Happy Friday, lovelies! Today, we're talking about processed foods, and their impact on our bodies.
Quick: how many foods do you eat, daily, that come from a box, or package? Do they have minimal, pronounceable ingredients? If you're like the majority of humans in the U.S., a lot of your food, eaten daily, comes from a place of convenience... right?
**Before moving on, I want to share that these thoughts are purely my own. We're all entitled to treating (and feeding) our bodies the way we see fit. Don't let my opinions determine the route you decide to take. Do your research, and listen to your 'gut'.
Fad Diets Taking Over the World
With 'fad diets' circulating everywhere, these days, I wanted to create a post focusing on the main points, hidden in the shadows of these popular diets: some fad diets work because you're depriving your body of something, so obviously your weight comes off, in the process; and some fad diets work because you begin to eat healthier, while being on them.
So today, we're going to brainstorm whether you really need that fad diet, or if cutting back on the amount of processed foods you consume, in general, could be the golden ticket.
Keto, teas, juicing, meat-free, daily shakes, paleo and pills...We've heard about 'em all; everyone seems to have a 'secret' for their "health success". Our crazy, fast-paced world has come to a point where we almost feel the need to fall under the category of a certain way-of-eating just to lose weight and be "healthy". No time for lunch? Have a shake! Weight not coming off? Cut your carbs out! Got that bloat you just can't get rid of? Drink some detox tea!
Easy solutions are everywhere, but every time I hear, or read, about someone losing weight, taking up a fad diet, and getting "healthy", I can't help but wonder, "Is this lifestyle long-term, for you; do you plan to keep it up forever? What happens when you stop? Will your results stay off, long-term? What are those ingredients doing INSIDE your body?"
Less Calories vs. Less Nutrients
Then, there's the topic of calories. To be honest, I talk calories all day, in my full-time job. I believe they are (and can be) useful, but that if we focus on nothing but calories, our nutrition suffers, as well, and we begin to develop an unhealthy relationship food.
Let's take mayo as an example. Walden Farms is a very popular brand, with a slogan of, "No Calories, Fat, Carbs, Gluten or Sugars, of any kind!" Great! So, the products contain nothing but water, right?! Wrong. I see many people consume this brand, because of the 'benefits'; no calories must be great, right?! Well, not exactly. While products like Walden Farms ARE great for helping you stick to your 'calorie count', those products you're consuming aren't doing anything for you, nutrition-wise.
An article from "Medical News Today" states, "
Highly processed foods often contain:
- Preservatives: Chemicals that prevent the food from rotting.
- Colorants: Chemicals that are used to give the food a specific color.
- Flavor: Chemicals that give the food a particular flavor.
- Texturants: Chemicals that give a particular texture.
Keep in mind that processed foods can contain dozens of additional chemicals that aren't even listed on the label.
For example, "artificial flavor" is a proprietary blend. Manufacturers don't have to disclose exactly what it means and it is usually a combination of chemicals.
For this reason, if you see "artificial flavor" on an ingredients list, it could mean that there are 10 or more additional chemicals that are blended in to give a specific flavor." ("Nine Ways that Processed Foods Are Hurting People." Kris Gunnars, BSc. Published Tuesday 1 August 2017).
Now, let's look at mayo from Primal Kitchen.
Easy, pronounceable ingredients. Nothing heavily-processed. Yes, it contains fats and calories. Healthy fat doesn't make you fat, and actually the opposite; eating a diet filled with healthy fats is important in keeping you feeling satisfied, and being able to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. It's important for brain, nerve and heart function, and is wonderful for your skin.
If continuing to eat a diet filled with processed, non-caloric ingredients, it's very difficult to 1. feel satisfied and 2. absorb important nutrients.
Filling Up on Fiber
Do you want to know why fiber is so important? For one, it works as a prebiotic, which feeds friendly bacteria in the intestine. Fiber helps fight constipation, and allows our bodies to get rid of our waste properly. It also helps slow down carb absorption, which can help us feel more satisfied without needing to eat as much. Because much fiber is lost (or intentionally removed) during the processing, most processed foods contain little to no fiber, which means it's more and more difficult for us to expel all of the toxins in our bodies. What does this look like? Well, maybe you get constipated easily. Maybe you don't poop daily. Maybe you get bloated, easily, and have to take laxatives and teas, in order to feel 'regular'. Maybe your skin is breaking out and you have no idea why.
You Be the Judge
For me, it's a no-brainer. Feeding my body wholesome, nutritious food is essential in having good gut health, which is then essential in having good brain, skin, mental health... and so on. Literally, it all starts in the gut. Not all calories are bad.
Low Carb: The Big Debate
Carbs aren't something I'm going to go into great detail about, today. The simple truth? Of course, cutting out carbs from our diets will help us lose weight... initially. This is because the low-carb diet lowers insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy and ultimately leads to weight loss. I want to caution you all though; carbs are used as our body's main energy source; they aren't all bad!
