Processed foods are part of the mainstream diet in the United States and many parts of the world. Manufacturers produce processed foods to sell proprietary products that extend shelf life and appeal to consumers. Yet processed foods contain sodium, sweeteners, trans fats, preservatives and artificial substances that are dangerous to your health. The USDA Dietary Guidelines stresses that you should eat nutrient-dense foods and avoid eating processed foods.
Lowered Blood Pressure
Processed foods contribute as much as 75 percent of sodium in the typical American diet, according to the Mayo Clinic. Sodium is a mineral that is part of table salt that manufacturers use in processed foods such as breads, crackers, sauces, salad dressings and canned vegetables to add flavor and act as a preservative to extend shelf life. Increased dietary sodium increases your blood pressure and elevates your risk of stroke and heart disease. Cutting processed foods from your diet will enable you to reduce your sodium intake, lower your blood pressure and decrease your risk of stroke and heart disease.
Eliminating processed foods from your diet may reduce your risk of cancer, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Processed foods include sweeteners such as aspartame, sucrose and high fructose corn syrup to make the products more palatable. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that can cause cancer in humans. Research by scientists at the European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences in Bologna, Italy and published in "Environmental Health Perspectives" in September 2007 discovered that increased consumption of aspartame in rats increases development of malignant tumors, including at doses close to the daily intake of humans. The risks for malignant tumors are elevated when exposure to aspartame starts during the fetal stage.
Eating processed foods with sucrose and high fructose corn syrup may increase your risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Research by scientists at Princeton University and published in "Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior" in November 2010 discovered that rats fed either sucrose or high fructose corn syrup in the same amount of calories gain weight. However, the results demonstrate that rats fed high fructose corn syrup gain significantly more weight accompanied by an increase in abdominal fat. The scientists conclude that consumption of high fructose corn syrup contributes to obesity in humans. Obesity is a significant risk factor in development of type 2 diabetes.
Improved Heart Health
Cutting processed foods from your diet may improve your heart health. Processed foods can contain trans fats, which can cause plaque that clogs your arteries and increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack and death. Cities such as New York have passed laws that prohibit chain restaurants from serving foods that contain trans fats.
Reduced Asthma Attacks
Removing processed foods from your diet can lower your risk of asthma attacks. Processed foods that contain sulfites, a preservative manufacturers commonly use in dried fruit, wine, shrimp and pickles, stimulate asthma symptoms. Look for products that do not contain sulfites.
- MayoClinic.com; Why Do Processed Foods Contain So Much Sodium?; 2010
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Sodium: The Facts; 2010
- "Environmental Health Perspectives"; Life-Span Exposure to Low Doses of Aspartame Beginning During Prenatal Life Increases Cancer Effects in Rats; Morando Soffritti, et al.; September 2007
- "Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior"; High-Fructose Corn Syrup Causes Characteristics of Obesity in Rats: Increased Body Weight, Body Fat and Triglyceride Levels; Miriam Bocarsly, et al.; November 2010
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse; Diabetes; 2010