The processed food industry is now reckoned to be just about the largest industry on Earth and is estimated to generate some two trillion pounds per annum. This has not happened by accident – the food companies have achieved it by deception, dishonesty, clever marketing and swiftly latching onto, and exploiting, the various food trends and fads as they emerge.
The latest of these is health food. However, this has presented them with a problem – processed food is inherently unhealthy and will always be. So in order to cash in, they have had to resort, once again, to deception.
Two methods have been used. The first has been the creation of foods aimed specifically at the health-conscious, such as energy bars and drinks. The second is to take existing foods that are known to be unhealthy and, seemingly, make them healthy.
What they don’t tell you though, is that while the energy bars and drinks do provide a boost of energy, they also provide an unhealthy dose of sugar, and often an almost total lack of nutrients.
When they claim to have made an unhealthy food healthy, they’ve done it by taking out the saturated fat. This enables them to say the food is now low in calories and so healthy. What they don’t say, however, is that they’ve replaced the fat with a cocktail of chemicals designed to replicate the taste and texture provided by the fat. The end result is something that appears to be a health food but is actually more like something out of a laboratory, and so is anything but.
Then there’s all the other foods that people know are not good for them but, because they love them so much, they keep on eating. There’s just no incentive for the manufacturers to improve them – if the people are happy to eat rubbish, they’re quite happy to sell it to them!
Classic examples of the food companies dishonesty and indifference are:
The advertising blurb on the packaging of these products invariably extols how low in calories they are, and the huge amount of protein and fiber they provide. This makes them seem like a super-healthy option – an impression reinforced by the fact they’re sold in health food shops and many gyms.
A few of them do actually live up to the hype by being low in saturated fat and sugars, and offering a decent amount of protein and fiber. This makes them a nutritious and satisfying pick-me-up. Unfortunately, these bars are the exception – most are actually the exact opposite.
This is because they consist largely of artificial sweeteners and cereals all wrapped in an outer layer designed to look healthy and appetising. While they do provide a quick energy boost, long-term consumption of these bars will cause the pounds to pile on.
Just one of the various types of sweetener used in these bars is sugar alcohol; this is because it is low in calories. However, sugar alcohols are difficult for our bodies to digest and can cause wind, bloating and diarrhoea.
The so-called protein content is often a blatant con. Cheap soy and whey proteins are usually used; the low qualities of which are, in any case, largely destroyed by the production process. Synthetic vitamins go in the mix as well. These are cheap and allow labeling such as ‘fortified with’ to be used.
The bottom line is that there’s actually little point to energy bars. They’re not much different to the average candy bar which also provides an energy boost. They are a lot more expensive though!
Energy & Sports Drinks
Possibly even worse than energy bars are the energy and sports drinks. Typically, these include caffeine, amino acids, herbal supplements, sugar, synthetic vitamins and taurine. According to the advertizing, they provide a boost to endurance, stamina and mental concentration.
While they no doubt do, to some degree at any rate, they also have less desirable effects. For one, their phenomenally high content of sugar is a known cause of obesity – this can lead to type 2 diabetes. Others are convulsions, high blood pressure, vomiting and nausea. These drinks are also very rich in caffeine.
Some contain as much as 20 teaspoons of sugar, believe it or not! This is three times the recommended daily maximum for an adult. While sugar-free and low-sugar versions are available, they are still loaded with caffeine – some have four times as much as a cup of coffee. As caffeine is a powerful stimulant, over-consumption can cause a number of problems that include heart palpitations, insomnia, hallucinations, anxiety and stomach ulcers.
As if all this wasn’t bad enough, the high sugar and caffeine content means energy drinks are also addictive.
Along with the energy drinks, pop drinks (soft drinks in the UK) are just about the worst thing you can put into your body. They may look and taste good but they have virtually no nutritional value.
To start with, they increase the risk of getting cancer – pancreatic cancer in particular. This is due to their high sugar content which forces the pancreas to increase its production of insulin.
Pop drinks can also be the cause of hyperactivity. This is because they alter protein levels in the brain, the action of which is thought to be caused by the flavorings and colorings used in the drinks.
They contain a large amount of caffeine. This causes the same health issues that the energy drinks do, although perhaps to a lesser degree.
Another major ingredient is phosphoric acid. This can restrict the body’s ability to absorb and use calcium which leads to osteoporosis (softening of the teeth and bones). Note that caffeine is also known to interfere with calcium absorption and so may contribute to this issue as well.
