There is so much talk about what is unhealthy in our foods. However, when examining your diet, it can be challenging to determine what foods actually are unhealthy – or just, hands down, not good for you.
The most common unhealthy foods include highly-processed items, so its not always so cut and dry. However, we are correct that most fast foods and snack foods are highly-processed foods. They tend to be low in nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) and high on empty calories due to the content of refined flours, sodium, and sugars. Sodium, sugar, and fat (saturated fat and trans-fat) are vital ingredients one should constantly monitor when shopping at the grocery store or eating out. Although these ingredients make the food we eat taste better, too much will lead to serious health issues like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
These refined and processed foods are calorie-dense and addicting. It’s very easy to overindulge in unhealthy food and consume more calories than we realize. For example, an Oreo cookie contains nearly 50 calories, while an entire green bean cup contains only around 40 calories. Additionally, processed foods like these are also designed to stimulate our brain’s “feel-good” chemical, dopamine, making us crave more of them.
One other thing is that these types of foods are easier to digest than unprocessed, whole foods. This might seem counterintuitive, but that means our bodies burn less energy digesting them (or calories). We burn half as many calories digesting processed foods compared to unprocessed foods. This fact, combined with the calorie density of processed foods, can make it easy to pack on the pounds.
These foods are also full of artificial ingredients. There are nearly 5,000 substances that get added to our food. Most of them have never been tested by anyone other than the company using them. That includes but not limited to additives to change color, texture, flavor, and odor as well as ingredients like preservatives and sweeteners.
Overall, we must steer clear of anything with excess sugar sodium that has been processed as foods lack nutritional value. So next time you have these foods in front of you, think twice because although it might taste good in the moment, the cons and side effects usually outweigh the temptation.
Calls to action- Be wary and act with better habits by understanding…
- Read food labels and stay away from items that have sugar added, excess sodium, and trans-fat. Not all processed foods are terrible. For example, Some foods need processing to make them safe, such as milk, which needs to be pasteurized to remove harmful bacteria or certain oils which need processing to make them more suitable for use.
- Plan ahead, meal prep, and cook more meals at home.
- Choose lean meats with less fat %.
- Don’t skip meals as this can lead to snacking on unhealthy foods – especially when hungry
- When you do indulge in processed foods, be careful. It’s okay to treat yourself once in a while (have that birthday cake on somebody’s birthday) but everything in moderation is always better.