, obesity and obesity-related diseases.
7. Preservatives – Preservatives lengthen the shelf-life of foods, increasing manufacturers’ profits – at your expense, since most are linked to health problems such as cancer, allergic reactions and more. The preservative sodium benzoate — found in many soft drinks, fruit juices and salad dressings – has been found to cause children to become measurably more hyperactive and distractible. Sodium nitrite, a commonly used preservative in hot dogs, deli meats and bacon, has been linked to higher rates of colorectal, stomach and pancreatic cancers. And the list goes on and on…
Choose real foods that come from nature, in as close to their natural state as possible. If it was processed in a factory (raw whole milk vs. 2% pasteurized milk), it has been altered from its natural state, will not be as nutritious as whole food, and may possibly be harmful to your health.
Recipe of the Month
1 cup(s) organic, low sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp(s) organic extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp(s) fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
3/4 cup(s) sliced leek, white part only
1/2 cup(s) chopped organic scallions
1 Tbsp(s) minced organic garlic
3 cup(s) chopped organic kale
1 cup(s) chopped organic broccoli rabe
3 cup(s), chopped organic collard greens
Heat 1 tablespoon organic chicken broth in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add leek, scallions and garlic. Sauté until leeks are limp, about 4 minutes. Add kale, broccoli rabe and collards, stirring until wilted. Mix in spinach. Add remaining broth and simmer, stirring
occasionally, until greens are tender, about 15 minutes. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and
season with pepper.
**We wish you success with your fourth Health Step for 2014. If you have any questions, please call our office. Better yet, make an appointment for your personalized nutritional analysis and be confident you are doing the right things to attain optimal health this year.