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Processing the Dangers of Processed Foods

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Statements such as “respect the process”, or “trust the process”, are motivational quotes to help people going through challenging times. It’s also used to help someone who may not be seeing the full picture of what is in front of them, and in time, they will understand why enduring was all part of the process.

When it comes to food, the meaning of “processed”, is not as positive. Most foods today are processed in some way. The main culprit when it comes to food is referred to as “ultra-processed”. Associated health conditions include an increased risk of various cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Obesity, stroke and early death are also among the deadly gifts which come along with the consistent consumption of ultra-processed foods.

Some studies have compared ultra-processed food to being as addictive and unhealthy as cigarette smoking. An effective way to break the addiction to ultra-processed food is through a lifestyle of fasting, and intermittent fasting, as we mentioned in last week’s article entitled, “Benefits of Fasting”.

Let’s dig deeper into the world of processed foods.

Some may think that anything processed is bad for your health, which isn’t accurate. Foods may go through a minimal process before it’s consumed and still be healthy for you.

The way that we identify different levels of processing food today is by using a system called The NOVA food classification system. It categorizes groups of food according to the level and extent of processing they undergo. The system is recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as well as the Pan-American Health Organization.

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The NOVA system has four categories:

1. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods

2. Processed Culinary Ingredients

3. Processed foods

4. Ultra-processed food and drink products

Unprocessed or minimally processed foods include vegetables, fruits, nuts and meat that haven’t had any preservatives or additive treatments. Also roasting, boiling, or pasteurization to extend shelf life. Most consider food in the oven, and stovetop under the unprocessed umbrella.

Culinary ingredients like oils from plants, olive oil, flour and salt are all minimally processed foods. Refining, grinding and milling are all included in this second group. You will find this category is mainly used in everyday cooking and preparing foods.

Processed foods: In this section, you have things such as cheeses, bread and the canning of fruits, vegetables and fish. Foods in this category are usually made from about two or three ingredients. Salt, sugar, and fat may be added to this category as well.

Ultra-processed foods. This category contains little food if any. The purpose of this food is convenience, low cost, long shelf life and mass production. These foods are engineered to be addictive and hyper-palatable, with high fat, salt and sugars. This is the category that is linked to various health conditions including dementia, cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

Some people find the Nova list to even be too lenient in how they index foods.

Artificial sweeteners, preservatives and protein enzymes all contribute to the dangers of the industrialized process. One sign of an item being ultra-processed is the lengthy ingredient list you will find on the side of the box or packaging. 

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Examples of ultra-processed foods are fast food, cold cuts, soft drinks and packaged cookies, just to name of few. Processed foods make up close to 70% of the U.S. diet, and one in four Americans eat fast food daily.

When you look at animals in their natural habitat, they all eat food that is healthy for them. Cows eat grass. Fish eat the natural food that is healthy for them, and eagles, wolves and elephants consume what benefits and sustains them without harming them.

We’re the ones that eat “foods” that are cancer agents, even when we’re made aware of it. Hopefully, this article contributes to us having a better process. 

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