When we hear the term ‘processed’ foods, we automatically think hot dogs, spam, or the cheese that you buy in individually wrapped celephane paper. In reality, almost anything that comes in a package is a processed food item. Foods that we eat every day…foods that we believe are healthier choices like whole wheat crackers, cereal, even yogurt. All of these are processed foods. While some people, especially seniors, are led to believe that certain processed food choices are better than others, the fact still remains that processed is processed. As a general rule of thumb, if it has an actual label and the label contains more than 4 ingredients, it is a processed food item that is most likely not good for you. (1)
There are so many foods that pose as being healthy but are truly not. Lets identify the 3 main ones: 1. Soy 2. Vegetable Oil 3. Agave Sweetener
Soy is high in phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogens that mimic estrogen in the body) as well as goitrogens (compounds that inhibit the thyroid’s ability to correctly use iodine). Soy also contains hemagglutinin, a clot-promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together making them unable to absorb and distribute oxygen in the body. High levels of other harmful acids in soy reduces assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc, and have been proven to cause growth problems in children. If that isn’t enough, trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and cause pancreatic disorders. Some people experience irritable bowl syndrome after consuming products that contain soy. Free glutamic acid, or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing increasing the body’s requirement for vitamin D. Lastly, the processing of soy protein results in the formation of highly carcinogenic nitrosamines. Consider this, 91% of all soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. In other words, if your food comes in a package that has a barcode, there is probably soy in it. (3)
What about Asian populations who have been eating soy for generations? According to Kaayla T. Daniel, author of The whole soy story: The dark side of America’s favorite health food, the Chinese first started eating soybeans about 2,500 years ago, but only after they figured out how to ferment it. The fermentation process neutralizes the toxins in the soybean. Tempeh, miso, natto, and soy sauce have traditionally been fermented (although most soy sauce that you find in your grocery store is not). (4)
Ahh, canola oil, the biggest culprit yet in our industrialized food chain. Like all other modern vegetable oils, including…yes… olive oil, canola is refined under heat and pressure which damages it’s omega-3 fats, and instead produces eruct acid as well as trans fats through the hydrogenation process. Just a tiny sprinkle of these oils can produce devastating effects. These are the most direct cause of heart disease and many cancers. Vegetable oils contain polyunsaturated fats, in very high quantity, in fact, just a tablespoon contains more than the average person should consume in a day. Think about how much oil is contained in a serving of tortilla chips. Look at the label. If you think safflower oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, or flax oil is any better…you are mistaken. With the exception of cold pressed flax oil, each and every one of these oils oxidize and produce free radicals in your body. It is these free radicals in which cancerous cells can easily bind to and multiply. It is easy to get confused by foods that pose as being healthful because the front of the package says ‘baked,’ or ‘low-fat,’ or ‘gluten free’. Unfortunately, if the second ingredient on the list is an oil (sunflower, safflower, olive for example) well, that speaks for itself. What is the lesser of two evils when it comes to ‘chips?’ Choose a brand such as Wasa or another that is made with 100% whole grain or better yet, choose a whole grain pita and bake it in the oven to make your own chips for that guacamole!
This sweetener is a favorite among vegans, prized for it’s “low glycemic” miracle, but what you may not know is that agave “nectar” or agave “syrup” is produced through a highly chemical process using genetically modified enzymes, caustic acids, and filtration chemicals. (5)
Agave is devoid of virtually all nutrient value and actually has a higher fructose content than most commercial sweeteners (ranging from 55-97% depending on the brand), which is much higher than high fructose corn syrup which averages about 55%. Agave’s high fructose levels go directly to the liver, where it is stored as blood fat (also known as triglycerides) which increases heart disease risk factors. These high fructose levels also contribute to insulin resistance as well as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. So if you are substituting Agave for sweetener, make sure you do it in moderation. The better bet is to use a naturally occurring sweetener like raw honey or organic maple syrup.
Food habits are not physical and it is not gluttony, weakness, or personality that leads you to the refrigerator. You can literally make yourself more physically resilient to food cravings by eating certain foods that automatically reduce your hunger for hours because they keep your blood sugar steady and prevent the hormone swings that spark your food cravings. Try this simple switch: Instead of eating a cereal in which the very first ingredient is enriched wheat flour (this is about 90% of all cereals in the cereal aisle including those that pose as being healthy like honey nut cheerios) try rolled oats as your oatmeal. Plain oatmeal, not the instant kind that comes in flavors. Plain oatmeal with almond milk and fresh fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, or banana is best. If you need to sweeten it, try organic maple syrup. Why? Enriched flour, the main ingredient in most breakfast cereals as well as most breads that you’re probably using for toast, is refined to the point that all the nutrients are stripped away. Multigrain breads, crackers and cereals are often the most confusing foods because people see “multigrain” and think “whole grain.” This is an important distinction. If you do not see the words ‘cracked’ or ‘stone ground’ in the ingredient list, it is not whole-grain. If you choose a legitimate whole grain, such as oatmeal, you automatically control your need to eat a mid-morning snack. (2)
Here is another interesting fact that the food industry doesn’t want you to know about: companies must pay a fee to use the American Heart Association’s checkmark (logo) on their packaging. This is why the logo may appear on some products but not other products, even when both products meet the guidelines. Furthermore, the American Heart Association Checkmark specifically indicates that a particular food meets the criteria for saturated fat and cholesterol, so the food might contain a cup of high fructose corn syrup or refined sugar and still display the logo. Isn’t it interestingly deceptive when a product such as yogurt or ice cream claims that it is ‘gluten free’? Really? Check out the corresponding slideshow that goes along with this article: Foods you should never eat.
(1) A Silent Cure in my Back Yard. Kate Murray (2012).
(2) Breaking the Food Seduction. Neal Barnard, M.D. (2003) St. Martin’s Press. New York, NY.
(3) Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 7th Edition. Weston A. Price DDS (2000) Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, La Mesa, CA.
(4) The whole soy story: The dark side of America’s favorite health food. Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN. (2005) Net Trends Publishing, Washington, DC.
(5) Take Control of your Health. Dr. Joseph Mercola (2007).