Processed foods serve your taste buds but not your health. They can make you fatter, sicker, and most probably shorten your lifespan.
How often do you eat out or binge on your favorite fast foods? Have you ever thought how eating unhealthy processed foods could be wreaking havoc on your health?
Obesity or excess body weight is just one of the most well-known effects of frequent consumption of foods that are high in calories, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats. In fact, the spare tires on your abdomen could just be the tip of the iceberg.
Recently, a study published in the journal Cell found that the Western Diet could be as bad as an infection when it comes to triggering an overwhelming immune response.
A Quick Overview of Processed Foods
Processed foods are those, which have undergone multiple processes before they become available for consumption. For example, acidification, fridging, concentration, irradiation, concentration, and packaging.
Notably, the food processing does not end here. Manufacturers add different types of ingredients such as sweeteners, spices, oils, colors, flavors, and preservatives in order to enhance safety, visual appeal, and palatability.
As a result, what you get are the foods that are high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and salt. Some examples of processed foods include soft drinks, cookies, salty snacks, French fries, and processed meats.
Here is a list of processed foods to avoid.
So why are processed foods bad? We have seen a growing body of evidence from frequent consumption of processed foods.
7 Effects of Processed Foods You Should not Ignore
1. They Can Make You Fatter
It goes without saying that heavily processed foods are high in “empty” calories, the energy that is devoid of essential nutrients.
When you consume more calories than you spend, you will be more likely to store the excess energy in the form of body fat. Simply put, taking in processed foods significantly increases your risk of obesity.
Over time, the fats start accumulating around the internal organs and can lead to a host of serious diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
You would definitely not want those extra layers of fat to destroy your health and beauty. However, the good news is you can take action at any time to reclaim your health.
2. They Can Raise the Risk of Autoimmune Disorders
Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune cells mistake healthy cells for foreign particles and start destroying them. Examples include type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, and others.
According to a 2015 study published in the journal Autoimmunity Reviews, at least 7 additives found in processed foods are capable of weakening the intestinal barrier and make you more prone to develop autoimmune diseases.
You will be surprised to learn that sugars, salt, and gluten are among those harmful ingredients in processed foods.
For sure, you will think twice before taking things that irritate your body’s defense mechanism.
3. Processed Foods Are Highly Addictive
You are wrong if you think one can get addicted only to drugs, alcohol, and opioids. Food addiction is common yet only a few people actually know about it.
Like the addictive substances, processed foods, especially those high in sugar, give pleasurable feelings when you consume them. They do so by activating the so-called reward center of the brain.
Some study even suggests consuming high amounts of sugars and highly addictive cocaine activate the same areas of the brain responsible for the “highs”.
Your body naturally produces high amounts of the hormone leptin when you're full. In fact, leptin is crucial for weight loss as it restricts your calorie intake. But processed foods will overcome the hormone and make you desire for more potato chips after a huge dinner.
Want to curb the sugar addiction? Try gradually lowering the intake of sugary foods and drinks.
4. Trans Fats in Junk Food Boost Heart Disease Risk
In addition to adding pounds to your body, the unhealthy fats in processed foods increase the risk of heart disease.
Manufacturers often use hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are cheap and contain high amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids. These fats are notorious for increasing oxidative stress in the cells and promoting inflammation.
When you consume these unhealthy fats for prolonged periods, the risk of heart disease increases significantly.
Unhealthy fats make you fat and weaken your heart. So, when are you changing your diet to look and feel good again?
5. Cancer and Processed Foods Go Hand in Hand
When the news of the potential link between cancer risk and junk foods came to light, the fast-food generation was definitely not the happiest. However, we cannot deny the fact that overconsumption of sugary drinks and processed meats is closely linked to an increased risk of cancer.
A large study published in 2018 found that every 10 percent rise in the proportion of processed foods consumed could raise the cancer risk by 12 percent. The study was published in The British Medical Journal.
This study corroborates an earlier finding by the World Health Organization (WHO) - which concluded that the consumption of red meat and processed meat was a major risk factor for certain cancers.
Fighting cancer once it fully develops is not easy. Nevertheless, limiting processed foods is the best preventive measure you can take right now.
6. Sugars Will Never be "Too Sweet" to Your Brain
Though occasional sugar consumption can give you hyper-rewarding feelings, you cannot expect the same when you take them for longer periods.
A 2017 study found that taking more and more sweet foods and beverages resulted in an increased risk of depression.
The researchers believe that sugars have a detrimental effect on the brain protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Keep in mind that optimal BDNF levels are key to a good mood.
Another potential cause for low moods could be inflammatory conditions of the brain caused by high sugar levels in the body.
If you want to lift your mood and beat the blues, cut down on sugar-loaded processed foods.
7. Refined Sugars in Processed Foods Can Disrupt Your Gut Balance and Promote Inflammation
Harming the friends in the gut will surely hurt your health in more ways than you can ever imagine and sadly, some problems can last a lifetime.
The gut health plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health such as regulating the immune function, reducing inflammation and is important for weight loss. In addition, it is increasingly becoming clear that the friendly bacteria in the gut could hold the key to several mental illnesses.
Carbs are the major source of energy for the friendly bacteria. Unfortunately, the carbs in processed foods are “simple”, meaning they are low in fiber.
Dietary fiber is essential for the survival and growth of bacteria in the gut. Understandably, when you consume simple carbs that contain very little fiber, the friendly bacteria cannot grow properly. This increases your risk of obesity and other health problems like heart disease, hormone imbalance, increased inflammation, and diabetes.
As a whole, processed foods have a huge tendency to cause inflammation and poor gut health with its additives and chemicals.
They sabotage your weight loss efforts by tricking your brain into believing that you have not eaten enough.
Cutting down on the consumption of processed foods and taking more natural foods is the best way to go.
While processed foods are bad for your health, there is actually a bigger cause of obesity that has been recently revealed. Scientists have been researching on a much deeper root cause of obesity, which has been causing millions of Americans to fail at weight loss. And they have been working on a formulation that has helped their patients to drop BMI.