Clean Eating – How and Why to Cut Out Processed Food (…for Busy People)

Introduction – What is “Processed” Food?

Clean Eating – How and Why to Cut Out Processed Food (…for Busy People)

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You have probably heard about the dangers of processed food. Everyone is telling you to eat more vegetables and fruits, and avoid “manufactured foods”. But what exactly is processed food? Just about anyone can look at a chicken nugget and realize that whatever chicken might be present has gone through an extreme alteration.

Some foods which qualify for the definition of processed are actually improved. Some milk, juices and other beverages have vitamins added to them to make them healthier. But for the most part, processed foods should be avoided. Because a lot of the process that gets them from nature to your table includes packing them with preservatives, sugar and trans fats.

By definition, processed food is food that has been altered from its natural state. So a package of chopped lettuce is actually processed. It has been made more convenient, and then bagged. Those types of processed foods are usually good for you. The types of manufactured foods you want to avoid are those that involve combining raw ingredients and chemicals into food-like items.

Pesticides can also be a part of the process. When foods are being grown, they are often treated with chemicals to ward off hungry bugs and insects. That is why eating clean or organic foods can cut down on the amount of toxins a human being consumes every day by as much as 80%, according to the Environmental Working Group.

When ingredients such as sugar, fat and salt are added to food to enhance flavor or make it last longer, this type of processed product can end up getting more than the recommended amounts of those items into your body. Health hazards and addictions to salt and sugar are often the result.

Those types of items are also usually higher in calories, which means packing on the pounds. And if you eat a lot of red meat that has been processed, you run a much higher risk of contracting certain forms of cancer. So you want to avoid products that have lost nutrients and gained unhealthy and unneeded chemicals and alternatives.

Just how can you spot which food is good for you and which is unhealthy? You need to learn how to spot “clean” foods, which we cover in our next section.

How to Identify “Clean” Foods

You may have heard people talk about eating a “clean” diet. While there is no specific definition for clean foods, eating clean means sticking with foods that are as close as possible to their natural state. You want to avoid preservatives, coloring and man-made chemicals.

Drinking lots of water aids a clean diet by keeping your system flushed. And for the most part you want to target fruits, vegetables, whole foods (items that have been processed or refined as little as possible and are free from additives or other artificial substances) and a plant-based diet.

But exactly how do you identify clean foods? When reading food labels, which you should be doing all the time, you want to avoid most foods with more than 5 ingredients.

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One-ingredient foods, such as apples, oranges and other fruit in their natural state, are examples of clean foods. And you definitely want to avoid the big 3 added ingredients which cause the most havoc to your health – salt, sugar and dietary fats.

Another tip is to turn away from products that are “made with whole grains”. Instead, go for 100% whole-grain products. Refined grains such as bread, cereal and pasta which are made from white flour should also be avoided. But whole-grain pasta, cereal and bread are considered clean foods.

Generally speaking, if a food item has just one ingredient or is as close to its natural state as possible, it qualifies for clean eating. This means no more cans of soup or candy bars, fried chicken and french fries. Fresh poultry, seafood and meat are usually fine, as long as you take it easy on the creams or sauces.

Follow these tips for spotting clean foods:

1.If there are more than 5 ingredients, look for an alternative.

2.If the food you are thinking about purchasing is in a package, it has been processed to some point.

3.If you read a food label and there are ingredients with names that you cannot pronounce, put it back on the shelf.

4.Most foods with organic labels are cleaner than other options.

5.Avoid trans fats, monosodium glutamate (MSG), high fructose corn syrup, other sugars, sodium and other salts, and white flour.

6.If you see the following ingredients, you are looking at extremely processed foods – corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, cane sugar, sodium, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

7.And if you purchase any of the following Dirty Dozen foods, choose organic whenever you can, and wash thoroughly before eating. (The Dirty Dozen foods are so named by the Environmental Working Group because they are extremely high in man-made chemicals and pesticides. When grown in the traditional manner, these 12 foods tested positive for anywhere from 47 to 67 different chemicals.)

Apples
Sweet bell peppers
Cherries
Imported grapes
Celery
Strawberries
Domestic blueberries
Nectarines
Kale, spinach and collard greens
Potatoes
Lettuce
Peaches

Now that you know how to spot clean foods, let’s take a look at the best reasons for steering clear of processed foods.

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Clean Eating – How and Why to Cut Out Processed Food(…for Busy People)

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