By Jordyn Cormier
We are all guilty of craving processed foods at one point or another. It’s nearly impossible not to.
Processed foods have been chemically engineered to make us crave them. Packed like bite-sized grenades that explode with off-the-charts flavor, it’s well-known that processed foods can cause us to overeat and experience uncontrollable cravings. But, that’s not all.
Foods that have been chemically processed or highly refined can mess with the healthy workings of your body. Here are five areas of your body that processed foods affect.
Excess sugar in the diet, which often comes from highly refined grains and sugars in processed foods, can encourage the degradation of collagen and elastin in your skin. This leads to a loss of firmness, loss of elasticity and an onslaught of premature sagging and wrinkles. On top of that, the inflammation that sugar causes in the body can aggravate conditions like acne and rosacea. Natural, whole foods, like sweet potatoes or bone broth, can enhance the skin’s appearance by boosting collagen and elastin production.
Highly processed ingredients may be killing off the beneficial flora in your gut. In conducting unpublished research for a book, one man discovered claims to have lost 1,300 species of gut flora after eating only McDonald’s for ten days. While this is an extreme scenario, over time, regular consumption of processed foods could have the same toxic effect. Certain food preservatives can also have an inflammatory effect in the gut, which may lead to conditions such as IBS. Since gut microbes seem to be increasingly responsible for obesity, memory function, immune function and more, it’s important not to subject them to an unfriendly, highly processed environment.
Exposure to plastic chemicals, including BPAs and phthalates, can cause hormonal havoc in the body. Since all processed foods come swaddled in plenty of plastic, all those plastic chemicals could be steadily accumulating in your body. A recent study showed that consumption of fast food was correlated with increased exposure to industrial chemicals known as phthalates. Unfortunately, exposure to these chemicals can have a disruptive impact on your hormones and health, as they seep into the body easily and kick out the body’s natural hormones from places they need to be. Avoid packaged foods as often as possible, especially if your hormones are already imbalanced.
Consumption of artificially sugar-packed foods may also be responsible for the chemical changes in the brain that can lead to depression. The brain can become addicted to the high-octane pleasure it gets from consuming that artificial flavor punch of most processed foods. When it doesn’t get its “fix,” feelings of depression can take hold. Processed food consumption may also increase the risk of memory problems and reduce your ability to control your appetite. The refined ingredients are simply not nourishing for your mind. Instead, eat some healthy fats from avocado or salmon to keep your memory and brain function strong as you age.
5. Blood Sugar
The hidden sugars (especially corn syrup) in many processed foods are responsible for the influx of obesity and diabetes in our population. In the short term, high sugar consumption causes insulin resistance in the body, which is when the body must create more and more insulin in order to affect cells. Insulin resistance is at the root of many modern diseases, including Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, diabetes and heart disease. Processed foods are often highly refined and have very high GIs, which contributes to insulin resistance. Consume whole foods that contain fiber, protein and wholesome fats to balance out natural sugars rather than crunching on addictive, unsatisfying refined carbohydrates when you need a snack.
Needless to say, highly refined, processed foods also encourage your body to hold on to excess weight in unhealthy areas, such as the waistline. Eating mostly a whole foods diet with very limited to no processed foods is paramount to health and happiness. Putting your health first when it comes to diet will pay off in the long run.