There is nothing convenient about compromising our health. You may want to think twice before opting for processed meals.
Our society is so focused on trying to fit it all in, that we are lunging at opportunities to cut corners or take shortcuts, especially when it comes to our food choices. Most of us want our meals to be of the processed “grab and go” variety, without sacrificing nutritional value. Alternatively, if we choose a fat-free, low calorie, or low carb version of these convenience foods, we can save time AND our waistline, right? Wrong.
Convenience foods, or pre-packaged meals commercially prepared for your busy lifestyle, account for 60 percent of the food sold annually in America. They provide almost no nutritional value and are almost always astronomically high in things like sodium, sugar, preservatives, and other unrecognizable ingredients.
These foods are designed to be delicious and to peak your cravings for more, but if consumed regularly, they can cause serious health issues like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity, even if they’re marketed as a health or diet food.
If you’re starting to think that you’d like your lasagna without a side of hypertension, then it’s time to consider the alternative – freshly prepared meals comprised of real ingredients that are good for you.
Here’s a breakdown on why opting for fresh will win every time.
You control the ingredients
Grab a box of spinach with garlic sauce out of your freezer, or the jarred pasta sauce out of your pantry, or if you’re brave, the package of hot dogs out of your refrigerator. Now, turn the packages around and take a look at the ingredients. How many do you recognize, or better yet, how many can you pronounce? Now, take a look at the nutritional information. Those sodium levels are not a typo.
These excessive levels of additives and synthetic ingredients are dangerous in and of themselves, but they pack a double punch when they replace the healthy, natural components that our bodies need to function properly.
These nasty ingredients are not always obvious when we make our food choices. Some of the most dangerous offenders are in those foods marketed as diet items or meal replacements.
Here are just a few of them:
• Sodium. It is recommended that we keep our sodium intake in or under 2,300 milligrams a day, and studies show that three-quarters of the sodium in our diets come from highly processed foods. When we consume too much sodium, our bodies retain fluid to help dilute the excess salt in our blood, which ultimately increases blood pressure to dangerous levels.
• Added sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Convenience foods are the largest sources of excess sugar in our diets. It’s common knowledge that too much sugar can lead to weight gain, but it can also have devastating effects on our health in the form of high cholesterol, insulin resistance, heart disease, and even cancer.
• Trans fats. Processed foods are generally very high in unhealthy hydrogenated oils, or trans fats, which are some of the worst substances you can put in your body. Too much of this can increase inflammation in the body and increase the risk of heart disease, one of the top killers in America.
• Artificial ingredients. The ingredients that you don’t recognize on your food’s nutritional label are foreign to you because they’re not actually They are chemicals added to your food for purposes such as increased shelf life or added flavor. What’s scarier than not recognizing the artificial ingredients is knowing that manufacturers are not even mandated to list all of them.
Your food retains nutrients
During the processing of convenience foods, most of the naturally occurring vitamins and nutrients responsible for the normal functioning of our bodies are stripped away, leaving almost nothing but artificial ingredients and high levels of dangerous by-products, like sodium and fats. Unfortunately, the manufacturers attempt at adding them back in through fortification is futile, at best. Lab-made vitamins and minerals are no match for those found in whole foods.
You can avoid food addiction
Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to curb your craving for your favorite convenience foods? Believe it or not, those unhealthy ingredients found in processed foods, like salt, fat, and sugar, can actually commandeer your brain and cause a dopamine release. Foods can trigger the same areas of the brain as certain addictive drugs. This chemical reaction can cause you to lose your sense of control over your consumption.
Just like with any addiction, quitting requires a steady weaning period. It can take a little while, but eventually, your taste buds will again learn to appreciate food in their natural state, and you’ll enjoy higher levels of energy and euphoria, to boot.
You can better control weight gain
One of the mass appeals of convenience foods is their sturdy shelf life. Again, we always seem to be on the go, and finding the time to grocery shop can fall low on our list of things to do. Manufacturers seem to empathize with our lack of free time, so they’ve also stripped their foods of fiber and make it even easier for us to chew, swallow, and digest our food.
Because of this, it takes less energy to eat and digest convenience foods, making it easier for us to eat more in a short amount of time. So, if we’re only burning half the calories to eat and digest processed food as compared to fresh, whole food, then rapid and steady weight gain will ensue.
While convenience foods may save us some time, and while they may look healthy and claim to contain “natural” ingredients, they can and will hurt you in the long run. Replacing processed foods with real ones like fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy will significantly lower your risk of illness and help to make you healthier and happier overall.
Best of all, whole foods actually deliver on the promises that convenience foods disingenuously promote. Whole foods or bust!
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We can help you create a menu to have the perfect meals delivered to you, fresh and ready to go. Contact us today!