Every time I am doing the researches to write about the modern food, I realize that actually 90% of the food that is promoted is processed food. I know that we all want to eat healthy and skip obesity or improve our tonus, but there is a fact that we have to remember: processed food has nothing to do with a healthy life.
We should spend our money on whole foods and keep the 10-15% budget on processed food. Unfortunately, most of us do the opposite and despite the fact that we have access to raw food or local farms, we keep buying food that give us addiction, health problems and an increased rates of obesity.
A general condition with most foods is that the closer are to nature, the better for your health. Still, there are a lot of processed foods that can be taken as healthy: frozen green beans or fresh guacamole or almond butter. The term “processed food” refers to those foods that are chemically processed, have additives or are made from heavily refined ingredients.
These foods are the bane of Western civilization’s diets. Short story, if it’s from a plant eat it, if it was made in a plant don’t.
Food Addiction and Processed Foods
There are a lot of articles and studies on food addiction and one thing must throw your attention: the ingredients used in modern food change the chemical balance in our brains.
Since we are what we eat, it is important to understand the negative effects that processed foods and additives have on our brains. Just changing our food habits and eliminating processed foods and foods with additives from our diets will give our bodies the opportunity to function properly.
A new study, recently published by PLoS ONE, supports what many people have observed firsthand—processed foods with added fat and/or refined carbohydrates are most likely lead to addictive eating.
Foods like pizza, chocolate, ice cream and french fries were found to be the most addictive, while foods like cucumbers, beans, and brown rice were among the least addictive.
The research team also found that foods with high glycemic loads were particularly likely to cause problems for those prone to addictive eating behavior. A food’s glycemic load is a measure of both the amount of refined carbohydrates and the rate at which they are absorbed into the body.
Researchers noted that highly addictive foods share properties with addictive drugs in the sense that the dose (quantity of white flour and sugar) and rate of absorption appear to affect how addictive a food is.
To make a short list, the following preservatives and ingredients have been studied and placed as unhealthy and top addictive:
MSG is one of the worst food additives on the market and is used in canned soups, crackers, meats, salad dressings, frozen dinners and much more. It’s found in your local supermarket and restaurants, in your child’s school cafeteria and, amazingly, even in baby food and infant formula.
This preservative is a flavor enhancer that’s known widely as an addition to Chinese food, but that’s actually added to thousands of the foods you and your family regularly eat, especially if you are like most Americans and eat the majority of your food as processed foods or in restaurants.
The adverse effects are:
- Eye damage
- Fatigue and disorientation
We can even talk today according to FDA, about a syndrome called “MSG Symptom Complex,” which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identifies as “short-term reactions” to MSG.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup
This isn’t only a matter of “empty calories” causing you to gain weight without getting proper nutrition. Excess sugar consumption is linked to insulin resistance, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even cancer.
Refined fructose, typically in some form of corn syrup is now found in virtually every processed food you can think of, and fructose actually programs your body to consume more calories and store fat.
Fructose is primarily metabolized by your liver, because your liver is the only organ that has the transporter for it. Since all fructose gets shuttled to your liver and you consume high amounts of it, fructose ends up taxing and damaging your liver in the same way alcohol and other toxins do.
And just like alcohol, fructose is metabolized directly into fat – it gets stored in your fat cells, which can lead to obesity, and obesity-related diseases.
The more fructose you consume, the worse it is for your health.
It’s important to realize that added sugar (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup) is not confined to junky snack foods or sweets; it’s also common in savory processed foods.
It is found in more then 6,000 food and drink products, and you might know it as Equal, NutraSweet or Canderel. It’s found in everything from diet sodas, breath mints and gum, vitamin supplements, instant coffee, yogurt and cereals.
One of the most controversial FDA approvals in history, there have been over 10,000 aspartame related complaints filed with the federal agency since it went on the market. In 2014, researchers at the University of North Dakota found that just half of the FDA’s maximum acceptable daily intake level of aspartame was enough to cause serious neuro-behavioral changes in healthy adults, such as irritable mood, depression and poor cognitive performance.
