Are Processed Foods Bad For You?

Jul 27, 2022

I’m about to give you what I consider the only nutritional advice that is true for everyone across the board. This is for every shape and size, not just those working on weight management. 

If you are looking to be healthy, free of disease, free of body image struggles, free of weight struggles, reduced anxiety and feelings of depression; reducing your processed food intake as much as possible is going to be the quickest way to get there. 

What Does It Mean When Foods Are Processed?

On a technicality, doing ANYTHING to our food is considered food processing. If you have to heat it, preserve it, or change it in any way, it’s technically processed. Technically, milk and plain unsweetened yogurt are ‘processed’ foods. When you pull wheat from the stem, you have to process it to turn it into bread. Technically, that’s processed food. 

However, food processing should be thought of on a spectrum.

What I’m really talking about when it comes to the question “are processed foods bad for you?” are foods that are considered ultra-processed. These are the things that you know like chips, cookies, crackers, Oreos, Doritos, cereals, most bread, and pasta. Essentially, we need to look at the back of the label. 

When you look at plain Greek yogurt, for example, and you look at the back of the label, and there are just a couple of ingredients (ones that you can recognize and pronounce), versus when you look at Yoplait “Greek” yogurt, and there are 10 ingredients on the back (a few of them being added sugar), you can see a visual representation of how much the food is processed. (Sorry, Yoplait….just stating facts, here.)

You can assume that ultra-processed foods (ones that tend to have lots of ingredients, many of which you can’t understand) are an indicator that there’s is likely to be a negative biochemical response from your body as it tries to figure out what the heck that food is, and what to do with it. Your beautiful body was designed to know what to do with all kinds of food, but it doesn’t know what to do with ultra-processed foods and this can lead to inflammation, brain fog, weight gain, and much more.

Reasons To Stay Away From Processed Foods

There are two reasons I talk about staying away from processed food as much as possible. 

  1. To put it simply, the processed food itself, the way that it’s engineered, and the way that those ingredients communicate with your brain will cause you to eat more food. Several studies show this. Because of the way that the ingredients are unnaturally combined, the more processed food you eat the more it triggers your brain to reach for that food, largely unconsciously. 
  1. The impact of processed food on your body (separate from calories or macronutrients), the inflammatory response, and the disruption of the gut microbiome and the gut lining will also have a negative impact on your body. Not only will the ingredients trigger you to eat more food, but then you’ve got the impact of it on the inflammatory system and the inflammatory response which can have significant negative impacts. Processed foods have been directly linked to depression, anxiety, and weight gain.


Processed Foods Impact On Health

If you saw the number of nutrition books that I have in my library, that I have read and poured through numerous times, with all the research and all the literature, from every angle, the common thread (the only thread that is common in all of them) is that we’ve got to stop eating processed foods. The impact of the processed food industry on our health, longevity, chronic illness, autoimmune disorders, obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, stands at the forefront of many of our medical issues. 

So,  if you were to only do one thing with your nutrition – if you were to throw out all of the other advice about carbs, fat, and protein –  it would be to reduce the number of processed foods that you eat.

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