Feeding yourself or your family has become increasingly more complicated over the years. More and more food options become available each day, and it can be hard to discern which ones it is a good idea to invest in. The unfortunate truth is that the majority of the food items available at the supermarket are processed in some way, and many of them do more harm than good to your body.
Buying food for yourself or for your family really is an investment- an investment into your health and future. Avoiding certain highly processed foods is the way to go when it comes to grocery shopping. You may be familiar with the phrase “shop on the edges of the store,” which sometimes helps you to avoid many of the unhealthy types of food. Produce is on the edge of store, but so is the frozen section.Overly simplified rules of thumb aren’t the best way to go, though they may be a good start. The best way to provide healthy food for yourself or your family is to learn what to avoid.
Below you will discover the nine major groups of processed foods that you find readily available at any grocery store, and show you why they are not worth your time or money. Keep in mind that many of these foods are not inherently unhealthy, but rather are processed, packaged, and stored in a way that puts them on the “Do Not Invest” list.
1. Canned Beans
Dry beans are one of the healthiest foods that you can eat. They have so many beneficial molecules in them: vitamins, minerals, protein, phytochemicals, complex carbohydrates, flavonoids, et cetera. Beans have components that help fight diseases like high cholesterol and cancer. So why are they on this list? The key word here is canned. Canned beans are not the same as dry beans, and are not as healthy. Dry beans are actually cheaper, healthier, and better overall. The only downside is that they take longer to prepare, but remember that it is important to invest in your health.
Canned beans make the list because of what is added to them and how they are processed. Obviously, the juice in the can contains preservatives and other chemicals that make it possible for the beans to sit there in the can until they are used. In addition, the way they are cooked often depletes their nutrient content. Canned beans are higher in sodium than dry beans are, and many people’s diets these days are already far too high in sodium. Canned beans also contribute to waste and pollution simply because they are in cans. One last point regarding this food is that there is a chance of being exposed to BPA if you consume it. The chemical exists in the can itself, and so may be present in the food within the can. BPA is thought to potentially cause health issues, some as severe as hormonal cancers.
2. Fruit Juice and Vegetable Juice
The truth about store bought fruit and vegetable juice is that many scientists and doctors see them as just as bad for you as soda. There have been studies done that show the effects of frequent fruit juice consumption on the body, and they actually mimic the effects of frequent soda consumption. Fruit juice and vegetable juice are both great to drink, and offer antioxidants, vitamins, and other beneficial molecules. However, they do fall in line with the processing trend: once the juice is processed and has received added ingredients like sugar and preservatives, it is no longer nearly as good for you as fresh juice. If you want juice, it’s best to buy a juicer and your own fresh fruits and vegetables.
There’s a lot you can do with a juicer, and it can be very useful for getting picky eaters to eat their fruits and veggies. The juice tends to be very strong and sweet, and it has very powerful health benefits if consumed regularly. Store bought juices do contain antioxidants and such, but there not nearly as many as there are in fresh juice, and they are outweighed by the negative factors of the pre-packaged product.
Most people are aware that probiotics are seen as very good for you, and that yogurt is one of the most commonly consumed sources of probiotics. This is true; probiotics help keep your digestive tract healthy. Yogurt may not be bad, but it also may not be good. First of all, yogurt contains lactose. Most adults are at least partially lactose intolerant, and so consuming dairy often leads to discomfort. Dairy products also may be under the influence of antibiotics and additives, and are rather processed.
However, there are types of yogurt that are less healthy than others. If you buy yogurt, make sure that it only contains cultured milk and bacteria. If you see ingredients like aspartame or other artificial sweeteners, you should avoid that product. Also, make sure that the container specifies that there are live and active cultures inside. If not, then there is not much point in eating the yogurt to begin with, as it will do little for your digestive health. One way that you can have yogurt that is on the healthier side is to make it yourself. As a side note, other sources of probiotics include miso, kimchi, and tempeh.
4. Packaged Meat
Most of the packaged meat that you find at the supermarket can be quite harmful to your health. This is true mainly due to heavy processing and the amount of additives that packaged meats contain. Some of the harmful ingredients in packaged meats are antibiotics, preservatives, and hormones. Consuming too many antibiotics can lead to health issues like Candida Overgrowth and even antibiotic resistance, meaning that if you become very sick and truly need antibiotics, your body won’t respond to them very well.
Preservatives are simply unneeded chemicals, and it is best to avoid those. Often times, packaged meats contain a lot of sodium to help them last longer, and extra salt is not something that you want in your diet. A lot of meat also contains hormones; this is because the animals are sometimes given hormones to make them grow bigger and fatter so that they produce more meat. Theses hormones in turn are present in the meat itself, and can produce unwanted effects in the human body if they are consumed. Hormones in meat and dairy products have been linked to issues such as very early puberty in children. Meat that is packaged to have a long shelf life often contains 30% or more juice, rather than meat itself.
Chicken stock and beef stock are fairly commonly used items, but they are usually packed with sodium, artificial flavors, and preservatives. MSG can be found in many brands, and has been linked with health issues. Other types of stock include fish stock and ham stock. While the sodium and preservative content in the stock is the main reason why it’s not a great item to buy, store bought stock is also made using low-quality meats.
