It is tempting to buy prepared, processed foods that are bad for our health in the long term.
The reality of it all is that processed foods often provide convenience and comfort.
To stay healthy, you should eliminate processed foods from your diet.
In this article, let’s discuss why processed foods are bad, but first let’s talk about what qualifies as “processed food.”
What Is Processed Food?
Processed food comes in many forms, whether it is a box, jar, or bag. Manufacturers have manipulated or treated the processed foods to maintain their form while on the shelf. These foods have added sugar and preservatives, and they tend to be low in fiber and whole grains. Some companies process the food with large amounts of sodium or saturated fat to maintain their shelf life, too.
There are different levels of processed foods. Makers don’t create all types of processed items equally. They process some foods to make them safe to consume. For example, they must pasteurize and process milk for health and sanitary reasons; however, that doesn’t mean that milk and boxed lasagna are at the same levels of unhealthy.
How To Identify Processed Foods
There are a few different tips and tricks to determine how processed a product is. For example, take a look at the ingredients list. If there is a laundry list of ingredients, or you are unable to pronounce many of the ingredients easily, then this product is highly processed.
Also, a general rule of thumb is that all center aisles in the grocery store are full of processed foods. The outer perimeter contains produce, dairy and meat. While many of these items are also processed, they are not as processed and treated as the center aisle items.
Once you begin to examine how much processed food you eat, you will want to make the switch to more natural products and recipes. Later in the article, we will discuss four processed foods that you can revamp in a healthier, more natural way.
Examples Of Processed Foods
There are different levels of processing. For example, there are some foods that are more processed than others. Foods that are minimally processed include pre-packaged vegetables and nuts.
Next, foods that are frozen, sealed and canned are moderately processed. For example, to keep certain vegetables and fruits, such as green peas at their peak freshness longer than normal, manufacturers purposely freeze them. However, this freezing process is just as invasive as it sounds.
Worse than the frozen and pre-packaged foods are those that are ready-to-eat straight from the packaging. These foods include deli meats, granolas, cookies and crackers – all of these products undergo heavy processing.
However, nothing is more processed than frozen pre-made meals, such as frozen pizzas and frozen dinners.
Processed Foods: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
Now, if you knew nothing about processed foods, then you might be quite overwhelmed at the newly found fact that almost all foods are processed. While this list implies that we all should live from our own cultivated gardens, the term processed is not entirely a bad thing.
For instance, companies process certain foods to include more benefits, such as vitamins A and D and fiber.
Frozen and bagged fruits and vegetables may be easier than cutting and cooking the fresh options, but dietitians claim these bagged fruits and vegetables are still a healthier alternative, compared to some of the other things that we eat. At the end of the day, a bag of frozen vegetables is a better alternative than a frozen pizza.
The take away is to become wary of these foods and their labels, and keep an eye out for the true evils of processed foods. Let’s talk about some of the dangers of processed foods, in addition to the steps you can take to eliminate these foods from your diet. Keep in mind that the processed foods we are suggesting you eliminate are the highly processed foods, such as frozen dinners and frozen pizzas, for example.
5 Reasons to Kick Your Processed Food Habits
1. You Really Are What You Eat
You may not exactly turn into a frozen pizza, but you will certainly feel yucky if you binge on too many processed foods. Anyone who has eaten too many processed foods knows the feeling. There is the bloating, the lethargy, and just an overall weighed-down feeling. This fact makes the old adage, “You are what you eat,” ring true. So, why is it exactly that processed foods make us feel so bad?
Processed foods, such as deli meats, pastries, and some cereals are full of refined flour, sugar and preservatives. Believe it or not, these ingredients all have an effect on our mental and emotional well-being. Our bodies require antioxidants, vitamins and various minerals to help us feel rejuvenated and healthy; therefore, a diet without them simply makes us feel disgusting.
If you feel as though this reason does not affect you, then keep following along as we have a few other compelling reasons why you should eliminate processed foods from your diet.
2. Your Body Has Trouble Burning Calories from Processed Foods
Most of us looking to eat healthier are also interested in losing some pounds, and in order to lose weight, we must burn more calories than we take in. But did you know that your body’s ability to burn calories depends on the type of food you are consuming?
Studies show that our bodies take longer to break down processed foods compared to natural, whole foods.
In one particular study, scientists created two different cheese sandwiches: one sandwich was made using white bread and processed cheese, and the other was made using whole grain bread and real cheddar cheese.The participants who consumed the processed sandwich took twice the time to break down the sandwich and worse yet, they were immediately hungry afterwards.
