Processed foods are bad.
They are the main reason why people all over the world are getting fat and sick.
How do we know?
Every time a population adopts a “Western” diet high in processed foods, they get sick.
It happens within a few years. Their genes don’t change, their food does.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Real vs. Processed Food
The word “processed” often causes some confusion, so let me clarify what I mean.
Obviously, most foods we eat are processed in some way. Apples are cut from trees, ground beef has been ground in a machine and butter is cream that has been separated from the milk and churned.
But there is a difference between mechanical processing and chemical processing.
If it’s a single ingredient food with no added chemicals, then it doesn’t matter if it’s been ground or put into a jar. It’s still real food.
However … foods that have been chemically processed and made solely from refined ingredients and artificial substances, are what is generally known as “processed food.”
Here are nine ways that processed foods are bad for your health.
1. Processed Foods Are Usually High in Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup
Processed foods are usually loaded with added sugar … or its evil twin, High Fructose Corn Syrup.
It is well known that sugar, when consumed in excess, is seriously harmful.
As we all know, sugar is “empty” calories—it has no essential nutrients, but a large amount of energy.
But empty calories are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the harmful effects of sugar …
Many studies show that sugar can have devastating effects on metabolism that go way beyond its calorie content.
It can lead to insulin resistance, high triglycerides, increased levels of the harmful cholesterol and increased fat accumulation in the liver and abdominal cavity.
Not surprisingly, sugar consumption is strongly associated with some of the world’s leading killers … including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
Most people aren’t putting massive amounts of sugar in their coffee or on top of their cereal, they’re getting it from processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Bottom Line: Processed foods and beverages are the biggest sources of added sugar (and HFCS) in the diet. Sugar is very unhealthy and can have serious adverse effects on metabolism when consumed in excess.
2. Processed Foods Are “Hyper Rewarding” and Lead to Overconsumption
We all want to eat good food. That’s just human nature.
Evolution provided us with taste buds that are supposed to help us navigate the natural food environment.
Our appetite gravitates towards foods that are sweet, salty and fatty, because we know such foods contain energy and nutrients that we need for survival.
Obviously, if a food manufacturer wants to succeed and get people to buy their product, it has to taste good.
But today, the competition is fierce. There are many different food manufacturers, all competing with each other.
For this reason, massive resources are spent on making foods as desirable as possible.
Many processed foods have been engineered to be so incredibly “rewarding” to the brain, that they overpower anything we might have come across in nature.
We have complicated mechanisms in our bodies and brains that are supposed to regulate energy balance (how much we eat and how much we burn)—which, until very recently in evolutionary history, worked to keep us at a healthy weight.
There is quite a lot of evidence that the reward value of foods can bypass the innate defense mechanism and make us start eating much more than we need, so much that it starts to compromise our health.
This is also known as the “food reward hypothesis of obesity.”
The truth is, processed foods are so incredibly rewarding to our brains that they affect our thoughts and behavior, making us eat more and more until eventually we become sick.
Good food is good, but foods that are engineered to be hyper rewarding, effectively short circuiting our innate brakes against overconsumption, are NOT good.
Bottom Line: Food manufacturers spend massive amounts of resources on making their foods as “rewarding” as possible to the brain, which leads to overconsumption.
3. Processed Foods Contain All Sorts of Artificial Ingredients
If you look at the ingredients label for a processed, packaged food, chances are that you won’t have a clue what some of the ingredients are.
That’s because many of the ingredients in there aren’t actual food… they are artificial chemicals that are added for various purposes.
This is an example of a processed food, an Atkins Advantage bar, which is actually marketed as a low-carb friendly health food.
I don’t know what this is, but it most certainly isn’t food.
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.
Of course, most of these chemicals have allegedly been tested for safety. But given that the regulatory authorities still think that sugar and vegetable oils are safe, I personally take their “stamp of approval” with a grain of salt.
