A processed food is any food that has been refined, interfered with or fragmented from its original, natural state.
Wheat, Corn and Sugar Cane are whole foods that are actually healthy in their natural form, but sadly they've also become some of the most over-commoditised and over-processed foods in the world.
Over processing is what causes much of the nutritional value and fibre to be stripped from the natural product, before additives and preservatives are included, and this is the major culprit when it comes to inflammation and weight gain within the body.
Eating a diet laden with processed foods, can not only cause weight gain, but also have a ripple effect on the rest of your life, leading to other unhealthy behaviours and consequences.
Here, we reveal six common reasons why avoiding processed foods and moving more towards a cleaner, whole plant-based diet, is one of the best things you can do for your health and managing your weight.
1. Habit and Taste
The first reason why processed foods cause weight gain, is because the preservatives and chemical additives widely used as ingredients in these foods are addictive.
The reason big food companies use these ingredients is for both economies of scale, meaning they can produce more for less...plus the more sinister reason is that they know that it induces a response in the brain that causes you to come back for more and more.
Great examples of foods that can be addictive are, sodas and diet drinks, flavoured snack foods, chips and frozen foods.
With their combination of sugar, colourings, MSG and chemical trans fat, they are designed to be flavoursome and irresistible and something that you crave once you're hooked.
The problem is, the more you crave these chemicals, the more you eat these foods and the more malnourished you become. This is like a vicious cycle, because malnourishment leads to hunger. And when you're constantly hungry, you will eat more than your body needs and the fatter you become.
Learn more in our blog Overcoming Sugar Addictions & The Best Natural Substitutes
It does takes willpower to fight cravings, so it is definitely much easier to cut out processed food as much as you can to break this vicious cycle as soon as possible.
When you do this and begin nourishing your body with nutritionally dense, real food and clean energy, the result will be that you'll soon reduce temptations, allowing your cravings to subside naturally.
Plus, once you start to move from convenience of fast, processed food, to natural whole foods your body really craves, you will begin to prioritise preparing healthy food for yourself more easily.
Of course, to help with the transition, its good to know that there are super nutrient dense and tasty, whole snack foods such as Pulse Sacred Meal, to help you along.
Learn more in our blog Top 6 Ways to Train Yourself to Like Healthy Foods
2. Nutritional Value
Another fundamental reason why processed foods cause weight gain is that they’re designed to taste good, not to keep you full and satisfied.
Processed foods often lack nutritional value and they are usually devoid of quality fibre and protein.
Instead, they're usually packed full of empty calories that cause your blood sugar to spike and then plummet, leaving you on the "constant hunger" merry-go-round.
Not only are they low in nutritional value, but processed foods also make you want to eat more of them and eat them faster. Because they’re not incredibly filling or lasting, you feel like you’re not satisfied even after a regular portion so you tend to just keep eating!
Processed foods are also designed to be a lot easier to consume, so you can prepare and/or eat them quickly; after all, preparing a leafy green salad or something wholesome takes a little more effort than munching your way through some fatty chips or a sugary muffin.
When you eat wholesome food, your body has time to digest and signal to your brain that you’re full before you overeat. This is the key process that goes missing when you eat far too many processed foods, which of course is the ultimate cause of unhealthy weight gain.
Learn more in our blog What Are Whole Foods: 7 Benefits of a Whole Food Diet.
Another subtle reason why processed foods can cause weight gain, is because they sabotage your hunger hormones and can even trigger a chaotic response in your body if they become a staple part of your diet.
Whole foods interact much better with your hormones, so that your body is able to tell your brain when you’re full and when you’re genuinely hungry.
Processed foods wreak havoc with this entire system, the more you eat them.
And this is why it becomes difficult to listen to and trust our bodies, if we fall into the trap of relying on processed foods too often. It's easy to get fooled into buying so-called "diet" or "low fat" foods, but the reality is that some of the most heavily processed foods you'll find in your supermarket are wrongfully targeted as diet foods.
The bottom line is, once you cut out processed foods or greatly limit them and base your diet around whole foods that are in their natural state, your hunger hormones will stabilise and you’ll be able to rely on the signals your body is sending you.
This is then likely to make life easier when it comes to shedding unwanted kilos and finding your ideal natural weight because you'll break the vicious cycle and you'll be far less likely to overeat.
