How Processed Foods Destroy Your Health, Part I
Ingredient Investigator Extraordinaire: Refined Grains
Most experts agree that 70% of our typical American diet is processed. What does “processed” mean? There is a wide spectrum of what constitutes “processed,” but, generally, processed foods are foods that have been altered from their natural state. For example, 100% whole grain bread is still technically processed because it has been milled, cut, and, in many cases, it has had other ingredients added to it besides just wheat. Some people choose to just eat natural and whole foods. I, myself, eat 80% whole foods. The other 20% are foods that are minimally processed but still are all-natural, such as natural almond butter.
In the next few installments of the “Ingredient Investigator Extraordinaire,” I want to explore why processed/unnatural foods are not good for your health. I feel this topic is extremely significant due to the increasingly unhealthy, typical American diet. If you doubt that we are headed in the wrong direction in terms of our diet, please visit your nearest grocery store and take a look at what is on the shelves.
My goal is to educate you about the consequences of eating processed foods day in and day out, and to break you of the mindset that just because these foods are “normal,” they are not harmless. Sure you are not going to eat a TV dinner and have a heart attack in the same breath, but it has been proven that the consequences that I will list can–and do–contribute to heart attacks every day.
Today, I will speak of refined grains. This takes the lion’s share when it comes to processed foods. The following is a list of health consequences that can and should be expected with the consumption of processed foods:
Consequence #1: Depleted Nutrients
A “whole grain” has 3 components: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. The bran is the multi-layered outer “skin” of the grain that contains antioxidants (used in nature to help protect the endosperm) and fiber. The endosperm contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. The germ is where you will find healthy fats, B-Vitamins, proteins, and a host of minerals.
The bran and the germ constitute the healthiest part of the grain. During the refinement process, the bran and the germ are removed, which depletes the grain of their most valuable health benefits.
Consequence #2: Lowered Fiber Content
When the bran is stripped from a grain, it makes it a refined or “non-whole-grain.” Furthermore, the bran is the component of the grain that is highest in fiber. When it is removed, you take all of the fiber out of the grain. This leads to digestion issues, constipation, and promotes a higher glycemic index of the grain, which leads me to Consequence #3.
Consequence #3: Elevated Blood Sugar
In my opinion, this is the biggest tragedy (yes tragedy) of the refined grains that we commonly find in our processed diets. Take a look around you while in public and notice the epidemic of weight gain. I am not trying to be insensitive here, only factual. We are amidst a weight gain epidemic and refined grains certainly play a large role.
Once the fiber and the nutrients are stripped from the grain, the remaining part of the grain (the endosperm) breaks down rapidly to blood sugar once it enters the stomach and intestines. For example, if you consume a 100% whole grain piece of bread with 6 grams of fiber, and it is composed of 120 calories, you are unlikely to store a lot of those calories as fat because they break down to blood sugar slower than that of a white piece of bread. The exact opposite is true with refined grains.
The concept is simple: refined grains/flour breaks down into blood sugar very rapidly. When this happens, it creates an insulin response. Insulin is responsible for doing one thing in this life: STORING CALORIES! With chronically high insulin levels, you are bound to store fat–and loads of it! Again, this is one of the main reasons we are becoming a nation of overweight and obese people, precisely because we have fallen for the “fat-free” myth and have over-indulged ourselves with processed foods, in particular, refined grains.
Okay, my friends, there you have it! I speak with fact, and I speak with love. If you are consuming processed foods, start to wean yourself off of them immediately. Let’s be straight with one another: they are damaging your health slowly but surely. It is time to switch to more natural foods.
Life is good, my friends! Lemme know if I can help improve it in any way!