(NaturalNews) Certainly by now, most consumers (even those who prefer to bury their heads in the sand) know that when food is processed, it becomes less healthy. So why are foods so heavily processed when it makes them dangerous? Why do people keep eating them? Why do companies keep making them? Here are a few reasons why foods are processed and why people like them so much.
Processed foods are more convenient. When consumers look at the foods they buy for convenience, they'll realize that a good many of them are highly processed. There are even some simpler foods that people don't realize are processed. Take peanut butter, for example. Natural peanut butter made without added trans fats usually separates, and there will be a layer of oil on top that must be stirred back in. Natural peanut butters also usually require refrigeration after opening. Trans fats make items like peanut butter more convenient to consumers. It is easier to just be able to immediately use the peanut butter. But partially hydrogenated oils are dangerous, leading to potential disease in unsuspecting consumers.
These consumers might be led to believe that small amounts of trans fats aren't dangerous. Why even consume a small amount when there are healthier alternatives available?
Processed foods last longer. Trans fats are just one type of processed food additive, and they're known for lengthening the shelf life of many foods, from bread to margarine. But there are other preservatives in addition to hydrogenated oils. For example, many people have likely seen BHA or BHT in an ingredient list. Ingredients like these are added to prohibit foods with oils from going rancid, thereby increasing shelf life. However, many of these additives are likely carcinogenic. Why not eat foods without these dangerous additives?
Ironically, some foods are processed to make them safer to eat. For example, most processed meats use sodium nitrite. It is used to preserve the meat and give it a pink color as well as to ward off botulism. Unfortunately, many chemical additives meant to make food safer actually make them more dangerous. For instance, eating nitrates can potentially lead to cancer, due to the way the body processes them. If a person must eat meat, why not eat it unprocessed?
Foods are processed to make them taste better. Most people who have eaten processed food won't deny that processing food makes it taste better. That's intentional. Foods have added sugar, salt, flavoring, and coloring to make them more appealing to consumers. Why? So people buy them. Most people prefer to eat food that tastes good, and food manufacturers know that. According to Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, processed fast food "has been carefully designed to taste good." Processed food purchased at the supermarket is no different.
Processed foods are made for consumers' convenience and taste buds. However, most people would agree that their health is worth a little more effort and a little less processing.
Cindy Jones-Shoeman is the author of Last Sunset and a Feature Writer for Academic Writing at Suite101. Some of Cindy's interests include environmental issues, vegetarian and sustainable lifestyles, music, and reading.