Most people have a general idea that processed foods might not be particularly healthy for them. If you are committed to living a healthy life, you probably have some basic understanding that an apple is probably better than its more processed cousin, store bought applesauce. If you have ever wondered why this is, look no further.
As a general term, “processed” simply refers to the amount of work which has gone into changing a food away from its basic, raw, form. This can be something as basic as cooking, cutting, or grinding, or something as complicated as chemical processing. And not all processing is harmful. But there are two trends you will see with highly processed foods: loads of additives, and oversaturation of nutrients.
When food is processed, there are often a number of different chemicals and compounds which are added in order to achieve a certain result. Preservatives might be added to a product to increase its shelf life. Dyes might be added to increase its appeal to potential buyers. Additionally, there is often a large amount of sweetener added. All of these things are engineered to make the product cheaper to produce and store, while simultaneously being easier to sell. Unfortunately, all of these extra ingredients can be bad for your health. The human body is used to consuming things with minimal processing, and all of its machinery functions best when it is getting fed food which is in its natural state.
The second problem with processed foods is the over saturation of nutrients. When we eat things, there is a significant energy investment put forth by our body to digest the food and extract the nutrients within. Over processed food can end up incredibly dense in calories. Our bodies are not used to this, and there can be serious problems. One method our bodies have for detecting how “full” we are is via a sensor which detects distension in the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. However, this is a system based on the mass of food consumed. If we eat food which is more dense in calories, may not feel full until we have eaten many more calories than our body requires. These dense foods are also likely to have very high glycemic load, which means that they are likely to raise our blood sugar a lot. With these two factors combined, it is no surprise that we have seen huge increases in the diabetes cases worldwide in recent years. So, next time you are at the grocery store, try to eat something which will fit more naturally into the digestive cycle.