Part of the problem with processed foods is their widespread presence in the grocery store. No longer is the store packed full of fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat; now it’s stuffed with highly processed junk foods. Healthy foods are slowly getting pushed out. Just take a look the next time you are in the vegetable section. Increasingly, prepackaged, plastic-wrapped foods are encroaching on the apples and oranges. Processed food danger is everywhere.
Plus, it’s getting harder to sort out the right foods from the wrong ones at the supermarket, especially when more organic food companies are merely copying their junk food counterparts. How can we eat healthier if we are constantly confronted with organic boxed mac and cheese versus the conventional version? What about all-natural, fruit juice gummy bears? Are they good for you? Unfortunately, many supposedly healthier foods are still extremely processed.
What Do Processed Foods Constitute
Processed foods are those that undergo processing to transform them from their original form into something new. Some examples include whole grains into flour, vegetables into canned soup and juice into gummy bears. Although technically, any alteration indicates processing, the term processed food is almost always applied to junk foods and pre-packaged goods. These products are commonly found throughout the middle aisles of the supermarket.
Typically, processed foods have long shelf stability thanks to their unpronounceable additives. Even though homemade chicken soup might be good only for a few days in the fridge, a can of chicken soup is good for years on the shelf. Processed soups also tend to have high levels of fat, salt, and sugars that are uncommon in less-processed foods. Another key indicator is a long list of mystery ingredients on the label.
Here are 10 Shopping Rules for Eating Clean to get you started.
What to Expect When You Kick Processed Foods
Cutting processed foods from your diet may be the single best move you can make for your waistline and overall health, but it’s not easy. Processed foods contain high and unnecessary levels of salt, fat and sugar, so going cold turkey can trigger withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, these side effects only last a few days, at most a week. The long-term health benefits of cutting out processed junk foods far outweigh the short-term downsides, though.
Short-Term Side Effects
With that in mind, it’s good to know what you are getting into before going cold turkey. Here are three of the most common adverse short-term side effects experienced after eliminating junk foods from your diet.
Depriving our bodies of processed foods might trigger a period of crankiness. Most often experienced after sugar withdrawals, it’s your body’s way to tell you it’s not happy! It’s craving the high sugar, high salt and high-fat content of junk food. As your body adjusts to the healthier and more-natural sugars, fats and salts found in a well-balanced diet, the irritability will subside.
In the first few days of eating whole fruits and vegetables, you may experience fatigue. Suddenly, your body finds itself without its refined-sugar crutch it relied on to operate on a daily basis. No more mid-afternoon pick-me-up! It takes a few days to return to normal and regulate a more natural energy level.
Trying to make any drastic change is hard, especially when it comes to dieting. It can take a few weeks of habit-forming to adjust to the new diet. Eating clean takes a bit more preparation than just popping a pre-packaged frozen meal in the microwave. The good news is that well-balanced meals full of whole foods are far more beneficial to your mind, body, and soul than anything that comes out of a wrapper.
Now, let’s get into the long-term positive changes you will notice after making the switch. You might even see some of these changes set in before the negative ones have subsided.
1. Higher Energy Levels
Without a well-balanced diet, blood sugar varies widely and subsequently stimulates peaks and valleys in energy levels. When you eat more nutrient-dense foods and fewer junk foods, your body can regulate blood sugar levels better. Therefore, people often report having much higher and sustained energy levels with whole, clean eating than when relying on junk food and caffeinated beverages.
2. Weight Loss
Refined sugar and high-fat foods are quick ways to pack on the pounds. Processed foods are suspected of causing worldwide weight gain, so cutting them from your diet will slowly but surely help you shed those few extra pounds. Especially when a whole-food diet combines with increased exercise, people usually find it much easier to lose weight than when they stick to their usual highly processed routine.
3. Better Digestion
One of the first physical benefits you’ll notice from incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet is a better digestive system. Junk foods full of unhealthy low-fiber ingredients tend to plug up the system, clogging it full of toxins. Whole fruits, vegetables, and grains contain the fiber your body so desperately needs for more-regular bowel movements. Junk food might also be destroying your digestion in other ways.
Cutting out junk food cold turkey may not be easy, but it is an essential step in looking after your physical and mental well-being. Inside and out, there is a laundry list of positive health benefits just from switching to whole, clean foods. As long as you know what you are getting into beforehand, anyone can push through the side effects to reap the many health benefits of a diet free of packaged and processed junk.