Packed with sugar, pop drinks are one of the major causes of the current obesity crisis. Obesity, is of course, the trigger for a range of illnesses and diseases. And don’t assume the so-called ‘diet’ versions are any better – these come with their own issues. Just one of which is the fact they are flavored with artificial sweeteners, a typical example being aspartame. This substance is 200 times sweeter than sugar! The problem with these artificial sweeteners is that no one has a clue with regard to their long-term effects.
To sum up, pop drinks are a known cause of dangerous conditions, such as osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, obesity and fatty liver disease.
Oh, and they rot your teeth as well! Give your body a break – drink something else.
Of all the so-called health foods, fruit drinks must be at the top of the list of misrepresented products – the advertizing and promotion blurb for them is just a massive lie. It’s not hard to see why it works either.
Fruit is inherently healthy and people fondly imagine that all the food companies do is take a load of fruit, squeeze the juice out it, put it in cartons and then ship it off to the stores. The reality, however, is somewhat different. The first problem with fruit juice is the large amount of sugar it contains. If you’re eating an apple say, quite apart from its sugar content, you’re also ingesting a lot of fiber. This fills you up and kills your appetite. Effectively, the fiber stops you eating too many apples thus making sure your intake of sugar is kept at a safe level. It also ensures the sugar is digested slowly at a rate the liver can handle.
Fruit drinks, however, don’t contain any fiber – it’s all been taken out. Consequently, a glass of the stuff contains the sugar of not just one fruit, but several. One glass of apple juice contains the sugar of around eight apples! Also, due to the lack of fiber, the rate at which it is digested is rapid. Accordingly, the body receives a large and sudden hit of sugar which the liver cannot cope with; it processes what it can and converts the rest to fat.
One of the big selling points of fruit drinks is their supposedly high content of vitamins and other nutrients. This is true only to a degree, however, as the production process removes a large proportion of the nutrients. What’s left, pound-for-pound, bears little relation to the nutritional content of whole fruit.
Another effect of the production process is that the flavor, color and odor of the fruit is largely removed. To make the juice look, taste and smell like it should, the sugary water that it essentially is, is enhanced with ‘flavor packs’ that are basically a cocktail of chemicals.
Calorie for calorie, fruit drinks are as bad for you as carbonated drinks and our advice is to not drink them at all. They are a major contributor to the current obesity epidemic, plus, there is a confirmed link between them and tooth decay.
Much better by far to purchase a blender and make your own natural fruit drinks, the sugar content of which can be controlled.
This one will surprise a lot of people. Ice cream is one of the most popular snacks in the world and has been for many, many years. However, that’s because very few people know what goes into it these days. Years ago, ice cream was a healthy enough blend of little more than frozen double cream, milk, sugar, lard and eggs.
Then the big food companies got in on the act. Now, it bears little resemblance to the ice cream of old. If you read the label on a tub, you’ll see a long list of ingredients that reads something like sugar, milk, corn syrup, mono, carob bean gum, whey, annatto, diglycerides, guar gum, carrageenan, tara gum and vitamin A palmitate. Not quite the same is it!
Many ice creams now don’t even contain cream and, in some cases, no milk either. Instead, the producers use vegetable oil – typically palm oil which is high in saturated fat and one of the unhealthiest vegetable oils on the planet!
In the UK for example, the amount of dairy produce the manufacturers must put in ice cream in order to be able to legally call it such is extremely low – a minimum of 2.5 percent milk and 5 percent dairy fat. And if you think that’s bad, it gets worse! Rather than use good quality protein, they use whey solids – a low-grade protein which is a waste product of the cheese industry. In fact, for a long time this stuff was just dumped into the rivers and seas – it had zero commercial value.
Also, ice cream is sold by volume, not weight. So it is bulked out by whipping as much air into the mixture as possible before freezing it into the tubs and containers.
So there we have it – the bulk of the ice cream in that cornet you’re holding is probably comprised of little more than vegetable fats and air. Even the flavor is fake, produced by a mix of who knows what chemicals. Nutrients? – forget it!
Fish farming, also known as aquaculture, is the fastest growing form of food production in the world. 55 percent (75 percent for salmon) of the world’s seafood is now produced this way.
