How Processed Foods Wreak Havoc on Your Health


It’s safe to say that most American consumers probably can’t recall the last time they ate a meal prepared entirely from wholesome, garden-to-table ingredients, without any canned or prepackaged products. That’s because most Americans today consume mostly processed foods—foods produced with pesticides, GMOs and synthetic chemicals, routinely laced with too much sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.

In fact, processed foods make up as much as 70 percent of people’s diets– meaning only 30 percent of what they consume consists of wholesome, natural, or organic foods!

But here’s the truth about processed foods: Long-term consumption of these “food products” spell bad news for your health.

Processed vs. ultra-processed: What’s the difference?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines “processed food” as any raw agricultural commodity that has been subjected to processing methods, including canning, cooking, dehydration, freezing or milling. This means that the only time a food can be classified as “fresh” is when you’ve taken it straight from the source (washing it is okay, and would not be classified as a form of processing) and eaten it. By this definition, most foods would be considered processed.

However, in layman’s terms, processed foods can refer to sodas, potato chips, candy, baked pastries with extended shelf life–basically, “convenient,” easy-to-eat products that have been altered through the addition of artificial or ingredients, synthetic flavorings, fillers and chemical or genetically engineered additives. But this type of description actually refers to “ultra-processed food.” Researchers from the University of São Paulo and Tufts University define “ultra-processed” as:

Formulations of several ingredients which, besides salt, sugar, oils, and fats, include food substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular, flavors, colors, sweeteners, emulsifiers and other additives used to imitate sensory qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations or to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product.

But most people use the term “processed food” and “ultra-processed food” interchangeably when talking about these consumer products. Conventional processed foods today come in a variety of forms. These include:

• Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables
• Canned meats (luncheon meat and sausage, corned beef, and meatloaf)
• Breakfast foods, including cereals, oatmeal, energy bars
• Canned, bottled, or tetra-packed fruit juices, energy drinks, and soda
• Jarred baby foods and infant cereals
• Foods “fortified” with nutrients
• Ready to eat meals, microwave dinners
• Ramen noodles
• Pastries, including cookies, breads, frozen pizza, and pies
• Condiments, seasonings and marinades, salad dressing, and jams
• Yogurt and other commercially made fermented foods

The simplest way to determine if a food is processed is by looking at the ingredient list at the back of its packaging. The longer the ingredient list, the more processed a food is likely to be.

After more than 20 years of struggle by consumer activists and public interest groups such as the Organic Consumers Association, major food manufacturers are finally being forced to label GMO ingredients in processed foods sold in grocery stores. Because of this, many of them are starting to remove GMOs from their products, along with other artificial chemicals and additives.

The history of ‘processing’

Humans have been “processing” food through traditional methods for thousands of years. Egyptians have used salt for 4,000 years to extend the shelf life of food. In ancient sites in Italy, Russia and the Czech Republic, there was evidence that early humans pounded cattails and ferns into flour and mixed it with water to bake bread.

Other methods of food preservation, including fermentation, pickling and curing, have also been used for thousands of years, in different cultures. The food was used to help survive long winters and voyages, and also as rations when soldiers went to war. This led to the production of foods like beer, wine, cheeses, yogurt and butter.

The 19th century saw the rise of modern food processing methods. Canning and bottling began mainly to serve military needs, although the initial cans used were hazardous, as they were contaminated with lead.

Pasteurization, a method that prolongs the shelf life of dairy and wine to allow increased production and distribution, was discovered and patented by Louis Pasteur in the mid-1800s.

In the 20th century, the rising consumer society in the U.S. contributed to the growth of food processing. Advances such as freeze drying, spray drying and juice concentrates were developed. At the same time, coloring agents, preservatives and artificial sweeteners were introduced. Self-cooking meals, “TV dinners,” reconstituted fruits and juices and other “instant” foods like coffee and noodles became popular. These were mostly marketed to working wives and mothers who were tired of preparing foods from scratch.

To convince people that processed foods were as good, or even better, than wholesome foods, they were marketed as a means for people to save time and money–hence the term “convenience foods.”

But do the time and money you save by choosing these processed goods make up for the havoc that they wreak with your health?

