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Is Processed Food Linked to Physical and Mental Health Problems?

I was doing research for a previous blog post about guten and its effects on our physical and mental health and started asking about processed foods that contain high fructose corn syrup and how they affected our overall health.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is a key ingredient in processed foods such as soda, pastries, condiments such as ketchup, candy, processed bread, canned fruit.

Since the late 1970’s High Fructose Corn Syrup has been added to our food and as of 2019 it’s estimated that the average American consumes at least 40 pounds of it a year. 

Since it’s the beginning of the new year many people want to make New Year’s resolutions. Many of these resolutions revolve around changing our diets and this post is intended to inform you about why giving up high fructose corn syrup is a good new years resolution.

What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), also known as glucose-fructose, isoglucose and glucose-flucose syrup is a sweetener derived from corn. It is used to sweeten processed foods and soda primarily in the United States. 

Starting in the 1970’s HFCS became more widely available due to low corn prices due to farm subsidies and table sugar becoming more expensive.

HFCS is similar to regular table sugar (sucrose); they both contain fructose and glucose.

What is Fructose?

Fructose is a sugar found naturally in fruits, fruit juices, certain vegetables and honey. However, fructose is an added component in HFCS and as a result occurs artificially in many processed foods. 

Fructose is a valuable and needed nutrient that is good for you, but it’s a problem when it’s added artificially.

What is Glucose?

Glucose is a simple sugar made by plants and most algae during photosynthesis from water and carbon dioxide using energy from the sun. Foods that contain carbohydrates such as grain, rice and potatoes and our bodies change 100% of carbohydrates into glucose. 

Glucose is a component added to HFCS.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is made from corn; when corn is milled its turned into corn starch and further processing turns it into corn syrup. HFCS starts off as mostly glucose, but it’s converted into fructose by using enzymes.

What Health Problems are Linked to High Fructose Corn Syrup?

High Fructose Corn Syrup has been linked to many health problems including:

  1. Adds More Fructose To Your Body Than You Need: Before table sugar and HFCS became affordable and widely available most people’s diets contained only small amounts of fructose from natural sources such as fruits and vegetables. However, over the past few decades the intake of fructose has increased significantly and has contributed to numerous health problems.
  2. Weight Gain and Obesity: The amount of fructose we consume from table sugar and HFCS has increased by 300% in the last 50 years and this has led to weight gain and obesity. Excess fructose in particular leads to the accumulation of visceral fat; which is a type of fat that surrounds your organs and leads to other serious health problems such as insulin resistance that leads to diabetes.
  3. Increases The Risk of Serious Health Problems: Along with weight gain and obesity HFCS increases the risk of developing some serious health problems including Heart Disease, Fatty Liver Disease, Diabetes, Metabolic Disorder, Inflammation and Cancer.
  4. Harms Your Brain: Some of the worst effects of HFCS occur in the brain. Disorders such as ADHD, anxiety, depression and brain fog can result from HFCS. Unnatural amounts of Fructose from HFCS not only leads to insulin resistance that causes diabetes it can also interfere with insulin’s ability to regulate how cells use and store sugar and impede production of the energy needed to process thoughts and emotions. Studies done on rats concluded that a diet high in HFCS can damage the brain’s synapses (neural junctions). All signs are pointing to yes that poor diet leads to an increase of mood, emotional and learning problems. 

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Want To Start Making a New Year’s Resolution?!

Either reducing  or avoiding High Fructose Corn Syrup is a challenge, because so many foods that we eat contain it. If you decide to make it a New Year’s Resolution to change to a healthy diet there are some important steps you need to take.

Start by closely reading nutrition labels: It’s important to carefully read labels before you buy anything at the grocery store to see if HFCS is an ingredient.

Foods that contain HFCS include:

  • Candy
  • Soda
  • Salad Dressing
  • Frozen Junk Foods
  • Processed Breads
  • Canned Fruits
  • Processed Fruit Juices

It’s important to be aware that some brands advertise as “no high fructose corn syrup” on the package, because there may still be HFCS in that product and may be listed under a different name.

