Processed Foods

Home Grown Foods

When I was growing up on a farm, my family worked hard and ate 3 to 5 meals each day.

Most of what we ate was home grown. Milk, eggs, vegetables, potatoes, fruit, beef, pork, and chicken were abundantly available. The only processing was when my family canned, dried, or froze the foods from our garden that we consumed during the winter.

Perhaps, now, I appreciate what we had then even more than I did at the time.

Generally, fresh and organic foods are available today only for those who can afford them. However, most supermarkets shelves are filled with ultra-processed foods such as ready-to-eat meals, packaged sugary snacks, and mass-produced breads and rolls.

Hooked on Processed Foods

There has been a lot written about the harm of eating too much processed food. However, a small recent study argues that consumption of ultra-processed foods is not harmful. It makes you wonder who might have sponsored that study.

Many of the food industry titans have worked hard to convince consumers that ultra-processed desserts, snacks, and even sodas and other sugary drinks are harmless. In his book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss talks about how food manufacturers intentionally and scientifically created products that people would crave and become dependent upon.

It has worked well for them. For example, the food industry encourages children to begin their day by eating nutritionally dubious boxed cereals that are endorsed by their favorite cartoon characters.

Government regulations haven’t prevented manufacturers from selling these products as “part of a complete breakfast.” Parents eager to move past mealtime so they can get their kids out the door and onto the school bus may believe that the sugary snacks in those boxes are nutritionally good enough. After all, they are fortified with vitamins and FDA approved.

The Harm in Ultra-Processed Foods

They may not realize that, on average, people who ingest ultra-processed foods consume more than 500 calories per day than those who don’t. People usually eat ultra-processed foods more rapidly than they would less processed foods, so they tend to eat more and gain more weight.

Almost certainly, they do not know that convenience foods are associated with a higher cancer risk and type 2 diabetes. Some research suggests that the products’ packaging can leach such chemicals as bisphenol A (BPA) and perfluoroalky and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or that these toxins may act as endocrine interrupters and cause cancers, infertility, and other health problems.

Unfortunately, ultra-processed foods are less expensive than more healthful choices. They are often ready to eat, right from the can or the box, or they can be quickly heated and consumed. Also, they have a long shelf-life. There’s even a popular myth that one popular snack food, Twinkies, may last forever.

My children, like most other children, were attracted to processed foods. But they also were fortunate enough to know the tastes of fresh vegetables and fruits harvested minutes before they were eaten.

One memorable moment came when my parents were planning to visit during the summer. My then three-year-old daughter said to her grandpa, “If you bring the sweet corn, I have the butter.”

We may not all have grandpas to bring us fresh farm produce, but we can be aware of the health consequences of consuming highly processed food.

Leave a Comment