Toxic Truth About Processed Food

What are you putting in your body.

What you need to know about what you are putting in your body.  #4 Nutrition in menopause series 

The truth about ultra-processed food

Ultra-processed food is bad for you because it contains many chemicals that can be harmful to your health.

Do you know what some of the additives in ultra-processed food come from?


You might find some of this information quite disturbing.


    • A chemical used in sunscreens and paints, called Titanium dioxide, is also an ingredient in many coffee creamers, cake icing, and salad dressings.
    • Sand (yes, sand!), referred to as silicon dioxide, is one of the ingredients in many fast-food and canned chili products.
    • An additive used in chewing gum comes from sheep wool.
    • Ground-up wood pulp (Cellulose) is often used as an anti-caking agent.
    • An additive (Sodium bisulfite) used in potato chips is also used as a toilet bowl cleaning agent.

That is some of the truth about ultra-processed food, and it is enough to turn anyone’s stomach.


We should add that not all processed food is bad for you.

What are you putting in your body.

What exactly is processed food?

The US Food and Drug Administration defines processed food as: “Any food other than a raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration, or milling”.

That means that any food that is washed, frozen, cooked, or canned is processed food. In fact, even your grandmother’s jam qualifies in that category. So, why do we talk about the toxicity of processed food? Is all processed food toxic?

The answer is: No.

For centuries, people have processed foods in order to preserve them for the months when food was less plentiful. People dehydrated meat and vegetables, canned vegetables and fruits, and when freezing became a possibility, they froze food. Not all processing is bad. In fact, in 2009, the NOVA system to classify processed foods was created. It classifies processed food into four categories, ranging from unprocessed or minimally processed foods to ultra-processed.

When we refer to ultra-processed foods, we are referring to those foods that have unhealthy ingredients added to them to increase their shelf-life or to make them taste better. These unhealthy ingredients are things like: Salt, sugar, bad fats, artificial colors, and preservatives.

Here’s a shocking statistic:

Over 60% of the standard American diet calories come from ultra-processed foods!

…. and that is really bad for your health.

The truth about ultra-processed food

What kind of foods are ultra-processed foods?

These are sugary drinks, deli meats, ready to eat cookies, and frozen pizza. Most breakfast cereals are also ultra-processed as are salty snacks like chips. The problem with these foods is that although they are pretty bad for you, they taste really good. This is because manufacturers put all kinds of things in them to make them delicious.

What are you putting in your body.

How do we know that ultra-processed foods are bad for you?

The Journal of American Clinical Nutrition conducted a review of 172 clinical studies and came to the conclusion that almost all chronic diseases are in part at least caused by our modern diet of ultra-processed foods.

Other research has shown the strong effect of diet on how healthy we are as we age.


Why is ultra-processed food bad for your health?

To begin with, they are addictive. They are engineered to stimulate a feel-good hormone in your body, called dopamine, which makes you want to eat more of these foods. Food manufacturers want you to crave their foods so that you keep buying and eating them, making them wealthier in the process.

They contain ingredients that are potentially harmful:


Eating too much salt can cause high blood pressure. Canned and pre-prepared foods can contain high amounts of salt (or sodium). For example, a soup can contains more than half the salt you need in a day! Salt comes under other names too such as monosodium glutamate or disodium phosphate.


Manufacturers add sugar to their products because it makes food taste better. Sugar is added to many things that you might find surprising. Ketchup, salad dressings, and pasta sauces contain loads of sugar.

Sugar can be sneak because it can hide under many names: honey, dextrose, molasses, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar, malt syrup, and turbinado sugar.


These are bad fats, and many are themselves manufactured products. They negatively affect cholesterol levels and lead to inflammation which is linked to heart disease, stroke, and other conditions.

They are widely used in salty snacks such as potato chips, baked goods, and margarine.

Chemicals and additives:

Many chemicals used in processed products have been shown to cause cancer.

In fact, processed meats have been shown to cause cancer. Hot dogs, sausages, and pastrami may taste good, but if you eat processed meats often, you increase your risk of heart disease and Type II diabetes.

Go back to the first section of this blog to read more about where many of these additives come from!


So, now you know, what should you do?

Learn the truth about ultra-processed food

Try to use food that has been minimally processed.

Whenever possible, use fresh ingredients and cook your own food.

What are you putting in your body.

Check labels:

    • Salt: Avoid any processed food with 600 milligrams of salt per 100 grams of serving size. 300 milligrams or less is better.
    • Sugar: For menopausal women, the recommendation is not more than 26 grams of sugar per day.
    • Trans-fats: More than 5 grams per 100 grams of serving size is too high.
    • Food labels indicate the greatest ingredient first and least last.
    • Aim for the fewest ingredients in a packaged or processed item. The more ingredients are included, the more likely it is bad for you.


It is not always possible to avoid all processed foods, and not all processed foods are bad for you. Stay informed and try to be aware of what you put into your body.

Remember, if you can’t pronounce many of the ingredients in processed food, put it back on that shelf!



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