It is important to begin any discussion on food processing with the truth. Humans have always processed food in some way or another. You may hear people say things like: “Since food processing, everything has gone wild and wrong.”
However, processing food is uniquely human – something no other animal does. How weird would it be to see a bunch of lions chopping, soaking, drying and fermenting their food? Pretty strange indeed.
Processing food in a traditional manner serves two purposes: it helps to make food easier to digest and it also preserves it for times of need, something our ancestors always had at the forefront of their minds.
Old fashioned processed foods include such things as pemmican, hard sausage, dairy products including cheese, lacto-fermented foods, and wine and spirits, which all use nutritious raw ingredients and are processed in a way that does not disturb their nutritional content, even over long periods of time.
In addition, processing food in this manner kept money on the farm and in the farming communities – not in the pocket of major corporations.
With that said, it is also important to note that modern food processing bears little resemblance to traditional food processing. Even though both may involve some mechanical element – only modern food processing uses added chemicals.
Technology has pushed local artisanal processing to the side for heavy machinery and dangerous additives that strip food of its nutrients and impede digestion.
Modern food processing is dependent on sugar, white flour, processed oils, synthetic additives and high heat. Perhaps in some cases the process starts with a whole food, but what comes out at the end very rarely can be considered either wholesome or nutritious. It’s main claim to fame is that it makes a lot of money for those who produce it.
Here are 5 food processing evils that should convince you to stay away from processed foods:
If you had boxed cereal for breakfast, it was most likely made using a process known as extrusion. During this process, grains are mixed with water to created a mush that is placed in a machine known as an extruder.
The grains are forced through a tiny hole at a very high temperature with great pressure to shape the grains into flakes, shreds or cute little o’s. After shaping, the grains are sprayed with processed oil and refined sugar to protect the cereal from milk and keep it crunchy.
Biochemist and author of Fighting the Food Giants, Paul Stitt, tells us that when grain goes through the extrusion process it destroys nutrients and denatures the fatty acids. A particularly important amino acid, lysine, is also damaged during processing.
Don’t think that the boxed cereal found in health food stores is any better either; it is still typically made using the extrusion process.
Breakfast cereal is not the only processed food made with extrusion. Others include pasta, bread, ready-to-eat snacks, pre-made cookie dough, some baby foods and even some beverages.
The reason that we don’t hear much about extrusion in the food manufacturing business is because massive profits have allowed manufacturers to pay for lobbying efforts and journal sponsorships that have kept any negative industry research out of the public eye. In addition, manufacturers have convinced the government that there is no difference between natural raw materials and the product at the other end of the extrusion process.
Fact: Processed foods and beverages are the largest sources of added sugar in the modern diet – especially the very dangerous product, high fructose corn syrup. Over 40 percent of the non-calorie sweeteners used in the United States are made from high fructose corn syrup.
Drinks containing high fructose corn syrup have decreased almost 25 percent in price since 1985 while, sadly, the price of wholesome vegetables and fruits has gone up almost 40 percent. What kind of message is this sending to consumers?
Food manufacturers don’t want us to know what really happens to our bodies when we consume sugar. Most of us associate sugar with energy – and there is some truth in that – our body uses glucose as a source of energy, and glucose is found in sugar.
However, sugar is almost certainly the worst way to get glucose because it tends to cause a sugar ‘high’, which causes our bodies to get an insulin rush (to deal with the resulting sudden spike in blood sugar) and if this happens too frequently, we can easily develop a condition known as insulin resistance, which tends to lead to obesity – along with all sorts of other problems.
In addition, when sugar is consumed, the bond between glucose and fructose, the components of sugar, are broken and the fructose goes straight to the liver, where it is absorbed. If there is not an immediate need for energy, the fructose is stored as fat.
In addition, every time fructose is processed, hydrogen peroxide is released inside our cells. While hydrogen peroxide on a cut may be a good thing, it spells disaster to our cells. In fact, it kills our cells and accelerates the aging process.
Of course, the health implications of sugar are well documented.
Here are eleven reasons why you should avoid sugar completely:
- Sugar suppresses the immune system.
- Sugar elevates blood sugar.
- Sugar messes up your metabolism.
- Sugar disrupts mineral balance.
- Sugar disrupts digestion.
- Sugar causes tooth decay.
- Sugar contributes to obesity.
- Sugar can cause heart disease.
- Sugar can cause food allergies.
- Sugar can cause depression.
- Sugar increases the risk of certain cancers.
It is no mistake that junk/processed foods are designed to be super rewarding to the pleasure centers in our brain. Processed foods hijack our brain’s chemistry and cause a release of insane amounts of dopamine every time we eat the food.
Studies have clearly demonstrated that unique combinations of sugar, artificial ingredients and refined fat act the same way in the human body as cocaine.
Although some people joke about being a soda, cookie or chip junkie – the truth of the matter is very serious. Both physical and psychological problems begin to appear over time in people who struggle with food addiction. Some people hide their food consumption from others, they lie about it and they suffer from depression or damaged self-esteem.
Lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease may develop from eating such a high volume of nutrient deficient food, not to mention obesity. Most people do not realize that they are addicted, they just think that they have no willpower.
