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The Price of Convenience: The Dangers of Packaged and Processed Foods

By HealthLife Contributor
Updated: December 10, 2008

Most of the salt that people consume today comes from processed and packaged foods, including canned soups and vegetables, condiments, preserved meats, and fast-food. Salt is important for the human body to function properly, and is responsible for the regulation of blood pressure and general muscle contraction. Most of the salt that humans need in order to function properly is easily obtained through non-processed foods.

Adding salt to the diet, knowingly or otherwise, does more damage than good to the human body. Increased levels of salt can cause the body to retain water, blood pressure levels to increase, and arteries to shrink. The normal amount of salt that should be consumed is less than 1,750 milligrams of sodium per day, so read those Nutrition Facts labels carefully.


There was a time when trans-fats were considered a healthier (and affordable) alternative to lard, butter, and oils. Today, trans-fats are known to be more dangerous to your heart than saturated fats. Some statistics suggest that more than 30,000 deaths related to heart disease can be blamed on the trans-fats found in baked goods, microwave foods, fast-foods, and even margarine.

The common misconception is that cholesterol is bad for the body. There are however two forms of cholesterol, LDL and HDL. Trans-fats have been shown to increase the amount of "bad" LDL cholesterol while at the same time decreasing the levels of HDL cholesterol. Trans-fats have also been found to increase the levels of triglycerides, which can contribute the clogging of the body's arteries.
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Trans-fats are listed on the Nutrition Facts section of foods, but not always as "trans-fats". When checking labels, look for several trans-fats aliases, including terms like partially hydrogenated, fractionated and hydrogenated.

It is easy for individuals today to make the decision to sacrifice nutritional value for convenience. In most cases, this means settling for packaged and processed foods. Though it is almost impossible to ask an individual to completely eliminate processed and packaged foods from their diets, taking the time to read the labels to identify unwanted and unhealthy ingredients can be beneficial to the health of everyone involved.
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