Not what the human body needs, or wants

The human body is not designed to thrive on processed foods. And foods are not meant to be altered. The more altered they are, the worse they are for your health.

Processed foods are actually lacking in nutritional content compared to natural foods. For example, processed bread and other snacks use refined grains that have the bran and germ removed and, along with it, important nutrients like fiber, iron and B-vitamins.

Dried processed foods not only have reduced amounts of vitamin C and fiber, but they also become more energy dense, which causes them to contribute to weight gain. When these foods are constituted and cooked with water, even more nutrients leach out.

Processed foods are also loaded with sugar, unhealthy fats and sodium, all of which your body is not designed to handle in high amounts, and all of which can endanger health. Particularly damaging are refined sugars, like high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which convert into fat in your body. This wreaks havoc on your insulin and leptin levels, and leads to chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and cancer. Meanwhile, synthetic trans fats, in the form of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, have been linked to heart disease.

And of course processed foods are routinely laced with hazardous genetically engineered and pesticide-drenched ingredients derived from GMO corn, soybeans, canola, sugar beets and cotton (cottonseed oil is common in low-grade vegetable oils). According to the Grocery Manufacturers of America, 80 percent of all (non-organic) supermarket processed foods contain GMOs. Only now are those ingredients being labeled, as food manufacturers are being forced to comply with Vermont’s GMO labeling law.

Loaded with health-harming synthetic additives

Close to 5,000 additives are now allowed to be used in food products. And this number keeps growing. If you factor in the additives found in the packaging (which can also leach into your food), that number of additives can rise to 10,000!

What’s worse, most of these food additives have not undergone any safety testing, and very few have been tested according to the way that they are ingested–meaning in combination with other additives. Some of these additives are downright dangerous. For example:

Diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione (PD), both of which are added to microwave popcorn to give it a buttery aroma, are linked to brain health, Alzheimer’s disease and respiratory toxicity.

• Monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is found in chips, processed meats and a wide array of other foods, is an excitotoxin that can lead to cell damage, triggering brain dysfunction and leading to learning disabilities, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and more.

• Artificial food dyes like Red #40, Yellow 5, and Blue #2 are linked to brain tumors, hyperactivity, hypersensitivity and other behavioral effects in children.

• Preservatives like butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxyl toluene (BHT) can mess with your brain’s neurological system, causing behavioral problems and even cancer. Another preservative, tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), is also deadly. In fact, just five grams can kill you, according to the FDA.

Giving up processed foods—easier said than done

If you think you can simply shake off your processed food cravings, you’re wrong. These foods are intentionally addictive. They stimulate dopamine, a “feel-good” neurotransmitter that affects your brain similarly to how drugs affect you. Manufacturers are fully aware of this, and actually engineer their products to produce this “delicious” yet dangerous effect. (Michael Moss details this in his book, “Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.”)

Sadly, many people still consume GMO and pesticide-tainted, highly processed foods because of their affordability, convenience and “delicious” flavor. But what you save in terms of money and convenience will ultimately put a double whammy on your health.

source: Elaine Catherine R. Ferrer via Organic Consumers Association


Eating Healthy Doesn’t Mean Restrictive – Pizza Raw Vegan Style

One of the most common responses we get from people wanting to improve their health, is the fear of ‘restrictions’.  Even using labels like ‘vegetarian’, ‘vegan’, ‘raw vegan’ and especially ‘healthy’ or ‘health food’ can feel limiting to them and unappealing. We all love to eat after all, whether it is healthy or not.  Fortunately, people do not have to fall prey to their fears and assumptions or even the not so accurate advice from mainstream dietitians, or buddies that have ‘tried eating this way’ but stopped because wheat germ, tofu and brussel sprouts are so boring and unappetizing. Or maybe they felt bad or weak, tired or hungry all of the time because unbeknownst to us, they weren’t making wise food choices while ‘trying’ it out.  Let’s face it, we will never be full of energy and vitality eating french fries with vegan cheese and gravy. And yes we would feel hungry and downright bored eating carrot & celery sticks all day long.  Attributing the success or failure of a diet based on one person’s choices that we will never really know isn’t the best source to make decisions about something, especially food.  Fortunately, we are here to help.  Eating all plant source only live foods  for well over a decade and bringing you delicious raw foods in our store has afforded us with a lot of experience in the wide variety of choices we really do have.  Our friends at the Tree of Life in Arizona have provided a delicious recipe for raw vegan pizza for you to try out.  After all, there is no way we would give up pizza, we just make it differently and use different ingredients.  Ingredients that taste great but make us look and feel amazing.  Enjoy!

