By Dr. Mercola
I have long stated that if you want to be optimally healthy, you should spend 90 percent of your food budget on whole foods, and only 10 percent on processed foods. Unfortunately most Americans currently do the opposite, and their health suffers as a result.
With most foods, the closer they are to nature, the better. It’s possible to have some processed foods that are still healthy; for instance, frozen green beans have been “processed” as has butter, grass-fed ground beef, or freshly prepared almond butter.
In most cases, however, the term “processed food” refers to those that are chemically processed and made from heavily refined ingredients and artificial additives. Such processed foods are the bane of Western civilizations’ diets.
9 Reasons Processed Foods May Make You Sick and Fat
1. Processed Foods Are High in Sugar and/or High Fructose Corn Syrup
This isn’t only a matter of “empty calories” causing you to gain weight without getting proper nutrition. Excess sugar consumption is linked to insulin resistance, high triglycerides, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
Refined fructose, typically in some form of corn syrup, is now found in virtually every processed food you can think of, and fructose actually “programs” your body to consume more calories and store fat.
Fructose is primarily metabolized by your liver, because your liver is the only organ that has the transporter for it. Since all fructose gets shuttled to your liver, and, if you eat a typical Western-style diet, you consume high amounts of it, fructose ends up taxing and damaging your liver in the same way alcohol and other toxins do.
And just like alcohol, fructose is metabolized directly into fat – it gets stored in your fat cells, which can lead to mitochondrial malfunction, obesity, and obesity-related diseases, especially if you are insulin or leptin resistant.
The more fructose or HFCS a food contains, and the more total fructose you consume, the worse it is for your health. As a standard recommendation, I advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day.
For most people it would also be wise to limit your fructose from fruit to 15 grams or less, as you’re virtually guaranteed to consume “hidden” sources of fructose if you drink beverages other than water and eat processed food.
It’s important to realize that added sugar (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup) is not confined to junky snack foods or sweets; it’s also common in savory processed foods.
For example, most of Prego’s spaghetti sauces have one common feature and that is sugar — it’s the second largest ingredient, right after tomatoes. A half-cup of Prego Traditional contains the equivalent of more than two teaspoons of sugar!
2. Processed Foods Are Designed to Make You Overeat
Your body is designed to naturally regulate how much you eat and the energy you burn. But food manufacturers have figured out how to over-ride these intrinsic regulators, designing processed foods that are engineered to by “hyper-rewarding.”
According to the “food reward hypothesis of obesity,” processed foods stimulate such a strong reward response in our brains that it becomes very easy to overeat. One of the guiding principles for the processed food industry is known as “sensory-specific satiety.”
Investigative reporter Michael Moss describes this as “the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm your brain.” The greatest successes, whether beverages or foods, owe their “craveability” to complex formulas that pique your taste buds just enough, without overwhelming them, thereby overriding your brain’s inclination to say “enough.”
“Vanishing calorie density” is another term used to describe foods that melt in your mouth, which has the effect of making your brain think it doesn’t contain any calories. End result — you keep eating. Cheetos is one such example. In all, potato chips are among the most addictive junk foods on the market, containing all three bliss-inducing ingredients: sugar (from the potato), salt, and fat.