In today’s fast-paced world, convenience often precedes ingredient quality regarding food choices. Unfortunately, this shift towards processed foods has spawned a host of health concerns, contributing to the obesity epidemic, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and chronic diseases.
This article aims to shed light on the dangers of processed foods and provide a guide to improving our dietary habits by embracing REAL FOOD.
The Obesity Epidemic
Processed foods are a significant contributor to the alarming rise in obesity rates across the United States. These foods are often high in added sugars, unhealthy types of fat, and refined carbohydrates while lacking essential nutrients. They are energy-dense and highly palatable, leading to excessive calorie consumption. Over time, this imbalance between calorie intake and expenditure can result in weight gain leading to obesity– which increases the risk of various health complications. The standard western diet is a recipe for being overfed and undernourished.
Metabolic Health is Now Rare
The link between processed foods and type 2 diabetes is well-established. A diet rich in processed foods, particularly those high in added sugars and refined grains, disrupts blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity. Regular consumption of these foods can lead to insulin resistance, a sign of poor metabolic health and a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Fewer than 20% of adult Americans are considered to be in good metabolic health. According to Dr. Peter Attia, a prominent physician and longevity expert, “Processed foods are a major driver of chronic inflammation in the body. The high levels of refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives can wreak havoc on our metabolism and immune system, contributing to the development of obesity, diabetes, and even cancer.”
Cancer and Chronic Disease
The harmful effects of processed foods extend beyond obesity and diabetes. Numerous studies have shown a correlation between their consumption and an increased risk of various cancers, including colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancer. highly processed, low-quality, packaged meats, in particular, have been classified as carcinogenic. Additionally, processed foods are laden with artificial additives, preservatives, and trans fats, which are linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and hypertension.
Shelf-Life Comes at a Cost
Americans’ shift towards processed foods can be attributed to the allure of convenience. Retailers often look to stock products with longer shelf life to protect profits and meet customer demand. This usually means a food label with undesirable ingredients. Common preservatives like sodium benzoate, BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), and TBHQ (tert-Butylhydroquinone) are added to extend the shelf life of processed foods. Unfortunately, these preservatives are linked to asthma, allergic reactions, and potential toxicity in high doses. Artificial colors and flavors are frequently added to processed foods to enhance their appeal, even though they’re linked to inflammation and adverse effects on the nervous system.
A Return to Food as Medicine
We must make informed choices about the foods we consume to reverse this trend. Here are some critical guidelines for improving our dietary habits:
- Grass-fed, Grass-Finished Proteins: Opt for high-quality protein sources such as grass-fed and grass-finished meats. These meats are richer in essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and vitamins A and E. Including 25-35 grams of protein per meal can help promote satiety, support muscle growth, and maintain a healthy metabolism.
- Fruits and Vegetables: Embrace a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet, prioritizing organic options when possible. These whole foods are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. They provide a range of health benefits, including reduced inflammation, improved digestion, and enhanced immune function.
- Healthy Fat Ratios: Maintain a healthy ratio of omega-3:6:9 fatty acids by incorporating sources like butter, ghee, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), coconut oil, and avocado oil. These fats help reduce inflammation, support brain health, and promote a healthy cardiovascular system. Avoid vegetable oils such as canola, cottonseed, and soybean oil. They are often highly processed and contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which can promote inflammation when consumed in excess. Dr. Rhonda Patrick, a renowned biomedical scientist, emphasizes consuming omega-3 fatty acids from wild-caught fish, grass-fed meats, and flaxseeds. She states, “Maintaining a balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is crucial for reducing inflammation in the body. With their excessive use of vegetable oils high in omega-6 fatty acids, processed foods disturb this delicate balance and promote a pro-inflammatory state.”
- Reduce Artificial Ingredients and Opt for Clean Labels: It’s not just about whether processed foods “fit your macros.” Many packaged foods contain a myriad of artificial ingredients, additives, and preservatives that can have detrimental effects on our health. Opting for clean labels and reducing the consumption of these artificial ingredients can profoundly affect health and well-being.
The dangers of processed foods cannot be overstated. Their contribution to the obesity epidemic, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and chronic diseases is well-documented. We can take significant steps toward improving our vitality and longevity by prioritizing whole, unprocessed alternatives and following the guidelines provided. Remember that our choices today will shape our future, and investing in our health is our most valuable choice.
Find the nutrition you need on this week’s menu.
SHOP NOW >