Stay healthy by avoiding processed foods!

Do you wish you could lose a few pounds, control your mood swings, and have more energy? Do you worry about cancer, heart disease, and getting older? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, it’s time to rethink how you eat.  More and more studies are showing that processed foods are harmful to your health—especially if you’re a women. Whether you want to lose weight or prevent disease, there are several reasons to omit sugars and refined carbohydrates (i.e. processed foods). The top 3 ways processed foods hurt women are:

1. Increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer

Did you know that more than 270,000 women die each year from heart disease and 40,000 die from breast cancer. Would it surprise you to learn that many of these deaths could be avoided by eliminating processed foods and adding more whole foods into a woman’s diet? Studies show that sugar consumption and refined carbohydrates have been linked to heart disease and breast cancer.

Heart Disease

The primary reason processed foods increase the risk of heart disease is because many processed foods contain trans fatty acids (TFAs). TFAs are a dangerous type of fat that tend to raise LDL cholesterol (the bad one, which you want low) and lower HDL cholesterol (the good one, which you want high). Processed foods are loaded with these TFAs.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that replacing animal fats and processed carbohydrates—such as white bread, bagels, candy, cookies, and cake—with healthy plant-based oils helps reduce the risk of heart disease.

LDL levels should be kept low.

Breast Cancer

There have been many studies recently linking processed foods to many types of cancer, including breast cancer—for example, one study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Mile Markers, and Prevention found that refined carbohydrates (white flour, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup—which are in most processed foods) are linked to breast cancer. The study looked at more than 1,800 women in Mexico, and found that those whose total daily energy intake from refined carbohydrates was 57 percent or more had a 220 percent higher risk of breast cancer than women who ate more balanced diets.

Another study of 65,000 adults between the ages of 40 and 60 conducted in Sweden found a correlation between blood sugar levels and cancer risk (and that’s not looking at the impact of blood sugar on diabetes). The researchers conducted the study over 13 years and found that the 25 percent of women with the highest blood sugar had a 26 percent higher chance of developing cancer than the 25 percent with the lowest blood sugar levels.

2. Increased Risk of Osteoporosis

While bone loss is an issue of concern primarily to menopausal and post-menopausal women, there are dietary changes women can make at much younger ages to avoid osteoporosis. Keeping calcium levels high is important, but did you know the foods you eat can leech calcium from your body? That’s because processed foods are loaded with salt. (Reducing salt also helps with heart disease.)

Studies show that regular table salt—not just sodium—causes calcium loss and weakens bones over time. How much of your sodium comes from salt? For most Americans, it is 90%. And if you eat processed foods, you probably get about twice as much sodium as you should.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams a day—about one teaspoon of salt. But most Americans get at least 4,000 milligrams a day. Salt shows up in nearly every processed food, even the ones you think are healthy, such as whole grain breads and breakfast cereals.

High salt intake speeds up osteoporosis

3. Causing Hormone Imbalances

Hormone imbalances are something most women can relate to. What you may not know is that the best fix to regulate your hormones is to change your diet (good bye PMS). Salt, sugar, and white flour—which are in pretty much every processed food on the market—make it impossible to regulate your hormones. And they may cause you to gain weight.

Although our bodies are made up of more than 100 different hormones, two hormones play an important role in maintaining hormone balance and a healthy weight: insulin and glucagon.

Insulin gets sugar into the cell and contributes to fat storage while glucagon pulls the sugar out of storage so the body can use it for energy. So if you want to maximize the effects of glucagon and minimize the effects of insulin, ditch the processed foods and increase the amount of whole foods you eat.

The Insulin & Glucagon Pathway

The list of ways processed foods hurt women goes on and on. The evidence continues to mount daily—if you want to avoid serious disease and stay vibrant and healthy well into your senior years, avoid processed foods. Limit (or eliminate if you can) added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, salt, trans fats, and added chemicals in your food. Instead eat whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Give up the soda and drink water. And as an added tip exercise regularly and get some sunshine to your boost Vitamin D levels. Be healthy and live well.

Author Bio

Susan Rose, Gutsy Health, is a certified Health Coach specializing in helping women over 40 who are struggling with their diet and nutrition take control of their health. Her coaching programs include: one-on-one coaching, group, and online health and wellness programs for women.

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