Salmon is very popular and not just because of its unique flavor. As an oily fish, it also has health-giving properties due to its high content of omega-3 fats. Salmon caught in the open seas is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. The same, however, cannot be said of farmed salmon.
A study carried out in 2017 discovered that while farmed salmon are fatter than their wild cousins, they have half the level of omega-3 fats. This is thought to be due to the low quality feed (consisting mainly of genetically modified grain) they are fed.
Farmed salmon are forced to live an unnatural life spent in inadequately sized enclosures. They are also exposed to pollutants, such as dioxin and DDT, not to mention carcinogens. Salmon contaminated with these can cause a range of health issues.
To avoid eating farmed salmon, do not buy anything labelled ‘Atlantic salmon’ – this comes from fish farms. Also, be aware that virtually all salmon sold in restaurants and supermarkets is farmed. However, if you can find Alaskan salmon, buy it – it is actually illegal to farm Alaskan salmon.
Once upon a time (and it wasn’t that long ago) if you wanted something to spread on a slice of bread, or to bake with, you used butter. It was cheap, tasty and good for you. Furthermore, people had been eating it for centuries without issue. Then cardiovascular disease began to raise its ugly head and pretty soon the so-called experts came to the erroneous conclusion that saturated fat was the cause of it all.
Sales of foods high in saturated fats like cheese, meat and, of course, butter, began to plummet. Desperate to find something to replace the cash cow that was butter, the food companies told their laboratories to concoct a replacement. The product they came up with looked like butter, smelled a bit like butter and tasted, well, a bit like butter. They called it margarine and told the world it was much healthier.
But of course it wasn’t – it was actually a lot worse for us than butter. Scandalously, the manufacturers were only too well aware of this but did their utmost to convince us otherwise. It worked for a while but when the incidence of heart disease stubbornly continued to rise, the penny eventually dropped.
Why is margarine so bad for us? Well, because the main ingredient is hydrogenated vegetable oils, aka trans-fats. Amongst other things, they cause heart disease and stroke. The fact that margarine also contains synthetic coloring to disguise its grey, bland unappealing look maybe tells its own story!
More recently, in response to the criticism they have received, the manufacturers have tried to rescue the product by replacing the trans-fats with palm oil. However, this is an oil rich in a type of fat that can also cause heart disease.
So it’s back to square one. The fat in margarine, be it trans-fats or palm oil, causes heart disease, stroke and other conditions. As to what all the chemicals in it do to us, well who knows? – if the manufacturers do, they’re not saying!
So do yourself a big favor and don’t eat this extremely unhealthy so-called food.
Peanuts originated in South America and were an important constituent in the diets of the Aztecs and other native Indian tribes. Today, they are an extremely popular snack food, as is a derivative – peanut butter.
As we have already seen, nuts in general are an extremely healthy food and peanuts, while not classed as a nut, are often thought of as such. However, while they may be very good for us in their natural state, by the time they arrive in the stores they are considerably less so.
Most peanuts are sold in packs and are coated in salt and vegetable oil. Too much salt raises blood pressure and so increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. This can be avoided, however, by eating peanuts straight from the shell.
Peanut crops are heavily contaminated with pesticides, some of which are thought to be carcinogenic. Also, due to their soft skins, the nuts are susceptible to a fungus that releases a cancer-causing agent known as aflatoxin. This attacks the liver and is one of the most deadly food-borne toxins in existence.
Peanuts have a very high content of omega-6 fats. This is a type of fat that is important for us in a number of ways including cognitive function, fighting inflammation and bone health. However, too much of it can actually be bad for us and increase the risk of getting common diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
With regard to peanut butter, this is usually adulterated with palm oil or trans-fats, plus salt and sugar for flavor. It will also be laced with the usual chemical preservatives.
Increasingly, people are becoming aware of just how precious their health really is and are actively seeking ways to at least maintain, if not actually improve it. Currently, saturated fat is seen as being public enemy No 1 and the food companies, never slow to spot a new market, are busily selling us a range of low-fat products marketed as being healthy.
Walk down the aisles of any supermarket and your eyes will be assailed by shelves and shelves of low-fat this and low-fat that – cakes, biscuits, desserts, ready meals – all screaming at you, ‘I’m healthy, eat me’.
