So, processed foods include, by definition, any food that is no longer in its original state. Canning tomatoes from last August? Yes. Twinkie? Hell yes.
Those differences are obvious – Foods that are canned and the others truly preserved. But what are those sneaky food companies doing? Their goal is to create a food that consumers will buy. Quite often masking them as health foods. Consider someone with a recent celiac diagnosis or say, going off of gluten for three weeks? Instead of more nutritious options that require preparation and cooking, marketers make it easy again with a gluten-free cookie. The end result is what popular food writer Michael Pollan disparages as “Edible Food-Like Substances.” Displacing science for food stability, to remove things that are good for you like fiber and vitamins. For example, adding unhealthy ingredients such as sodium, trans fat, colours, added sugars and holding agents to put that cookie all back together again the way you’d expect it to look and keep it shelf stable.
Here’s the epiphany – we already know that whole foods are better for you but what happens in those times of convenience? These foods that have been made, not for you the consumer, but to survive on a shelf until you buy it. It made me wonder then, what is it doing in your body? For food that is made to not decompose, how is a body supposed to digest it? With so much of it’s original state altered, it seems similar to eating a block of wood or a piece of plastic. Clearly there will be limited vitamins that can be removed from it, so how is someone supposed to eat a diet of processed foods and not be malnourished? Where does that proverbial piece of plastic end up if it can’t be fully digested? Does it just stay there? Does it just move slower? Ew.
Which brings me to one big reason why I’ve decided to Restart Eating.
I’ve eaten my share of processed food. I’m a 80’s kid after all! So it makes me think of that urban legend, if you swallow gum, it’ll take 7 years for it to be digested and come out the other side… and that’s just gum!
I’m hoping by choosing to eat only real food that I can make at home (last summer’s canned tomato haul forgiven), my body might have a chance to push through the sludge, grab a the nutrients I think I’ve clearly been missing and maybe, just maybe, my digestion will restart itself as well.
Now the hard part.
Some of the most processed foods of all are designed to catch to us at our weakest, when we’re hungry and tired and just want to eat. Deciding to restart with whole foods doesn’t mean you can’t have convenient meals, it just means you’ll have to create them for yourself. My best bet is to plan ahead, know which recipes can be made into big batches, or mutli-task for various meals and which favourites can be frozen for later. Healthy, homemade alternatives to shortcut packaged, processed foods.
Try a Thai coconut soup that can be eaten as soup with added zucchini zoodles for one meal, then added curry paste and frozen for a dinner with cauliflower rice later.
Or Bone Broth. It can be made into so many things. A stew, braise of lamb shanks or french onion soup.