The Problem with Processed Foods

June 25, 2024

Processed foods and factory-made snacks are pros at nailing this never ending tug-of-war between our brains & our digestive system. Processed foods are engineered to keep our cravings on a never-ending loop, tricking our taste buds and keeping us hooked. How? With artificial additives, refined sugars, and fats that put our brain's pleasure centers into overdrive.

Natural foods, such as vegetables, fruits, or animal proteins like steak, inherently contain elements that promote a sense of fullness. They offer high nutritional value and often have fiber, protein, and other components that satisfy hunger. These foods trigger signals in our brain that say, "Hey, you've eaten enough, and now you’re satisfied."

On the other hand, processed foods, like cookies or snacks, are often engineered to override our natural hunger cues. They're designed with a perfect mix of sugar, fats, and additives that hijack our brain's reward system, making us crave more even when we're physically full. These foods lack the same nutritional benefit as natural foods and are often calorie-dense without offering that feeling of satiety.

But don't fear! There are ways to stop the cycle!

  1. Prioritize whole foods and make these a majority of what you eat throughout the day. Think vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, beans, dairy, eggs, meat, nuts... basically anything that is closest to its "natural" or "original" state.
  2. Read labels - if the food has a bunch of ingredients that are too complicated to pronounce, it's probably been artificially engineered and overly-processed. Look for ingredients you can recognize or consider making that food at home, if that's an option.
  3. Practice mindfulness. We're busy humans - whether that means we're eating on the go, while distracted on our phones, watching TV, working, etc. - we can often forget to sit and actually enjoy our food. The best way to start this is by eating without distractions and pausing before, during, and after our meals to really hone in on how our body is feeling. If we're eating for non-hunger reasons, practice recognizing that sensation and asking yourself if something else may serve you better.
  4. Meal prep and get creative in the kitchen. Meal prepping doesn't have to be grueling! Often it does involve more planning on the front end, but can offer some great benefits in the long-run.
  5. Make changes slowly. If you're struggling, remember that slow progress can be the most sustainable! It's not about overhauling your whole life, it's about moderation and learning your body. Start by filling more of your plate with natural foods, or by replacing some store bought snacks with more natural ones. Overtime, it will get easier to choose foods that better suite your needs.
Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this blog or in any linked materials. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before starting new diet, supplement, medication, exercise, or other health plan. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or emergency services immediately. The opinions and views expressed on this blog and website belong that only of the author of that blog article and not any organizations they may represent.
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