I recently blogged about the benefits of blenderizing/juicing fruits and veggies to get the biggest bang for your nutrition buck. Probably the biggest health problem we Americans face today is malnutrition… meaning the foods (processed that is) have zero nutritional value. If our bodies don’t have the proper nutrients we can’t fight off disease. Feeling hungry all the time? Its probably because of malnutrition.
Just a few decades ago, the food industry made a conscious choice to seduce the American public into eating more processed food, which featured fat, sugar, salt and dozens of preservatives. And we could not have made it easier for them. We’ve come to love anything fast and convenient. “Heat and eat” or “grab and go” have become the buzzwords of the day. It seems that the less healthy the food, the more we love it. We left the dinner table for dinner in a bucket.
Why are processed foods bad for us?
The late Paul Stitt, a biochemist and author of ” Beating the Food Giants,” wrote about an experiment done in 1942, consisting of 4 sets of rats. The first were fed plain whole wheat, water and synthetic vitamins and minerals. The second group of rats were fed puffed wheat, water, synthetic vitamins and minerals. A third group ate water and sugar. The fourth group ate water and chemical nutrients.
The rats which received the whole wheat lived over a year on this diet. The rats that got nothing but water and vitamins lived about two months. The animals on a white sugar and water diet lived about a month. The rats who ate puffed wheat died within two weeks! So why did the rats die so quickly after eating the puffed wheat? Its the processed corn.
So how are foods processed?
Packaged cereals are produced by a process called extrusion. For example, Cornflakes start out as raw corn. They are ground into a flour substance, then water or steam is added to puff it back up into the desired shape. The problem is that this process interferes with the corn’s protein and it becomes something foreign to the human body; the proteins become toxic, causing all sorts of health issues.
Another experiment done in the 1960s involved 18 rats. They were divided into 3 groups: one group ate corn flakes and water; a second was given the cardboard box that the Cornflakes came in and water; the control group ate rat chow and water.
The rats in the control group remained in good health throughout the experiment. The rats eating the box became lethargic and eventually died of malnutrition. But the rats who ate the Cornflakes and water died before the rats that were eating the box!
The conclusion to the experiment? There is probably more nutrition in the box than the Cornflakes!
Processed foods also contain sugar, white flour, processed and hydrogenated oils, additives, and synthetic vitamins. I think, or at least hope we all know that white flour and sugar are bad for us.
But since the mid 90s those ingredients have also changed. The sugar, corn, oils and synthetic vitamins are now genetically modified, meaning the dna has been altered and are no longer what nature intended. The result? A rise in serious illness, including cancers.
Even if the package claims to be natural– it doesn’t mean a thing. The word “natural” is not regulated by the FDA. For example, you might find listed in the ingredients of your favorite yogurt something called carmine, which is made from the crushed bodies of a South American insect. Its used to give foods a reddish color. Starbucks got busted last year for putting it in one of their drinks. They have since changed their recipe, but Dannon, Yoplait and Chobani still use it… and refuse to stop.
Or, better yet, how about castoreum? It’s a natural vanilla flavoring made from the dried anal glands of beavers. Sound yummy? The FDA not only allows these companies to use these types of ingredients, but they can use euphemisms, to hide the fact from you and me! If you want to find out more about what’s naturally hiding in your foods, click here.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, The American diet is said to be increasingly energy-rich but nutrient-poor… meaning we get “fake” energy from all the added sugars and there are little nutrients (if any) from processed foods. In a nutshell, all the good stuff has been taken out and replaced with artificial ingredients. Its no longer food in its original form and is now something some call “frankenfoods.”
I know we are so busy these days… checking our IPADs, Face Book pages or whatever, but aren’t we worth the extra time to eat foods that are made from scratch? It really doesn’t take that long. If you have kids, get them involved with making their school lunches. If you knew the kind of crap school cafeterias are serving your kids, you would faint! And it looks like the school boards aren’t changing their menus anytime soon. They get too much money from the fast food giants, BUT if enough kids started bringing their own lunches… maybe, the schools would take notice and serve healthier meals. And even if they refuse to change, your kids will be healthier and probably do better in school.
So the next time you shop at your favorite grocer, look at how the store is laid out. You will see that the healthier foods are located around the peripheral (except the bakery…that’s a whole other post). Food giants are no dummies when it comes to marketing and figuring out what makes us buy stuff. Walk down the processed foods aisle and you will see the “usual suspects” lined up neatly at eye level.
You will also see more and more labels calling themselves natural but be your own advocate/detective and read labels. If it lists more than 5 ingredients — put it back. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient — put it back.
Better yet, eat less processed packaged foods and increase your consumption of veggies and fruits; remember, fruits are simple carbohydrates and the ones packaged are complex carbs.
I plan to write about buying organic on a budget soon, so stay tuned…
Peace, Love and Healthy Shopping!