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December 2018

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Defining Processed Foods: History, Health Impact, and Healthy Alternatives Available  

By | Diet Tips\, Eating Healthy, Health Tips | No Comments

Take a closer look at many households around the world and one thing stands out: processed foods seem to be the order of the day! Despite their prominence, numerous studies, however, indicate that these ingredients are unhealthy. Which begs the question: is it time that we abandon processed foods for healthier alternatives instead?  

 

Processed foods have been around for quite some time, and what is surprising is that many of us are not well informed about what they are, where they came from, or even what impact they have on our bodies. Having said that, here is everything you need to know about processed foods:  

 

What are Processed Foods?  

 

By definition, processed foods officially refer to any food which has gone through some form of change before being rendered ready to consume. The list can range from products which have been frozen for extended periods, processed meats, and even otherwise unhealthy processed foods such as nuggets or chips. All these products have been extensively transformed to achieve a particular appearance, texture, or taste.  

 

BMJ Open, an American medical journal, did a study on Western diet composition and what is perhaps the most alarming discovery is not even about how much processed foods we consume, but rather how frequently we are consuming them. Another study in the same journal found that over half of the average daily energy intake of Americans startlingly comes from ultra-processed foods such as sodas and cakes.  

 

What’s more, according to the same study 90% of ‘added sugar intake’ by Americans is also from ultra-foods. 21% of the calories in ultra-processed foods come from sugar, although this number scales down to around 2.4 % when it comes to regular processed foods.  

 

These foods contain ‘hidden sugars’ that are normally disguised as ‘artificial sweeteners,’ and it is these components that lead to various health conditions among them type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even migraines.  

 

What is the Difference Between Processed, Ultra-Processed, and Unprocessed Foods?  

 

The impact of processed food on your overall health depends on the type of processed foods you consume. Essentially, processed foods are not manufactured equally.  

 

Ultra-processed foods refer to foods which have gone through significant processing usually comprising of many ingredients, most of which are not commonly found in a kitchen setting. These foods include many of the products encompassed under ‘bad processed foods,’ a category that includes convenience store foods, frozen meals, cookies, sodas, and chips among many others.  

 

Alternatively, processed foods may be comprised of pre-packaged ingredients like bread, pasta sauce, and salad dressings.  

 

As for unprocessed foods, these are unaltered ingredients usually in a natural state. Veggies, fresh fruit, seeds, and wild-caught fish are among several examples of non-processed foods.  

 

Common Processed Foods You Should Avoid  

 

Here are several processed foods you should avoid to help your efforts of maintaining a healthy body:

Instant noodles  

 

Processed meat   

  

Sugar-sweetened beverages  

  

Potato chips  

  

Refined vegetable oils  

  

Convenience store or fast food meals  

  

Microwave popcorn  

  

French fries  

  

Breakfast cereals   

  

Artificial sweeteners  

  

Candy bars  

  

Flavored yogurt  

  

Margarine  

  

Store-bought cakes, pastries, and cookies  

  

Granola bars  

 

Do Processed Foods have any Side Effects?  

 

Unhealthy processed foods usually boast a low nutrient composition and supply excess fat, calories, sodium, and sugar to the body without providing the necessary nutrients the body needs for healthy growth such as minerals, vitamins, and even antioxidants. Increased consumption of these foods can usually increase your risk of nutritional deficiency and weight gains potentially resulting in conditions such as osteopenia and anemia among others.  

 

The presence of added sugar means that frequent intake of these foods can encourage poor eating habits like overeating and food addiction.  

 

Certain processed food types like processed meats are closely linked to chronic ailments among other adverse health effects. In fact, consuming processed meats on a regular basis can increase the risk of diabetes, coronary heart disease, as well as various cancers including stomach cancer and colorectal.  

 

Other possible side effects of processed foods include constipation, bloating, low energy levels, acne, high cholesterol levels, inflammation, cavities, depression, high blood pressure, and chronic pain among others.  

 

Processed Foods vs. Healthy Foods: What is the Difference?  

The simplest method of differentiating between healthy and processed foods is checking a product’s ingredient label.  

 

Usually, unprocessed foods will only have several listed ingredients, all that are healthy seasonings and spices, and whole foods that are easily found in a kitchen. Alternatively, foods that are heavily processed will usually feature numerous ingredients that include preservatives, food additives, and synthetic dyes among others.  

