We are bombarded with “healthy” food products at the grocery store, in restaurants, and in advertisements. Low-fat, low-carb, and low-calorie options are touted as healthy choices in comparison to the sugar and fat laden junk food on the neighboring shelf. While these products claim to promote health and wellbeing, a closer look at the label would prove otherwise. Processed foods contain little to no nutritional value and they are packed with addictive ingredients like salt, sugar,and artificial ingredients.. These ingredients create a type of addiction which increases cravings and leads to chronic overeating. They activate a part of the brain that stimulates the production of your “feel good” hormones.
In order to enhance flavor lost in the process of removing fat, carbs, or calories, companies will often add additional sugar or artificial sweeteners, fats, salt, or even worse… artificial flavors. Also, in the process of creating a “health food product”, vital nutrients are lost along with the carbs and fat. What used to be a healthy food is unfortunately not the case any more. Most grains are stripped of the bran or germ (this is the difference between whole grain and white bread) which leads to the loss of dietary fiber and vital nutrients. This not only dilutes the nutrient profile of the food but also increases the speed at which the carbohydrates are broken down and leads to a sharper spike in blood sugar. Over time, these severe fluctuations can lead to insulin resistance and many other serious health problems.
Lastly, additives like nitrites, phosphates, and potassium bromate commonly appear in processed foods yet very few people know what they are or the risk they pose. These compounds are typically used to improve food quality such as preserving shelf life, changing texture, increasing moisture, etc. However, in exchange for softer white bread and bacon that keeps its color, you increase your risk of heart disease and cancer.
Some key offenders to avoid:
Sucralose & aspartame
Artificial coloring (ex. Red 40)
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Nitrites and Nitrates
So what options does this leave you with? Opt for whole foods – choose individual foods, not packaged, processed meals. You would be shocked to see what is all added to bread these days!
It is critical that you learn to read food labels, both for the nutrition information as well as the ingredients list which is where many preservatives, additives, and artificial flavors hide. A good rule of thumb is to limit the ingredients list to be 5 items or less and recognize all of the ingredients as whole foods, not chemical names. Our bodies do not know how to properly metabolize and excrete chemicals and toxins, therefore they are stored in our fat. This process is a significant contributing factor to weight gain and presents even more problems for weight loss.