Health seems to be on a general decrease in North America. Each year we’re swarmed by statistics of the high obesity rates, increasing incidents of high cholesterol, and poor cardiovascular health. But what on earth is going wrong? As the demand for processed foods such as cheese strings, Oreo cookies, and granola bars increases, companies are forced to expand. The larger these companies become, the more processed our food seems to be. Ingredients that we can’t pronounce are being incorporated into some of our favorite snacks in order to produce a larger amount of food and extend its life on shelves. So what exactly is the problem with ingesting these foods? We know they aren’t natural, and that alone makes us squeamish, but there doesn’t seem to be solid facts indicating why food shipped from so far away really is bad for us.
The Truth About The Processed Stuff
What exactly is a “processed food”? This is any food that has been changed from the state it naturally occurs in. Any food that has been artificially altered is considered processed. This means that the cereal lining the shelves of your cupboard, soups cans stacked high, and even the bread on your countertop are all processed. This is why it’s so tricky to identify the difference between processed food and food that we should be avoiding. Some items need to be processed in order to be safe for human consumption, like store-bought milk for instance. Certain juice is manipulated to contain more vitamins than it would originally, so even though it is processed, it is better for you than the juice in its natural state.
The conversion of food from its natural state has lead to many incidents of intolerant human digestive systems. With a growing number of individuals suffering from lactose intolerance and sensitivities to gluten, it’s time to really re-think the processed foods we’re ingesting.
Where To Draw The Line
When confronted with all of these options, it’s difficult to know where to draw the line on what is healthy to eat and what isn’t. For example, the orange juice with added omega-3 provides health benefits that orange juice alone may not be able to offer. Genetically modified strawberries, on the other hand sound like a creepy science experiment gone wrong.
The best way to approach a new lifestyle with a healthy diet is to isolate the foods that make you feel uncomfortable. Banning anything that comes in a package is a great place to start. Packaged foods generally contain more hard-to-pronounce ingredients for the sake of preservation, such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA). Writing out a list of guidelines is helpful— this way you won’t have to ponder over a package of fish debating whether it counts as processed. In my experience with my local and organic diet, or “eating simple,” as I called it, I try to stick to a general guideline. If the chicken is local and organic from a free-range farm, the package won’t stop me from cooking up a delicious stir-fry.
It’s a good idea to start your list from the most basic and natural forms of food and work your way up the processed chain. For example, local organic fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed nuts are all great ways to acquire the nutrients your body needs. If you don’t think you can acquire all your vitamins from this diet, start the inclusion guidelines of incorporating meat and grains under regulations. You could create an eating plan based on only eating non-breaded, frozen fish for example.
We’ve been exposed to the process of food alteration for a while, and yet cookies and ice cream haven’t faded from food market shelves. Why bother to change our ways so suddenly? When I first started my “eating simple” diet, I was completely shocked at the major changes I started noticing. It wasn’t my figure where I saw the difference, but my attitude. I began to feel healthier, and that constant fatigue which plagued me for years was starting to lift. I became much more positive and even excited about finding new recipes to use. Noticing such a huge change in my attitude was the most inspiring reason to share the benefits of this diet.
With only a few more weeks of summer, now is the time to adjust to healthy eating. It will be much easier to get your hands on fresh and local vegetables this time of year. In highly seasonal areas, it’s difficult to maintain a local diet year-round, for the simple reason that certain food groups aren’t available in the winter.
Not only is summer a great time to start your new diet; it’s a great time to feel its effects. Despite your age, it’s always worth attempting to feel better. A better diet means more energy and more energy means more summer fun. After a few weeks your energy increase may inspire you to arrange a fall hiking trip with friends or even take your bicycle for a spin to enjoy the scenery.
Another main reason to partake in a local or organic diet is as a favor to your local economy. Instead of investing in large food corporations, which you do every time you pick up that box of Chips A’hoy, visit a local produce stand for an array of vegetables. Replace your cookie snacks with freshly grilled zucchini fries dipped in homemade hummus. This way you’ll be paying your dues to your waistline, your cardiovascular health, and your local economy.
Whatever you do, don’t be concerned about limitations in the kitchen. If anything, the limits on your food intake will actually inspire you to be more creative. With the vast expansion of the Internet, it’s easy to find healthy wholesome recipes. One of the first recipes I tried on this diet were spicy black bean burgers, made with corn, black beans, and a variety of vegetables and spices— both delicious and nutritious. Replace your afternoon coffee with a homemade mint-lemon tea for a refreshing pick-me-up. It’s time to get creative with your health!
©2012 Off the Grid News