Processed Foods: Health Issues that Go Beyond Weight Management
To reach and maintain a healthy weight, many of us know that we need to follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly. We might also be aware of the negative effect that processed foods have on our weight, and we may do our best to avoid or limit them in our diets. However, sometimes we might not have the time or energy to prepare a meal with fresh, healthy food, and we may succumb to the convenience that processed food offers.
This is not always a bad thing. It is nearly impossible to completely omit processed foods from your diet. In fact, processed foods are ubiquitous throughout the world. However, following a diet that consists mostly of processed food then makes us susceptible to weight gain along with many other health issues.
In this article, we will discuss what processed food is, how it negatively impacts our overall health, and the mental and physical benefits of a healthy diet centered on whole foods.
What Is Processed Food?
When you hear the words “processed food,” a particular image or thought may come to mind. Maybe you see your favorite candy bar or that snack you like with all the ingredients you can’t pronounce. You might think of anything that comes in a package. Well, technically, you are correct.
Processed food is essentially any food that has been changed in some way, which includes food that’s been washed, cooked, canned, cut, heated, frozen, dried, mixed, packaged, or altered with added ingredients such as preservatives, flavorings, and colors. In fact, almost all of the food you buy at your grocery store is considered “processed food.”
However, for the sake of this article, we will focus on food that has been more heavily processed, as opposed to the processed foods that have simply been washed or cut (things like precut vegetables and bagged greens). Likewise, we want to pay more attention to the foods with a lot of added salt, sugar, and fat along with things like preservatives and artificial flavors and colors. This kind of processed food is unhealthy and causes many problems for us.
Negative Effects of Processed Food
Processed foods may cause several physical and mental health issues that go beyond simply gaining weight. Health risks caused by heavily processed food include:
- Increased Risk of Cancer
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Anxiety and Depression (due to inflammation throughout the body and brain)
Processed foods are addictive and lack nutrients that your body and brain need to function properly. They are loaded with calories and easy to digest, which is a perfect combination for unhealthy weight gain.
Eating Healthy Food
Whole foods are foods that have been minimally processed. These are the kinds of foods that come to mind when you think “healthy,” like whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Incorporating more healthy food into your diet greatly reduces all of the health risks caused by heavily processed foods and is better for the environment because it uses much less packaging. You may be asking yourself how you can shift from a diet of processed foods to whole foods. Well, here are some tips to help you out:
- Check Food Labels (the fewer ingredients, the better)
- Buy Fresh Produce (it can be a lot cheaper to buy fresh fruit and vegetables)
- Cook at Home (start simple and experiment)
Reach out to Z.E.N. Foods. We offer healthy meal programs that will help you eat less processed foods and more whole foods.