Eating healthier, more natural foods helps our bodies feel fuller, and thus we eat less food. Do you still need a few more reasons to kick the junk food? Keep reading as we discuss some more compelling reasons to eliminate processed food from your diet.
3. You Can’t Believe Everything You Read
You can’t believe everything you read on an ingredient label, which is sad, but true. Often times, companies producing processed foods can’t possibly provide the correct caloric count on their labels, because this calculation is based on unprocessed ingredients; therefore, the amount of calories in any given food label does not include the processed ingredients.
Also, companies are now manipulating food portion sizes to make the label look good. Think about it: when was the last time you really analyzed the food label?
Chances are, we look at the amount of calories and call it a day. We really should start taking a look, though. Food companies are now shrinking portion sizes to allot for a smaller percentage of unwanted calories and trans fats, for example.
In addition, food companies can also stretch their definitions of “whole foods” on their labels. For example, a company may claim to offer a healthy product, which is comprised of whole grain.
However, in reality the flour may have originally began as a whole grain, but has now been processed into something quite different.
4. Better Insulin and Blood Sugar Levels
There is a link between processed foods and diabetes. Why is this? Well, processed foods tend to be low in fiber and high in carbs. Thus, they are easily digested. Processed foods also have filler ingredients to replace the healthy, expensive ones.
These fillers are not healthy. Also, almost all processed foods are contain sugars or artificial sweeteners, which are inarguably unhealthy for our bodies.
All of these unnatural ingredients work to spike blood sugar levels and inhibit proper insulin health. By cutting out all processed foods, your body will have healthier blood sugar and insulin levels. While exercise and physical activities also help promote healthy insulin and blood sugar levels, diet is the first step.
5. Reduced Cancer and Disease Risks
Once you eliminate processed foods and consume more whole foods, you will be taking in a variety of nutrients that protect against various types of cancers. Whole foods are rich in antioxidants, which help fight free radicals.
It is important for our body to get rid of these free radicals, because they can promote cancerous cells in our bodies.
Many studies have determined that diseases such as esophageal and stomach cancer are caused because of the consumption of processed meat. Other health conditions such as lung, prostate, testicular, kidney, and bladder cancer are also caused because of processed meat.
Eating foods filled with more nutrients will help promote proper digestion in the body and therefore help to fight against cancer. The shift from processed to a more whole foods diet can not only make a person feel healthier; this change can help save lives.
4 Terrible Processed Foods You Can Make Healthy in Your Own Kitchen
Eliminating processed foods from your diet is easier than most people imagine. Follow these four recipes to eliminate four of the most commonly-processed products. This swap will allow you to become healthier and eat much more cleanly.
1. Take Some Stock In This One
You might assume that a product such as vegetable stock is healthy. This ingredient can simplify the process of making soup and it sounds perfectly healthy. In fact, you can even buy the low sodium vegetable stock. So, what is the problem?
Vegetable stock contains added MSG and salt. Even if you buy a low sodium version, you will find BPA in the lining of most cans or boxes. BPA, bisphenol A, is a carbon-based synthetic compound. This is not necessarily the ingredient you had in mind, is it?
To make your own vegetable stock, first think about some vegetables and essences you want in your stock. Some people prefer a strong garlic smell and taste, while others would rather have more herbs. Take this into consideration when planning your stock.
Homemade Vegetable Stock
Homemade stock is easier, cheaper, and can actually taste better than what you buy in the store. Similarly to vegetable stock, you can also do the same with your own probiotics. The recommended vegetables to use include:
Optional ingredients include:
- One or Two Onions
- Two or Three Carrots
- Three or Four Celery Stalks
- Four or Five Sprigs of Thyme
- One Bay Leaf
- One Small Bunch of Parsley
Do notice that there is no salt included.
Once you have chopped all of the vegetables:
- Rinse any dirt off your vegetables thoroughly.
- Chop vegetables roughly into small bits and pieces.
- You can peel the vegetables; however, some people like to leave the skin on, as they claim this brings even more flavor to the stock. This decision is entirely up to you.
After an hour:
Strain the water out of the pan carefully.
You might want to remove the large chunks of vegetables before straining.
- Throw them all into a large pot that can hold them with room to spare for the water
- Cover the vegetables with water and let them simmer over the stove.
- Depending on how concentrated you want your stock, add more or less water. Less water will create a more concentrated stock.
- Allow the stock to first come to a boil.
- Once you see some bubbling around the edge of the pot, cover and bring to a simmer.
- Stir the pot every now and then, and leave the pot on the stove for approximately an hour.
- You want to leave enough time to infuse the water with all of the vegetables you have added.
2. Homemade Probiotics
Kefir is a fantastic way to restore gut health and live a healthier, more active life. However, the kefir you buy in the grocery store is processed.
