Why Eating Processed Foods Might Make You Fat

People who followed a diet of ultra-processed foods ate about 500 more calories a day compared to when they ate a whole foods diet.

In recent years, many nutrition experts have linked the obesity epidemic to the spread of ultra-processed foods that are engineered to have a long shelf life and irresistible combinations of salt, sugar, fat and other additives.

These foods tend to make people overeat because they are full of refined carbohydrates, added sugars and fat that appeal to the human palate, experts say. Most of these foods, however, tend to lack fiber, protein, vitamins and other important nutrients.

Now a small but rigorous new study provides strong evidence that not only do these foods tend to make people eat more, but they also may result in dramatic and relatively rapid weight gain and have other detrimental health effects.

The research, published Thursday in the journal Cell Metabolism, found that people ate significantly more calories and gained more weight when they were fed a diet that was high in ultra-processed foods like breakfast cereals, muffins, white bread, sugary yogurts, low-fat potato chips, canned foods, processed meats, fruit juices and diet beverages. These foods caused a rise in hunger hormones compared to a diet that contained mostly minimally processed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, grilled chicken, fish and beef, and whole grains, nuts and seeds.

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Nine Ways That Processed Foods are Harming People

The word “processed” often causes some confusion, so let me clarify what I mean.

Obviously, most foods we eat are processed in some way. Apples are cut from trees, ground beef has been ground in a machine and butter is cream that has been separated from the milk and churned.

But there is a difference between mechanical processing and chemical processing.

If it’s a single ingredient food with no added chemicals, then it doesn’t matter if it’s been ground or put into a jar. It’s still real food.

However, foods that have been chemically processed and made solely from refined ingredients and artificial substances, are what is generally known as processed food.

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Is Your Food Putting you at Risk for Cancer?

Whether you’re grilling or cooking, health expert says you could be causing your body more harm than good. “Chemicals are formed when you cook meat, whether it’s chicken, beef or poultry over high heat. So frying it in a pan or grilling it in an open flame. These chemicals are called HCA and PAH for short,” explained Enza Locascio a dietitian with Lee Health.

Studies show these chemicals are mutagenic, meaning they can cause changes in our DNA. Those changes can increase our risk for cancer. “Our body has specific enzymes that can break down HCA and PAH, but the activity of those enzymes varies from person to person thus that can vary our risk of developing cancer,” she said.

There are ways you can reduce exposure to HCA and PAH. Avoid prolonged cooking times, continuously turn meat over when you’re cooking over high heat and remove any charred portions from the meat. “Meat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, but according to the American Heart Association it’s still ok to have red meat just limit the amount,” said Locascio.

But when it comes to choosing your meat, health experts recommend staying away from processed meats. “For example, hot dogs, bacon, and bologna. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, these meats should be avoided and eating any amount regularly can increase your risks for certain kinds of cancers,” she said.

Health experts encourage decreasing your meat intake and increasing your fruits and vegetables. “Plant-based foods contain phytochemicals. Those are compounds that protect us from and can even prevent disease,” said Locascio…

 

10 Processed Foods to Avoid

Ideally, we’d shop the farmers market every day for fresh, local foods, and make all of our goodies from scratch. In reality, we live far from our food sources, have to buy foods we can store on the shelf, and barely have time to eat dinner, much less prepare it.

Processed foods are convenient, and not all of them are bad for you. Pre-chopped vegetables or fruits canned in their own juice are just two examples.

Sometimes, however, convenience can mean large amounts of hidden sodium, fats, and sugar.

Read on to learn which processed foods to avoid and why…

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