Why in the world would I ask something like that?
Food is something that we consume on a day-to-day basis and it’s supposed to be good and healthy for us. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans are on what is known as the SAD (Standard American Diet) diet. According to Elisha McFarland, N.D. in her article “Standard American Diet: Proof That the SAD Diet is Killing America” posted on February 15, 2018 on theheartysoul.com, “Our food has changed dramatically over the past 100 years. As a society we went from growing and processing our own fresh whole foods to consuming processed foods, that are sprayed with toxins, genetically modified and highly processed with food additives, preservatives, colors, higher sugar content and higher calories. We’ve switched from high-quality whole foods to processed foods with little nutritional value.”
This Standard American Diet (SAD) typically includes red meat, processed foods, refined grains, high-fat dairy, sodas, and sugary foods. It contains minimal consumption of fresh fruit and veggies, fish, whole grains and legumes such as peanuts, beans (black beans, fava beans, kidney beans, chickpeas) and peas (green peas, snow peas, snap peas, split peas and black-eyed peas), and lentils.
What’s the difference between “whole” foods and “processed” foods?
Whole or “real” foods are foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.
Then what counts as processed food? Processing includes:
Additions of any kind – everything from salt, sugar, and fat to preservatives, to food coloring, to vitamins and minerals.
Changing the form of natural food – for example removing the bran and germ from whole grains to create refined bread, to mashing apples to make applesauce, or even stir-frying veggies.
Foods with components manufactured in a lab. (You probably don’t need clarification on this one, but if the ingredient list has stuff you can’t recognize or pronounce, that’s a pretty solid indication that it’s not natural.)
In that light, processed food includes everything from a hot dog to jarred organic pasta sauce and instant oatmeal. And yes, changing the form of natural food includes cooking as well, so even your steamed broccoli is technically processed, although minimally.
What’s in our food that could be killing us?
When a regular fat like corn, soybean or palm oil is blasted with hydrogen and turned into a solid, it becomes a trans-fat. These evil anti-nutrients help packaged foods stay “fresh”, meaning that the food can sit on the supermarket shelf for years without ever getting stale or rotting. Eating junk food with trans fats raises your “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and lowers your “good” HDL. These fats also increase your risk of blood clots and heart attack. Avoid palm oil and other trans fats like the plague, and kiss fried foods goodbye, too, since they are usually fried in one of these trans-fatty oils.
Other things to avoid include:
Ditch any food that lists shortening or partially hydrogenated oil as an ingredient, since theses are also evil trans fats. In addition to clogging your arteries and causing obesity they also increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Choose healthier monounsaturated fat such as olive, peanut, and canola oils and foods that contain unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids instead.
White Flour, Rice, Pasta, Bread
When a whole grain is refined, most of its nutrients are sucked out in an effort to extend its shelf life. Both the bran and germ are removed, and therefore all the fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Because these stripped down, refined grains are devoid of fiber and other nutrients, they’re also easy to digest. In fact, TOO EASY. They send your blood sugar and insulin skyrocketing, which can lead to all sorts of problems. Replace processed grains with whole grains, like brown or wild rice, whole-wheat breads and pastas, barley, and oatmeal.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
The evil king of all refined grains is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The amount of refined sugar we consume has declined over the past 40 years, but we’re consuming almost 20 times as much HFCS. According to researchers at Tufts University, Americans consume more calories from HFCS than any other source. It’s in practically EVERYTHING. It increases triglycerides, boosts fat-storing hormones, and drives people to overeat and gain weight. Adopt my zero-tolerance policy, and steer clear of this sweet “poison.”
Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), saccharin (Sweet’N Low, SugarTwin), and sucralose (Splenda) may be even harder on our metabolic systems than plain old sugar. These supposedly diet-friendly sweeteners may actually be doing more harm than good! Studies suggest that artificial sweeteners trick the brain into forgetting that sweetness means extra calories, making people more likely to keep eating sweet treats without abandon. As Andy Griffith, one of my favorite TV characters, would say, “Nip it! Nip it in the bud!” Scan ingredient labels and ban all artificial sweeteners from entering your mouth.
Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Benzoate
These preservatives are sometimes added to soda to prevent mold from growing, but benzene is a known carcinogen that is also linked with serious thyroid damage. Dangerous levels of benzene can build up when plastic bottles of soda are exposed to heat or when the preservatives are combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Don’t risk it, people.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
BHA is another potentially cancer-causing preservative, but it has been deemed safe by the FDA. Its job is to help prevent spoilage and food poisoning, but it’s a major endocrine disruptor and can seriously mess with your hormones. BHA is in HUNDREDS of foods. It’s also found in food packaging and cosmetics. BHA has many aliases. You can look them up. Or you can follow my advice and DITCH processed foods altogether.
Sodium Nitrates and Sodium Nitrites
No, that’s not a typo. These two different preservatives are found in processed meats like bacon, lunch meat, and hot dogs. They’re some of the worst offenders, and they’re believed to cause colon cancer and metabolic syndrome, which can lead to diabetes. Protect your health by always choosing fresh, organic meats.
Blue, Green, Red, and Yellow
The artificial colors blue 1 and 2, green 3, red 3, and yellow 6 have been linked to thyroid, adrenal, bladder, kidney, and brain cancers. Always seek out foods with the fewest artificial chemicals, especially when shopping for your kids. Look for color-free medications and natural food products that don’t contain artificial colors like these.
Monosodium glutamate is a processed “flavor enhancer.” While glutamates are present in some natural foods, such as meat and cheese, the ones exploited by the processed-foods industry are separated from their host proteins through hydrolysis. The jury is still out on how harmful MSG may be, but high levels of free glutamates have been shown to seriously screw with brain chemistry. Don’t fall prey to chemical flavor enhancing. Just play it safe and flavor your food naturally.
As you can see, there are many ingredients in today’s processed foods that are harmful to your body and could potentially kill you. Your food is just one of the things you are exposed to on a daily basis that contain ingredients that are toxic to the human body and could cause all kinds of diseases and conditions.
What can you do about it?
One of the best things you can do is to start clean eating. This means consuming whole foods – those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible. After all, while you may not be able to eliminate exposure to all of the potential toxins out there, you do have control over what you eat!
What about you? Is it worth it to start clean eating and eliminating the harmful things from your diet? On the other hand, what’s the cost of not taking action?
Let me know in the comments.
Here’s to your health!
NOTE: Stay tuned for a special announcement next week that can help with clean eating.