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Did you know that heavily processed foods often include unhealthy levels of added sugar, sodium, and fat? However, these ingredients make the food we eat taste better. As a result, eating these foods leads to serious health conditions. Whether you are on restrictive diet or not, it still makes us wonder – what are processed foods to avoid? Processed foods are everywhere and they are addictive.
Processed Foods are Addictive?
I never realized how hard a plant-based diet is until now. Not too long ago, I started buying pre-packaged, frozen, healthy meals. You just pop them in the micro-wave for a minute and voila! no joke. The truth is I had a hard time losing weight on these easy meals. Now I know why. Processed foods are not designed with your health in mind. I still wonder – what are processed foods to avoid?
What are Processed Foods to Avoid?
When I first started eating plant-based, it was amazing. I have always loved my veggies splattered with ranch dressing. I dissed the calorie-dense dressings and bypassed the urge for comfort food. However, about six months in, my appetite exploded, and I needed my comfort food.
Avoid Unhealthy Junk Foods
You can buy everything from soup to nuts and have it delivered to your doorstep. However, buyer beware. Everything that looks like gold, isn’t. Did you know you can get any prepacked vegan or vegetarian foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in frozen vegetarian dinners, boxed foods, canned goods, and everything you need to be healthy. Over time, any type of processed food is just as unhealthy as junk food.
Highly Processed Food Add to Weight?
Before I switched to plant based, I was a self-proclaimed junk food foodie. Was it my responsibility to stave away from junk food or is the onus on the food industry? Should consumers take the responsibility for their eating habits and their weight? According to the statistics, every two out of three Americans are either obese or overweight. The science and medical communities are point fingers at the food industry.
Blame Food Industries or Families?
Whether here in the United States or abroad, we now have a critical issue related to the food industry. To understand the gravity of this situation we will deep dive into two topics. The first topic is how do families contribute to the obesity crisis? The second question is how does the food industry contribute to this epidemic? Who is at fault?
Is Fast-Food Industry Guilty?
From my own experience, fast-food, ultra-processed goodies are extremely alluring. Before you realize it, you are stocking up on Doritos, Tasty Cakes, Twinkies and Lays sour cream potato chips more often than you should. Should fast-food industry pump the brakes on unhealthy products? Same goes for processed vegetarian foods.
Processed Foods Have Their Place and Time
I remember one point in time when I was craving and consuming all the snack well products and buying anything that says low-fat or natural. My habits were bad. This doesn’t mean you are not allowed to eat the chips and other sweet occasionally.
For example, when you go to birthday, graduation, wedding parties, or potlucks. Naturally, there will be lots of fun foods. The realm problem is overeating. Family gatherings are never designed to be painful for foodies. Ideally, everyone will have to face some form of processed food at some point. Just proceed with caution. A good rule of thumb is to steer away from fast foods at all costs
Are Parents Responsible?
The thing is that ultra-processed vegetarian or non-vegetarian foods are cheap and are so tasty. This is the reason why parents need to help guide their children in the right dietary direction. Parents must be proactive and lead my example. Model healthy eating habits early on and avoid highly processed products at all costs.
Fast Food Fuels Obesity
Many foods in the fast-food industry have a high-caloric density, high fat, and high sugar content. Plus, they have a low number of micronutrients and fiber. Did you ever notice that you still felt hunger shortly after eating these fast foods? In addition, they push consumers to supersize their meals. These patterns are not just part of the American diets, this is also happening across the globe in countries like India.
Unregulated Processed Foods Affect Hindus
Firstly, all of India’s widely practiced religions have dietary laws and traditions. For example, Hindu texts often praise vegetarianism. Also, Hindus religiously avoid eating beef because cows are traditionally viewed as sacred. In addition, Muslim teachings, meanwhile, prohibit pork. Here as a few statistics:
- In India 81% of the population limit meat in their diets
- Almost 40% are vegetarian
India is experiencing a major social disaster in terms of their vegetarian populations. As a result, they have an increasing number of overweight and obese citizens on their hand. Processed foods are unregulated and they contain high levels of salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats. These products continue to flood India’s grocery markets. Indian vegetarians need to find a more sustainable, healthier way of life.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.”
The SDGs were originally set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly (UN-GA) and are intended to be achieved by 2030. Their purpose is to end poverty, inequality, protect the planet. They are also intending to go up against the Food Industries and eliminate malnutrition.
Malnutrition in Developed Countries?
According to United Nation’s International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the 2018 Global Nutrition Report reveals that malnutrition is unacceptably high and affects every country in the world. It also attributes to the fact that a third of reproductive-age women are anemic, while 39% of the world’s adults are overweight or obese. Consequently, around 20 million babies are born underweight. Malnutrition is an ongoing problem.
There is a Prevalence of Malnutrition?