Bottom Line: Most highly processed foods are loaded with artificial chemicals, including flavorants, texturants, colorants and preservatives.
4. Many People Can Literally Become Addicted to Processed Junk Foods
The “hyper rewarding” nature of processed foods can have serious consequences for some people.
Some people can literally become addicted to this stuff and completely lose control over their consumption.
Although food addiction is something that most people don’t know about, I am personally convinced that it is a huge problem in society today.
It is the main reason why some people just can’t stop eating these foods, no matter how hard they try.
This is actually supported by many studies. Sugar and highly rewarding junk foods activate the same areas in the brain as drugs of abuse like cocaine.
Bottom Line: For many people, junk foods can hijack the biochemistry of the brain, leading to downright addiction and cause them to lose control over their consumption.
5. Processed Foods Are Often High in Refined Carbohydrates
There is a lot of controversy regarding carbohydrates in the diet.
Some people think that the majority of our energy intake should be from carbs, while others think they should be avoided like the plague.
But one thing that almost everyone agrees on, is that carbohydrates from whole foods are much better than refined carbohydrates.
Processed foods are often high in carbs, but it is usually the refined variety.
One of the main problems is that refined, “simple” carbohydrates are quickly broken down in the digestive tract, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
This can lead to carb cravings a few hours later when blood sugar levels go down again. This phenomenon is also called the “blood sugar roller coaster”—which many people who have been on a high-carb diet can relate to.
Not surprisingly, eating a lot of refined carbohydrates is associated with negative health effects and many chronic diseases.
Do NOT be fooled by labels like “whole grains” that are often plastered on processed food packages, including breakfast cereals.
These are usually whole grains that have been pulverized into very fine flour and are just as harmful as their refined counterparts.
If you’re going to eat carbs, get them from whole, single ingredient foods, not processed junk foods.
Bottom Line: The carbohydrates you find in processed foods are usually refined, “simple” carbohydrates. These lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels and cause negative health effects.
6. Most Processed Foods Are Low in Nutrients
Processed foods are extremely low in essential nutrients compared to whole, unprocessed foods.
In some cases, synthetic vitamins and minerals are added to the foods to compensate for what was lost during processing.
However, synthetic nutrients are NOT a good replacement for the nutrients found in whole foods.
Also, let’s not forget that real foods contain much more than just the standard vitamins and minerals that we’re all familiar with.
Real foods … like plants and animals, contain thousands of other trace nutrients that science is just beginning to grasp.
Maybe one day we will invent a chemical blend that can replace all these nutrients, but until that happens … the only way to get them in your diet is to eat whole, unprocessed foods.
The more you eat of processed foods, the less you will get of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and various trace nutrients.
Bottom Line: There are many nutrients found in whole foods that are not found in processed foods. The more processed foods you eat, the less you will get of these nutrients.
7. Processed Foods Tend to be Low in Fiber
Fiber, especially soluble, fermentable fiber, has various benefits.
There is also evidence that fiber can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates and help us feel more satisfied with fewer calories.
Soluble fiber can also help treat many cases of constipation, which is a very common problem today.
The fiber that is found naturally in foods is often lost during processing, or intentionally removed. Therefore, most processed foods are very low in fiber.
Bottom Line: Soluble, fermentable fiber has various important health benefits, but most processed foods are very low in fiber because it is lost or intentionally removed during processing.
8. It Requires Less Energy and Time to Digest Processed Foods
Food manufacturers want their processed food products to have a long shelf life.
They also want each batch of the product to have a similar consistency and they want their foods to be easily consumed.
Given the way foods are processed, they are often very easy to chew and swallow. Sometimes, it’s almost as if they melt in your mouth.
Most of the fiber has been taken out and the ingredients are refined, isolated nutrients that don’t resemble the whole foods they came from.
One consequence of this is that it takes less energy to eat and digest processed foods.
