Why should I avoid processed foods?

This was a top diet and nutrition question on Dr. Oz’s Sharecare community, and an issue I feel very passionate about, so I decided to share my answer with all of you!

Though not all processed foods are as terrible as they’re made out to be, most should be eaten very sparingly or avoided altogether if possible. Processing of food often leads to excessive levels of sodium, trans fats, saturated fats, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and other unhealthy chemicals that can lead to weight gain and many other health problems. The problems with many of these additives that appear in most processed foods is that they can be difficult to locate on a food label. Sugars, for example, come in many forms and are added to even unexpected foods, like white breads and pastas. Artificial sweeteners, too, are found in many processed foods and can be incredibly dangerous. Studies conducted by the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, Dalhousie University, and Memorial University in Canada have shown positive correlations between consumption of artificial sweeteners and instances bladder cancer. Particularly the so-called “new generation” of artificial sweeteners, such as acesulfame-K, sucralose, and alitame, whose effects on health have not yet been studied, should be avoided.

Aside from the dangerous additives found in most processed foods, they are also relatively devoid of essential nutrients your body needs to survive. Most processed foods are low in protein and healthy fats, which help keep you full, as well as any essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function at its best. Because of this, a diet filled with processed foods will leave your body starved of nutrients. While not particularly harmful when eaten sparingly, processed foods should really be avoided, in favor of healthier, more natural, nutritious foods.