These names include:

  • Maize Syrup
  • Corn Syrup
  • Glucose Syrup
  • Fructose Syrup
  • Isolated Fructose

Avoid Meals That are Canned, Frozen or Prepackaged: These foods are convenient, but there are a lot of added ingredients such as HFCS.

KnowThe Difference Between Natural and Organic: Someone I know is always asking questions about the food labels “natural” and “organic. The word natural is sometimes placed on products that contain HFCS. Also, the word organic is sometimes placed on labels, because foods contain “organic HFCS”. It’s important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate labels. Foods that are HFCS free organic can be found in the section at the grocery store that contains health food or at specialty health food stores such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. In the short run some organic foods are more expensive, but you’ll feel healthier in the long run. 

Start Incorporating More Whole Foods Into Your Diet: Incorporate more whole foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. When foods such as canned fruits are processed a lot of the fiber is stripped out, when grains such as wheat are processed into white flour the bran and germ that provide the most nutritional benefit are stripped out. It makes more sense to eat less processed or whole foods.

Start Baking and/or Cooking at Home More: When you bake or cook your own food you have more control over the ingredients that are added to them. If you don’t want to use table sugar instead of HFCS you can use alternative natural sweeteners such as honey or mashed fruit.

Take an Omega-3 Supplement: I mentioned that HFCS is harmful to your brain and its important to start taking an Omega-3 supplement along with changing your diet. Along with lowering blood pressure and reducing the likelihood of a heart attack Omega-3s decrease the likelihood of developing memory problems, depression and anxiety as the brain’s synapses are repaired.

I’ve noticed changes in my health right away just simply changing form Kellogg’s Raisin Bran to Organic Brands such as Cascadian Farms Raisin Bran. Right away you’ll notice that the flakes don’t taste as sweet and they have a lot more fiber. Raisin Bran is my favorite cereal and just changing to an organic brand promoted weight loss also.

Have you ever noticed that you feel better physically and mentally with an improved diet?

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5 thoughts on “Is Processed Food Linked to Physical and Mental Health Problems?

  1. I’ve been asking myself this question for a while now and started cutting back on processed foods last year. I really do think that there’s a [negative] link between mental/physical health and processes foods. I feel much worse when I’m eating a lot of processed food, like I have been during the holidays. I believe that natural sugar found in fruits is OK and I eat a lot of fruit when cutting down on added sugar and processed foods.

  2. oooh.. you touched a raw nerve with me on this one. Too many excuses for people that have weak minds and are easily played. “t is not my fault I shot that family of three, I ate processed Mac & Cheese last night!”.

  3. I agree with your message but I still have one question, what is meant exactly by ‘processed bread’? Do you mean I need to bake all of my bread myself (what I once tried to do but it is just so time consuming) or are there brands or types of bread that are ‘better’?

    1. The term processed bread im referring to is white bread. The more processed it is the fiber there is and there’s less nutritional value due to the removal of bran and germ when the grain is processed. Many of the nutrients that are lost are added back in and sometimes added sugar or sugar substitutes are added in making someone more prone to weight gain, obesity and diabetes.

      I’m reading a book right now about how modern industrial farming is causing an increased in gluten allergies due to a heavy use of chemicals and there’s a movement to revive varieties of ancient wheat that can be grown organically and are safe if you’re concerned about gluten.

      1. You know you are very smart do you? You get all this from books? It is not easy information to grasp, I think, because there is so many different opinions on it. Congrats for making it into such a good post. I’ve noticed that your post on other subjects are also very well researched. I have developed a great deal of trust in the information you put out. Thank you for that!
        Back to bread, I understand now but I need to find (in my city) where to buy less processed bread as that is not clear to me. I really like sourdough bread but I don’t know if that could be more or less processed too. I mean, if they can manipulate the wheat too. I understood that spelt (I don’t know if it’s the same word in english?) would be better than wheat.

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