As technology advances, we continue to search for ways to make life just a little easier. Over the past century, food has been at the center of this mission. While we have gained time and energy as a result of processed foods, we have also gained many health issues such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The word “processed” often causes some confusion. Most foods we eat are processed in some way. Apples are cut from trees, ground beef has been ground in a machine and butter is cream separated from milk and churned. However, there is a difference between mechanical processing and chemical processing.
If the food contains a single ingredient, with no added chemicals, it is still real food. On the other hand, food that have been chemically processed and made solely from refined ingredients and artificial substances are processed foods.
Processed foods are addictive and designed to make you overeat. Studies show that the “reward system” in our brain can sometimes allow us to consume more of our favorite foods than our bodies need. Sugar, salt and fat are the ingredients that make these products highly rewarding, tempting us to go back for more.
Below are the four food groups to avoid as much as possible:
- Deli meat, bacon, hot dogs and sausages. Processed meats have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
- Sodas and sweetened beverages. Sugary drinks contain more added sugar than you should consume in a day. Sodas are linked to an increased risk of heart, kidney and liver disease, stroke, diabetes, pancreatic cancer and osteoporosis.
- Quick meals. Jarred, canned, frozen and microwavable meals often contain too much sugar, sodium and preservatives. They also typically contain too little vegetables and too many refined carbohydrates.
- Commercially baked goods. Besides sugar and saturated fat content, packaged cookies, cakes and desserts often contain trans fats.
So, let’s consider the benefits of shopping at farmers markets to minimize reliance on the grocery store and processed foods.
- You can taste real flavors. Fruits and vegetables ripen fully in the field and then brought directly to you. No long-distance shipping. No sitting for weeks in storage. No preservatives. They are simply fresh from the farm.
- You can enjoy seasonal food. Farmers markets allow for variety and perhaps a chance to try new fruits or vegetables including some “ugly produce” that may not look as nice as the produce we are accustomed to, but taste just as good. You can also find produce often not available in the grocery store, such as red carrots, a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes, purple cauliflower and much more.
- You can learn cooking tips, recipes and meal ideas. Farmers are often passionate cooks with plenty of free advice about how to cook the foods they are selling.
READ MORE: 6 reasons to shop at a farmers market
Enrich your healthy food options and explore local farmers markets by visiting www.aaedc.org.