One common method is soaking a leftover bone that still has a bit of meat on it, or using meat scraps. You can make your own stock using higher quality meat and less sodium and preservatives. Making it yourself also allows you to add whatever spices and herbs you desire, which adds antioxidants and other healthy qualities to it. It won’t become a healthy food because you make it yourself, but at least you can eliminate things like MSG from what you’re eating.
6. Ranch Dressing
Ranch is technically a salad dressing, but it is used for so many other things as well. Unfortunately, it is among the least healthy dressings on the market. It has high fat content, hydrogenated oils, sodium, and MSG. Mayonnaise is one ingredient of ranch that is unhealthy on its own. This dressing is high in calories, coming out to nearly 100 calories per ounce. In this same ounce, there are over 300mg of sodium and about 9 grams of fat, which is a whole lot for a tiny glob of dressing.
To provide some perspective, 1,500mg of sodium is the daily limit as per the American Heart Association’s recommendation. It’s not like ranch is ever consumed in 1-ounce quantities, but rather in much larger amounts. Whether it’s being drizzled on a salad or being used as a dipping sauce, it’s much more likely that quite a few ounces will be used at a time. To go along with its high fat, calorie, sodium, and MSG content, ranch provides very few beneficial things like vitamins and minerals. It may taste good, but if you weigh the pros and cons, ranch clearly belongs on the Do Not Invest list.
7. Packaged Sandwiches
Sandwiches that you find pre-packaged at the store are often made and wrapped up somewhere far away from the store itself. Therefore, these sandwiches need to contain ingredients that will allow them to last long enough to get to the store and await being purchased. Obviously, all of the ingredients in sandwiches are already processed to begin with, and even more harmful ingredients are added to pre-packaged sandwiches. They are almost always very high in sodium, which is already something that most people need to be reducing in their diet. They are also high in saturated fats, which are one of the worst kinds of fat.
Most packaged sandwiches have white bread, which is a highly processed, refined product that is dyed white. Mayonnaise, another unhealthy ingredient, is a commonly found as well because it contains a lot of fat and adds taste to the sandwich. American cheese in particular is one of the most common cheeses in pre-packaged sandwiches because it is high in fat and sodium, adding taste to the sandwich. American cheese is highly processed and is produced to have a high shelf life, so it’s a good fit for sandwiches that will sit on a shelf for a while at the store.
8. Microwave Popcorn
Microwave popcorn exists because it is very convenient and easy. This is another one of those products that has potentially harmful ingredients that could easily be avoided if you made the food yourself. Microwave popcorn is obviously high in sodium, but it also contains some chemicals that most people aren’t aware of. One of these is PFOA, which has been linked to cancer and thyroid disease, both of which can be deadly.
This chemical is classified as a carcinogen. It seems that the chemical becomes the most harmful when it is heated up, such as by a microwave. This chemical is not in the popcorn itself, but rather in the bag. It’s similar to the problem with canned beans; the food inside the package becomes exposed to the harmful chemical that helps make up the packaging itself. Another harmful chemical in popcorn is diacetyl, which has been known to cause lung problems in people who manufacture popcorn. It is released into the air when the popcorn is popped, and is potentially harmful. If you eat popcorn on a regular basis, it can affect your lung health over time. Lastly, microwave popcorn has artificial colors and flavorings, which are best avoided in any food you eat.
9. Functional Water
Vitamin water is last on our list of foods you should not buy. It seems like a good idea on the outside, but it actually contains quite a few unneeded ingredients, especially preservatives. Vitamin water does indeed contain vitamins, and decent amounts of them at that. However, it also contains sugar, carbohydrates, and sodium, in addition to artificial flavoring, artificial coloring, and preservatives. For most bottles of functional water, the first ingredient is water, and the second ingredient is sugar. Most bottles seem to give sugar a fancy name to disguise it, such as crystalline fructose, which simply means solid sugar. Vitamin water may not be particularly harmful in small amounts, though it depends on which type you get, because the artificial ingredients and preservatives vary. What is true for all variations of functional water is that it is, in essence, pointless sugar water. It isn’t worth the money, and you can get natural vitamins by eating healthy foods every day.
Hopefully, it is clear why these foods are on the “Do Not Invest” list. Some people genuinely argue that many of the highly processed options should not even count as food. While they may be edible, purchasable, and not cause immediate sickness, they do not provide many beneficial molecules (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, et cetera), and can actually cause long-term health issues. Most people have probably experienced stomach discomfort because of something they ate; it seems that a lot of the time, this is simply because the human digestive system was not built to deal with food in such a processed state.
Over time, eating unhealthy foods can lead to long-term changes in your digestive system, and in other parts of the body as well. People who consume a plethora of processed foods on a regular basis tend to have more health issues later in life, such as diabetes and heart disease.Many of the foods on this list can be bought in a more natural state in which they actually have nutritional value. Work towards buying the healthiest, least processed foods that you can find, and always invest in your health and your future.
Now that you have learned about the 9 packaged foods to avoid, you might want to find out the 4 foods to never eat for breakfast.. Go to the next page to access the research on the 4 foods to never eat for breakfast.
About the Author:
Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice.
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