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Americans Eat Too Much Processed Foods

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Americans Eat Too Much Processed Foods

If we are what we eat, what does that say?

A recent study found that 60 percent of what Americans eat each day is processed foods. Most of these foods are high in sugar, sodium and calories, which is fueling the obesity epidemic in the United States. Read more about processed foods, why they are unhealthy and tips on cutting down on eating them.

What does processed mean? The term “processed” refers to foods packaged in a can, box or a bag, says the San Francisco Gate. Once you think about it, that’s a lot! Think about it: Juices, bread, cereal, condiments, candy bars, ice cream, soft drinks and frozen meals are all processed. They are mostly found in the middle of grocery stores.

What preserves processed foods? These foods are made, created and cooked in a factory. To keep these foods “fresh,” companies throw in additives, chemicals, high-fructose corn syrup, unhealthy vegetable oils and artificial flavors, which is why these foods are also higher in sodium, calories, fat and sugar.

Low-fat foods can bamboozle you. Who doesn’t love cookies that are low fat? These foods still contain chemicals and artificial sweeteners that are not good for us. Also, foods that are labeled “whole grains” and “all natural” may still be processed.

African Americans and processed foods. Given that African Americans bear the brunt of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. and disproportionately live in food deserts, so many of our diets depend on processed foods. And while our poorer health outcomes can be blamed on many structural factors, such as a lack of access to health care and affordable quality foods, our diets and lack of exercise play factors, too.

Processed foods to avoid right now. There are so many foods to avoid, but if you are going to cut out any, try cutting out white rice, French fries, frozen chicken nuggets, canned fruit in heavy syrup, soda, processed cold cuts and meats like hot dogs, fast food burgers and sugary cereals, a Huffington Post article suggests. 

What do processed foods do to our health? Eating diets that are mostly processed foods leads to obesity and other chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and certain cancers. Also, diets higher in processed foods lack nutrients and minerals that our bodies need.

The power of cleaner eating. Eating from the earth—not McDonald’s—is the essence of clean eating. When you go into the store, most of the unprocessed foods are on the perimeter of the store—vegetables, fruits, lean meats, beans, eggs, whole grains and legumes. Also, while many vegetable oils are unhealthy, cold-pressed oils like olive oil and coconut oil are not. Eating this way, with nutrient dense foods, is a healthier way to eat.

Learn to cook from scratch. From pasta sauces to chili to soups, cooking from scratch with whole-food ingredients can help reduce the amount of processed foods you eat. Plus, cooking from scratch allows you to control how much sodium goes into your food. To reduce sodium even more, use fresh herbs and spices. Short on time? A crockpot is an amazing way to make home-cooked meals without having to stand over the stove.

For more processed foods facts, go to BET.

Photo: Depositphotos

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Kellee Terrell