If you make your own kefir at home, then you automatically have more enzymes, digestible proteins, vitamins and minerals in your own version. This in turn helps the body build up supply of healthy bacteria and yeast strains.
In addition, homemade kefir can help to manage free radicals within the body. There is more complete protein in the homemade version, which in turn boosts the level of minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin B.
How To Make Kefir at Home
Here is an easy and cheap process to start making your own homemade kefir:
After 48 hours:
- Obtain kefir grains. You can easily find them online for less than the price of store-bought kefir.
- Place one to two tablespoons of the grains into a clean glass container. A mason jar or quart glass container works well.
- Add two cups of fresh milk to your container. Raw milk is ideal, but any type of milk will work. This includes cow milk, goat milk or coconut milk.
- Gently mix these two ingredients together.
- Cover the container with a cloth.
- You can also use lid and leave it slightly open.
- Move your container into a space where there is direct sunlight. You might find a spot in your kitchen or dining room.
- Allow your homemade Kefir to ferment for at least 24 hours, and do not let it sit for longer than 48 hours.
In order to increase the nutritional value of your kefir, you can leave it after straining at room temperature for another 24 hours.
It will become more sour, but more nutritious. This is only optional.
Your kefir will be edible after the initial 24 hours. Kefir is a super easy way to become healthier without the processed junk, but so is almond milk.
- Pour all of the contents into a strainer.
- Put the grains to the side in a new container and allow them to rest in the refrigerator covered in milk.
- You can save these grains for up to one week.
3. Not Your Ordinary Milk
Almond milk is low in fat, but extremely high in energy, lipids, proteins and fiber. This type of milk has vitamins such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, calcium, iron and zinc.
There are plenty of other benefits as well, so here is an easy recipe to make your own almond milk:
This homemade almond milk is a cinch, and it is cheaper than the store bought brands, depending on your ingredients of choice.Eliminating everyday processed foods will enhance your diet, so here is another product that you are more than likely consuming close to every day.
- Purchase a bag of almonds at the grocery store.
- Allow one cup of almonds to two cups water.
- Allow them to soak anywhere from an hour to eight hours.
- After soaking your almonds, you can add some vanilla bean, cinnamon, and even a little bit of sea salt.
- It might seem terrifying, but use an entire vanilla bean. Just chop up this giant bean and throw it into the blender.
Combine all of these ingredients into the blender with approximately two cups of water.
- Blend on turbo speed, and then strain your ingredients using cheesecloth or a straining bag.
4. Bring Home The Bread
Bread making can be intimidating, but it can also eliminate quite a bit of processed foods from your diet and home. In under an hour, you can prepare freshly made, warm bread in your home using this recipe:
Once the dough rises:
- Dissolve two teaspoons of yeast in warm water.
- Add sugar, salt, oil, and three cups of flour. Bleached white flour is not as healthy aswhole wheat, or even almond flour.
- Beat all of these ingredients until they form a soft dough.
- Move this dough onto a floured surface and knead it until it is elastic.
- Do note that this process will probably take close to 10 minutes.
- Next, place the kneaded dough into a greased bowl.
- Turn the dough to ensure that you have entirely covered the dough in grease. Cover the bowl and let it rise in a warm place for approximately an hour to an hour and a half.
- Punch it down once.
- Turn the bread onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half.
- Press each half into a greased loaf pan.
- Cover this and let it rise until it doubles again, for approximately 30 minutes.
- Bake the bread at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.
- This recipe should provide you with two loaves of bread that offer approximately 16 slices each.
Three Easy Ways to Remove Processed Foods from Your Diet
The thought of where to start on this healthy, non-processed journey can seem overwhelming. Here are a few helpful tips to ease your way into a non-processed diet:
Living a healthy lifestyle does not have to be so complicated. Start your new, healthy diet today and kick the bad processed foods back to the pantry shelf.
- Start Small: Rome was not built in a day. Work your way backwards, starting with the worst processed foods. Eliminate the frozen meals and chemically-flavored and colored foods form your diet first. These are relatively easy to find, so start there.
- Take Your Time: If you find that you and your family can’t cut everything out, then take your time. There is no rush, and every little difference counts.
If the kids wake up wanting Cheerios one morning, and you panic because they are processed, take a deep breath and work slowly.
It will be too drastic to change all of your habits too quickly.
- Educate Yourself: Chances are that your family or spouse will be opposed to this huge change in their lives; therefore, take it upon yourself to read up and educate yourself more on the matter.
If you are well-equipped with a plethora of facts and knowledge on the topic then you will inspire and influence others.
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