I hope you enjoyed our Vital Woman Code mini-series on EMF – what it is, it’s impact on our hormonal health, and what we can do about it. This week we are moving on to the next in our six stressors, food. Adjusting our eating habits towards wellness can be one of the most simple changes we can make in our lives, but it can also be one of the hardest. We will look at processed foods and why they are a toxic burden, how food affects hormone metabolism and wellbeing, and the changes we can make to use food as medicine instead of a stressor.
Food can be nourishing and healing, a way to connect. But when we choose the wrong foods it can lead to inflammation and hormone imbalance.
Food for thought
Often in our busy lives, we choose foods that are easy and convenient. We eat quickly and mindlessly, without regard for how it affects our health and wellbeing. We are bombarded by TV commercials and supermarket aisles full of choices. Many of these choices are adding to our overall toxic burden with chemicals and additives.
All food is processed, isn’t it?
What is processed food? Technically pre-cut pumpkin and minced meat are processed foods. These are known as mechanically processed. They do not lose nutritional value in their processing. Generally, when we talk about processed foods we mean foods that are chemically processed.
Examples of chemically processed foods might include ready-to-eat and microwaveable foods, bread, breakfast cereals, instant noodles, chicken or fish nuggets, chocolate bars and candies, chips, and artificially sweetened beverages.
These foods are engineered to taste good. Food manufacturers spend massive amounts of money to make their products look and taste appealing so you will buy more. Besides being loaded with sugar, trans-fats and salt, they often contain chemical additives. Preservatives, artificial flavours and colours, emulsifiers and anti-caking agents are some ingredients you might see listed on a label.
As an example, a label that contains the word “flavour” can have a proprietary blend of up to 10 chemicals designed to achieve a certain taste. Manufacturers are not legally obligated to disclose exactly what they have used.
When foods are processed they lose their nutrient value. More than just vitamins and minerals, but good fats and antioxidants are removed or destroyed during the manufacturing process. Some foods have synthetic vitamins and minerals added to replace what is lost. We see cereals and bread that say they are “fortified” with iron or folate for example. They are not the same and can add to the toxic burden.
A calorie is a calorie, or is it?
Empty calories is a term used to describe foods with no nutritional benefit. They give a quick boost to energy levels due to their high sugar content, but nothing else. When compared to a piece of fruit the sugar content may look similar, but without the fibre, the sugar causes a spike in insulin levels. Fruit also contains various beneficial nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Excess sugar, or sugar not required for energy production, is then converted to fat by the liver and stored.
The prevalence of highly processed foods goes a long way to explaining the rising obesity epidemic seen in many modern societies.
The toxic burden
High consumption of processed foods also leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) or fatty liver. This is a condition where fat accumulates in the liver, causing scarring of the liver or cirrhosis. If left untreated fatty liver can lead to end-stage liver failure or cancer. Studies have shown a direct link between the intake of ultra-processed foods and obesity, diabetes, increased LDL cholesterol, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
Diet and hormonal health
It is the role of the liver to convert proteins and amino acids into hormones. When the liver is overworked or sluggish or when dietary intake is inadequate, this process also becomes affected.
The liver is crucial for removing toxins through phase I and phase II detoxification. When the diet consists of chemical additives it increases the toxic burden and affects hormone metabolism.
Every choice we make in terms of the foods we eat can have a lasting impact on our health. Next week we will delve deeper into the types of illnesses caused by food.