Foods altered to increase flavor and shelf life are called processed foods
Consumption of processed meats like bacon may cause colorectal cancer
Excess sugar in processed foods can lead to obesity due to binge eating
Be it potato chips or that glass of coke you enjoy at any time of day or night, you may not know that what you love snacking on is actually processed food. Any food item that is altered in some way or other falls under the category of processed foods. Usually, these are foods that have been altered to increase their shelf life or their flavor.
With food technology becoming a booming industry and people looking for convenient options for meals, processed foods seem to be a part and parcel of the modern lifestyle. Processed foods can be classified into minimally processed, heavily processed, or ultra-processed foods. The former can be considered healthy and includes washed, peeled, and cut veggies and fruits. When multiple ingredients are added to enhance the flavor, stability, and texture of a food product, you can call it heavily or ultra-processed.
As per a study, Indians get more calories from processed foods than fruits,  which is a warning sign we all need to heed, especially since experts predict huge growth in the country’s processed food market.
Some examples of processed foods include the following.
While all processed foods cannot be termed unhealthy, ultra-processed ones definitely cause health hazards when eaten regularly. Here are some of the health risks of processed foods.
Consumption of processed foods especially meat products may cause colorectal cancer. This cancer affects the rectum and large intestine and presents symptoms like abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, and irregular bowel movements. The main cause is the presence of artificial colors, emulsifiers, and additives in processed foods. Hence, you cannot nullify processed food’s effect on health and its harmful consequences.
Intake of processed foods regularly can affect the overall body metabolism. Certain risk factors such as high blood sugar levels, low HDL levels, high levels of triglycerides, and high blood pressure indicate that you may be suffering from metabolic syndrome. This happens due to the high consumption of carbs that get stored as fats in your body, thereby disturbing the body’s metabolism.
Additional read: How to Reduce Cholesterol? 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Right Now!
This is one of the other dangers of processed foods and is caused due to emulsifiers present in processed food products like peanut butter, sauces, salad dressings, bread, and processed cheese. Normally, emulsifiers are added to increase the shelf life and enhance the texture of a particular food. Consuming these chemical additives can result in inflammatory bowel disease or ulcerative colitis.
Excessive consumption of sugar leads to obesity,  which can further deteriorate your health. Ultra-processed food products are packed with sugar that does not add any nutritional value. Some of the common types of sugar seen in processed foods include glucose, fructose, malt, corn syrup, or molasses. Not only do such foods increase calories, but these may also force you to indulge in binge eating.
Regular consumption of processed foods can cause anxiety and depression. Added sugars present in these food products can affect your gut, a place where the gut bacteria produce serotonin hormone. Serotonin is a hormone known to stabilize your mood swings and chemical additives present in processed foods affect serotonin levels in your body.
Additional read: 7 Important Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health
Processed foods are loaded with artificial chemicals and preservatives which have negligible nutritional value. These chemical flavoring agents may cause serious health disorders if taken regularly. Some artificial ingredients may even aggravate ADHD issues in the younger generation.
Processed foods and health are interlinked, so keep a close watch on what you eat. You can take certain healthy measures to ensure you don’t binge on processed foods. This includes cooking more meals at home, choosing minimally processed meats, and checking the ingredient list of all processed foods you buy. If you suffer from any health risks of processed foods, make an appointment with a specialist on Bajaj Finserv Health. Book an online doctor consultation to connect to physicians from the comfort of your house and take proactive steps to ensure that you stay healthy and fit.