The Real Cost of Processed Foods

Refined foods are more calorie dense than the whole foods they’re made from. The explosion in the consumption of refined and processed foods is a major reason why our food has become far richer than it once was. This, in turn, has contributed to the pervasive increase in obesity among Americans.

It all goes back to 1973, when Congress passed a new farm subsidy bill. Among its major features were incentives that stimulated a huge increase in corn production. Among the results of our new corn surplus was the production of a low-cost sweetener called high-fructose corn syrup. Significantly cheaper than sugar from traditional sources, such as sugar cane, it allowed processed food makers to make an astonishingly broad range of products, from bread to hot dogs (no kidding), widely available to the public at low prices. The dramatic increase in their use is a major reason why our food has become richer. This richer food deceives the natural mechanisms our bodies possess to tell us when we’re full.

In our stomachs, we have both “stretch” and “density” receptors (the latter to determine the caloric density of our food). Five hundred calories of whole-plant food fills the stomach completely, triggering both our “stretch” and “density” receptors to signal our brain that we’ve had enough to eat. But 500 calories of unnaturally rich or processed foods fills the stomach far less—deceiving these receptors into telling our brain that we need to eat more. This creates a situation where we need to eat more calories than our bodies require in order to feel “full.”

If you needed another reason to avoid eating processed foods, this is a good one.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.