You’ve probably heard that processed foods are bad for you, but do you know why? Processed foods contain highly refined ingredients and artificial substances. Real foods have a single ingredient and no added chemicals. An easy way to determine if a food is processed is to read the ingredient list and look for words you struggle to pronounce. When people started replacing real, traditional foods like butter, meats and vegetables with processed junk foods, they started gaining weight and getting sick.
Here are five reasons to avoid processed foods:
- Processed foods typically contain loads of added sugar. These empty calories can lead to chronic disease.
- They contain highly desirable flavors (e.g., sweet, salty and fatty) that can lead to overeating. We’ll sometimes eat to the point of feeling sick because our brains block the feeling of being full in favor of providing a rewarding feeling from eating the processed foods.
- Processed foods are addictive. Sugar and highly rewarding junk foods act on the same parts of the brain as drugs like cocaine.
- Processed foods are low in essential nutrients compared to whole, unprocessed foods (which look similar to how they appear in nature when consumed). Even overweight individuals can develop malnutrition, and therefore, need to eat nutrient-rich foods.
- We burn fewer calories digesting processed foods. Real foods contain more fiber, which requires more energy expenditure to break it down.
Foods that are minimally processed and derived predominantly from plants are associated with the highest levels of overall health and disease prevention — so eat real foods!