Process This!

Today, pre-packaged foods have almost completely taken over the average American diet. It’s so easy to grab that frozen package, boxed rice mix, and snack foods, but those foods can be dangerous to our health. According to Reader’s Digest about “Ninety percent of Americans’ household food budget is spent on processed foods, the majority of which are filled with additives and stripped of nutrients.”

Most processed foods are packed with sugars, salts, artificial flavors, factory fats, colorings, chemicals that alter texture, and preservatives. As if those dangerous ingredients added to the food weren’t bad enough for our health, “processed foods are often stripped of nutrients designed by nature to protect your heart, such as soluble fiber, antioxidants, and “good” fats.”

Reader’s Digest gives a list of four of the most harmful ingredients in processed foods: 1) Trans fats: Trans fats are in bakery muffins and crackers, microwave popcorn and fast-food French fries, even the stick margarine you think is a “heart-healthy” alternative to saturated-fat-laden butter. In fact, research has found that trans fat is twice as dangerous for your heart as saturated fat, and cause an estimated 30,000 to 100,000 premature heart disease deaths each year. This is because they boost your levels of bad cholesterol and decrease your good cholesterol. Many products use deceiving marketing, such as “Zero Grams Saturated Fat!” But remember to look deeper for those trans fats. This is where “partially hydrogenated oil” comes in. The more that is printed in the ingredients, the worse the food is for your heart.

2) Refined Grains: Refined grains include products such as white bread, rolls, sugary low-fiber cereal, white rice, or white pasta. Choosing these foods over whole grain foods can actually increase your chance of heart disease by 30%. “At least seven major studies show that women and men who eat more whole grains (including dark bread, whole-grain breakfast cereals, popcorn, cooked oatmeal, brown rice, bran, and other grains like bulgur or kasha) have 20 to 30 percent less heart disease.” Again, don’t let deceiving marketing practices fool you with words like “7 whole grains” or “made with wheat flour”. Read the ingredients: The first ingredient should be whole wheat or another whole grain, such as oats. The fiber content should be at least 3 grams per serving.

3) Salt: Three-quarters of the sodium in our diets is hidden in processed foods. This includes canned vegetables and soups, condiments like soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce, fast-food burgers, and cured or preserved meats like bacon, ham, and deli turkey. Don’t get the wrong impression: Sodium is necessary in a healthy diet for regulating blood pressure, maintaining the body’s fluid balance, transmitting nerve impulses, making muscles contract, and keeping your senses working properly. Too much salt is the problem. With too much salt in your diet, your body retains water to dilute the sodium, raising blood volume, forcing your heart to work harder, constricting veins and arteries, thus raising blood pressure. For an average person, the sodium limit should be 1,500 milligrams per day, about the amount in three-fourths of a teaspoon of salt. Watch out for words like “reduced sodium” that may still contain high amounts of sodium.

4) High Fructose Corn Syrup: “Today, we consume nearly 63 pounds of it per person per year in drinks and sweets, as well as in other products.” High fructose corn syrup is in so many products because it is cheap, mixes easily with other ingredients, and is sweeter to the taste than natural sugar. Research shows that high fructose corn syrup messes with human metabolism, causing overeating, leading to health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It also appears to force the liver to pump more heart-threatening triglycerides into the bloodstream. This stuff is everywhere, and nasty! So read your labels and stay as far away as possible!

Today, it seems we have many precautions in the grocery store. Make sure you are up to date with health and nutrition information, and read your labels before you buy. Some processed foods are better than others, but we recommend steering clear of most pre-packaged foods that boast easy preparation. When you know where your food came from, you will taste the difference, and your body will thank you!

For more information on processed foods visit Reader’s Digest’s article: http://tinyurl.com/56zqkdv

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