Cereal Killer and Ultra Processed Foods
Updated: Nov 12
Cooking, cutting, steaming, boiling, microwaving, fermenting and even mixing are all forms of processing. It almost goes without saying, some forms are worse than others. Typically, the more processed a food, the worse it is for your health and well-being. Some foods, like mass-market cereals, even contain anti-nutrients (natural or synthetic compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients). In the 21st century, processing practices (like the use of irradiation to chemically synthesized trans fat) have been getting progressively weirder and potentially dangerous. A hamburger from your local fast food store is likely a conglomeration of over 1000 different cows and is treated with ammonia gas and even carbon monoxide in order to kill off potential bacteria and keep the meat looking fresh. The last time I checked, these are dangerous poisons but FDA says they are safe. Phew! Or take for example the popular food additive derived from the anal glands of a beaver and routinely put in vanilla, strawberry or raspberry ice cream. Castoreum, which comes from the castor sacs of male and female beavers, is an FDA-approved food additive – the marketing geniuses figured out that putting “beaver anal secretions” on the labeling for ice cream might hurt sales, thus they got special dispensation from the government to list it instead as “natural flavorings”. Thanks, FDA! However to be fair, only a very tiny amount is used in food…..it is mostly used in the perfume industry.
NOTE: I may sound a little hyperbolic, but please remember, as always, the dose makes the poison.
When you hear a doctor or dietician state “all processed foods are bad for you”, what they really mean is most 'ultra' processed foods are unhealthy. Subsisting on a raw diet of nothing processed would be dreadfully boring and potentially unhealthy too. It has been argued that one of the first methods of processing, cooking over a fire, led to a massive increase in our species brain size. The process of fermentation and canning helped us store food longer and keeps our digestive bacterial biome healthy. Here are some guidelines to help you circumvent unwholesome foods:
Steer clear of anything with added sugar (many food items have natural sugar). Look at the ingredient list and if you read sugar, agave, glucose, cane juice, beet juice, maltose, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, brown sugar etc. steer clear.
Avoid products that have been engineered to have an unnaturally long shelf life like Twinkies, Spam, cereals, and margarine.
Don’t eat products that have been stripped of their natural ingredients and are made with refined grains like white bread, white flour, white pasta etc. In order to make most bread and flours the germ and bran are taken out of the final product depleting it of its fiber, mineral and vitamin content.
Cereal killers. Don’t eat breakfast cereal. Most cereal is highly processed and devoid of many macro and micronutrients. And many bowls of cereal are chock full of sugar and fast insulin-producing carbohydrates with little or no fiber. Great for inducing diabetes.
Bypass any items that have more than 5 ingredients (unless you made it at home) or ones with dubious or hard to pronounce names.
Stay away from food products that have a cartoon mascot. They are most likely highly processed.
Many convenience foods we love so dearly would be much healthier if we made them ourselves using organic wholesome ingredients. When you are the cook, you can limit the amount of sugar, salt and chemicals you’d like to have in your meal. Agribusiness, restaurants and food marketers are only interested in one thing: getting you to buy. Adding sugar, salt and fat to almost any recipe will make it taste better. Sprinkle some preservatives and other chemicals and presto! Out comes a cheap, easy to sell ‘food-like’ product with increased shelf life, better mouth feel and flavoring. Or not. Cooking can be fun. Take a class and play around with some recipes. You will be abundantly healthier for it.