Often, hidden hunger is due to a micronutrient deficiency. It does not produce hunger as we know it. It is insidious in that “you might not feel it in the belly, but it strikes at the core of your health and vitality,” (UNICEF Executive Director).” Another issue arising is the hidden hunger epidemic.
What is the Hidden Hunger
Hidden hunger is a lack of vitamins and minerals. This condition occurs when the quality of food does not meet their nutritional requirements. As a result, the food is deficient in micronutrients such as the vitamins and minerals that we need for growth and development. It affects two billion people across the globe. If you suspect hidden hunger, look for the signs and symptoms.
Hidden Hunger Index?
The Global Hidden Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger on a global scale by region and country. It highlights the successes and failures in hunger and nutrition insecurities. The GHI is a means of monitoring whether countries are achieving hunger-related SDGs. It is used for international ranking.
Symptoms of Hidden Hunger?
The symptoms are unspecific and vary from one person to the next. People with hidden hunger will display fatigue, loss of appetite, exhaustion, and/or susceptibility to infections or skin disease. Although many people do not recognize the deficiency, and they will consequently suffer their whole life.
Examples of Hidden Hunger?
Poor diet is a common source of hidden hunger. In underdeveloped nations, nutrition is based mostly on staple crops, such as maize, wheat, rice, and cassava. Unfortunately, these foods provide relatively low amounts of essential vitamins, frequently resulting in hidden hunger. It is also referred to as a Class 12 condition.
Hidden hunger affects two billion people across the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Even mild deficiencies can affect our well-being and development. Extreme deficiencies lead to mental impairment, poor health, low productivity, and death. The most common micronutrient deficiencies are as follows:
Less Common Prevalent Deficiencies:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
Consequences of Hidden Hunger
To optimize and sustain our health we must supply the body with essential nutrients. Without these nutrients, the body will go into starvation mode and malnutrition will set in. This leads to a snowball effect of sickness, diseases, and medical complications. Listed below are some of these challenges that stem from malnutrition:
- Low birth weight
- Higher mortality rate
- Impaired mental development
- Reduced mental capacity
- Frequent infections
- Reduced learning.
- Reduced mental capacity
- Increased vulnerability to infection.
- Increased mortality
- Increased perinatal complications
- Increased mortality
- Including osteoporosis
- Mental impairment
- Higher mortality rate
Solutions to Sustainable Lifestyle
A Balanced Nutritious Diet
Access to nutritious meals is quintessential to our health and well-being. Choosing minimally processed foods must be top priority to achieve a healthy weight to avoid future health complications. This applies to all humans and lifestyles.
Increasing the quantity of micronutrient-rich foods. Improve the intake of antioxidants, probiotics, and fiber. This ensures the adequate combination of macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
Adding micronutrients to processed foods to increase the added nutritional value of a product and prevent specific nutritional deficiencies in the population.
Breeding of food crops, using conventional plant breeding methods to increase their micronutrient content. Using modern biotechnology to nutritionally enhance food crops.
Nutrients delivered in the form of pill or highly absorbable form (syrup). This would be a fast way to control vitamin and mineral deficiencies in individuals or in the population. Dietary nutrition is key to a healthy lifestyle.
Nutritional Value in Crops Has Decreased
The nutritional values of some popular vegetables, from asparagus to spinach, have dropped precipitously since 1950. Mounting evidence shows that many whole foods of today do not have the same vitamins and nutrients as they had 50 years ago. Soil depletion is an ongoing concern.
The main culprit is soil depletion. Modern agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil. So, truth be told, this is one of the main reasons for the Malnutrition and Hidden Hunger prevalence across the globe. Agricultural scientists have known this for quite some time.
A 2004 U.S. study found that important nutrients in some garden crops are 38% lower than they were in 1950. On average, across the 43 vegetables analyzed, calcium content declined 16%, iron by 15% and phosphorus by 9%. The riboflavin and ascorbic acid both dropped significantly (bbc.com) Can you imagine what the status of our modern-day crops is?
Reducing Overweight with Healthier Crops
- There are many moving parts regarding the link between nutrition and agriculture. Nowadays the farmers are leveraging new tools and technology to produce healthier crops. They are striving to bring their crops back up to nutritional standards. At the end of the day, food provides the essential nutrients for the sustenance of bodies.
Connecting the dots between nutrition and good health is a no brainer. The food and drinks that we put into our mouths and bodies will either have a positive or negative effect on our overall well-being.
We know the results of eating high-fat, sugary, ultra-processed foods, whether it is here in America on the other side of the world. Whether we are vegetarian or non-vegetarian, rich or poor, we have a right to have wholesome food from our farms and food industries that is health producing and sustainable.
Now that we know, let’s do our due diligence to keep a watch on the foods we buy and consume to make sure they are adding value to our bodies, to our families, and to our lifestyles. Thank you for hanging out with me today. I hope you share this post with your friends and loved ones so we can go into 2023 with strong, healthy bodies and minds. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. I always look forward to great discussions.
- The world health organization https://www.who.int