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Avoid processed foods

High consumption of processed foods may kill you quicker

We live in a fast world, with ever growing demands for convenience. All conceivable industries are usually quick to respond to our demands, not least the food industry. Busy bodies can easily get by without ever cooking anything. Fast foods are available almost everywhere, with ready to eat foods and frozen items for easy heating or rapid preparation. But the drawback is the substitution of fresh with processed foods. Marketing, affordability and modern lifestyles keep pulling us towards processed food items.

We have always known that processed foods are linked with diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular conditions, and even cancer. A new study in Europe provides evidence of linkage with death too. This was a seven-year study following up eating habits of nearly 50,000 adults. Those subsisting on mostly processed foods had a higher rate of death compared to those who adhered to healthier eating recommendations.

But why? Processed foods have high caloric content, but overall poor nutritional value. They contain high levels of salts and sugars, preservatives and additional additives to assure sustainable shelf-lives. There is often very little fibre content. Some additives and preservatives may be harmful in the long run. Little wonder then about linkage with chronic illnesses, and eventual contribution to additional mortality.

The obvious healthier path is to avoid processed foods as much as possible. That means creating time out of your busy schedule for a fresher meal. The most appropriate are fresh meals made out of fresh ingredients. That means freshly picked garden produce, and freshly prepared meat products. And all cooked with the most healthy ingredients. If you can’t really get the time to prepare a fresh meal, you could at least look up appropriate restaurants where freshly made meals are available.

Get into the habit of avoiding processed foods as much as possible. You will at least lower the risks of associated diseases, and may consequently live longer. But we are all human, and the lure of processed foods is sometimes inescapable. If you get the odd craving, you are unlikely to get into immediate harm. The trick is to tame the habit, and ensure that most of your foods are freshly prepared, and are of the healthier type.

Questions always arise about whether health studies done elsewhere are applicable to others. Food processing is a long established industry, with similar practices regardless of geographic location. And we all share the same human biological mechanisms. Yes, there may be additional disease influencers elsewhere. But the bottom line remains the same, too much processed foods aren’t safe for anyone. We should keenly watch what we eat, and the rates of non-communicable disease linked to our eating habits may lessen. And we might increase our lifespans too.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility

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