Now, there’s no disputing that these products are indeed low in fat. However, having taken out a major part of the food (as the saturated fat is), the companies have had to replace it with something else. Until recently, they would have used trans-fats for this purpose. However, as they are having to scale back on the use of this type of fat due to increasing public awareness of just how dangerous it is, their solution is to instead use concoctions of various kinds. These are all high in sugar, salt, starch and chemicals, and replace the bulk and flavor lost by the removal of the fat.
Accordingly, most low-fat foods contain a lot more sugar than their full-fat equivalents – in many cases, several times as much. They also contain more modified starches, not to mention a range of chemical substances. The end result is food high in carbohydrates and calories, and that is actually anything but healthy! Don’t fall for it.
Meats that are processed include salami, ham, sausages, corned beef, bacon, hot dogs, dried meat, smoked meat, salted meat, beef jerky and canned meat – there are many others as well.
Typically, the animals from which these meats are produced are raised in enclosures in much the same way that farmed fish are kept in pens. Not only do the poor animals live a short and wretched life but, as with the fish, they have an unnatural diet consisting largely of genetically modified grains.
Furthermore, due to the unhygienic conditions in which they are compelled to live, the animals are given drugs – these include hormones and antibiotics. They are also pumped full of various chemicals to not just preserve the meat but also give it color and flavor.
Another issue with processed meats is the large amount of salt they contain. Years ago this was necessary in order to preserve meat but these days chemicals are used instead. The reason it is salted now is to add flavor. However, because of the large quantities of salt used, eating too much of these meats can cause hypertension, heart disease and some cancers – bowel and stomach cancer in particular.
If eaten very occasionally, processed meats don’t do us any harm. Any more than that though, and we are potentially exposing ourselves to a range of illnesses and diseases. We’ll also be supporting and furthering an industry that treats the animals in its care atrociously.
We’ll leave you to ponder the ethics of that!
Just as with low-fat foods, supermarket shelves are packed with brightly colored cereal boxes all proclaiming what a low sugar content they have, how much fiber they contain, what they are fortified with, etc, etc. True to form, however, many of these claims are hugely exaggerated. Meanwhile, things the manufacturers would tell us about if they were genuinely concerned about our health aren’t mentioned at all.
Consider the way that cereals are manufactured. It’s a highly mechanized process that starts with grain – usually wheat, rice, corn or oats. This is cleaned, crushed and then pressure-cooked. While the grain is cooking, various chemicals and fats are added. What rolls out the other end is an unappetising sludge devoid of shape, taste or smell.
Furthermore, because the outer layers of the grain have been removed during the processing, and the fact it’s been subjected to very high temperatures, very little in the way of nutrients remains either. The sludge is then dried and shaped. The last stage of the process is the adding of artificial coloring, flavoring (sugar mainly), preservatives and nutrients.
The latter enables the manufacturers to claim that the product has been ‘fortified’ with extra nutrients, such as vitamins, iron and calcium. However, the reality is that these so-called nutrients are synthetic, i.e. manufactured in a laboratory and bear no relation to the real nutrients lost during the manufacturing process.
Then there is the fact that the grains used to make the cereals are almost always genetically modified (GM) – see below. A range of health issues are associated with GM foods including unnaturally rapid aging, poor insulin regulation, infertility and problems with the gastrointestinal system.
Genetically Modified (GM) Food
Genetic modification is a laboratory procedure whereby genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and then forced into the genes of a different plant or animal. These extracted genes can come from animals, insects, bacteria, viruses or even humans. Foods produced from, or using, GM organisms are referred to as genetically modified foods.
The benefits of genetic modification are that it improves crop yields by making plants naturally resistant to diseases, and also makes them more tolerant to herbicides. These benefits are purely economic – health-wise, there are none.
However, in years to come, it is forecast that genetic modification will be able to improve food’s nutritional content, reduce its potential for creating allergies, and improve the efficiency of food production systems. GM foods will also be developed from micro-organisms and animals, unlike just from plants as they are now.
Is GM food safe to eat though? Well, according to the scientific community the answer is yes. Predictably, the big corporations who have a vested interest say the same. However, given that GM has only been around for about 30 years, no one can possibly know for sure. The jury is still out on its long-term effects and, for that reason, we advise against it.
Also, currently, there is simply no reason to eat GM food – it offers no health benefits whatsoever. That being the case, why take the risk?
All the foods listed in this article are products of the processed food industry. Eating them occasionally won’t do you any harm but doing so on a regular basis, as so many of people do, considerably increases the risk of a number of unpleasant and dangerous diseases.