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Processed food, your mitochondria, and ageing

I was reading a research paper over breakfast this morning, and yet again found ANOTHER good reason to eat clean and avoid processed foods and junk foods. I’ll quickly share it with you before I get stuck into my learning for the day.

A vast majority of processed foods broadly tend to be:

  • made from processed grains
  • they have had components of their original make-up removed (often natural fats) in order to extend their shelf life (leave the natural fats in, and the foods would go rancid)
  • for these reasons, they tend to be energy-dense (lots of calories, mostly carbs) and nutrient-poor (lacking vitamins and minerals)

This is a gross over-simplification, but it reasonably accurately describes foods such as bread, pasta, white rice, cakes, pastries, burger buns, snack bars, cereals and almost all packaged convenience food and almost all non-perishable snack foods.

So the food delivers energy, I.E. it gives you calories, but it fails to deliver nutrients the way Mother Nature intended. If you eat 600 grams of cabbage or broccoli you get some calories, but you get a bunch of vitamins, minerals and enzymes too. If you eat 600 grams of white bread, you get the calories, but very little of the nutrients (and those you do get, are synthetic, added in a factory, and hence far less bio-available to your body, because they are not ‘packaged’ naturally in balance with their relevant digestive enzymes, etc.). 

Over many years of making poor choices, your body suffers in ways you do not notice as you are making those poor choices. Each time you eat processed foods, tiny nutrient deficiencies lead to small deleterious effects on your mitochondria (the energy engine inside your cells - kind-of the ‘fountain of life’ that makes energy in your body), such as decreased cell membrane efficiency, reduced oxygen uptake (less oxygen into the cells, less energy out), greater oxidation (more free radicals, which in turn leads to greater use of oxygen elsewhere, which in turn leads to less energy), decreased cell respiration rate and more.

In short, eating junk food makes your mitochondria less efficient. Over decades, this leads to reduced energy, reduced mobility, slower brain activity, reduced organ performance (eyesight deterioration, ears, liver, etc.) and more. Collectively, there is a name for these conditions - we call it ageing. It ALSO leads to mitochondrial decay, and tissue degeneration, and the aforementioned increase in free radicals. There is a collective name for these conditions too - we call it chronic degenerative disease.

In conclusion to this super-brief and super-simplified post, that burger or that pastry or that sliced white bread may appear to have no harmful effects right now, you may think it fits in your diet as a ‘treat’ once or twice per week and does you no harm (you’re not fat, so it’s OK, right?) but over the longer term, eating foods that are energy-dense but nutrient-poor (that’s processed foods, especially processed grain products) leads to accelerated ageing, reduced energy and a greater likelihood of succumbing to the effects of degenerative disease as you age.

And this is ONLY looking at the mitochondria. There are NUMEROUS other angles that we could look at - and will another time - supporting more reasons why processed foods have a negative long-term effect on your health.

MotherNaturesDiet #1 health rule - stop eating processed foods and just eat real, fresh, natural, whole foods.


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