A couple years ago, I was told by a naturopath that a low-carb diet would help rid my body of candida (yeast). Excited, I took his advice, and dropped my carb-consumption to less than 30 grams, a day. While my skin started to clear up, and I started to feel 'lighter', I began to feel very tired, after a while, and recognized that my thyroid and adrenals were suffering. Your body needs glucose (carbs) in order to have proper thyroid conversion (T4 to T3).
Absolutely, there are better carbs than others (think sweet potatoes vs. white bread); so as mentioned earlier, when choosing which carbs to consume, focus on the ones that contain fiber and added nutrients.
Please, remember we're all different. Bio-individuality is a beautiful thing; our bodies all work and function differently. Just make sure to LISTEN to your body, and don't stick with a certain diet, just because you think it's making you skinnier.
Do you want to know why MOST low-carb/keto/paleo diets "work" for people?! It's because they start to cut out processed sugar!
Addicted: The Truth Behind Sugar
While I see carbs as important (and good for us), I see sugar in a completely different light. SUGAR IS BAD. SUGAR IS ADDICTIVE. SUGAR IS IN EVERY HEAVILY-PROCESSED FOOD. SUGAR IS THE REASON FOR MOST WEIGHT GAIN AND DISEASE.
Do you know how much added sugar you consume a day? Do you know what words to look out for, on labels, when it comes to sugar? They have many aliases:
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt sugar
- Raw sugar
- Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
The American Heart Association recommends most American women eat no more than 100 calories per day of sugar (six teaspoons or 20 grams) and no more than 150 calories per day for men (or about nine teaspoons or 36 grams) (Sugar 101, http://www.heart.org).
Sugar has the same effects on us as opioids; once consumed, our bodies become addicted, wanting more and more. This, in turn, makes it harder to withdraw from sugar. An article from "The Conversation" states, "And yet there is substantial experimental evidence that refined sugar can promote addictive behaviours by activating the brain’s rewards centres in much the same way as addictive drugs." (The Conversation. Sugar in the Diet May Increase Risks of Opioid Addiction. October 15, 2017).
Aside from being bad for your brain, and literally causing addiction, sugar can create fatty livers (without even needing alcohol), be bad on our skin, and aid in leaky gut (which is a cesspool for many issues inside/outside the body).
My recommendation? Stick with natural sugars - fruit (which contains fructose, and fiber), honey (which is good for allergies and antioxidant properties) and sweeteners lower on the glycemic index (like coconut sugar). Artificial sweeteners, while calorie-free, are sweet to the point where addiction becomes even worse. I stay away from these because of this reason (as well as their processed-state).
So, why do we continue to eat so much processed food? Especially knowing that it's bad for our bodies, containing little-to-no nutrients? TIME. Time is usually always the issue.
Would you like to hear the most-commonly-used phrase, I get, when asking people why it's hard to 'become healthy'? TIME! We never seem to have enough of it; never seem to have enough "time to become healthy". Processed foods are easy, less time-consuming. Right? Well, not necessarily.
What if, instead, you purchased more produce (healthy enough to not need a label)? What if you then took the time to pre-cut it, once you got it home (or purchased the already pre-cut options)? What if you started each meal with a nice, green salad? What if you made your own smoothie, containing healthy proteins, carbs and fats, instead of buying something with heavily-processed ingredients? What if you bought meat in bulk, and froze it until you were ready? Creating meals doesn't need to be difficult; it doesn't need to be fancy, or extensive. Proteins, carbs and healthy fats. Good, wholesome foods that give you all the nutrients you need.
How to Cut Back on Processed Foods
Maybe you live in a super small town, where processed foods are everywhere! Maybe you're unsure of how to start cutting back. Here are some ideas:
- START SLOWLY, always. Don't go cold turkey; start a bit at a time
- Cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages (and YES, I mean Starbucks drinks, too)and start drinking more water
- Avoid or limit processed meats (ham, hotdogs, bacon)
- Whole-grain over processed grains (brown rice instead of white, whole-wheat pasta instead of white, whole-grain bread instead of white)
- Substitute for highly-processed snacks (popcorn instead of chips, oatmeal instead of cereal)
- Homemade instead of frozen
- Plan ahead! We all know if we're in a pinch, we're more likely to find something easy. Have your snacks/foods ready to go
Buying Into the Fad
I'd be lying if I said I didn't get frustrated every time I see a post, or read about another 'new product' claiming to aid in weight-loss, or "health". The truth? You more-than-likely don't need it! And how long after you discontinue that product (or fad diet) will you be right back to where you started?
Eat your fruits and veggies, consume healthy carbohydrates and proteins, and recognize that healthy fat IS your friend! Focusing on the scale too much creates a disconnect from actual health; it creates unhealthy thoughts, which in turn, create an unhealthy body.
You do you. But always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS... read your labels, eat your veggies, drink your water, move your body and get back to eating things your great-grandparents grew up eating. Health comes within, always.