In today’s fast paced, non-stop world, it’s easy to overlook the quality of the food you consume and purchase on a daily basis. As Americans we tend to make nutritional decisions that rely more on the flexibility of our schedulesâ€”or lack there-ofâ€”and less on the overall well-being of our own bodies. This is a fact that works to the benefit of large companies that mass produce the readily available processed food products which are now a staple of the American diet, but it is devastating the general health of our country’s populace.
In fact, processed food products, items which span the gamut of everything from the traditional white bread that was so common in your childhood kitchen to the ready-made tubs of “fresh” guacamole that now don your grocer’s freezer, have been linked to such debilitating, and often fatal, ailments as coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. That’s four of the ten deadliest diseases in America today, and many times they’re not the result of such obvious threats as tobacco or alcohol consumption. Instead, a substantial portion of these threats sit seemingly innocuous on the shelves of your favorite local grocery or inside that bag of take-out you grabbed from the Mickey D’s cashier without having to so much as tap your breaks.
So what is it about processed foods that is so damaging to our nutritional wellness? Most notably, it’s the presence of artificial ingredients that serve only to enhance a food’s shelf life and longevity. In a perfect world we should only be putting into our bodies that which is organically produced by nature. That’s the type of fuel that helped us evolve into the species we are today, and it’s what our body’s respond most favorably to.
What you find instead with these mass-produced, processed food products is a partially synthetic, deterioration-proof impostor masquerading as the real food our bodys crave. Check out this video for a less-than-appetizing illustration of how the durability of a highly processed fried chicken sandwich from McDonald’s stacks up to one made from whole foods in a real kitchen. It’s quite eye-opening and makes you wonder just how that “McChicken” sandwich or the french fries it came with behave once they are actually in your stomach.
The good news is that as consumer awareness about the dangers associated with processed food products has grown, so have our options to choose healthier, more naturally produced whole foods. It takes a keen eye and a broad base of knowledge about the tactics large food companies employ when trying to sell the health conscious consumer on processed foods, but if you follow these simple tips you can work to substantially diminish, if not completely eliminate the amount of processed food products you incorporate into your daily diet.
1. Check the label.
This may seem like a no brainer, but in today’s world of deceitful food marketing tactics, it actually requires a good bit of thought and knowledge. Always remember that just because a label boasts the words “all natural” or “organic” does NOT mean that the food it represents is necessarily devoid of all processed ingredients. In fact, the worlds “natural” or “all natural” are not regulated by Food and Drug Administration in any way, and are therefore meaningless in the nutritional grand scheme of things. Organic, on the other hand, is regulated, and it means that the food was “grown or processed using organic farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity”.
That’s a mouth full, but it essentially means that true organic food is held to a higher standard during the production process. And as a result you are left with food that is far more agreeable with your body’s natural functions. When shopping for organic foods always look for the USDA seal of approval. Some food boxes and labels may sport the word organic, but without the letters USDA they are no better than their apologetically processed counterparts.
2. Steer clear of large fast food chains.
Most of these restaurants, even the ones that claim to promote a healthy lifestyle like Subway, have no problem packing their products with uninhibited amounts of processed foods. As you can see in the video posted above, the stuff they’re pedaling isn’t natural by anyone’s definition. If you are truly concerned about your level of processed food consumption it is best to avoid these places altogether.
3. Grow your own produce at home.
One way to ensure that food is produced in an organic and natural manner is to simply grow it yourself. If you’ve got enough space in your backyard, set up a small raised bed garden. This way you can reduce the amount of harmful pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that go into your produce. With a little research and some hard work you can even control and monitor your garden’s soil content to ensure that your home grown veggies are receiving the proper type of nutrients.
4. Avoid the isles at the grocery.
Most processed food products will be in the isles of the grocery store. Your healthier food items will line the outer edge of the grocery and this is when you should shop as often as possible. When purchasing an item think about where it came from. Was it produced in a factory or on a local farm? Just being able to trace where it came from can go a long way in avoiding processed food products.
5. Read, Research, Repeat.
Knowledge is power! Particularly when you’re a single individual trying to go up against the insurmountable monetary clout and marketing savvy of a one trillion dollar industry. The best way to combat the trickery and consumer deceit that is so often employed by big food corporations is to be as educated as possible about the effects of processed foods and the parameters that define them.