We have all been there, we’ve opened that bag of chips (or insert other processed food), we smell It, it may bring back smells from your childhood, you may have had a bad day, and that smell is just making you happy. And then you taste it, and immediately you need more and more. Before you’ve noticed, you finished the whole bag, and you realize both physically and mentally, you do not feel that great.
You feel bloated, sluggish, maybe even a little foggy in your mind, and let us not even discuss the feelings of guilt after consuming an entire bag of chips. Why?!!
Why is that most of us can not finish an entire chicken or a ridiculous amount of vegetables, but when it comes to processed food, it is as though we have a bottomless stomach? What effect does processed food have both on our brains and on our bodies?
Eating too much-processed foods, as in most packaged food, has both a negative effect on our physical as well as mental well-being.
Currently, America is going through an epidemic, one of obesity, as in at least 40% of Americans ages twenty-plus are obese. The root of this lies in the American diet, which is full of processed foods. Without getting super technical, certain types of sugar found in processed food cause inflammation in our cells and lead us to gain weight.
Looking into the future, weight gain in the form of obesity and inflamed cells can cause diabetes, chronic diseases like cancer, and an increased rate of heart disease. On a day to day level, processed food causes issues in our digestive system that can make us feel bloated, gassy, constipated, and low energy.
Moreover, processed food can feed on the preexisting yeast that lives in our body, thereby creating fungal infections. So, in a nutshell, processed food causes a myriad of both short term and long term problems. Instead, we need to eat foods that fuel us, which gives us the nutrients our bodies need to live longer and healthier lives.
Currently, there are thousands of diets out there focusing on losing weight through eliminating or adding certain foods, but baseline almost all of these diets have two common factors, more fruits, and vegetables, as in WHOLE foods, and less or no processed foods.
As mentioned, processed foods do not only affect our physical well-being but our mental health as well. Think about what happens when you take the first bite of a chip, you immediately feel good, and your brain is telling you it wants more. Why does that happen? Again that does not happen with other foods. The sugar in processed food affects the serotonin levels in your brain.
Just like opiates and other drugs, sugar gives you a little bit of dopamine, the feel-good chemical in your brain. Of course, you want more of that! When you eat processed foods for a brief period, you actually do feel better.
In fact, when dopamine is released into the brain, it stimulates the brain to want more of it. Therefore, a cycle occurs of our brain telling us to seek out these processed foods and us overeating. This repetitive behavior can even lead to food addiction.
In addition to this addictive behavior surrounding processed foods, these foods cause us to feel tired, agitated, moody, and sometimes even foggy. Ever hear of sugar crashes, that’s exactly due to the increase in the sugar followed by a quick decrease of sugar in our bloodstreams, and leaves us tired and wanting more sugar.
In a nutshell, aside from tasting good, processed food has no added benefit in both the physical and mental well- being of our bodies. But how do we turn words into actions? Especially when processed foods are so readily available and inexpensive.
Start experimenting with whole foods. Think of the flavor or texture you love in a portion of processed food, perhaps crispiness, and start applying it to whole foods like making crispy roasted vegetables. Take a visit to your local health food store or whole foods and start thinking of swapping out some of the processed foods in your house with foods from these places.
Moreover, think about your cravings; add in more sweet vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash, and carrots to counter your sugar cravings. In general, taking processed food out of your life is challenging, so think about changing your mindset; think about what you can add in your life to live a healthier lifestyle rather than what you are taking out.