Do one ever need an excuse to eat pizza? Our famous Raw Vegan Pizza Recipe, created by the Tree of Life Kitchen Staff, is heavenly delicious and can be eaten guilt free any day of the week!

Try it for yourself and let us know what you think! Feel free to upload and share photos of your own creations below!



4 cups Sunflower Seeds*
2 cups Walnuts*
3 cups Peeled Zucchini, pureed
2 – 3 Tbsp Olive Oil*
2 – 3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
¼ cup Mixed Fresh Herbs (Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme) or 2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
1½ tsp Salt*
½ tsp Black Pepper*
1 cup Ground Flax*
1 cup Filtered Water

Step 1 – Puree zucchini in blender*.

Step 2 – Process remaining ingredients in food processor with pureed zucchini – (EXCLUDING FLAX).

Step 3 – Transfer to a mixing bowl then add ground flax. Let sit 10-15 minutes, then spread on teflex dehydrator sheets (makes 3 pizzas) let dehydrate for 8 to 12 hours at 115°F, flipping half way through. The crust should be dried but not crispy like crackers!!!


4 cups Sprouted Buckwheat*
2 cups carrot juice or 3 cups of blended zucchini
1 tsp Salt*
½ tsp Pepper*
¼ cup Olive Oil*
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 cups nuts* or seeds* (any type)

Process sprouted buckwheat*, carrot juice & nuts with Italian seasonings in a food processor until fully creamed. Place in a mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Transfer to a mixing bowl and mix in:

¼ cup Fresh Herb or 2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 cup Ground Flax Seeds*

Let sit 10-15 minutes, then spread on teflex dehydrator sheets* (makes 3 pizzas) let dehydrate for 8 to 12 hours at 115°F, flipping half way through. The crust should be dried but not crispy like crackers!!!


4 to 6 cups of Brazil Nuts* or (3 cup Brazil nuts, 3 cups almond* or cashews* )
1/4 C Lemon Juice
1 ½ Tbsp Oregano
1 tsp Salt*
1 tsp Hing
¼ tsp White Pepper
1 cup Filtered Water

Blend the above ingredients into a cream. It is best to blend in half batches or use a food processor as the vita-mix works hard. If using a vita-mix add more water. This is a basic recipe. From here you can add any fresh or dry herbs to your liking!


6 cups Fresh Tomatoes, chopped or Grape Tomatoes
2 cups Sun-dried Tomatoes*
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 to 2 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary
1 bunch Fresh Basil
¼ cup Olive Oil*
1 ½ Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 ½ tsp Salt*
1/8 tsp Chili Pepper Flakes

Blend all ingredients together.

*Ingredient available at

Recipe Courtesy of Tree Of Life, Arizona.

Recipe Week: Live Buckwheat Pizza Crusts (Gluten-Free)

This week we are going to make some simple crusts that you can use to create your own pizza or you can also use them to make other creations of your choice.   We typically make a bunch of these and dehydrate them so they keep for a few weeks then pull them out as we need them.   There are many variations you can make by adding your choice of spices, but we will concentrate on the basic recipe below.


pizzaIngredients are very basic:

2 cups – Sprouted Ground Raw Buckwheat Groats

2 cups – Ground Flax Seeds

2 cups – Filtered Water

Pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt



Grind the buckwheat groats and flax in a coffee grinder or Vitamix.   Mix in the water and add a pinch of salt.  Spread onto a dehydrator sheet.  We like ours about ¼ inch thick and about 8 inches in diameter, but you can make them any shape and thickness you like.  Let dehydrate for about 24 hours at 115 deg F. or until they are a bit crunchy.   The thicker they are the longer it will take to dehydrate.

Remove from dehydrator add your favourite toppings and voila you have a quick and easy pizza.   We like ours with cashew cheese, marinara sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, pineapple, mushrooms, zucchini and some sprouts. You can add the toppings of your choice and put the pizza back in the dehydrator to warm it up.





Picture courtesy of