Processed foods and you.

It begins here. Before we dive right in so to speak let’s get one thing out there for the “scientific everything needs to have evidence or it’s quackery” people. You are correct there are no “conclusive evidence based studies” about what we are going to talk about in the next few paragraphs. It is an opinion based on observation, lots of reading, personal experimentation (mine) and a dose of common sense. Yes, the opinion that follows could be wrong! It is shared by many others in and out of the science fields, though. But alas there doesn’t seem to be any “conclusive evidence” to support these opinions.

Now that we heard your point I would encourage you to consider this. If the following opinions are wrong, what will be the harm caused? I will ask you a follow up question in a few more paragraphs, if that’s alright with you?

What is the main highly debated and “controversial” opinion that we are referring to? Reduce, or better yet, eliminate the consumption of processed foods! I know, I know it’s a veritable hot bed of controversy and a stretch to think that processed food could harm our health in any way. How dare we think this when the science is lacking? After all what else could explain this? “Excessive calories?” “Since we are living longer we are seeing more signs of age related disease.” “Most of  these ingredients are GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).” “They are FDA approved!” “Sedentary behavior?” “Too much sitting?” “It’s hereditary.”

Just a sampling of the counter claims for this position. What are the perceived problems with processed foods? Here are three pesky ones.

(1.) They are poor in nutrients and usually high in calories.

(2.) They usually contain preservatives, artificial coloring and flavors, excess salt and or sugar, trans fats and bad fats, stored in containers or plastics with bisphenol chemicals.

(3.) They have been primarily “engineered” using biological and chemical data to elicit the most popular responses from consumers and cut production costs.

Let’s start with #1. What is the health, biological or emotional advantage to consume any food that has an excess caloric to nutrient factor? When we sit and eat or drink foods that are high in calories and low in natural nutrients we tend to overeat. Caloric consumption and ingestion of poor ingredients such as bad fats, sodium and high glycemic starches and sugars is increased.

#2. There is a growing concern with the amount of chemicals we are being bombarded with and how they may be affecting our health. The usual response that is offered is that the FDA has deemed them safe. The questions most seem to skirt are, How do we know what the long term consequences of ingesting so many different chemicals has on our health? How do these chemicals interact with each other in so many combinations? Some of these are known Endocrine Disruptors which are beginning to raise red flags and elicit further research.

#3. What generally happens when we start eating potato chips? We don’t seem to get full. Is it coincidence? From his soon to be released book “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us” NY Times investigative and Pulitzer winning reporter Micheal Moss, we have a slice of information that may help us understand this better. But the largest weight-inducing food was the potato chip. The coating of salt, the fat content that rewards the brain with instant feelings of pleasure, the sugar that exists not as an additive but in the starch of the potato itself — all of this combines to make it the perfect addictive food. “The starch is readily absorbed,” Eric Rimm, an associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors, told me. “More quickly even than a similar amount of sugar. The starch, in turn, causes the glucose levels in the blood to spike” — which can result in a craving for more.” Food manufacturers are just that, manufacturers, and they spend an enormous amount of money in researching how to engineer their foodstuffs so people eat more of their product to increase their profits! And it works!!

Another question to consider. If the regular consumption of refined and junk foods is found to be detrimental to our health, say twenty years from now, then what? How are you going to undo the damage that ingesting these substances may have caused? Abstaining from them has absolutely no drawback in any way shape or form. Eating them regularly may be harmful to your health, or maybe not. Are you willing to bet your health and that of your children’s on it? Is the bet even worth any possible risk?

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