The Harmful Effects of Our Love for Processed Food
Ever wonder if the way your child is behaving is the result of the food they just ate? According to MayoClinic.com, ingredients in the food your child eats fuel many of the factors that affect their behavior. Kids who eat healthily are able to cope with stress and regulate their emotions better, says the American Psychological Association.
A recent British study tracked 14,000 children and what they ate and drank at the ages of 3, 4, 7, and 8.5 years of age, by asking parents to complete questionnaires detailing their child’s diet. Not surprisingly, the study found evidence that when 3 year old children eat a diet rich in foods that are high in fat, high in sugar and are processed, their IQ may find a small decrease in their IQ five years later. And on the flip side, this new study suggests eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet may be associated with a small increase in IQ.
Dr. Sandra Hassink, Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Obesity Leadership Workgroup, believes that there are “so many variables in a child’s life which makes it very difficult to tease out what exactly is leading to a drop in IQ assessments.” Until more research is available, Hassink says, the AAP recommends giving your child a healthy diet, reading to your child, having family routines and structure and lots of physical activity, all which contribute to the healthy development of children.
One of the biggest culprits in our children’s health is the sugary drinks. CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) refer to soda drinks as “liquid candy.” The amount of sugar consumed from these drinks are staggering….boys getting 15 teaspoons or more of refined sugar daily and girls about 10 teaspoons! That’s the most sugar kids should be getting from all foods in any day’s time, according to CSPI. A great post about the top ten reasons why not to give your children soda can be found here.
A recent study published in the journal, Thorax, surveyed 500,000 kids from 31 countries in two age groups: ages 6 to 7 and ages 13 to 14. In both groups, kids who ate fast food three times a week or more had increased risks of asthma, rhinitis, and eczema—as much as a 39% increase in severe asthma risk for teens and 27% for younger kids. These conditions became less severe with just 3 or more servings of fresh fruit. A study about whether or not teens and kids actually consume more calories eating at fast food restaurants that having that home cooked meal found alarming results ~ eating out was associated with taking in as many as 160 extra calories daily for younger kids and as many as 310 calories daily for teens. That information is troubling because obesity is a serious problem for children in the U.S. and around the world. Because the fast food meals contain large amounts of sugar and fat, when these foods are eaten in large amounts, chronic disease can develop.
Stacey Nelson, a registered dietitian who is a clinical nutrition manager at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital gave the following tips to parents and grandparents:
- Don’t let kids drink their calories. Order water or fat-free milk instead of a soda, juice, milkshake, frappe, or smoothie.
- Watch the side dishes. Get a side salad or baked potato if possible instead of French fries and onion rings, which can be laden with saturated fat.
- Don’t super-size. Instead, order smaller portions, such as items on the snack menu.
- Choose grilled foods instead of fried foods.
- Hold the cheese. This eliminates extra calories and fat.
- Use mustard and ketchup instead of the “special sauce.”
- Model good eating behaviors. That means following all of the rules yourself.
Just as the risks of smoking began to emerge in the late 70′s alarming people of the dangers of smoking cigarettes, perhaps it is time to begin to pay attention and sound the alarm about the dangers of all of the processed foods, including soft drinks, that are being consumed. Six out of every ten deaths in our country our directly related to diet. A typical American diet consists of 90% cooked, processed, packaged, adulterated, and even irradiated and possibly genetically-engineered foods, filled with chemicals, preservatives, grown in nutrient-depleted soil, and stored on shelves for long periods of time, resulting in a massive nutritional loss, literally creating a “dead-food diet.” We cannot build strong new cells and maintain a healthy immune system to prevent disease when we only eat lifeless food. (In 1997 I saved a McDonald’s “Happy Meal” – it still looks the same today! check out my blog post about this meal here)
Ask yourself and your family members these questions….are you tired most of the time? Is depression your constant companion? Do you or your family members have frequent colds, flu, etc? Any issues with asthma, rhinitis, and eczema? Are you living with arthritis or worse? If anyone answers yes to any of these questions, it is time to build up your defense system by building and repairing your immune system, not with “dead” processed food, but with good tasting, healthful food and nutritional supplements that deliver nutrients to the cells.
Choosing to make healthy home-cooked meals over fast food, and encouraging all family members to get plenty of exercises daily (and following those above tips when going to those fast food restaurants) can help us on a healthier path. To learn more about nutritional supplementation as well, check out this great e-book here to help you in what to look for when buying a vitamin supplement.