By Chef Centehua
Processed foods are foods transformed from their raw state, usually to last longer, for convenience. Drying, freezing, heating and fermenting are ways we naturally process foods in order to preserve them; however, here I would like to discuss the processed foods which contain toxic additives that are a detriment to our overall health and to that of the planet. The food industry has changed a lot even in the last fifty years. Corn and soy are the most genetically modified crops and are used in many packaged foods like cereal, fruit juices, energy bars, and a multitude of snacks. GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) are crops that have been altered from seed to become resistant to pesticides, and the DNA alteration process may include insertions of one species into another. There are many studies and documentaries that depict in detail the socio- economic, ethical and health issues that are attributed to GMO’s. Common side effects include new human, animal and plant diseases; and many countries have banned the use of GMO’s all together. The best way to avoid these GMO’s is to read the ingredients list in everything. Common ingredients in processed foods that are GMO-derived are aspartame, ascorbic acid, vitamin C, citric acid, ethanol, natural and artificial flavorings, high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, xanthan gum, monosodium glutamate, sucrose, and yeast products.
Once you begin reading labels and become familiarized with these altered additives, it will be easy to avoid them. This will mean changing the way you eat and always buying 100% organic snacks and drinks. While packaged, canned and frozen foods may be practical, the consequences to your health are not worth it. Preparing meals from scratch and packing fresh snacks are the best ways to avoid processed foods high in sodium, MSG, fructose, etc. The benefits of eating whole foods include reduced allergies, weight loss, energy boost, radiant skin, and overall health and well-being. Processed meats also have been linked to a variety of cancers, so if you do eat meat products, make sure they are minimally processed and nitrate- and coloring-free. The same goes for dairy products: your child’s yogurt should not be bright blue or pink. There are yogurts made from grass fed cows and goats’ milk which are delicious with berries and honey. Don’t assume that all vegan and gluten free products are healthy. A lot of these are highly processed and include many of the ingredients mentioned above. Basically, if the list of ingredients is more like a paragraph, it no longer belongs in my body, but in a lab.
Returning to real foods takes time in our fast paced, microwavable, handy snack society, so be kind to yourself and start by taking a good look at your pantry. Maybe changing your favorite cereal and pasta sauce is your first step. Stock up on fresh fruit, nuts, and dates, as these are high energy, portable foods. Instead of bottled juices, make some lemonade to go; add some fruit puree, and sweeten it with agave or honey. Every small change will have lasting benefits, so remember to enjoy the process.