Processed Foods – Do You Know What’s In Them?

There has been a lot in the press recently about processed foods and what goes into them. It’s really great that the media and people are beginning to take an interest in what actually goes into their foods and the impact it can have on your health.

 The rule I try to live by, (and I’m not perfect, I did buy a packet of dark chocolate McVitie’s digestives yesterday and had two last night), is that if you can’t pronounce an ingredient and/or have no idea what it is; don’t eat it. I also make around 90% of my food from scratch, including my bread.

 I have recently been looking into vegan meal alternatives as veganism is so popular at the moment and was horrified when I read how Quorn is made.  A type of soil mould, not a mushroom, is grown in vats of water, whilst sugar and nitrogen are added to feed it.  Then synthetic vitamins are added to make it a ‘health food’.  Seitan, the new funky vegan alternative is made from pure gluten.  This is done by the wheat being washed until the only thing left is the gluten, which is then flavoured.  There is also a misconception that by being vegan you are automatically eating a healthier diet.  If you basically just eat fruit, vegetables, pulses, beans, legumes and seeds, then yes you are.  If you just switch meat/fish/diary for highly processed alternatives, with little vegetables, then you will fairly quickly become deficient in essential nutrients, causing ill health and internal inflammation.

It’s not only the meat alternatives that are highly processed and not good for you. Most ready meals/foods are not what you expect and contain a lot less goodness than you are led to believe. For example, Pasta N Sauce chicken and mushroom, doesn’t actually contain any chicken or mushroom in it, but extracts of the real thing to make it taste like it does.

Chemical substitutes are also used to lengthen shelf-life or to make the food have a texture that we love. For example, in most processed bread there is a non-essential amino acid called L-Cysteine or E920 which makes it lovely and squidgy; it’s made from duck feathers or human hair. It’s also in the pastry/dough of ready to eat foods like pizza.

 I’m not saying that you must never by food for convenience, what I am saying is try to be more aware of what you are eating.  Having a diet that is predominately made up of processed foods with ingredients in it that are chemical copies of the natural version, or an extract of part of a molecule, or full of chemical stabilisers, alongside sugar in its various forms means that there will be much higher levels of internal stress and inflammation. This happens because the body doesn’t recognise what it’s digesting and doesn’t know what to do with it. Having sugar in every meal because it’s added to the food to make it taste nice is also not good. This can be the starting point of all sorts of problems like obesity and type 2 diabetes. 

If you are able to eat a diet that is mainly made from whole foods – vegetables that you have cut up yourself, pulses and beans to get your protein, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan.  Your physical and mental health will be so much better.  People also tend to think that eating healthy is really expensive, but dried lentils etc are so cheap to buy and you can do so many things with them. Get to know your local markets where you can buy fruit and vegetables cheaply if you are on a tight budget. It’s actually not very hard to eat healthily on a small budget. It’s just about knowing what to buy.

 I know it’s possibly very easy for me to sit here saying this with my degree knowledge. But if you take the time at the weekend to sit down and plan what you are going to eat that week and to set some time aside to cook, you might be amazed at how easy it is to avoid all the processed foods that do so much harm

If you would like some diet advice, you can book in for a naturopathic nutrition consultation.

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