5 Strategies for Steering Clear of Processed Food

Here are some guidelines for avoiding foods that have nothing to offer you.

May 19, 2016
grocery shopping

Most foods you eat are processed in some way. In fact, cutting or cooking anything is processing it. That's why they call it a food processor. Vegetables and fruits have to be harvested, ground beef has gone through a machine, and even extra virgin olive oil is the product of pressing. If no chemicals are added, it's still real food. The processed food that is making people sick all over the world has been chemically processed and made from refined ingredients and artificial substances. Processed foods are so refined they do not resemble the whole foods they come from.

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The packaged foods that you see on the shelves of grocery stores probably have had the life processed out of them. If food is canned, jarred, bagged, or boxed with a long list of ingredients on the label, including many you can't even pronounce, consider it processed. The whole food has been stripped of nutrients during processing, then "enriched" with synthetic vitamins and minerals. Most highly processed foods are full of artificial chemicals that are added to make the food look better and last longer. These additives have many functions. Processed food needs a lot of help. Chemicals are added to stabilize, emulsify, texturize, soften, preserve, sweeten, bleach, color, and hide odors. Many are highly toxic. The Food and Drug Administration has a list of more than 3,000 substances that can be added to foods. Most have never been tested, and some are known to be dangerous.

Here are some guidelines for avoiding foods that have nothing to offer you: 

1. Stay out of the center of the grocery store—go for the outside borders.
Fresh, unprocessed, whole foods are located on the perimeter, because it is easier to replenish the shelves and bins with fresh food. Produce, meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy are almost always located along the walls. Packaged foods are filled with stabilizers and preservatives to have a long shelf life. The exception is that most supermarkets today have an aisle and freezer section of healthy processed foods, usually called "organic." The number of gluten-free products is growing.


2. Be very selective about what you buy in bags, cans, and boxes.
Most packaged foods have been processed and enriched with salt, sweetener, fat, and other additives to compensate for the flavor and nutrition lost during the refining and processing. It's imperative to read the ingredients list. I'm happy to say that many companies are responding to the growing demand for healthy food. Most grocery stores have special sections offering healthy options

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3. Be careful if a label has more than five ingredients.
The more ingredients a product has, the more it has been processed. The food is manmade and far removed from nature. 

4. If any of the first three ingredients ends in "ose," do not put it in your basket.
"Ose" means sugar. Many of the sugars used by the food industry are high in calories and bad for you. Sugar is added back into food, because the food is so highly processed it loses its flavor.

5. Avoid white food.
White bread, white rice, and white pasta are made from bleached and enriched wheat flour or grain. When grains are refined, the bran and germ, the most nutritious parts of the grain, are removed. The starches from refined grains feed sugar addictions, because they break down to sugar so quickly. The flour or grain is bleached, which strips it of all the fiber and nutrients. The manufacturer then adds fiber and vitamins, which your body does not absorb, because they do not occur in nature. When it comes to potatoes—America's favorite vegetable—they break down to sugar very quickly in your body and set off the blood sugar roller coaster.


Adapted from To the Fullest