Processed foods are often high in simple, refined carbohydrates. Think cakes, pies, cookies, breakfast bars, donuts, ice cream, fruit drinks and soft drinks. Even if you are avoiding simple sugars (as you should be after weight loss surgery), refined carbs are often found in muffins, breads, cereals and pasta. These can cause quick spikes and drops in blood sugar levels.
We fill up on processed foods and don’t eat what’s good for us, and that can make us sick. Eating 5 servings of fresh vegetables and 2 serving of fresh fruit reduces your risk of death at any point in time from all causes by 42 percent.
Ingredients are added to processed foods for many purposes. They keep food fresh (preservatives). They give food appealing colors (colorants). They give food flavor (flavoring). They give food texture (texturants). Although these chemicals have been tested for safety, many times we find out years later that artificial ingredients we thought were safe really weren’t. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has great information about the safety of additives if you’d like to learn more.
Here’s an ingredient list from a well-known cereal bar. You decide–healthy or not-so-healthy?
CEREAL (RICE, WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT, SUGAR, WHEAT BRAN, SOLUBLE WHEAT FIBER, SALT, MALT FLAVORING, MALTODEXTRIN, THIAMIN MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2]), CORN SYRUP, SOLUBLE CORN FIBER, FRUCTOSE, STRAWBERRY FLAVORED FRUIT PIECES (SUGAR, CRANBERRIES, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL STRAWBERRY FLAVOR WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS, ELDERBERRY JUICE CONCENTRATE FOR COLOR, SUNFLOWER OIL), SUGAR, VEGETABLE OIL (SOYBEAN AND PALM OIL WITH TBHQ FOR FRESHNESS, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED PALM KERNEL OIL), MALTODEXTRIN, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF DEXTROSE, SORBITOL, GLYCERIN, NONFAT DRY MILK, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL STRAWBERRY FLAVOR, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, NIACINAMIDE, COLOR ADDED, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), BHT (PRESERVATIVE). LESS THAN 0.5g TRANS FAT PER SERVING
Consistently eating highly-processed foods causes weight gain, fatigue and inactivity, and a short-term avoidance doesn’t reverse the effects.
Highly-processed foods can be intensely rewarding, overpowering the complex mechanisms that our bodies have built in to help us balance the amount of food we eat with the amount of food we need. Food manufacturers work hard to make the foods they produce as desirable as possible. Fatty, sweet and salty attributes trick our brains and we eat more than we need. Companies even advertise that fact—you can’t eat just one, can’t get enough, and nobody can say no. These foods are processed to the point that they are no longer like anything you find in nature. To top it off, they’re in bright packages, highly accessible, priced right and ultra-convenient.