In This Article
Effects of Processing Food
Fresh and whole foods naturally have a relatively short shelf life, and this presents a problem when trying to feed a large population. The food industry thought they solved this problem decades ago, but now we are seeing the devastating unintended consequences of a diet high in processed and preservative-laden foods.
In this article, I want to share some of the chemical toxins that are produced by processing foods – with the hope of motivating you to source fresh, whole foods as much as possible.
The Biggest Culprit
After the FDA took cholesterol out of the American diet in the 1960s, good fats were replaced with trans fats, hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils used as preservatives that were refined, bleached, boiled and deodorized. Today, these oils are still in supermarket breads, crackers, pre-packaged foods, desserts and most baked goods. These processed fats have slowly compromised our digestive systems.
Type II diabetes, obesity and depression are all connected to whether or not you have healthy liver function and the ability to burn and utilize good fats as energy. If you cannot effectively digest fats, you store them and gain weight. If you cannot deliver good fats to the gut and brain, neurotransmitters that are required for mood stability become depleted. The liver is the primary regulator of fasting glucose levels, and when it becomes congested with processed dietary fats it becomes unable to regulate healthy blood sugar levels.
In one study, a diet of processed foods increased the risk of metabolic syndrome by a whopping 141 percent. (1) In the same study, those who ate a whole food, non-processed diet that included whole grains and whole wheat reduced their risk of metabolic syndrome by 38 percent.
Metabolic syndrome includes:
- Abdominal obesity
- High triglycerides
- Low HDLs
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
Stress, processed foods, bad fats, environmental toxins and pesticide-laden foods have all contributed to the alteration of the microbiome and the breakdown of digestion. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the toxins produced from processed foods.
7 Toxins Created By Food Processing
1. Heterocyclic Aromatic Amines (HAAs)
These are cancer-causing chemicals produced by the damage of proteins under high heat and processing foods. HAAs are present in many protein-rich foods of animal origin, including pre-packaged or cooked meat, fish, poultry and gravies and sauces derived from pan residues and scrapings of cooked meats.
2. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are known carcinogens that are formed from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels such as wood, coal and oil. PAHs can enter the food chain from environmental contamination or from food processing. Foods containing the highest concentrations of PAHs include cooked or smoked meat or fish, smoked or cured cheese, tea and roasted coffee.
Acrylamide is mutagenic, neurotoxicant, reproductive toxicant and carcinogen from high heat cooking of starch-based foods include bread, bakery products, breakfast cereal, chips, French fries, cocoa-based products and coffee.
Chloropropanols are carcinogens formed from the breakdown of protein during the manufacturing of processed foods. They are found in soybean oil, cereal, toasted bread, coffee, cheese, licorice, baked goods, processed garlic, liquid smokes, malts, cured or smoked meat or fish or soups, prepared meals, savory snacks, gravy mixes and soy sauce.
Furan is a mutagenic and carcinogenic by-product of the high heat treatment of carbohydrates. They are found in processed canned and jarred goods such as soups, pastas, sauces, gravy and baby food and brewed coffee.
6. Trans fatty acids
Trans fatty acids are produced from the hydrogenation of liquid oils (mainly of vegetable origin). This produces solid fats and partially hydrogenated oils such as margarine, spreads, shortenings and frying oil, which are more stable than liquid oils.
They have been found to increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol and have been associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
7. Nitrosamines formed during drying, curing and preserving
Nitrosamines are carcinogenic agents formed during food processing. They are found in processed cheese, soybean oil, canned fruit, meat products, cured or smoked meats, fish and fish products, spices used for meat curing, beer and other alcoholic beverages, meat products and fish. Drying, kilning, salting, smoking or curing promotes the formation of nitrosamines.