Processed junk food destroys people’s metabolism and promotes obesity through a variety of mechanisms. Among them is the way these kinds of foods affect their appetite control. Several studies have also demonstrated that processed foods are addictive.
The human body is designed to naturally regulate how much we eat and the energy we burn. Food manufacturers have figured out how to override these intrinsic regulators, engineering processed foods that are “hyper-rewarding.”
According to the food reward hypothesis of obesity, processed foods stimulate such a strong reward response in the brains that it becomes very easy to overeat, and 1 of the guiding principles for the processed food industry is known as “sensory-specific satiety.”
In a 2013 NY-T’s article, investigative reporter Michael Moss described this as “the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm your brain.” The greatest successes, whether beverages or foods, owe their “craveability” to complex formulas that pique the taste buds without overwhelming them, thereby overriding your brain’s satiety signals.
Potato chips are among the most addictive junk foods available, containing all 3 “bliss-inducing” ingredients: sugar from the potato, salt and fat. And while food companies abhor the word “addiction” in reference to their products, scientists have discovered that sugar, in particular, is just that. In fact, sugar has been shown to be more addictive than cocaine.
Research published in Y 2007 showed 94% of rats allowed to choose between sugar water and cocaine chose sugar. Even cocaine addicted rats quickly switched their preference to sugar once it was offered as an alternative. The rats were also more willing to work for sugar than for cocaine.
The researchers speculate that the sweet receptors, 2 protein receptors located on the tongue, which evolved in ancestral times when the diet was very low in sugar, have not adapted to modern times’ high-sugar consumption.
As a result, the abnormally high stimulation created by sugar-rich diets generates excessive reward signals in the brain, which have the potential to override normal self-control mechanisms and thus lead to addiction and overeating.
Americans not only eat a preponderance of processed food, but 60% of it is ultra-processed products at the far end of the “significantly altered” spectrum, or what can typically purchase at a gas station.
Any food that is not directly from the vine, ground, bush or tree, is considered processed.
Depending on the amount of change the food undergoes, processing may be minimal or significant. For instance, frozen fruit is usually minimally processed, while pizza, soda, chips and microwave meals are ultra-processed foods.
The difference in the amount of sugar between foods that are ultra-processed and minimally processed is dramatic.
Research has shown 21.1% of calories in ultra-processed foods come from added sugar, compared to just 2.4% of the calories in processed food and none in unprocessed foods.
In addition to obesity, depression and other chronic health problems, ultra-processed foods will also shorten one’s life span.
French researchers found that for each 10% increase in the amount of ultra-processed food an individual consumed, the risk of death rose by 14%.
This link remained even after taking confounding factors such as smoking, obesity and low educational background into account. The primary factors driving the increased death rate was chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
So, eating a diet consisting of 90% Real food and only 10% or less processed foods is an achievable goal for most that could make a significant difference in their weight and overall health.
Ultra-processed foods should be kept to an absolute minimum and consumed only rarely.
As noted in a 2016 study, “Decreasing the consumption of ultra-processed foods could be an effective way of reducing the excessive intake of added sugars in the USA.”
To get started, consider the following basics, as follows:
•Focus on fresh foods, ideally Organic, and avoid as many processed foods as possible. Note: if it comes in a can, bottle or package and has a list of ingredients, it’s processed.
Severely restrict carbohydrates from refined sugars, fructose and processed grains, and increase healthy fat consumption.
Examples of healthy fats include: grass fed butter, ghee, lard, coconut oil and coconuts, avocados, nuts and seeds, raw cacao butter, extra virgin olive oil, Organic pastured eggs.
One can eat an unlimited amount of non-starchy vegetables. Because they are so low in calories, the majority of the food on your plate should be vegetables.
•Replace sodas and other sweetened beverages, including fruit juices, with pure, filtered water.
•Gradually reduce your eating window to 6-8 hrs with your last food intake at least 3 hours before bedtime.
•Shop around the perimeter of the grocery store where most of the whole foods reside, such as meat, fruits, vegetables, eggs and cheese. Not everything around the perimeter is healthy, but you will avoid many of the ultra-processed foods this way.
•Stress creates a physical craving for fats and sugar that drive addictive, stress-eating behavior. If you can recognize when you are getting stressed and find another means of relieving the emotion, your eating habits will improve.
Note: The struggle with weight gain and obesity is a common and costly health issue, leading to an increase in risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer, to name a few.
Obese individuals also have substantially higher medical expenses and indirect costs associated with lost productivity, transportation and premature mortality, and obesity is the reason why 1 in 3 fail to qualify for military service in the US.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively
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