My dear, sweet sister (DSS) is suffering from some issues that landed her in the hospital this week. A perforated colon. Thank God she’s responding well to treatment and it doesn’t look like she’ll have to endure surgery.
When I was talking to her yesterday, checking up on her progress, she shared that her doctor told her that this affliction is primarily an American thing, caused by our persistent and constant consumption of processed foods. All the time saving devices and strategies that litter our world leave us with less and less time, amazingly enough. The thing we seem to have little left over time for is taking care of our bodies. Nothing unique to DSS – this is epidemic in our entire society.
During our conversation I asked if there were changes she was going to have to make to avoid having this problem again in the future. Her response: eliminate processed foods. (Music to my ears!!!)
But what exactly are processed foods??? According to About.com, “Processed foods have been altered from their natural state for safety reasons and for convenience. The methods used for processing foods include canning, freezing, refrigeration, dehydration and aseptic processing. ” Our society is such that darn near everything falls under the “processed” flag. But there are different levels and categories of what type of processing is harmful versus not.
Twinkies, Wonder Bread, Doritos. Obviously bad processed foods. They’re made with refined grains that have been stripped of their nutrients, then “enriched” to put some of those nutrients back in before being filled with chemicals and artificial colors and flavors to make something that resembles food.
But even foodstuffs that we think are better for us are still processed. Things like Cheerios, instant oatmeal, canned vegetables. They have ingredients that Mother Nature did not naturally include – preservatives (often made of some chemical compound), high levels of sodium, artificial this and that.
Some processing methods, however, aren’t necessarily so bad. Frozen vegetables, for instance. Obviously processed since they don’t come off the plant frozen. But if you read the label, and the only thing inside that plastic bag or box is what you think is supposed to be there – the whole food and nothing more – then it’s probably safe and wholesome.
So really, what this comes down to is not that DSS should avoid every single processed item of food – but should stick to whole foods primarily. And eliminate anything that falls under the “convenience food” category. As I’m sure she would agree – there’s nothing convenient about being laid up in the hospital. So switching up her diet will be a big undertaking to be sure, since so much of what populates our pantries has hidden ingredients that nature did not intend for us to eat.
I’m certainly no patron saint of whole, unprocessed foods. But due to having a lot of food allergies, I have to be very careful of what I consume. And DSS’s hospital stay is a wake up call for me to be even more vigilant.
Full Disclosure: This is what’s in my refrigerator right now. Not perfect, but not too bad either. A whole chicken, some ground turkey, organic salad mix, lemons, avocados, carrots, broccoli, celery, hummus, some fresh herbs, milk, butter, eggs, juice… Beer. 🙂
My vices include Minute Maid’s Blueberry-Pomegranate juice and Sabre’s Garlic Hummus. And as I noted in the first picture – I have no clue why there’s ketchup in my fridge. But looking closer, I see that there are a few condiments in the door… Lord only knows how long they’ve been there because I don’t know when last I used any kind of condiment. Probably time those got thrown away since they’re probably long past expired anyway. I love salad, but I don’t drown it in goo. Salad dressing, for me, consists of a fresh squeezed lemon and some basil olive oil. Maybe a shake of Parmesan cheese.
My pantry is another story altogether. Canned veggies galore, dry milk, various sugars, etc. But also, tons of dry grains like whole wheat, whole oats, rices, beans, barley, lentils… Lots of good wholesome stuff in there, too, besides the canned veggies.
So the long and short of it is that I really need to take a harder look at what I’m consuming, so that I don’t end up with intestinal issues like DSS. And hopefully I can offer her moral support and positive influences as she takes up a whole new world of eating. There’s a definite reason that whole foods are better than processed, and it comes down to our health. God only gave you one body. Treat it like a temple!