According to Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly, wheat is a “perfect chronic poison.” In September 2012, he told CBS This Morning that modern wheat is an “18-inch tall plant that was created by genetic research in the 1960s and ‘70s,” noting that it has many new features, including a new protein known as gliadin.
Davis says, “it’s not gluten. I’m not addressing people with gluten sensitivities and celiac disease. I’m talking about everybody else because everybody else is susceptible to the gliadin protein that is an opiate. This thing binds into the opiate receptors in your brain and in most people stimulates appetite, such that we consume 440 more calories per day, 365 days per year.”
Wheat is nothing like the 4 ½-foot tall “amber waves of grain” it used to be, but perhaps a distant relative. Davis says it is genetically and biochemically “light years” removed from the wheat of only four decades ago, but is now sold under the guise of “healthy whole grains.”
He believes that the consumption of wheat is responsible for an incredible amount of human illness, obesity and suffering on an unprecedented scale, which he discovered by accident in his quest to solve the dilemma of heart disease.
When you think of wheat you may think of bread and pasta, but what you may not know is that modern wheat is in thousands of processed foods such as licorice, soups, beer, french fries, candy, gravy, sauces, bullion cubes and even vegetables in sauce, just to name a few. The processed food industry uses wheat as a stabilizer, emulsifier, thickener and flow agent. The main reason they use it? Because it is very cheap.
According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), genetically modified organisms are present in 75 to 80 percent of processed foods. Because the FDA does not require these foods to be labelled, most people have no idea of the amount of GMOs they are ingesting.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) cautions doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients. Animal studies show organ damage, immune system disorders and gastrointestinal problems, along with accelerated aging and infertility, associated with genetically modified ingredients.
Human studies show that GM food residue lingers in the body and may cause long term damage. For example, genes injected into GM soy can transfer to the DNA in bacteria inside us, causing unpredictable metabolic consequences. Another example, toxic insecticides produced by GM corn has been found in the blood of pregnant women and unborn fetuses.There are countless other harmful effects of GM food residue.
Making matters worse, in a bold move which stands entirely against so much of our nation’s struggle for food labeling transparency, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has sent a letter to the FDA seeking approval to label their foods as “natural.”
The GMA includes over 300 large corporate brand names such as Campbell Soup Company, The Coca-Cola Company, Kraft Foods Group and McDonald’s Corporation, as well as biotech giants DuPont and Monsanto.
Part of the group’s letter to the FDA states, “there is nothing ‘synthetic or artificial’ about foods derived from biotechnology.”
While this may seem laughable to many, the scary thing is that the FDA does not have a strict definition for the term “natural.” On their website, the FDA writes:
“From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, the FDA has not developed a definition for the use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”
The only way to avoid these evils
There is just one thing that you need to do in order to avoid all of these dangerous food processing evils. That one thing is to eat REAL FOOD. Processed food is not real, it is chemically and mechanically altered in such a way that the body does not even recognize it.
The technical definition of food contains some very important words that help to determine if a substance has any real worth to the body. The words nourishing, life sustaining, energy and promotion of growth are all paramount to the definition of food.
If something has little or no nutritional value (that is that it cannot be broken down into usable energy), it is technically not food, it is just a substance. So, when we look at food with these lenses on we are quickly able to make some distinctions between what is best to eat and what is best left on the shelf.
Investigative journalist and health advocate Michael Pollan warns us to avoid anything that is an edible-like substance and stick to real food. He gives readers a list of rules for determining whether or not something has any nutritional value.
- If your grandmother or great grandmother would not recognize it as food, don’t eat it.
- If it has five or more ingredients, do not eat it.
- Shop on the perimeter of the grocery store.
- Don’t eat anything that won’t rot – apart from honey.
- If you cannot pronounce any of the ingredients, leave it on the shelf.
In her book, Real Food, author Nina Planck tells readers that real food is old, it has been eaten for a long time. Real food includes meat, fish and eggs. Real food, Planck says is also traditional. This means that fruits and vegetables are best when they are fresh, local and seasonal. Fats and oils should be unrefined, and food prepared in a traditional manner.
Real food is farmed, processed and prepared in ways that have been around for thousands of years. Real milk and real beef come from grass-fed cows that range free on pasture that is not tainted with pesticides or chemical fertilizers, real eggs come for hens that eat grubs, not grain, real lard is not processed, olive oil is cold pressed and tofu comes from fermented, organic non-GMO soybeans. Real food is the opposite of industrial (commercial) food.
In the book, Real Food For a Change, the authors take a stand for real food, noting that it is fresh, and grown locally without harmful chemicals or additives. We see a similar thread running through all of these thoughts on real food; it is as close to its natural state as possible and left that way.
Thoughts on organic
Going organic means playing it safe. In a country where over 80 percent of all foodstuffs contain GMOs, organic is one of the best forms of health insurance one can invest in. Switching to an organic diet relieves the health conscious of much anxiety. You know what you are getting, there are no surprises.
One caveat with organic foods is to watch your consumption of packaged organics. It is still far healthier to stick to whole foods than it is to anything boxed, bagged or canned.
-The Alternative Daily