 

Note: The best way to avoid processed foods is to only go for products comprising ingredients not exceeding five. Although not always practical, this method can help you identify minimally processed products.  

 

What’s more, be sure to avoid refined grains like pasta, rice, and white bread, instead, choose whole-grain options. Likewise, refrain from processed meats such as cold cuts, bacon, and salami and choose healthier alternatives such as wild-caught fish, and grass-fed beef instead.  

 

The presence of artificial sweeteners or added sugars is also a significant indicator of processed foods. Take note that numerous processed foods also comprise of added sugars disguised as healthy foods, not to mention sweeteners that boast ‘natural’ names like barley malt and agave nectar.  

 

Steps to Help You QUIT Consuming Processed Foods  

Start with gradual changes.

Although making drastic changes is a somewhat tempting move, you are more likely to adapt to new habits by taking the process one step at a time and seeing it through. Gradual changes will not only assist you in easing into the changes mentally, but they will also ensure that you minimize the occurrence of any unpleasant physical symptoms as a result.  

Create a grocery list when going shopping.  

The road to adopting healthier eating habits is relatively easier if you write down what you plan to buy. Also, to help you avoid the temptation of eating processed foods, go shopping on a full stomach.  

Limit your shopping isles.

Limit the varieties of aisles you shop and focus on only visiting those that feature healthier foods such as the produce section. This way, you can avoid the temptation of purchasing unhealthy processed foods.  

Read the list of ingredients.

As earlier mentioned, you can start by only sticking to products with less than five ingredients. Moreover, if the ingredient list contains a component that you would not usually use in your home, it is best avoided.  

Watch out for any ‘added sugars.’  

Manufacturers list various sugars with cunning terms in their ingredients, which makes it important that you be on the look-out. Most sugars end with ‘ose’ such as fructose and dextrose. What’s more, they also use names that have a ‘natural’ connotation such as beet sugar, fruit juice, and cane sugar.  

 

Healthier Processed Food Alternatives  

 

Juices and Sodas:  

 

You can replace these products with homemade drinks that not only have a great taste but are also healthy. Examples of such include carrot juice or options form a wide variety of unsweetened tea.  

 

Chips:  

 

Feel free to experiment with homemade chips. You can usually swap out potatoes and use other vegetables and fruits. Try making zucchini chips or spicy kale chips.  

 

Frozen Pizza:  

 

Rather than stocking your freezer with a stash, you can alternatively use a simple dough like cauliflower pizza crust, coconut crust pizza and then pack on your preferred toppings.  

 

Frosting and Cakes:  

 

There are several delicious and healthy recipes you can consume in place of frosting and cakes which can be made using a few components that are found on minimally processed foods. Some of the common alternatives you can switch to include: yogurt parfait, chocolate dipped bananas, or even homemade almond or peanut butter among many other gluten-free recipes available online.  

 

History of Processed Foods:  

 

While many of us believe that processed foods are a recent phenomenon, these products surprisingly date as far back as the prehistoric period. In fact, various common fermentation methods such as drying, curing, and smoking have been in use for many years to extend shelf-life and enhance the flavor of foods.  

 

Technological developments further enhanced food processing during the 19th and 20th centuries as is evidenced from the invention of various techniques such as tinning, pasteurization, and canning, methods that were invented to extend the time food lasts as well as kill any festering bacteria.  

 

The demand for highly efficient and durable food products in the wake of the 20th century further ensured that more practices and methods of preservation developed, among them evaporation and dry freezing which subsequently led to the production of various food products such as noodles, instant soups as well as convenience meals.  

 

Fast track to today and there is a wide array of processed foods which have unfortunately found their way in the Western diet. These products range from cookies, crackers, and fast food. Various studies have also outlined an alarming statistic that a typical American diet comprises up to 58% ultra-processed ingredients.  

