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HOW TO NAVIGATE THE PROCESSED FOOD EPIDEMIC

December 30, 2016

 

Get this: In 2010, the global retail packaged food market was worth 1.95 trillion US dollars. By 2015, the market reached a retail sales value of 2.14 trillion US dollars. That’s an almost 10% increase that doesn’t even cover the rest of the world.

 

With so many processed foods on the shelves, it might seem easy to get your hands on a quick meal after a long day. However, once we become adept at deciphering the labels it becomes obvious that it’s not so easy after all.

 

Unfortunately, most processed foods are laden with sweeteners, salts, artificial flavours, factory-created fats, colourings, and chemicals that alter texture and preservatives. But the trouble is not just what’s been added, but what’s been taken away. Packaged foods are often stripped of nutrients designed by nature to protect your heart, such as soluble fibre, antioxidants and ‘good’ fats. Combine that with additives, and you have a recipe for disaster.

 

Cooking at home isn’t only one of the best things you can do for your body, and the health of your family, but it can even be therapeutic. And it isn’t as hard as you think.

 

Soul Food

 

Don’t think of it as a chore and start slow, maybe cook once a week to ease yourself into it, and most importantly, do things that you enjoy. Want some background music to dance to while your onions sauté? Go for it. Prefer to follow a chef sharing a recipe online? There are numerous healthy options to choose from on YouTube:

–      Laura Miller from Sidesaddle Kitchen

–      Kevin from Fit Men Cook

–      Jon from The Vegan Zombie, and

–      Cassey Ho from Blogilates

 

Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. Buy the best ingredients you can afford; organic is the best option, especially in relation to meat, and then local produce comes next.

 

For The Fun Of It

 

Once you familiarise yourself with the basics of cooking and have invested in some decent cooking utensils – never aluminium or stick-free pans but stainless steel or ceramic as these do not leech chemicals into the food at higher cooking temperatures – everything from then on can be your personal experiments.

 

Nourish Your Body

 

Did you know that a majority of the food budget in American homes is spent on processed foods? Here’s a list of the main ingredients that pose a high risk to your health, and what to look for on food labels.

 

–      Trans Fats

 

Trans fats boost your levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and decrease ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. Partially hydrogenated, or fractionated are key words on food labels. The higher up the phrase “partially hydrogenated oil” is on the list of ingredients, the more trans-fat the product contains.

 

–      Refined Grains

 

Studies show that women and men who eat more whole grains have 20 to 30% less heart disease. To know you’re getting the real deal, the first ingredients on the food label should be ‘whole wheat’ or another whole grain, such as oats. The fibre content should be at least 3 grams per serving.


–      Salt

 

When you eat more salt than your body needs, you retain fluid to dilute the extra sodium in your bloodstream, leading to high blood pressure. If you see the following words, this is what it really means:

Sodium-free – Foods can still have 5 mg per serving. Reduced sodium – 25% less than usual Light in sodium – Half the amount you’d normally find.


–      High-Fructose Corn Syrup

 

Today, we consume nearly 63 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per person per year in drinks and sweets, as well as in other products. The chemical structure of high-fructose corn syrup encourages overeating and forces the liver to pump more heart-threatening triglycerides into the bloodstream. Look for these words on a food label: Corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, or high-fructose corn syrup.

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