Six processed foods to avoid


Sunday, July 08, 2018

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WE are officially more than half-way through 2018. That means we have already gone through 12 dares with the wellness-based initiative, 12 Months 24 Dares! That's six months of fitness and nutritional-based dares geared towards helping people create and stick to healthy wellness habits.

The subscribers (dare-ees) have implemented some positive habits since the year has begun and have experienced some amazing changes.

Some of these changes include: Kicking unhealthy eating habits to the kerb, 10-15 pounds of weight loss, dare-ees who have enrolled at the gym and are sticking to it, dare-ees who are challenging themselves with exercises they have never done before and are enjoying it, and the list goes on.

This month's nutritional dare is no pushover and has the dare-ees groaning loudly: Cut out packaged sweets/snacks, fried anything, fast anything.

This is a heavy ask as these falls under the category of processed foods. In a very fast-paced world, processed foods represent convenience. This very general term has been thrown around in the wellness industry as something to avoid. To celebrate passing the six-month mark, we're going to highlight what processed foods are, their effects, and six processed foods we dare you to avoid/cut down this month.

What exactly are processed foods?

According to the World Health Organization, processed foods are any types of food that have been heavily altered from the original state. Even though freezing and dehydrating fall under 'processed foods', these are examples of minimally processed foods that retain most of their nutritional properties.

I am shining the light on more heavily processed foods that are usually very convenient and are filled with one or more of the following culprits: Sugar, salt, preservatives, refined ingredients, and unhealthy fats.

Even though not all processed foods are unhealthy, many have negative effects on your health. It is always better to shop for more minimally processed foods and whole foods (unprocessed foods), and prepare your food yourself so you can control your diet.

Effect of processed foods

Research has linked all of these added ingredients in processed foods to chronic health problems including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and some types of cancer. Heavily processed foods usually have little to no nutrients, with fibre either lost, low or intentionally taken out and artificial ingredients and sugars added, leaving us with empty calories and negative health effects.

6 processed foods to avoid/cut back on

White bread: Made with refined wheat flour, white bread contains a lot of preservatives and sugars that, unless immediately utilised for activity, tends to be stored as fat in the body. Also, rapid digestion can increase hunger and cravings, leading to a lack of satiety after eating which may result in increased caloric intake throughout the day.

Fruit juices: If you thought that the fruit juice you got at the supermarket over the sugary drink had no added sugars, think again! Even though it is 'healthier' than soda, some fruit juices have more added sugar than a lot of the sugary drinks out there. Unlike eating fruits that allow the brain to register the 'bulk' and tells you to stop, the brain doesn't register how many calories we are taking in. Excess sugar consumption causes insulin resistance and can lead to fatty liver disease, as well as increases the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other serious disorders, including obesity.

Candy: We're not talking about the occasional candy bar. Eating candies regularly not only increases chances for weight gain but also leaves little room for nutrient-dense foods that support your health, as candies make you feel full. Even though you are satisfying hunger, you aren't meeting your daily nutrient intake requirements.

Ketchup: The tomatoes in ketchup are so diluted by sugar and salt that they offer no nutritional value. With most of the calories in ketchup coming from hidden sugar, it is a far distant cousin from real tomatoes.

French fries: A study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that there is an unhealthy relationship between frying potatoes and our mortality rate. This could result from the amount of trans fats and salt in French fries, which are known to increase the risk of other chronic diseases such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes — which are also powerful risk factors for cardiovascular disease. There are also dangerous chemicals in fried potatoes: Acrylamide, which is especially present in overcooked fries and potato chips (and toast), has been linked to cancer risk.

Pastries and cakes: Even though we love them, these comfort foods are loaded with calories and have essentially no nutrients to deliver. While they're certainly tasty you're not doing yourself any favours by including them in your diet, as they are filled with huge amounts of sugars and fats that your body can do without.

The refined sugar, white flour and trans fats commonly found in these treats not only add empty calories, but introduce problematic foods that can contribute to other health problems.

Processed meat: This is a special message for the bacon, salami and sausage lovers — the World Health Organization recently labelled processed meats as being carcinogenic to humans. It said there is sufficient evidence to prove that the consumption of processed meat daily causes colorectal cancer. Having a slice of bacon once in a while won't kill you, though.

There will be hiccups. Start slowly and plan your meals ahead so you won't find yourself in situations where you will give in to the processed food urge.

The most important thing is not to beat yourself up about it, just pick it up again the next day. Do you accept the unprocessed food challenge? You can always join the movement! Email us at or follow us on Instagram and/or Facebook using the handle 12months24dares.

Jo-Hanna is the wellness coordinator of 12 Months 24 Dares. She is an internationally certified America Council of Exercise Personal Trainer, Group fitness instructor and Power Vinyasa 200YT Yoga Instructor.

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