 

Precautions  

 

Numerous studies associate diets that have a high content of processed foods with multiple health problems that range from weight gain to chronic illnesses. Nonetheless, processed foods vary in composition. Although its recommended to follow a plant-based diet filled with fruits and veggies, you can include some moderately processed foods with moderation. Some processed foods that can be included in a healthy diet include:  

 

Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables  

  

Plain yogurt  

  

Natural nut butters  

  

Various whole grain products 

 

phenofen

A Guide to Vitamin Supplements for Men

By | Diet Tips\, Eating Healthy, Health Tips | No Comments

Vitamin deficiency is not a distinctly third world problem, and even in developed nations, many men are not receiving the best vitamins. Ideally, one should eat a daily diet consisting of plenty of vitamins and organic minerals, but this isn’t always possible. The majority of men tend to have a diet that consists of processed foods that rarely include enough veggies and fruits. According to a recent report by NBC News, 77% of all men suffer from micronutrient malnutrition, specifically magnesium and vitamins D and 2. This glaring statistic explains why there is a prevalence of susceptibility to illnesses among men. 

Micronutrient deficiency among men results in a decreased libido and sexual performance, slow metabolism, lethargy, low muscle strength, bloating, obesity, insomnia, and a horde of cardiovascular conditions. The prevalence of these deficiencies calls for men to take a closer look at their diet and infuse it with vitamins that address their manly problems. 

Essential Vitamins for Men 

Ideally, men wouldn’t need to use multi-vitamin supplements, however, it’s a fast-paced world we live in, which means it’s a tall order to ask most people to keep their fridges stocked with organic produce that can quickly go bad. When shopping for these multi-vitamins go for the organic and fermented options.  

Fermented vitamin supplements are a quick fix for micronutrients deficiency. In the state of fermentation, the vitamins are ‘pre-digested’ which makes them easily absorbed into the bloodstream. When shopping, be sure to check out multivitamins crafted from organic foods such as ginger, saw palmetto, and other vital plants.   

Given the startling stats and the many nutritional problems men are facing, the following is a breakdown of the essential vitamins for men to best nourish their bodies. 

Vitamin D3 

A study documented in the publication Scientific American showed that 75% of all adults in the U.S. suffer from vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D3 is vital for men to maintain bone strength, prevent depression, produce enough testosterone, and in the healthy regulation of both cholesterol and blood pressure. 

Let us further dissect this matter; the internet is flooded with people selling testosterone supplements. The known reasons why men would want to use testosterone supplements is to increase their raw power in physical activities and enhance their libidos. The increasing vitamin D deficiency correlates with the rising numbers of men looking for testosterone supplementation. 

The solution to this lies in maintaining proper Vitamin D3 intake. Not only can it help in increasing libido, but you will also have an active and healthy heart that is protected from attacks and other debilitating conditions. Using Vitamin D3 regularly will set the foundation to have stronger bones and a sharper memory even when old age creeps in. 

Vitamin D3 also helps to reduce inflammation, to maintain a moderate blood pressure level, and control blood cholesterol content. The best thing about this vitamin is that you can get it by spending just 20 minutes in the sun in the early morning or late afternoon. Time outdoors should be considered an added bonus. Endeavor to eat fresh foods like eggs, mushrooms, and dairy products. If you aren’t able to receive adequate Vitamin D3 from both foods and the sun, then you should definitely consider supplementation.  

Antioxidant Vitamins (A, C and E) 

Antioxidants foods include fruits and vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, and nuts and seeds. The antioxidants vitamins cannot be made within the body, which is why you need to get them steadily from your diet. Vitamins A, C, and E help in combating free radical damage, a process that speeds up aging, memory loss, cardiovascular diseases, and vision loss.  

Antioxidant vitamins are so crucial, especially as men get older. The vitamins mediate against muscle wasting, tissue loss, and artery damage. They reinvigorate cells and prevent cell mutation, while at the same time working in the skin and sight. Deficiency of these essential vitamins will manifest in the form of nosebleeds, swollen gums, and a generally weakened immune system.  

Vitamin B12 

Vitamin B12 comes in handy for endurance and strength building, equipping men with the energy they need for intense physical activities. These micronutrients also function to prevent heart attacks and dementia, among other health conditions. There is a general deficiency of vitamin B12 among men and women. The problem, however, is not in consumption but absorption. Most men get their daily dose of B12 from foods like poultry, fish, beef, salmon, and eggs, but absorption is hindered because of several factors. 

For starters, medications such as antacids and those used to control blood pressure interfere with the breakdown of vitamin B12 in the body. As men grow old, they develop a condition known as atrophic gastritis: where the stomach cannot produce enough digestive juices, including HCL (hydrochloric acid). HCL acid plays a vital role in disintegrating B12 vitamins from the protein. The US Office of Dietary Supplements estimates that the atrophic gastric condition affects around 30% of all older adults. 

