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Health and Fitness News

De-Processing Your Pantry

Simple ways to avoid processed foods.

They’re convenient, tasty, and cheap. So what’s wrong with processed foods? Any food that’s been altered in some way is considered processed. This includes every food that’s been cooked, baked, canned, frozen, cut up, packaged, fortified, or preserved. As you can see from this list, not all processed foods are bad for you. Some are minimally processed (bagged spinach, cut up fruit, or roasted nuts), while others are highly processed and contain added preservatives, colors, flavors, and fats (microwave dinners, frozen pizza, crackers, chips, soda, and candy).

The trick is to distinguish between what’s minimally processed compared to what’s highly processed. In general, the more processed a food is, the more unhealthy it is. Because processed foods are so readily available, it can be a challenge avoiding them, but here are a few tips on how to cut back on your processed intake.

Clean, tasty, real foods do not come processed in boxes or bags; they come from the earth, the sea, the field, or the farm. - Suzanne Somers

Eat Whole Foods

A whole-foods diet is one that eliminates all processed foods. Foods are eaten in their most natural state, before being refined or processed. Whole foods contain no added salts, fats, or preservatives. Examples include fruits, vegetables, legumes, and brown rice. Non-homogenized dairy products are also considered whole foods. With such a diet there’s no counting of calories, grams of fat, or carbs. Full of nutrition and fiber, whole foods are naturally good for you. Someone wanting to cut back on processed foods should seek to eat whole foods whenever possible.

Avoid Added Sugars, Sodium, and Fat

Since many minimally processed foods are still a healthy option, it’s important to learn how to read nutrition and ingredient labels. What you want to watch out for are hidden sugars, fats, sodium, preservatives, colors, and flavors.

Added sugars contribute to weight gain, liver problems, and diabetes. Foods such as fruits and dairy products have naturally occurring sugars, but many processed foods have sugars added to improve taste and texture. Look for foods that don’t have added sugars (corn syrup, honey, maltose, brown sugar) listed as one of the first three ingredients.

Too much sodium increases your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Since salt is a preservative and lengthens shelf life, it’s added to many processed foods. When possible, choose foods labeled as low or reduced sodium. Overall, shoot to consume fewer than 2,300 milligrams a day.

Then there’s healthy and unhealthy fats. Too much unhealthy fat will work to raise your cholesterol over time. Trans fats are the worst! Make sure the nutrition label says there are zero grams of trans fats and doesn’t list partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients.

Artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors may prolong a food’s shelf life and improve appearance or taste, but these man-made ingredients pose a variety of possible health dangers. Avoid them altogether by checking the label of your favorite foods.

The Fewer Ingredients the Better

Another indicator of how processed a food is can be seen in the number of ingredients. Anytime the list of ingredients includes unfamiliar, hard-to-pronounce words, it is likely processed with additives and preservatives. The fewer the number of ingredients listed, the healthier the food. Look for items with five or fewer ingredients.

Cook at Home

One of the best ways to cut back on the amount of processed foods you consume is by preparing your own meals. While this does mean more planning, grocery shopping, and time spent in the kitchen, you have more control over what ingredients are in your food this way. Anything you want to eat, from salad dressings to bread to granola to spaghetti sauce can be made from scratch. One way to welcome fewer processed foods into your home is by shopping the outer edges of the grocery store and being picky about what’s put in your grocery cart.

About Training with Mr. America
About my programs: Mr. America Jason Kozma's Personal Training is a triple threat of body shaping weight workouts, precision fat-loss cardio and holistic nutrition using regular foods. Using his system, you can radically upgrade your fitness, health appearance and self-confidence. Clients routinely shed 20 pounds of body fat in eight weeks or less, increase their strength and flexibility, and achieve extreme cardiovascular fitness.

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