Monday, November 24th, 2014

Nutrition 101: How Processed Foods Make Us Fat, Malnourished, and Sick

Daisy Luther
The Organic Prepper
June 22nd, 2013
Reader Views: 2,230

processed foods

Did you ever wonder how people who exist on a diet of mainly processed foods can be both overweight and malnourished at the same time?  Despite overly abundant calories, people who live off of boxed macaroni and cheese, frozen dinners, Ramen noodles, and other packaged foods aren’t getting the nutrients that people who eat a whole foods diet are getting. Deadly GMO ingredients aside, the sheer amount of chemicals in processed foods can lead to disease, obesity, and malnutrition.

If you aren’t entirely familiar with the way processed foods can affect your health, read on.  This is an introduction to how processed foods differ from whole foods, based on frequently asked questions about the subject.

What happens in your body when you eat processed foods?

When you eat heavily preserved foods, your body can’t break them down to use the nutrients in them (if there are nutrients left in the first place after all that processing).  The video below compares how homemade noodles from fresh, wholesome ingredients and Ramen noodles travel through your digestive system.  This video is an excellent illustration of what happens in your body after consuming two different types of food:

Do you see how it is impossible for the digestive acids in the body to break down the processed food?  The Ramen noodles remain recognizable most of the way through the system until they are ready to be excreted.  This means that the few nutrients that may still be present are not made available for the body’s use.  The accessibility of nutrients for your body’s use is called “bio-availability”.

This is the reason that North America is full of malnourished fat people – those who rely on processed food must consume far more of it in a vain effort to get the nutrients they need.  They crave food because their bodies are crying out for the vitamins and minerals that are needed to function.

Mood disorders and mental illness can also be directly related to the consumption of processed foods.  They are lacking in the Omega 3s and other nutrients that are vital in proper brain function and good mental health.  (You can learn more about nutrition for mental health HERE).  This is not to oversimplify the seriousness of mental illness – it is a crushing, debilitating experience. But the symptoms can be lessened, if not cured altogether, with excellent nutrition and the avoidance of trigger chemicals.

It’s not just about malnutrition, it’s about consuming poison.

Additives like high fructose corn syrup, sugar and MSG are linked to obesity, not just because of the excess useless calories and lack of nutritional bio-availability mentioned above, but because of their “addictive” qualities. When you consume them, they actually trigger the release of dopamine in your brain, the same hormone that is released when an addict takes a needle full of heroin. Over time, it takes more and more of the same substance to achieve the same feeling, that of pleasure and euphoria.  Foods containing these ingredients are actually engineered to create cravings and addiction. It gives a whole new meaning to the old Lay’s Potato Chip commercial, “Bet you can’t eat just one.”

The problems don’t end with malnutrition and associated illnesses. The chemicals added to these foods are directly linked with cancer, diabetes, infertility, autoimmune disorders, and heart disease.

Make over your diet

Changing your eating habits will be one of the most important things your ever do for yourself and your family.  While processed foods are cheap, quick, and abundant, whole foods require a little more effort. Your health is worth it!

  • The first thing to do is to rid your kitchen of all of the toxins. If it’s there, you’ll eat it.  Spend one week eating only what you cook completely from scratch. Just one week will highlight for you the places where you are using “food” instead of “ingredients” to make your meals.  Use only single ingredients for one week: flour, rice, oats, organic milk and yogurt, grass-fed meat, organic fruits and vegetables, and basic pantry supplies (yeast, baking soda, etc.)  Include your kids in the process of making homemade pretzels, baking cookies and creating gourmet oatmeal flavors like maple syrup apple pecan.  (If they’re included in the preparations, it helps to lessen the complaining if they are craving foods that are more familiar.)  Even if your diet is already pretty clean, you may be surprised to discover that you have more of a reliance on packaged items than you thought.
  • Many people are put off by the high price of eating healthy. And they are right, to a certain extent. If you go to the health food store and buy packages of organic crackers, fancy breads from the bakery, and other gourmet items, you will spend a fortune.  But keep in mind an organic processed food is still a processed food. It’s better then something from Kellogg’s or General Mills, but it isn’t ideal.  There are a lot of ways to clean up your diet without breaking the bank.  Click HERE to read about “20 Ways to Build a Whole Foods Kitchen on a Half Price Budget.”  All of the suggestions won’t work in every location, but you should be able to cobble together enough of them to create a healthful, non-processed diet at a fraction of the price you expected to pay. Be sure to check our your local farmers’ market to find a local, nutritious bounty at a great price.
  • Another of the major complaints about a whole foods lifestyle is that it is too time-consuming.  Here’s a list of 40 Quick and Clean Snacks that require little to no prep time.  Being sick and unhealthy is far more time-consuming than taking a moment to prepare a non-processed meal or snack.

Once you cut the processed foods from the majority of your diet, you will begin to notice how awful you feel when you go off-plan and eat a bag of chips or a fast food meal. The interesting (and horrifying) thing about this is – you felt that way ALL THE TIME before cutting that food from your diet, but you didn’t realize it because feeling unwell was your normal baseline.

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Contributed by Daisy Luther of The Organic Prepper.

Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor who lives in a small village in the Pacific Northwestern area of the United States.  She is the author of The Pantry Primer: How to Build a One Year Food Supply in Three Months. On her website, The Organic Prepper, Daisy writes about healthy prepping, homesteading adventures, and the pursuit of liberty and food freedom.  Daisy is a co-founder of the website Nutritional Anarchy, which focuses on resistance through food self-sufficiency. Daisy’s articles are widely republished throughout alternative media. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest,  and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca

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  • Ken, your UK friend

    Hi. I have no idea how metabolically this is possible but the smokers I know can and do go all day at work on nothing but coffee and cigarettes, fuelled not by a glucose metabolism but by adrenaline and living off their nerves. Eating is mostly confined to the evening meal only.
    Of course, when they give it up in January a near supernatural hunger arises and the rest is history.
    A man I know who is a long distance lorry driver went from 12 to 16 stone in the space of 6 months, needing a complete change of wardrobe. Then he started smoking again and despite taking zero exercise and doing the same job, his weight was back to normal by Christmas. Shocking!
    I wonder how many of us would die of obesity related disorders if tobacco overnight became a class A substance. It may be even be higher than the death rate from smoking! ! !

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