It’s time for lunch, and you reach for a can of your favorite chicken noodle soup. Maybe you had a long day at the office, and a microwaved dinner sounds far more appealing than preparing and cooking a meal.
Before you resign yourself to a convenience meal, ask yourself how closely you read the nutrition facts. While such dishes may seem healthy, danger could lurk beyond that attractive label. Here are five things you should know about the potentially harmful effects of packaged food and why you should think twice.
1. That “Healthy” Soup Has a Ton of Salt
If your caregiver growing up magically cured your cold with a bowl of microwaved soup, you probably get nostalgic cravings every time you sniffle. However, before you heat that mug of noodles, scope out the sodium reading on the label.
Many packaged soups contain more than half of your recommended daily allowance of sodium — in one serving. If you down the entire can, you just ate a full day’s worth of salt.
Why is this humble seasoning so problematic? Sodium pulls more water into your blood vessels, upping the pressure. Imagine a garden hose left running with a stopper on the nozzle. Eventually, it will burst — and your veins and arteries react the same way.
2. Processed Flour Creates Nutritional Deficiencies
Most packaged foods are laden with white flour, another problematic substance. What makes it so terrible if you aren’t sensitive to wheat gluten? The answer lies not in what it contains, but what it lacks.
When manufacturers bleach flour, they strip away the bran, which is where vital nutrients like magnesium lie. They also reduce the fiber content, and that indigestible stuff is what keeps you feeling fuller longer.
As a result, you feel hungry again soon after eating because your body consumed “empty” calories devoid of nutrients and fiber. What’s the answer? Reaching for something else that’s likely equally unfulfilling.
A diet consisting of primarily white flour adds insult to injury by creating nutritional deficiencies. While some manufacturers “enrich” such products by adding vitamins and minerals, your body doesn’t absorb these as readily as those from raw foods. You might experience symptoms like fatigue and headache like malnourished people, even as you consume more than ample calories.
3. What Are “Natural and Artificial” Flavors, Anyway?
If you read many labels, you’ll see vague terms like “other natural and artificial flavors.” What are these mystery ingredients?
Manufacturers would like you to believe that spices are natural flavorings, and yes, turmeric and basil do meet that classification. However, producers can use solvents and preservatives during the manufacturing process, rendering the terms “natural and artificial flavors” synonymous.
The only way you can demand higher standards is by seeking foods labeled certified organic. These products have strict regulations in place to inform consumers precisely what they are putting in their mouths.
4. Modern Sugar Addiction
Roughly one in 10 American adults has diabetes, and 88 million more live with a prediabetic condition. The reason likely lies in our addiction to sugar.
“But,” you protest, “I never add sugar to anything, and I don’t drink sugary soft drinks.” Fair enough — but did you read the label on that chicken parmesan TV dinner? Tomato-based sauces are famous for adding the sweet stuff to cut the bitterness, but they aren’t the only products.
Many packaged foods contain excess sugar to make them more palatable after freezing and reheating. Your taste buds get used to this sweet burst, and other meals don’t appeal to you as much. Before you know it, your blood glucose is out of control, and you begin experiencing adverse health effects.
5. All Fats Are Not Equal
Though the FDA banned artificial trans fats in 2015, these sneaky substances might still appear in some packaged foods. Look for the phrase “partially hydrogenated oils” on the label.
Doing so could help you save orangutan habitats, even if you don’t consider yourself an eco-warrior. You frequently see partially hydrogenated palm oil as an ingredient. The cultivation of this crop significantly contributes to global warming and decimates the habitat of these magnificent creatures.
Learn the Potentially Harmful Effects of Packaged Food Before Your Next Grocery Trip
Before you reach for that easy microwave meal, take a moment to read the label. Once you know the harmful effects of processed foods, you might muster the energy to mix up a salad instead.