Cooking a meal is a simple act which for many people today is no longer part of their routine. Of course people eat…they must in order to survive but it’s what they’re eating and the quality of it that we’re going to discuss here. When we say “cooking a meal” we don’t mean popping a pre-packaged casserole into the microwave…or even sticking a pizza in the oven and opening a bag of salad; we mean preparing vegetables, protein and carbs or grains and then cooking them. For many people, the work involved in cooking with fresh, whole foods is just too much; especially when they can buy what appears to be the same items handily pre-prepped for them. But these items are not the same. Purchasing a ready-made pie for example also means purchasing a whole lot of stuff you may not have bargained for.
Processed food is dangerous
To some people this may seem an inflammatory statement…how can a box of micro chips or a frozen cake be dangerous? Well the fact is that what makes up your handy processed meal is not only basic ingredients but ingredients which have been altered through the process of…well of processing! Things are not only added to processed foods but also removed; water, protein and even fibre can be added and taken away from these foods in order to improve texture, colour or flavour and this has a knock-on effect on the way in which it is digested. The body is a sensitive thing and yours knows when it’s being offered something less than great.
It’s not just cakes, sweets and ready meals that we need to avoid though; processed meats are one of the most “dangerous” foods out there and yet they’re so commonly accepted as the norm’ that they’re served in our schools as a matter of course. Processed meat doesn’t only mean hotdog sausages but bacon, ham, pepperoni and pastrami…any meat that’s been preserved or salted in short; processed meat is linked to some cancers which is worrying given how popular they are.
Processed Foods Are Designed To Be Addictive
Because processed foods are designed to taste and feel a certain way, they affect neurotransmitters in the brain which lead to cravings and overeating and for some people food addiction. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and high fructose corn syrup are highly addictive; they’re what makes people feel like they want more of a snack. Most of us have had that feeling where we just can’t stop munching on crisps even though we feel full… that’s down to the MSG stimulating the brain in a not-so good way!
Food addiction leads to obesity which leads to all kinds of health issues including heart disease and diabetes in addition to infertility and depression. When you consider the ill-effects of processed foods it’s amazing they’re even legal! Labelling on processed foods is also open to abuse with many companies using terms such as “Low Sugar” and “Natural” with abandon despite the fact that there’s absolutely nothing natural about the product in question. A good rule of thumb to remember when deciding whether to buy a snack or meal is to consider whether your Great Grandmother would recognise it; if the answer is no…then stay away!
As the food industry develops, it’s to be expected that experts and researchers will look for ways in which to cut costs, cut waste and promote health. Nanotechnology is one science which has been sneaking into the food industry for a number of years without making much of a splash and it’s already used in the production of some foods which you may not be aware of.
Nanotechnology & The Food Industry
What is nanotechnology and how can it affect your food? Nanotechnology is where matter is measured in billionths of a metre…it’s the science of the tiny! As scientists discover more about nanotechnology they are applying it to food production and packaging with amazing and sometimes alarming results. Some of the most impressive work related to nanotechnology and the food industry recently has come in the form of packaging…Antimicrobial packaging to be specific. This is an ingenious use of nanotechnology whereby “food films” are made from edible ingredients instead of from plastics; so by using oregano and cinnamon for example, scientists have created protection for food which won’t end up in landfill. As if that wasn’t enough they’ve also used lobster shells and organic corn in the creation of packaging which will easily break down.
It’s not only in packaging that nanotechnology is being explored; there are research projects currently underway which are looking at ways in which nanoparticles could be used to sneak extra vitamins into food and even medication. This is where the science gets risky though as research is ongoing it is feared that because of the fact that nanoparticles are so absorbable they could be absorbed where they’re not wanted.
Kathy Jo Wetter who works for an action group committed to discovering more about food technology says, “The problem is that the qualities that make nanomaterials so attractive to researchers and industry across a wide range of fields, including food processing, are the same qualities that could make them harmful to human health,”
This is only part of why we should all be more informed about food technology and also more in control of what we’re eating. Preparing fresh, whole foods and avoiding anything in boxes, cartons, packets and bags is the only real way to ensure that what you’re putting in your body is healthy and even then it’s impossible to know the true state of the food we’re eating unless we’ve grown it ourselves!
Cooking Your Own Food Is Not Only Healthy But Cheaper Too
Cooking your own food from scratch is not only the healthiest way to eat, it’s also the cheapest. People assume that those multi buy packs of frozen foods available so readily at the supermarket are the easiest way to budget but they couldn’t be further from the truth. Fresh vegetables in season combined with plenty of pulses, beans and grains are a fantastic way to begin a new eating regime and once you’ve built up a good store of herbs and spices, there’s nothing more satisfying than cooking a delicious curry, soup, pie or stew to your own preference and your own recipe.
In addition to being cheaper, home cooking is generally healthier owing to the fact that the ingredients are fresher, purer and you can control the amount of fat and salt which you’re consuming. If you are on a budget, it makes even more sense because leftovers can be frozen for another meal or taken to school or work the following day as lunch. Cook in bulk…more than you need and you’ll save time as well as money.
Take control of what you put in your body…there’s no excuse not to!