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Processed & Refined Foods

Junk foodProcessed and refined food is food corruption at its worst.  Stripped of many of the life-giving nutrients of living whole foods, they render our food supply devoid of any real nutrition.  

Food additives and chemicals such as artificial flavors, colors, excitotoxins, and sweeteners fill virtually every processed food on the market, and many restaurants serve processed foods or foods that contain processed and/or refined products.  

Additives & chemicals in our food...

Food processing has become a very generalized and vague term.  But what exactly is it?  Let's take a look at the definitions of some popular food processing terms:

Preserved Foods

This is the addition of chemicals to food to make it last longer.  Manufacturers of processed foods add a variety of chemical preservatives that keep products on the shelves for weeks and months, if not years, before they turn moldy, hard, or are considered past their expiration date.

Preservatives can be natural or synthetic.  Most preservatives used in refined foods are synthetic.  Healthier foods will often contain natural preservatives such as:

  • Vinegar (acetic acid)
  • Rosemary, cloves, or other spices
  • Sea salt
Processed Foods

A food that has been altered from its original state is technically processed.  Simply put, if it is not a whole food, it is a processed food.  But there are different degrees of processing, and depending on how the food is processed, it may still contain many of its nutrients, or most if not all of the nutrients may have been stripped away.  Different types of processing include:

  • Refined foods
    The breakdown of food into various parts, which are then stripped of most nutrients to leave an unbalanced source of nutrition.  This is the majority of food on the supermarket shelves and in the freezers.  Most refined foods also contain an assortment of artificial chemicals.  When manufacturers refine foods, they often also "enrich" or "fortify" them (see below).
  • Cooked foods
    Any food that has been cooked above 118°, the starting point at which food enzymes and other nutrients are damaged.  Some nutrients such as minerals can withstand high temperatures, whereas others such as antioxidants are much more heat sensitive.  Learn more about the importance of enzymes and our health in the Body Healer protocol.

All bread and baked goods are technically "processed" (ever seen a cookie plant or bread bush?).  Some are very unhealthy and highly processed and refined, whereas others are minimally processed and contain 3-4 natural ingredients, all of which are derived from whole foods. 

Enriched Foods

Enriched foods are typically over-processed and chemicalized.  When you see the word "enriched," it means that all the good stuff was destroyed during refining, and the manufacturer has added a synthetic version of the nutrients that were destroyed.  To state that it is nutritionally inferior is a gross understatement.  When we eat foods that a manufacturer has removed fresh nutrients from, and then "injected" back lab-made chemical versions of nutrients to replace them, it serves to show just how degenerated our food chain has become.

A chemical laboratory is not capable of reintroducing all of the nutrients in an original whole-food.  The original food item contained thousands of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, carotenoids, and fiber, which all work together as a synergistic whole.  A fresh, whole, uncooked tomato contains more than 10,000 phytochemicals alone.  When the tomato becomes a refined product, most of these are destroyed.

Fortified Foods

Similar to enriched foods, fortified foods are foods that have had nutrients added back into them.  But unlike enriched foods, the added nutrients were never present in the original food to begin with.  They are added as "extras" and are usually lab-made chemical versions of healthy ingredients that manufacturers call "nutrients."

Today, the term "processed foods" is now synonymous with foods filled with artificial chemicals, and enriched or fortified ingredients.  Essentially, food devoid of any real degree of nutritional content.  Most processed food is very unhealthy food because the healthy ingredients have been processed beyond all recognition.  Apples and corn are two popular examples of how drastically altered a whole food can become:

Fresh, whole sweet corn on the cob has 1 mg of naturally occurring sodium and contains 85 calories. But when food manufacturers get their hands on it, they process it for use in foods across the board, ranging from corn chips loaded with salt, cereals loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup (and corn syrup) used to sweeten thousands of processed, packaged products, and snacks loaded with both salt AND sugar.  The nutrition in the original, fresh corn is non-existent after refining.

Apples are another great example of a nutritionally dense, high in water content fresh whole fruit that is processed beyond all hope of nutritional redemption into danishes, pastries, and processed apple sauce.  To add insult to injury, most canned apples contain added sugar, and sometimes salt.

Why Are Processed Foods So Unhealthy? 

Let's take a look at the top 4 reasons why processed foods are so unhealthy:

The 3 Biggest Killers are Completely Preventable

Heart of junk foodThe reality is that the top 3 killer chronic diseases are entirely preventable through diet.  What are these killer diseases?

1.  Heart disease
2.  Type 2 diabetes
3.  Obesity

Education on diet and lifestyle habits should be the primary prescription to cure these diseases, with the intent to reduce and eliminate the need for any drugs.  Instead, medical doctors are focused on providing prescriptions not prevention.  Unfortunately, not only is the government taking a backseat stance on providing any education on nutrition to the American people, but they are also providing an educational curriculum to nutritionists and dietitians based on the questionable nutritional principles of the USDA food pyramid.  

The "killer" part of diabetes is not just the disease itself.  It is also due to the pharmaceutical drugs and their dangerous side effects (some of which can create secondary health issues in the future).  Most Americans would be shocked to learn that deaths due to medical errors, prescriptions and their side effects, and surgeries is one of the top 5 killers in the US today.  Perhaps the government should require the same pharmaceutical companies that receive billions in profits from pumping drugs into diabetics, to also fund commercials on the prevention and reversal of the same condition through some simple dietary changes.  Let's not hold our breath on that one. 

 Why choose nature and not drugs to heal:

Turning to Natural Medicine
Oriental Medicine  leaf  Ayurveda  leaf  Homeopathy  leaf  Bach Flower Remedies

Don't Let Convenience Lull You

Packaged and processed foods get many of us through the day and are considered huge time-savers.  They are convenient and portable, and they last for a long time (this does not mean they stay fresh for a long time, it simply means they last longer due to the presence of chemical preservatives).  But the convenience of processed foods is a big price to pay when you pay it with your health.

The truth is that when you choose the right types of food, and put just a little forethought into some basic food preparation, healthy foods really do not offer much less convenience than processed foods.  For healthy snacks, there is nothing more convenient that a fresh piece of fruit - an orange, banana, or an apple.  How about grapes and tangerines?  Tomatoes and sweet red and yellow bell peppers?  A salad chock full of spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, sugar snap peas, fresh sweet corn, jicama, and any other of your favorite veggies takes no more than a few minutes to whip up and can be prepared to last several meals.  Add some sprouted quinoa (easy to find in most health food stores) to pack in a big nutritional punch!  Make meals more hearty by adding boiled fingerling potatoes tossed in your favorite herbs, or how about hard-boiled eggs?  These are a few example of countless quick and easy, highly nutritious meals.  

Once you learn the basics, there is no real excuse for pumping your body with chemicals and starving it of nutrition.  



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