The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines “processed food” as “any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration, or milling.” By this definition, most food can be considered processed.

For purposes of this article though, when I say “processed food” I mean food that has been altered with artificial ingredients, fillers and chemical additives.

Because this is the stuff that’s making us fat, causing disease and taking years off our lives.

Read these 10 facts about processed food and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Let’s dig in.

70 percent of our calories now come from processed food.

It’s a sad fact that 7 out of every 10 foods that touch your mouth are altered with chemical ingredients, according to Melanie Warner, a former New York Times reporter who authored the book Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal.

Processed food is addictive.

There’s a reason you can’t stop eating all those sugary, salty snacks: they’re designed to keep you coming back. Processed foods stimulate dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that lights up your brain in similar ways that drugs do. Food companies know this … and they actually engineer their products to have this effect. Journalist Michael Moss says in his book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us:

Some of the largest companies are now using brain scans to study how we react neurologically to certain foods, especially to sugar. They’ve discovered that the brain lights up for sugar the same way it does for cocaine.

Processed food is plentiful.

In Pandora’s Lunchbox, Melanie Warner talks about how there are now close to 5,000 additives allowed in our food. This number continues to grow year after year, too.

Processed foods have disgusting ingredients.

  • Titanium dioxide, which is commonly used in paints and sunscreens, is also found in many salad dressings, coffee creamers and cake icing.
  • One of the key ingredients in many canned and fast food chili is silicon dioxide, also known as sand.
  • Lanolin, an oily substance found in sheep’s wool, is an additive used in chewing gum.
  • Cellulose, which is actually ground-up wood pulp, is often used as an anti-caking agent in bagged cheeses.
  • Sodium bisulfite, a toilet bowl cleaning chemical, is also used in potato chips.

Processed food will kill you.

Perhaps most troubling is the fact that eating a diet high in processed foods has been proven to take years off your life. Pretty good incentive to eat more real food, if you ask me.

Processed foods will make you fat.

Research shows the “Western Diet”, which is prevalent in countries like the U.S., Great Britain and Australia, will make you fat. Potato chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined grains, and sugary snacks, in particular, are the four processed foods that cause you to gain the most weight over time.

Processed foods have been a root cause of nearly every modern disease.

A comprehensive research review of 172 clinical studies published in the Journal of American Clinical Nutrition concluded that virtually all chronic diseases are partially caused by our modern diet of engineered foods.

Eating processed foods will make it harder for you to burn calories.

Eating a diet high in processed food causes your body to burn fewer calories—50 percent fewer, to be exact.

Processed foods cause imbalances in your gut.

The microorganisms living in your digestive tract form an important “inner ecosystem” that influences many aspects of your health. Processed foods disrupt the microorganisms in your digestive tract, which can lead to serious problems.

Processed meats may cause cancer.

Bacon, ham, pastrami, salami, pepperoni, hot dogs, and sausages may be delicious … but the effects of eating these processed meats can be devastating. Studies show eating them can significantly increase your odds of developing heart disease and type II diabetes and may take years off your life.

If these 10 things sound like good reasons to stop eating processed foods, start working on changing those bad habits into good ones. Take it slow, phase out one food at a time and you’ll change your health and your life.

Featured photo credit: Let Ideas Compete via flickr.com

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