This blog posts pulls from the idea from author Michael Pollan that we shouldn’t “eat anything that doesn’t rot,” and I couldn’t agree more. I touched on processed foods in a post from February 26, 2017, and, as Pollan also stated, it seems that most of the “foods” Americans are consuming are processed to some degree.
This post goes hand in hand with a recent blog post of mine about shopping the perimeter of the grocery store where I stated that the majority of unprocessed and minimally processed foods are located along the perimeter of the store. The idea of “if it doesn’t rot, don’t eat it” is similar to that of not eating foods that didn’t exist when our grandparents or great-grandparents were growing up. The premise of both suggestions is that whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, and meats will rot or spoil if not eaten over a period of time, even when refrigerated.
In the past fats, cholesterol, salt, and sugar have all been blamed as culprits of chronic disease and obesity, and while full blame cannot be placed on any one substance, most or all of these “culprits” can be found in processed foods – and in high levels at that. While consuming too much of any one food, even healthy foods, can cause adverse side effects, processed foods quickly add up – meaning the average American would have to eat 7.5 bananas in one sitting to reach a dangerous level of potassium intake, while eating one can of chicken noodle soup almost meets the recommended daily allowance of sodium.
The theory is that if we change our diets to only eat foods that don’t rot – foods that haven’t been processed at all or have been minimally processed – our health should improve because we will be consuming fewer preservatives, smaller amounts of “unhealthy” fats, less added sugar, and lower amounts of salt/sodium. You can’t really argue with this theory, and unlike dietary guidelines and suggestions that are conflicting and constantly changing, this theory holds true across the board.
I know the idea of giving up processed foods can be scary, especially because processed foods provide us with quick meals and snacks. Meal planning and using crock pots and pressure cookers can be very beneficial in terms of preparing meals, and cleaning and chopping fresh fruits and vegetables to pair with a nut butter, a slice of cheese, or a handful of unsalted nuts make for a great snack. Another tasty, protein filled snack idea that is minimally processed is to make your own protein bars or balls. I made these lemon date balls about six months ago, and they made a great snack when I needed to run errands after the gym or needed a quick breakfast and hadn’t prepared anything. There are tons of recipes for protein bars/balls on Pinterest, or if you’re short on time like many of us are, I’ve found that Lara Bars and Thunderbird Bars (there are many more, but I’ve only tried these two brands) are made from real ingredients, are vegan, non-GMO, have no added sugar, and are a great option when you’re short on time.
Eating “food that doesn’t rot” will not only decrease your intake of empty calories, preservatives, sugar, and salt, it will also increase your intake of fiber, healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that our bodies need. Making the switch from processed to real foods is an adjustment and can take some time and getting used to. Start slowly, and don’t make it a huge focus – just remember that shopping the perimeter of the grocery store and cooking from scratch will be a huge help in the process.
Think positive, stay active, and smile. -A
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