We can eat more of them in a shorter amount of time (more calories in) and we also burn less energy (fewer calories out) digesting them than we would if they were unprocessed, whole foods.
One study in 17 healthy men and women compared the difference in energy expenditure after consuming a processed vs a whole foods-based meal.
They ate a sandwich, either with multi-grain bread and cheddar cheese (whole foods) or with white bread and processed cheese (processed foods).
It turned out that they burned twice as many calories digesting the unprocessed meal.
The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) is a measure of how much different foods stimulate energy expenditure after eating. It totals about 10 percentof total energy expenditure (metabolic rate) in the average person.
According to this study, people who eat processed food will cut their TEF in half, effectively reducing the amount of calories they burn throughout the day.
Bottom Line: We only burn half as many calories digesting and metabolizing processed foods compared to whole foods.
9. Processed Foods Are Often High in Trans Fats or Processed Vegetable Oils
Processed foods are often high in unhealthy fats.
They usually contain cheap fats, refined seed- and vegetable oils (like soybean oil) that are often hydrogenated … which turns them into trans fats.
Vegetable oils are extremely unhealthy and most people are eating way too much of them already.
Several studies show that when people eat more of these oils, they have a significantly increased risk of heart disease, which is the most common cause of death in Western countries today.
If the fats are hydrogenated, that makes them even worse. Hydrogenated (trans) fats are among the nastiest, unhealthiest substances you can put into your body.
The best way to avoid seed oils and trans fats is to avoid processed foods. Eat real fats like butter, coconut oil and olive oil instead.
Just Eat Real Food!
When we replace real, traditional foods like butter, meat and vegetables with crappy, processed junk foods, we get fat and sick.
Real food is the key to good health, processed food is not. Period.
YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.
- The U.S. Isn't in a Second Wave of Coronavirus – The First Wave ... ›
- Navajo Nation Has Highest Covid-19 Infection Rate in the U.S. ... ›
- U.S. Coronavirus Cases Top 2 Million as All 50 States Start ... ›
By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
- Drone Footage Captures Rare Finless Porpoises in Hong Kong ... ›
- Brazil's Amazon River Dolphin Faces Extinction After Fishing ... ›
- 10 Surprising Dolphin 'Superpowers' - EcoWatch ›
Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus
On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.
- Your Guide to Reef Friendly Sunscreens - EcoWatch ›
- Hundreds of Sunscreens Don't Work or Have Unsafe Ingredients ... ›
- FDA Study: Sunscreen Chemicals Seep Into the Bloodstream ... ›
By Kelli McGrane
Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.
- Is Oat Milk Gluten-Free? - EcoWatch ›
- What Nutritionists Think About Starbucks' Three New Plant-Based ... ›
- 6 Alternatives to Milk: Which Is the Healthiest? - EcoWatch ›
"Emissions from pyrotechnic displays are composed of numerous organic compounds as well as metals," a new study reports. Nodar Chernishev / EyeEm / Getty Images
Fireworks have taken a lot of heat recently. In South Dakota, fire experts have said President Trump's plan to hold a fireworks show is dangerous and public health experts have criticized the lack of plans to enforce mask wearing or social distancing. Now, a new study shows that shooting off fireworks at home may expose you and your family to dangerous levels of lead, copper and other toxins.
- No Social Distancing or Mask Requirement at Trump's Mt ... ›
- Trump's Fireworks Show at Mt. Rushmore Is a Dangerous Idea, Fire ... ›
By Ashutosh Pandey
Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
- Dangerous Chemicals From E-Waste Found in Black Plastics From ... ›
- Electronic Waste Study Finds $65 Billion in Raw Materials ... ›
- Electronic Waste: New EU Rules Target Throwaway Culture ... ›
- COVID-19 Masks Are Polluting Beaches and Oceans - EcoWatch ›
- Plastic Packaging Use Increases During the Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Worsens Thailand's Plastic Waste Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Plastic Waste Polluting the Environment - EcoWatch ›