Other factors that slow down the absorption of vitamin B12 include pernicious anemia where your immune system attacks your normal body cells instead of bacteria and viruses. Intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease (inflammation of the intestinal walls) and Celiac disease (gluten allergy) can also interfere with vitamin B12 absorption.  

Vitamin K 

This vitamin works to strengthen and maintain bone structure, to help in blood clotting and healing of injuries, and to prevent heart disease: the notorious cause of death among adult men in the US and many other developed nations. Men need to consume enough veggies and fruits or take supplements if they suffer from intestinal disorders that would prevent absorption of Vitamin K. 

You get vitamin K1 by eating green vegetables, and vitamin k2 from dairy products. Ensure your diet contains at least one of these things: cabbage, broccoli, fish, eggs, milk, vegetables, and collard greens. 

Vitamin K1 is found in many green vegetables and vitamin K2 from dairy products. To prevent vitamin K deficiency you need to eat a variety of veggies, including green leafy vegetables, broccoli, collards, and cabbage, plus some wild-caught fish and cage-free eggs too. 

Aside from the vitamins mentioned above, the best diet for men should also contain the following minerals: 

Essential Minerals for Men 

Magnesium 

Magnesium helps to regulate other electrolyte levels in the bloodstream. It is useful for blood pressure regulation, preventing muscle spasms, migraines, and heart disease.   

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle twitching, difficulty going to the bathroom and insomnia. You can get magnesium from leafy greens, algae, beans, nuts, and seeds. Supplementation is necessary to make up for slow absorption and excess urinary loss of magnesium. 

Omega-3 Fish Oils 

You can get these minerals by eating fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut, and sardines, in addition to eggs, nuts, and seeds. Omega 3 Fatty Oils are anti-inflammatory, as opposed to the Omega 6 Fatty Acids that are found in many processed foods and vegetable oils. 

Data shows that most men are consuming an alarmingly high amount of Omega 6 Fatty Acids when compared to their Omega 3 Fatty Oils intake. There needs to be a balance between the two if men are to have healthier hearts, proper functioning brains, and active immunity. That means if you cannot eat wild fish at least 3 times a week, then look into an Omega 3 fish oil supplement. 

Potassium 

You are at a higher risk of cardiovascular conditions, like high blood pressure, if your potassium levels are low. High blood pressure is already a common condition among adult men in western countries. But that’s not all; low potassium levels can also slow down your metabolism which will lead to obesity, fatigue, indigestion, and muscle spasms. 

Men who are on medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary heart disease run a high risk of potassium deficiency. These drugs interfere with the absorption of the mineral. Additional risk factors include alcoholism, kidney disorders, and intense physical activities-all these are can cause low potassium levels among men. 

A potassium-rich diet includes foods such as avocado, beans, sweet potatoes, salmon, bananas and grass-fed beef. Symptoms of potassium deficiency include diarrhea, dehydration, and fever. 

Risk Factors for Vitamin Deficiencies in Men 

The high rate of vitamin deficiency among men could be as a result of:  

  • Eating processed foods – no time to prepare meals at home 
  • Low economic status – cannot afford the right amount of foods or supplements 
  • Aversion to fresh vegetables and fruits  
  • Following a vegetarian or vegan diet and avoiding animal products 
  •  Food allergies that interfere with the absorption and metabolism of vitamins  
  • Lack of education  
  • Digestive tract disorders 
  • Medications that interfere with the absorption of vitamins 

Have You Considered Vitamin Supplements? 

Chances are you try to include all the variety of vitamin-rich foods in your diet. But to avoid any risk of vitamin deficiency, supplements are necessary. More so if you fall into the category of men listed below: 

  • You rarely eat seafood, meat, and eggs 
  • You have inflammatory bowel diseases, food allergies, or impaired digestive functions 
  • You are taking antacids and antibiotics  

Men need a regular diet that includes vitamins D, B12, A, C, E, and vitamin K. On top of that; the food should be fortified with magnesium, potassium, and Omega 3 fish oils. To ensure you get all of the proper nutrition your body needs then supplements need to be on your radar as a viable option.