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Processed Food and Junk Food

Processed Food
Junk food

What is processed food - What is added to the food - What is removed
Why it is not good for us

Any food that you can buy in a can, jar, packet or bottle is processed food. That is, food that has been altered from the way in which nature presented it to us, in some kind of factory, as part of a bulk process. It is our belief that all processed food is injurious to health in different degrees, and it is best avoided from our diet altogether.

There are three big problems with processed food  what is added, what is removed and what is left. In short, the whole thing.

Food additives are what are added to processed food. These  have been used by mankind for centuries. Salt, sugar and vinegar were among the first and used to preserve foods. In the past 30 years. These are bad enough  refer to our enemies section for details, however, with the advent of processed foods, there has been a massive explosion in the chemical adulteration of foods with additives, which is a much more serious problem.

Additives are used in food to keep it lasting longer and to make it taste, look and smell like something that it is not. They enable food to sit on a supermarket shelf, or in our cupboards, for several months without going bad - and then we eat it

In nature, if a food is kept on  shelf long enough, it loses its nutritive qualities. It is no longer fit for human consumption  so it spoils  or insects, germs etc consume it. However, when the additives are added, the insects and germs find the food too poisonous and toxic  it would kill them if they ate it, so they don't. The result  the food does not "spoil". It remains as is  until we eat it. But the fact remains that the food value is gone.

It is amazing how many varieties of additives are added to food. They go under different names  look at the label on any processed food can or jar, and see if you can recognize what is in the chart below
Aspartame - Sweetener
Benzoates - Preservatives
BHA, BHT - Antidetoxidants
FD&C Dyes - Colorants
MSG - Flavoring
Nitrates/Nitrites - Preservatives
Parabens  Preservatives
Sulfites  - Preservatives

In developed countries there are strict disclosure requirements, but in India, we just say "includes permitted colours /flavours" and "includes anti-oxidants, emulsifiers, stabilisers" etc. If yous see any of these words on the label, it is a big red flag. Stay away. Aspartame and MSG are particularly dangerous, but the others are also not harmless. Visit the links for details.

Many people say additives are safe, but no one knows for sure, what kinds of tests have been done to establish this safety, on rats, or humans, for what quantity of additives and what time frame. No tests have been done for sure on the effect of combinations of additives  most tests are done for one additive at a time. In short we don't know what are the long term effects of  consuming huge amounts of additives over long periods of time.

It has been estimated that we consume about 5 kilograms of food additives as preservatives, colours, bleaches, flavours, emulsifiers and stabilisers every year in the food we eat. This not only results in extra work for our body to remove them, but frequently trigger asthma attacks; rashes; respiratory disturbances; hyperactivity in children, and in some people, an abnormal sensitivity to prescribed medications, particularly aspirin

In India, because of poor licencing requirements and non-existent enforcement, many companies (especially the smaller ones) can get away with adding almost anything to the food they sell and they may not even tell you what it is.

White Bread, Soft drinks, icecreams, cakes, biscuits, candy, sweets, chocolates, bottled drinks, juices, ..in fact all the food shelves in a supermarket or grocery store  are best stayed away from- except the raw food section of course!

For more details, you can visit: http://www.quackbusters.com.au/food_additives.htm

So much for what is added to processed food. What is removed, during the processing or "refining" process is much of the fibre and other nutrients. Vitamins, minerals etc are destroyed in the high heat used in the processing.

So what is left  not much. So they try to add some of the lost vitamins and minerals. This is called  "fortified with Vitamins and Minerals" to make it sound good. The truth is very little of what is lost can be added back and that also artifiical substitutes

In short, stay away from any food in a can, jar, packet or bottle on the shelf of a store. Either eat your food raw or cook it at home or in a restaurant. Avoid anything that has gone through a factory since you don't know what all has gone into it.


Junk Food

Food available in so called "fast food" restaurants (like Mcdonald's) is typically called "junk food". Why?

Let us consider a typical meal at such a restaurant
- Burger,  French Fries, Ketchup, Coke, and maybe an ice-cream for dessert.
What does this contain?

Burger
- White Bread  processed food  devoid of almost all vitamins and minerals and fibre as well. Lots of preservatives added
-The patty itself is usually meat- chicken beef, etc  animal products
- It is deep fried in oil at high temperatures over 300 deg C  the food gets denatured, possibly even carcinogenic
- There are also some dips or dressings with vinegar, garlic, mustard etc which are irritants and toxins and not recommended

French Fries
- Deep fried potatoes

Coke
-Eight to nine teaspoons of sugar in one can. Aspartame in the diet version. Plus Phosphoric acid, and other chemicals for good measure. If you really want to know what are the effects of soft drinks on your health, read this excellent article.

Ice-cream
Milk, cream, sugar, artificial colours, flavours, additives

Details on how bad each of these things are for you can be found in various pages of this section. In short, a high calorie meal low on vitamins, fibre, minerals and other nutrients. Avoid.

For more on the effect of junk food on kids and kicking the junk food habit, read these links.