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Over the past twenty years, a lot has changed, and the foods that we eat are creating a sicker generation of children. Even small changes will go a long way when significant percentages of the population take part, knowing or unknowingly. As a result, we now have epidemic increases in diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer.
The commercialization of food has forced food companies to find newer, cheaper mechanisms to increase the shelf life of food, improve color, taste and perceived nutritional value. The result – a food system that is heavily laced with food preservatives, artificial food colorings and chemicals.
Processed foods are one of the greatest dangers to one’s overall health as they provide little actual nutritional value. These foods are commonly loaded with unhealthy sugars, salts and fats that create inflammation, spike blood sugar and elevate blood pressure.
Instant noodles topped with MSG
There are many brands of instant noodles but few will win any health food awards. The immediate danger is what is in the flavor packet that comes with the noodles. This packet often contains monosodium glutamate or MSG and very high amounts of salt.
One of the most common causes of high blood pressure and kidney disease is eating too much salt. One can incorporate instant noodles into a healthy diet by simply leaving out the flavor packet.
There are many types of sweets and ways of making them but the vast majority are high in saturated fat and a large portion of the calories come from sugars. They are also a very poor source of vitamins and minerals. The sugar is not just bad for one’s teeth but is a leading cause of inflammation and weight gain as well.
It was appalling to find a small sweet that was packed with over 234 calories, 25 grams of sugar and 12 grams of fat. Sugar is addictive as it manipulates one’s taste buds, metabolism and brain into seeking out more.
Soda affecting heart beats
People often drink soda as if it is water, some even instead of water. Soda has an alarming amount of sugar, calories and harmful additives that have absolutely no nutritional value. Studies have linked soda to osteoporosis, obesity, tooth decay and heart disease.
The caffeine found in soda can cause jitters, insomnia, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, elevated blood cholesterol levels, vitamin and mineral depletion, breast lumps and possibly even some forms of cancer. Soda also contains phosphoric acid that can interfere with the body's ability to use calcium, which can lead to osteoporosis or softening of the bones and teeth. Phosphoric acid also neutralizes the acids in the stomach making it difficult to properly utilize nutrients.
Crisps ousting healthier snacks
Crisps are perceived to be inexpensive, tasty and a convenient snack, but the toll they take on our bodies may not be worth the risk. An occasional handful of crisps may not cause irreparable damage to someone consuming an otherwise healthy diet but the real dangers arise when one consumes crisps on a regular or daily basis.
Crisps are typically low in vitamins and minerals, and they tend to oust things in the diet that have better nutrient values. They are typically high in fat and energy, which can raise the risk of weight gain and obesity. As an example, one ounce or 15 to 20 crisps of a popular brand contained 10 grams of fat and 154 calories.
Sugary cereals no better than biscuits
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It provides the energy for the day, nutrients needed to repair bodily tissues and activates one’s metabolism to maintain a healthy weight. Junk food, also known as sugary cereals in the morning will provide no nutritional value and can do more harm than good.
According to a recent study, children’s breakfast cereals should be in the chocolate biscuit aisle of supermarkets. One cup of a popular brand of children’s cereal contained more sugar than three cookies.
Researchers looked at 50 cereals overall and 32 were too high in sugar. Even brands advertising themselves as healthy options tipped the scales. ‘Healthy options’ usually indicates the fortification of vitamins or minerals. Fortification is a process of artificially implanting nutrients to improve product sales.
Boxed juices or boxed sugar with colorings
Infants less than a year old should not drink any fruit juice, 1 to 6 years olds shouldn’t exceed 6 ounces of fruit juice per day and older children ages 7 to 18 shouldn’t consume more than 8 or 12 ounces per day, ideally divided into two servings according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Sensationalist claims on the box make it difficult to figure out if the juice is actually healthy or not. Numerous studies detail the dangers of drinking too many high-energy, high-sugar, low-nutrient beverages. Consumers should be urged to check the food label before purchasing any of their favorite juices.
Processed meats producing cancers
Many processed meats are made with unhealthy nitrates, nitrites, trans fats, saturated fats and large amounts of sodium and sugar. A recent study showed a 67 percent increase in pancreatic cancer for people consuming moderate amounts of processed meat. The high trans and saturated fat content can sabotage one’s heart and waistline as well.
Sodium nitrite can be found in nearly every packaged meat product imaginable. It's listed on the food label of products such as bacon, breakfast sausages, dried meats, pepperoni, sandwich meats, ham and even the meats found in canned soups.
Noodles, sauces and artificial colorings
Processed and unhealthy, just the thought of the powdered imitation sauce alone should make one cringe. These products contain excessive amounts of salts and preservatives to ensure the shelf life of the product. Artificial colorings, stabilizers and emulsifiers are chemicals used to make the food more attractive and palatable.
Imitation powdered sauces often contain chemicals like artificial dye yellow #5 and #6. Yellow #5 is a water-soluble artificial dye that is also known as Tartrazine. Other foods that contain Tartrazine includes cake, pudding, biscuits, cookies, muffins, breads, pie crusts, frostings, sweets, gums, ice cream, beverages, cereals, instant waffles, yogurts, chips, crackers, salad dressing, pickles, cheeses, dips, takeaway foods, prepared dried and frozen entrees and sides.
The problems do not stop there. Packaged sauces also contain a fattening secret known as partially hydrogenated oils. These oils are one of the reasons that heart disease is one of the fast growing health conditions.
Food companies routinely manipulate oils to make them partially hydrogenated. This manipulation allows the oils to be more stable and have a longer shelf life. The entire process of partially hydrogenating an oil will produce unhealthy trans fats. Trans fatty acids are toxic to our systems, produce inflammation and allow diseases to develop.
Partially hydrogenated oils also have a negative effect on cholesterol levels as they raise LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (good cholesterol). These oils have also been linked to the development of diabetes and a variety of cancers.
Dr Cory Couillard is an international health columnist that works in collaboration with the World Health Organization's goals of disease prevention and global health care education. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.
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