Processed Foods in the American Diet
According to the New York Coalitions for Healthy School Food, approximately 62 percent of American’s daily caloric intake come from processed foods. If you consider that twelve percent, in addition to that, comes from the “Plant Food” category, and even up to half of that may still be considered “processed” due to preservatives and freezing; that makes the food we consume to be up to 74 percent processed. Before processed foods, Americans had no choice but to eat whole, natural, raw foods. As our technology advanced, our need for food to not spoil grew as quickly. Though as preservatives, additives, and processed foods increased in our diet, the integrity of food declined. With our new abilities to package and preserve food, food came to have more and more preservatives and contain fewer nutrients. Processed foods should usually be avoided because, over time, they contribute to obesity and can lead to disease; in order to help avoid these problems, the public needs to be educated on the negative effects of most processed foods and they need to be made more aware of affordable healthy alternatives.
Obesity is a problem in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, 35.7% of adults are considered to be obese. The CDC also reports that obesity-related diseases or conditions are the second leading cause of death; some of these include: type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even certain cancers (CDC, Para. 2). Obesity is typically caused by too many calories being ingested that are not burned off due to lack of exercise. The reason most do not get enough exorcize is because our society is addicted to eating on the go, and sitting – whether it be at work, driving, or in front of our home computer or television. Overeating is easy to do. For example, a large or medium Big Mac meal from McDonalds can add up to 1260 or 1140 calories, respectively (McDonalds, 2012). This is nearly an entire day’s worth of the average recommended caloric intake in one sitting; all from non-nutrient rich food. “Hundreds of millions of people buy fast food every day without giving it much thought, unaware of the subtle and not so subtle ramifications of their purchases” (Scholsser, 2001, P. 10). Scholsser, the author of Fast Food Nation goes into depth of how fast food has affected our community and the effects it has had on all of us. Fast food is cheap and easy to obtain, as one can find a restaurant on nearly any corner within a few block-radius in any given town. For the poor, one can get a dollar burger, or two, and feel satisfied enough until the next meal. Fast food is very unhealthy, and in addition to causing obesity, contains additives that have been linked to untreatable diseases.
Fast food products often contain additives, one being nitrates which has been linked to serious health problems. The Argonne National Labroratory is part of the U.S Department of Energy Office of Science. In 2005, they studied nitrates and nitrites to see what they are and the effect they have on the body. Nitrates are considered to be nontoxic; “however, when swallowed, they are converted to nitrites that can react with hemoglobin in the blood, oxidizing its divalent iron to the trivalent form and creating methemoglobin. This methemoglobin cannot bind oxygen, which decreases the capacity of the blood to transport oxygen so less oxygen is transported from the lungs to the body tissues, thus causing a condition known as methemoglobinemia” (Argonne, Para. 5). According to the Argonne National Laboratory, increased levels of methemoglobinemia can cause cyanosis which blushes the skin and lips. Higher levels lead to loss of consciousness, coma and death (Argonne, Para. 5). Nitrates lead to other serious conditions as well, such as cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. According to a study conducted by