The Price of Convenience: The Dangers of Packaged and Processed Foods

The human body has one general purpose: to take in nutrients and change them into energy. The more we ask our bodies to do, the more energy it requires in order to do it. In today’s hectic and fast-paced world, our bodies need an ever-increasing amount of nutrients and energy to make it through the day.

Most people today do not have the time to plan and cook a nutritional meal and instead are comfortable relying on packaged or processed foods as an alternative. Unfortunately, processed and packaged foods, including some that are considered “healthy”, contain a variety of dangerous substances that are more harmful to our bodies than they are beneficial.

If you have to resort to eating processed and packaged foods, here are four ingredients to look out for on food labels:

Artificial Dyes and Colors

At one point or another, everyone has heard the story of red M&M’s being blamed for causing cancer. Though most people agree that this is nothing more than an urban legend, there is an air of truth associated with the dangers of artificial dyes. Synthetic dyes and colors have no known nutritional value, and over the years many have been banned after experts have determined that they had carcinogenic properties. Artificial food coloring is used mostly in food aimed at young children, especially in cereals, ice cream, fruit drinks, and even medicines. Today, artificial dyes are being looked at as the cause of everything from allergies to Autism. The best option for parents is to carefully select food that either contains no dyes or are made with no artificial dyes.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup

High-fructose corn syrup is an affordable way for food manufacturers to sweeten their products. Besides its cost-effectiveness, high-fructose corn syrup tastes sweeter, and as a result, often makes its way into foods that are popular with young people.

Unfortunately, high-fructose corn syrup has a negative effect on the body’s metabolism, liver function, insulin production, and has even been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. Foods, including some that are considered “healthier” alternatives, are often full of high-fructose corn syrup. The next time you plan a backyard barbecue, consider making room for one more guest, as this artificial sweetener is found in everything from hamburger buns and frozen burger patties to beer, ketchup, and soft drinks.

Salt

Most of the salt that people consume today comes from processed and packaged foods, including canned soups and vegetables, condiments, preserved meats, and fast-food. Salt is important for the human body to function properly, and is responsible for the regulation of blood pressure and general muscle contraction. Most of the salt that humans need, in order to function properly, is easily obtained through non-processed foods.

Adding salt to the diet, knowingly or otherwise, does more damage than good to the human body. Increased levels of salt can cause the body to retain water, blood pressure levels to increase, and arteries to shrink. The normal amount of salt that should be consumed is less than 1,750 milligrams of sodium per day, so read those Nutrition Facts labels carefully.

Trans-Fats

There was a time when trans-fats were considered a healthier (and affordable) alternative to lard, butter, and oils. Today, trans-fats are known to be more dangerous to your heart than saturated fats. Some statistics suggest that more than 30,000 deaths related to heart disease can be blamed on the trans-fats found in baked goods, microwave foods, fast foods, and even margarine.

The common misconception is that cholesterol is bad for the body. There are however two forms of cholesterol, LDL, and HDL. Trans-fats have been shown to increase the amount of “bad” LDL cholesterol while at the same time decreasing the levels of HDL cholesterol. Trans-fats have also been found to increase the levels of triglycerides, which can contribute the clogging of the body’s arteries.

Trans-fats are listed on the Nutrition Facts section of foods, but not always as “trans-fats”. When checking labels, look for several trans-fats aliases, including terms like partially hydrogenated, fractionated and hydrogenated.

It is easy for individuals today to make the decision to sacrifice nutritional value for convenience. In most cases, this means settling for packaged and processed foods. Though it is almost impossible to ask an individual to completely eliminate processed and packaged foods from their diets, taking the time to read the labels to identify unwanted and unhealthy ingredients can be beneficial to the health of everyone involved.


 

 

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