The Link Between Processed Foods and Autoimmune Diseases!
Recent research published in Autoimmunity Reviews suggests that processed foods may cause your intestines to become weak and increase your risk for autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and celiac disease.
Our intestines are intricately designed machines and processed foods can wreak havoc on the sealants between the cells protecting our mucosa, the delicate lining of our gastrointestinal tracts that protect a balanced food flow. Scientists theorize that processed food additives such as glucose, sodium, gluten, fat solvents, and different enzymes damage these sealants and introduce toxins into our bloodstreams triggering autoimmune disease, in addition to obesity and other health related issues.
What is processed food?
Processed food is defined as “any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration or milling,” according to the US Food and Drug Administration. But it is often the ingredients and additives in the processed foods that can cause us harm. Most processed foods contain very high amounts of salt, sugar, saturated fats, and artificial colors or flavors. Many additives and preservatives, designed to prolong shelf-life and improve taste, cause stomach problems too.
It is hard to avoid the wide varieties of cheap and easy processed foods readily available at the end of a hard day at work, when the thought of spending hours prepping and cooking, not to mention the clean-up, is often an incentive not to cook. It is easier to reach for foods that can be popped in the oven or microwave, and are ready-to-eat in less than 30 minutes.
What can we do?
First, let’s stop making excuses. Poor planning and a lack of imagination are sad excuses for making bad health decisions that cost us money and hack off years from our life expectancy. We must hold ourselves accountable for making better decisions about our food choices. Start by replacing one unhealthy food or beverage with a healthier choice, and replace all sugary drinks with water.
- Each week, make a list of the foods that you and your family members enjoy, then substitute certain ingredients for healthier choices. For instance, instead of using ground beef, you may substitute with organic, ground turkey. Other substitutions include almond milk in place of cow’s milk, almond flour instead of bleached-white flour, and sea salt in lieu of regular table salt.
- Shop with your list and stick to it! Don’t even walk down the cookie aisle.
- Engage your kids by asking them to Google healthy food choices and get a list of their favorites.
- Purchase fruit & vegetables, and research healthy snack alternatives so you have several, ready-to-grab-from-the-frig options.
- Use your crock pot!
Simple but Healthy Non-Processed Food Ideas for your Crock Pot
- Organic chicken, edamame, and couscous! Place chicken breasts or pieces and organic stock to cover chicken in crock pot and cook on high for 6 hours hours or on low for 8 hours. Add spices to taste. Serve with edamame sprinkled with sea salt and couscous, a great starch alternative. Try different varieties to see what your family likes best such as Israeli couscous, which comes in a larger, pearl-sized variety. It only takes about 5 minutes to boil (in water or chicken stock) and should be fluffy and light, not stuck together or gummy. Add to the crock pot ingredients and serve.
- Yummy vegetables! 2 chopped carrots, 1 large diced tomato, 1 sliced yellow pepper, 1 cup peas, 1/4 minced onion, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 2/3 cup of organic chicken or vegetable stock, 1 cup cooked beans (kidney, chickpeas, garbanzo). Cook in crock pot 6-8 hours on low and serve over organic, gluten free pasta.
- Sandwich alternatives! Instead of bread, substitute with: red, yellow or orange pepper halves, romaine lettuce or sliced cucumbers. Other choices include cooked portobello mushroom (scoop out gills and cut stem) and cook mushroom 3-5 minutes on each side until tender and golden brown on the top. Fill with hummus, avocado, cooked chicken, sliced olives, feta cheese, or grilled veggies.
Once you cut out processed foods, your whole body should begin to feel better. Keep a health journal and watch as a healthier you unfolds!