Real Reasons Why You Should Avoid Processed Foods
Processed food simply means food that has been changed from its natural form. This could be as a result of safety reasons (to preserve the food and make it less harmful and fit for human consumption) as we see in pasteurizing milk. It could also be to make it more attractive and appealing to consumers as we see in mostly snack foods, dried foods, frozen foods, pies, cookies, sweets spreads, tinned vegetables, cereals sodas and soft drinks.
Processed Food Or Refined Food?
Processed foods should not be confused with refined foods. Refined foods are originally healthy but at some point, chemicals or other products are added to them which remove their natural coating or nutrients. Typical example is polished rice, refined sugar and refined wheat flour. Food could also be refined when preserved in a certain way. For example, fruits and vegetables can be canned or frozen in order to preserve them for longer.
They Have Excess Calories
Most processed foods have higher amounts of salt, sugar or fat. Frequent consumption of such foods increases our daily requirement for calories, above the recommended quantities for health and wellbeing. Yet, studies have shown that parents buy processed foods for their families.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), a healthy person needs 2000 calories per day and the recommended daily intake of sugar should not exceed 10% of this daily calorie need-preferably, it should not be more than 5% for better health benefits. A daily salt intake of 5g (about 1 teaspoon) is recommended. Iodized salt is strongly recommended because of its higher health benefits.
Fat should not exceed 30% of daily calorie intake. Of this, unsaturated fat (i.e. fat from plants e.g. olive oil, avocado, or from fish) is healthier than saturated fat (i.e. animal fat found in meat or plant such as palm and coconut oil).
Most Processed Foods Are Addictive
Highly processed fast foods with high amounts of sugar, salt or fat can make people eat more food than they need. The foods can also be addictive and it often becomes difficult to break the unhealthy food habit. This makes people become overweight and ultimately obese.
They Lose Their Natural Flavors and Aroma
Artificial substances such as color, additives, flavors and preservatives affect the taste of food. Processed foods have lost their natural taste and aroma. Artificial aroma and flavors are typically added to restore the lost natural taste. Fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs cereals, canned meat and fish many foods that lose their natural flavors and aroma when they are processed.
Processed Foods Increase Risk of Diseases
The techniques used to preserve fast or processed foods vary. Often, manufacturers of fast foods and drinks add excess sugar, salt or fat to make the food more palatable. Mostly, high amount of salt is used to prevent spoilage. This could be harmful to people who are at high risk of cancers or heart disease.
Overweight and obesity are serious health conditions. They increase our chances of coming down with type 2 diabetes and heart diseases including their complications. These affect quality of our lives and decrease our life expectancy.
We may not completely do away with processed foods in our daily diet but we can eat less of them by taking some active steps listed below:
Cook And Eat Your Meals At Home
This encourages you to plan your meals and eat healthy. Occasional treats (e.g. once a week) at a restaurant may not be unhealthy. However, take note of portion sizes or servings and amount of food you eat. A single weekly “treat” could cause more harm than you think, if highly processed foods are eaten in large quantities.
Read Food Labels
When you take time to read nutrition labels, you can decide on what to eat and in what quantity. In addition, general basic nutrition education on classes of food and their function in the body goes a long way to helping us decide on choice and quantity of food to eat.
Avoid Skipping Meals And Getting Super Hungry Before Eating.
When you get really hungry, you do not think rationally about healthy food choices. At this time, you feel anxious and desperate. All you need is food- any food. But you are you are likely to seek for food that provides immediate calories, especially glucose. This is when foods and drinks that quickly increase blood glucose levels, such as sweets and sodas come to mind. To avoid the situation, eat food appropriate times; breakfast, lunch and dinner without skipping meals.
Eat All Classes Of Food
Eat adequate amount and variety of each food class to provide the needed nutrient you need. Carbohydrate for energy is got from whole cereals, grains, sugar, potatoes honey etc. and should make up to 40 to 60% of your diet. While protein for tissue repair and tissue building can be obtained from chicken, fish and dairy products e.g. eggs and milk, legumes, pulses nuts etc. This should make about 15 to 25% of your daily calorie intake. Daily fat intake should come from eggs, cheese, olive oil (or other plant oils), avocado, nuts etc.
Fat is required for brain development, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and also for energy. You also need to take fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals which help the chemical processes of the body to take place and to boost your immunity. Finally, you have to take a lot of water. Depending on the weather, your sex and your physical activity, an average of 2.5 litres daily is required for healthy body function.
The primary fuel that drives the human body is food. Food supplies our body with energy, builds our tissues and protects us from diseases. The best food is that which has been grown naturally without chemicals and preserved, stored and processed with little or artificial additives and preservatives added. Both processed and refined foods have lost their natural nutrients and have had effects on our health and you should avoid them.
The National Health Services (NHS) England provides a calorie checker to calculate calorie value of different food. To use this resource, visit:http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/loseweight/Pages/understanding-calories.aspx