Processed foods upset healthy stomachs

by Sofia Casillas


College life can be hectic — so hectic that maintaining a healthy diet often becomes difficult. However, as convenient as fast and processed foods may seem for those on the go, health-conscious consumers should be wary of them.

The United States Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act defines processed foods as “any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration or milling.”

This practice evolved from industrialization, and was created so food could be preserved and eaten out of season. Recent studies have shown trans fat, an ingredient often added to processed foods to prolong their shelf lives, can increase the risk of heart disease.

“They can also contribute to an increase in total cholesterol levels and a drop in the healthy HDL cholesterol,” registered dietitian at the University of Maryland Medical Center Mary Beth Sodus said. “These man-made fats are much worse for you than any other natural fat, even the saturated fats found in butter and beef.”

Because of said “man-made fats” and the body’s difficulty breaking down artificial ingredients, processed foods can be detrimental to a person’s health.

How can college students maintain healthy diets and stay away from artificial enticements? To start, those trying to avoid processed foods should eliminate certain products from their diets, including Top Ramen, canned foods, frozen fish sticks, chips, doughnuts, French fries, candy, frozen foods, hot dogs, packaged cake mix and cookies. Keep in mind, this is just a small piece of the pie that encompasses all processed foods.

“Processed foods are also made to dissolve quickly in your mouth … to get you to eat faster and in greater quantities — often leaving you full, but not satisfied,” author of “Real Food Has Curves” and chef Bruce Weinstein said.

In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring food companies to label trans fats on their products. With this change, it is wise to view nutrition facts and stay away from high-calorie foods, preservatives, artificial flavors and, of course, trans fats.

Making the switch from processed foods to whole foods may be a difficult adjustment, but it will do the body good. Exposing the palate to a wider range of wholesome foods will help it adapt to a variety of new flavors. In his book, Weinstein wrote, “Every bite should be like a wine tasting.” Cheers to a healthier lifestyle.