All you have to do is watch an hour of TV to see the many forms of advertising related to selling food. These ads promote processed items that are often imbued with excess amounts of sugar, sodium, fat, and other harmful additives and preservatives. It’s no surprise that people enjoy these foods – our tastebuds are tuned to enjoy sweet and salty flavors.
The problem is that most people don’t realize the damage these items can cause. Processed sugar might just be the single most harmful ingredient in modern food. And yet, Americans continue to consume mass quantities of sugar, sodium, harmful fats, chemicals, and other ingredients common to processed foods as though they are equal to fresh and nutritious alternatives.
This hidden type of consumption disorder plays a major role in the high numbers of patients suffering from heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer, not to mention the spike in chronic diseases. You are what you eat, or so the saying goes, and if your diet is high in fast food, bread (and other carbs), and sweets, it’s no wonder your health is poor.
What do these foods do to your body? How can you tell the bad from the good? How can you get on track with healthier eating habits? Here is some valuable information to set you on the right path.
Remember the old food pyramid? In addition to portions for grains, meats, dairy, and fruits and vegetables it had a section for allowed amounts of sweets. If you go to the revamped food pyramid website today at ChooseMyPlate.gov you’ll find that this designation no longer exists.
Why? Because added sugar has no health benefits. It is nothing more than empty calories, it damages tooth enamel, and it can cause all kinds of health problems.
Too much added sugar in your diet can not only mess with your metabolism and lead to weight gain (and all the side effects that come with carrying excess weight), but it’s also difficult for your body to digest. In the immediate sense, this can make you feel bloated, gassy, and, after an initial burst of energy, sluggish and depressed.
The effects can be much worse in the long-term. Excess sugar in the diet can be a major contributor to the onset of liver disease, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It is also addictive due to the dopamine effect it has on the brain, so having a little will make you want more.
Consuming processed sugar is a vicious cycle that can irreparably damage your health, as more and more healthcare professionals and consumers are coming to realize.
It’s not unnatural to crave sugar, and in truth, there’s nothing stopping you from adding something sweet to your diet. Just make sure to reach for the natural sugars found in fruits and some veggies instead of harming your health with processed alternatives.
It’s true that our bodies need some amount of sodium to regulate fluid balance and blood pressure. Unfortunately, most people far exceed the needed amount and even the recommended dietary allowance (RDA), or daily value (DV) if you’re looking at food labels, for sodium determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Consuming excess amounts of sodium can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease, which is why doctors generally recommend low-sodium diets to patients suffering from these ailments.
By now we’ve all heard the warnings about trans fats, and yet, many people continue to consume fast food and other processed items containing these harmful ingredients. You might ask why.
There are two reasons. First, many people simply don’t take the initiative to learn which foods contain harmful or excessive levels of fats. Second, they taste good.
The problem is that the instant gratification you gain from scarfing fries and a fast food burger are going to result in long-term health problems that will eventually impact your quality of life, and potentially shorten your lifespan.
Making Healthy Choices
If you’re interested in changing your eating habits and making healthier choices, the process begins by reading and understanding labels. When you look at a nutrition label, check the percentages for DV. You’ll be shocked by how many products contain a significant percentage of your DV of sodium, sugar, and/or fat.
Don’t forget to read the ingredient list, with the understanding that it can be deceptive. Instead of sugar, you’re likely to see ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. Yes, it is sugar, and one of the most harmful kinds.
If you don’t know what something is, look it up instantly on your smartphone. If there are ingredients you can’t pronounce or you don’t know what they are, just put the package down and look for something else.
When you truly understand what’s hiding in the foods you consume and the effects it can have on your body, it’s a lot easier to make the switch to healthier fare. Learning to eat right can be difficult because you may be fighting habits that are ingrained. However, it’s well worth the effort. You’ll feel better and lead a healthier life as a result.