Addiction to junk food?
Yes, this is a well known phenomenon and a side effect of processed foods. Processing modifies or removes important components of the food, like fiber, water, and nutrients, changing the way they are digested and assimilated in your body.
Unlike whole foods, which contain a mix of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fiber and water to help you feel satisfied, processed foods stimulate dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, making you feel good even though the food lacks nutrients and fiber. This artificial dopamine stimulation can lead to excessive food cravings and food addiction.
Potato chips for example are among the most addictive junk foods on the market, containing three bliss-inducing ingredients: sugar (from the potato), salt, and fat.
More, the processed foods don’t come just with addiction and the added preservatives. They create a bunch of health problems many of the cause of obesity or other health problems.
- Processed foods are low in fiber
- Processed foods are low in nutrients
- It requires less energy and time to digest processed foods
- Processed foods are high in trans fats
- Major risk of processed foods: acrylamide
As I stated above these discoveries in science prove that industrial, processed, sugar, fat and salt-laden food—food that is made in plant, rather than grown on a plant, as Michael Pollan would say—is biologically addictive.
The “just say no” approach to drug addiction hasn’t fared very well. It won’t work for our industrial food addiction either. Tell a cocaine or heroin addict or an alcoholic to “just say no” after that first snort, shot, or drink. It’s not that simple. There are specific biological mechanisms that drive addictive behavior.
Nobody chooses to be a heroin addict or drunk. Nobody chooses to be fat either. The behaviors arise out of primitive neurochemical reward centers in the brain that override normal willpower and overwhelm our ordinary biological signals that control hunger.
Why is it so hard for obese people to lose weight despite the social stigma and health consequences they are warned such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer even though they have an intense desire to lose weight? It is not because they WANT to be fat. It is because certain types of food are addictive.
Food made with sugar, fat, and salt can be addictive. Especially when combined in secret ways the food industry will not share or make public. We are biologically wired to crave these foods and eat as much of them as possible.
Many of you heard or saw the Super Size Me movie. The main action is on Morgan Spurlock who starts eating 3 meals from McDonalds everyday. What is interesting is not that he gained 30 pounds or that his cholesterol went up.
The movie turns around his portrait that is painted in addiction. And this is just because the food he ate. At the beginning of the movie he threw up his first meal just like a teenager that drinks too much alcohol at his birthday party.
By the end, he only felt well when he ate junk food. The rest of the time he felt depressed, anxious and irritable just like an addict without cigarettes or his drug. It is clear the the food was addictive.
Do We Really Have a Choice?
We live in a toxic food environment, a nutritional wasteland. School lunchrooms and vending machines overflow with junk food and “sports drinks”. Most of us don’t even know what we’re eating. Fifty percent of meals are eaten outside the home and most home cooked meals are simply microwavable industrial food.
As far as I can tell, no government will take this is serious and won’t do much changes. Everything is backed by marketing, labeling and false mantras about food that we are “told” everyday:
– you can choose the food you buy/eat. Of course, but what about the addiction? I can choose to not eat a super-size Mc meal, but where it says that I will crave for one next week?
– there is no bad food or good food. It’s just a matter of the amount. Like you have to eat 10 ice-creams in a day to get fat. No, but any of them is just 500+ calories a day. If you were to eat 500 more calories in a day, that would equal 182,500 calories a year. How about that?
– focus more on sports and exercise, not on diet. We are always told that if you do exercise it doesn’t matter about the quantity of food you eat. You will burn that out. Really? You can blame a fat person about that. What about a three-year-old kid?
I don’t think so. It is a matter of choice and is about the food you pay you money. Exercise is good but balance and real food are better.
The simple solution to keep this in control is to balance your blood sugar and stay away from sugars and artificial sweeteners.
If you replace food like meat, fish, tomatoes, apples with crappy processed food you probably will get sick and fat. Real food is the key to good health. Modern food is not. Is that simple.