What Are Processed Foods?
These are foods that have undergone several steps to prepare for human consumption. Oftentimes they have had preservatives added in order to prevent them from rotting, were heated to a certain degree to ensure that enzymes inside do not break them down before we eat them, and other ways that help them maintain their texture and flavor.1 If you look at some old western meals, you’ll see that they did not come straight out of the earth but were cooked over an open fire, and yes, there were probably preservatives added to ensure that the food kept its shape for long. Processed foods are very similar, and in today’s world, are very convenient and easy to prepare.
If you look at the nutritional content of most processed foods, you’ll find that they lack the fiber and nutrients that our ancestors had to provide for themselves. Bread is an example of this, as processed bread often contains no fiber and often has no nutritional value at all.
The largest producer of processed food in the US is butter, which contains the highest amount of saturated fat of any grocery product in the world. Most of the salt used in the United States is now created with the preservative Sodium Hypochlorite, which has been linked to cancer.2
The Dangers of Processed Food
There are many things you should be aware of when it comes to processed food dangers, which range from the obvious to the bizarre. It’s easy to fall prey to some of these dangers, and the most common of the dangers is the addition of chemicals to our foods. These chemicals can help make processed foods more palatable and increase their shelf life, but the risks that these chemicals present to our health should not be ignored or underestimated.3
The first danger that we need to take a look at is the fact that processed foods themselves can cause cancer. The simplest answer to this question probably lies in the fact that processed foods are filled with unnatural ingredients such as sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate, which can cause cancer in human beings.4 Even though modern science has come quite a long way in regards to helping the human race keep healthy, there is no artificial manufactured substitute for the beneficial nutritional value offered by natural ingredients. Processed foods only enhance the taste of food, and their production is driven strictly by consumer demand.
Another of the dangers of processed food lies in the fact that it can easily contribute to weight gain, as the sugar content in processed foods can cause obesity and diabetes. Diabetes and obesity are rising problems in this country at an alarming rate, and many people simply cannot seem to lose the extra pounds. Processed foods can easily add unwanted pounds and cause obesity through excess sugar and salt present in the ingredients of certain processed foods. When you start to add sugar and salt to your diet in massive amounts, you have a recipe for obesity and diabetes.5
What Are the Most Common Processed Foods?
There have been many studies about what are the most common processed foods available on the market today. In fact, many people argue that it would be impossible to list them all. Processed food is an industry phrase that has come a long way from its humble beginning.
The most common processed foods available today are those that are heavily processed using high temperatures and chemical additives to extend their shelf life. The term “ultra-processed” was first coined by a research team from Brazil in the 2000s. They conducted a large clinical study, where they studied the diets of 825 adults and found that those who ate a high level of ultra-processed foods were actually more likely to develop cancer.6 This evidence strongly suggests that the chemicals used in food processing can upset our bodies’ natural processes and encourage diseases such as cancer and inflammation. These disease conditions often lead to other more serious ailments such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney failure, stroke, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease.7
Ultra-processed foods include those that are highly calorie-heavy and contain little or no nutritional value. These items may contain little or no nutritional value or even be harmful to our health.8 The nutrient-dense foods on the market today provide a healthier diet for people who want to eat well while avoiding many of the unhealthy ingredients found in less healthy processed foods. Natural fiber foods are also now easier to find than ever.
The Washington Post / Google Stock Images
Dairy Farmers of Canada / Google Stock Images
Healthy Food Guide / Google Stock Images
World Obesity Federation / Google Stock Images
1 “Preservatives – Keeping our foods safe & fresh – Center.” 6 May. 2019, https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/preservatives-keeping-our-foods-safe-fresh Accessed 3 Sep. 2021.
2 “Sodium Hypochlorite – The Chlorine Institute.” https://www.chlorineinstitute.org/stewardship/sodium-hypochlorite/ Accessed 3 Sep. 2021.
3 “The Many Health Risks of Processed Foods – LHSFNA.” https://www.lhsfna.org/index.cfm/lifelines/may-2019/the-many-health-risks-of-processed-foods/ Accessed 3 Sep. 2021.
4 “Hidden Dangers of Ultra Processed Foods – WebMD.” 21 Feb. 2020, https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20200221/hidden-dangers-of-ultraprocessed-foods Accessed 3 Sep. 2021.
5 “Processed Foods and Health | The Nutrition Source.” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/processed-foods/ Accessed 3 Sep. 2021.
6 “What are ultra-processed foods and are they bad for our health?.” 9 Jan. 2020, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-are-ultra-processed-foods-and-are-they-bad-for-our-health-2020010918605 Accessed 3 Sep. 2021.
7 “What is ultra-processed food and how can you eat less of it?.” https://www.heartandstroke.ca/articles/what-is-ultra-processed-food Accessed 3 Sep. 2021.
8 “8 Types of Ultra-Processed Foods to Avoid + Healthy Swaps.” 11 Jul. 2019, https://nutritionstripped.com/ultra-processed-foods/ Accessed 3 Sep. 2021.