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Sometimes, when the day isn't going your way, you may dream of dinner from a fast food restaurant, a snack out of a vending machine or a quick pre-packaged meal from the local grocery store. While these items may be quick and easy, and maybe even low in calories, they're all processed foods and are not the healthiest options for your diet.  While almost every food we eat has some degree of processing, eliminating those foods that consist mainly of artificial or highly processed ingredients will go a long way toward improving your health.

Here are five reasons you should avoid highly processed junk foods.

Nitrates: Processed foods contain a large amount of nitrates. Nitrates are used mostly in meats like cold cuts to keep them from growing bacteria or losing aesthetic appeal. In the 1970's, the USDA attempted to ban nitrates. Some organizations, like the Organic Consumer's Association, site studies that show increased occurrences of cancer in those who consume too many nitrate-containing meats.

Fat: Most processed food contains a lot of fat. This is generally saturated fat, which can increase LDL cholesterol.

Sugar: Processed foods are also generally high in sugars, which can make them very high in calories.

Salt: Salt (or sodium) is used as a preservative in foods and can increase blood pressure and cause bloating.

Vitamins: Processed foods are not known for their healthfulness and many are bereft of vitamins.

The Worst Offenders

  • Pre-packaged snack foods such as corn snacks and chips
  • Convenience packed single serve microwave items such as ravioli
  • Most canned foods because of their high salt content
  • Refined white flower used in breads and baked goods
  • Frozen dinners
  • Pre-packaged school lunches
  • Sugary breakfast cereals
  • Canned and packaged meats

Topics: Functional Medicine, Nutrition