There are many things about processed food that are bad for your health, but this post will focus on two major themes to beware of when it comes to processed food:
1. Avoid processed foods that have added sugars
2. Avoid processed foods that significantly alter the form of the original whole food
Both of these forms of processing lead to rapid absorption of sugars, harmful spikes in blood sugar levels, and associated problems with weight gain and health.
In paleolithic times, we used to consume twenty-two teaspoons of sugar per year. Now, Americans consume an average of twenty-two teaspoons of sugar per day! The great bulk of these added sugars are hidden in processed foods and drinks.
One-third of added sugars in the American diet come from sugar-sweetened beverages. As you will see in the accompanying video in this post, a typical can of soda contains quite a bit of added sugars in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Dr. David Ludwig, an expert in the field of childhood obesity, reported a sixty percent increased risk of obesity for each additional daily serving of soft drinks in middle-school children.
Many parents have heard of the harms of high fructose corn syrup and have turned to giving their kids fruit juices. However, although fruit juices are a naturally sweetened beverage, they are not innocuous. Fruit juices are examples of food processing that has altered the form of the original whole food.
A whole orange contains fiber which delays the absorption of the sugars contained within the orange. On the other hand, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice is effectively liquid sugar. Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist and author of Fat Chance: Beating The Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease said, "When God made the poison, he packaged it with the antidote."
It is far better to eat a whole piece of fruit than it is to toss the fiber away and drink the fruit juice. So, what's a kid to drink? Our bodies are comprised of 60% water, making water an essential nutrient. When your kids complain of thirst, they are simply voicing their body's inherent need for hydration. Water is the ultimate thirst quencher.
Perhaps your children complain that water is boring. A simple and practical way to jazz up water is to infuse it with the natural essence of fruits and herbs. And because infused water does not have added sugars, it is a much healthier alternative to soda and fruit juice. You can read more about simply infused water in the following blog:
There's a famous saying that goes, "There must be something in the water." For many of our kids, it's sugar. The question is, "What do you want your child to drink?"
In the following video clip, I demonstrate just how much sugar is in a typical can of soda and I demonstrate how easy it is to make your own infused water.
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Ludwig DS, Peterson KE, Gortmaker SL. Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis. Lancet 2001; 357:505–08.
Schulze MB et al. Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. JAMA 2004; 292(8):927-934.
Lustig, R. H. (2013). Fat chance: Beating the odds against sugar, processed food, obesity, and disease. New York, New York: Hudson Street Press.
Odegaard AO et al. Soft drink and juice consumption and risk of physician-diagnosed incident type 2 diabetes: the Singapore Chinese Health Study. Am J Epidemiol 2010; Mar 15;171(6):701-8.