There’s no denying that processed foods are convenient.
As mentioned, big food corporations are highly profitable because they substitute quantity for quality by utilising ingredients that are heavily processed and not designed to keep you healthy.
On the face of it, prioritising a wholesome diet that emphasises fresh, seasonal produce is more time consuming and costly to follow. However, overcoming this type of reasoning has a lot to do with mindset, perception and shifting your values.
When all you have in your pantry is processed foods, this is most likely what you'll always eat for convenience. However, if you make a whole plant-based diet a priority in your life, you'll quickly discover ways to eat economically. Not only that, you'll begin to plan your meals, which means you'll only shop for what you need. And ultimately, this will be beneficial to both your wallet and your waste.
Consider also, that some of the most wholesome snack foods on the planet are super convenient and can be very satisfying, helping you to avoid overeating. Great examples include; raw nuts such as almonds, macadamias and walnuts, bananas, apples and dried fruits like mango and apricots.
The challenge in today's busy world, is to balance convenience with wholesomeness so that you can get the best of both worlds. But with a greater awareness and a desire to eat for better health, you will easily find ways to keep things simple and delicious.
By the way, if you're looking for the convenience of a wonderful, savoury snack, try our Cornucopia Epicurean Snack that is packed with delightful crunch and absolutely no additives, preservatives or saturated fat.
Eating processed foods has a negative ripple effect on your life that can cause weight gain.
While eating processed foods doesn’t mean you can’t still live a healthy, active lifestyle, they certainly don’t help encourage one.
Since processed foods are lacking in the nutritional content that gives you lasting energy, you’ll notice you feel sluggish and tired after eating something like macaroni and cheese, chips, or pastries, versus when you eat a delicious fresh salad dressed with olive oil, raw nuts and chunks of avocado, or a hearty vegetable soup!
When you eat processed food, you’re more likely to want to sit and watch TV, than go for a run or walk the dog. This is especially true, because the blood sugar spike you typically experience from eating processed food, generally causes you to hit the wall soon after, leaving you feeling tired and unmotivated.
In this case, it’s not necessarily about how much you’re eating, but the quality of foods you’re eating that can lead to weight gain.
Another negative ripple effect of eating processed foods that can cause long-term weight gain, is constant dieting.
Dieting is a lifestyle that’s particularly dangerous to your health over time because it causes your weight to constantly change, which is not a healthy way to live.
It’s been shown that diets are not a long-term solution, and instead it’s far better to think of your diet as a "lifestyle", or a way of eating that works for you and that keeps your weight stable and in the healthy range for your body.
Processed foods are designed to be difficult to resist. So even if you’re not always eating them, the more you rely on them, the harder it will be for you to lead a healthy lifestyle.
By allowing processed foods to be a continued part of your life, you’re more likely to give in to temptation and then to over correct, which leads to yo-yo dieting which is not sustainable for managing your weight.
A healthier option is to stick with a clean diet, rich in whole seasonal plant foods as a foundational principle. If you can make this kind of like an "80% rule", you'll give your body exactly what it needs to maintain a healthy weight over the long term.
The Main Takeaway
It’s clear that processed foods are an unhealthy choice and can cause serious and lasting weight gain.
To avoid weight gain, one of the best things you can do is to begin replacing processed food with as much seasonal, locally sourced, whole food from nature's table as you possibly can.
Start by deciding how much of a priority your diet and health is to you.
The truth is, if you really value the prospect of experiencing vibrant energy, a pain-free body and healthy weight as a lifestyle, then it naturally follows that you will embrace the daily self care habits that cause those results.
An important initial step, is to consider cleaning out your pantry of processed clutter and tempting junk food that you know is not serving you.
Finally, get inspired and find ways to help you stay on track with your diet.
Some ideas include, downloading a healthy cooking app, planning your weekly meals in advance and shopping at your local farmer's markets. These simple steps can help you reconnect with the colour and wonder of wholesome, fresh food and stimulate wonderful, delicious ideas to prepare it.
By following some of the tips and suggestions shared with you here, you'll soon realise that by making slight adjustments to your dietary habits and routine, you'll not only greatly improve your health, but also help to manage your weight as well.
Tolman Self Care.