Processed foods are hard to avoid. They line the aisles in grocery stores, don’t require as much preparation as meals cooked from scratch, and might already be a part of one’s diet. Yet there is a plethora of reasons to invest time in one’s health by minimizing consumption of processed foods. According to an article by Brett Blumenthal on the Gaiam Life website, the following ingredients in processed foods have been found to be harmful to our health, yet is often found in processed foods:
- Artificial colors: linked to headaches, and hyperactivity
- Artificial flavorings: linked to eczema, hyperactivity, asthma
- Artificial sweeteners: some are linked to cancer, headaches, hallucinations, and can negatively impact metabolism. Examples include: As-partame, sucralose, sorbitol
- Benzoate Preservatives: may be linked to tumors, hyperactivity, dermatitis, and can affect estrogen levels
- Brominated Vegetable Oil: can damage the liver, testicles, thyroid, heart, and kidneys
- High Fructose Corn Syrup: increases risk for type-2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer
- MSG (Monosodium Glutamate): may cause headaches, change in heart rate, and difficulty breathing
- Olestra: inhibits the absorption of some nutrients and is linked to gastrointestinal disease
- Shortening, Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils: contain high levels of trans fat, increasing one’s risk of heart disease by increasing bad cholesterol levels while lowering good cholesterol levels
- Sodium Nitrite and Nitrate: can form nitrosamine, a carcinogen after interacting with chemicals in the stomach
Sadly, one does not need to look very hard to come across these ingredients. While there are challenges in avoiding a processed food-free diet, one can begin by checking the labels on foods one buys. It does require a bit more effort, but the risks of consuming foods with these additives are much too hazardous to ignore.
There have been efforts to ban such ingredients, such as the bill to ban trans fats, which proved to be successful. There is much left in this movement to ensure that corporations not use these deleterious ingredients in the pursuit of profit. The first step one can take in being more conscientious about one’s diet is by simply checking the label.
Blumenthal, Brett. Get Real and Stop Dieting. Lake Union Publishing, 2009. Print.