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Why You Should Avoid Processed Foods

Your Health Matters

Processed foods are so commonplace today, that we often don’t consider what’s in them. According to Timothy Higgins, M.S., RD, LDN, CDE, with Meritus Endocrinology Specialists, processed foods include numerous additives such as high fructose corn syrup, refined carbohydrates, artificial food coloring and sweeteners, sodium nitrite and monosodium glutamate or MSG.

Readily available, appealing to taste buds and relatively cheap; many people gravitate toward highly processed foods. “Food manufacturers engineer food to be incredibly rewarding to the brain—so much so that preferences for these foods replace whole foods such as fruits and vegetables,” says Tim.

Additionally, because of the brain’s “reward” response, processed foods cause overeating that may lead to weight gain, obesity and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Get back to the basics

Tim recommends making gradual changes to your food choices and following five simple steps to eating more whole foods:

  1. Eat foods in their natural state. Think “basic foods” like fish, meat, fruit and vegetables—or foods that your mother or grandmother once prepared.
  2. Establish regular eating patterns. Your metabolism works best when you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and avoid processed snacks between meals.
  3. Plan and prepare foods ahead of time. Make salads for lunches or prepare meals over the weekend and freeze for meals throughout the week.
  4. Read food labels and chose foods with no more than five ingredients, and if the top five begin with sugar, salt and corn syrup, put the item back on the shelf.
  5. Make gradual changes. Swap nuts for chips or drink a smoothie versus eating a fast-food breakfast sandwich. Tim believes you’re more likely to succeed with incremental changes.

Top 10 Fresh Produce to Eat This Summer

By mid-July to August, produce is at its peak. Crunchy veggies, juicy fruit and plenty of easy summer recipes are practically begging to be made. If that’s not tempting enough, the American Heart Association says many seasonal fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and that can help reduce fatty buildup and cholesterol on the inner walls of your arteries.

10 produce superstars:

  1. Tomatoes are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C.
  2. Zucchini contains a fiber called pectin which helps with heart health and lowers cholesterol.
  3. Kale contains fiber, antioxidants, calcium and vitamin K. The potassium in kale may help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
  4. Beets. Dense with potassium, betaine, magnesium, folate and vitamin C, beets are known to help reduce blood pressure and improve circulation.
  5. Cucumbers contain lots of water to prevent dehydration—and they’re a staple of the Mediterranean diet.
  6. Eggplant is rich in fiber and low in calories and the chemical nasunin may help improve blood flow to the brain.
  7. Watermelon is a sweet treat to help keep you cool and hydrated.
  8. Cantaloupes and honey dew are rich in vitamin C. One cup of diced cantaloupe contains only 53 calories.
  9. Blackberries and raspberries are a great source of fiber and high in vitamin C.
  10. Peaches and nectarines are rich in vitamin A and the antioxidant betacarotene, plus they’re a great source of fiber.

Sources: Woman’s Day, American Heart Association and Medical News Today