When I think back to the days that I first gave up processed foods, I remember how hard it was for me to get used to the different tastes and smells and textures of food in my mouth. I remember being told as a little girl “You are supposed to chew your food 32 times before you swallow. It helps with digestion.” I even remember the point where… I stopped having to chew so much. My jaw “hurt” less. Food didn’t seem so tough to chew.

Some people may see “chewing your food a ton of times” as simply a corny etiquette issue, but outside of the little girly bites and “nibbling” you might think of, there’s a reality to eating this way that’s important to acknowledge. It’s also important to understand why you simply could not eat that way on a processed food-laden diet.

To “process” a food means that it… undergoes a “process” to become what it is when you receive it. There’s usually a chemical involved. Something to help preserve it… something to sweeten it… something to give it flavor entirely… something to “create” favor… there’s always something. There’s always “something” because that “something” usually helps the company manufacturing the product keep that product affordable for you.

Consider high fructose corn syrup (otherwise known as HFCS – my personal whipping boy.) When HFCS is taken into the body, it cannot be handled like regular sugar and is then sent directly to the liver to be dealt with. In the meantime, while other sweeteners trigger the hormone that tells you to stop eating, HFCS doesn’t. Instead, it hangs out in the liver, waiting to be processed as fat. Just so you know.. anything you eat that the rest of the body fails to find a use for (like these additives and random chemicals) is sent to the liver to be processed as fat… and overworking your liver in this fashion can, well… I’m just sayin’.

Let’s take it a step further. What’s in the picture below?

Credit: Fooducate

If you watched the clip above, you already know. Our processed foods are broken down to their most basic parts, mixed in with preservatives (which help, you know, preserve the final product), flavor additives, water, flour, various forms of salt, then manipulated to be whatever they want to sell us. The same ground up chicken carcass (which is what is in that photo) can be chicken patties, chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, “diced chicken,” the chicken in your chicken pot pie, the chicken in your soup… whatever. Just look for “mechanically separated [animal] parts.” You won’t have to look too hard.

Once it’s broken down to create this… goo… chemicals are used to hold it in place to form whatever shape it’s going to take. Once it meets your saliva and enters your body, it breaks right back down to the goo… with no fiber inside to help push it out. It essentially deflates inside of your system, making it easier to consume more calories because you’re “not full yet.” Couple all of this with the fact that it takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal from your digestive system that you’re “full,” and you start to see why a food that breaks down this quickly is a recipe for disaster – a breaded chicken breast on wheat bread breaks down much more slowly than a chicken patty sandwich on white bread, takes longer to chew (buying you time until that 20 minute mark… see what that 30 bites was important?), takes longer to digest (thus leaving you feeling fulfilled longer), and keeps you from overindulging. You’re getting that “full” feeling for less calories. You’re not scarfing it down because it’s breaking down faster than it can fill you up… only to find that “all-of-a-sudden-I-feel-like-I-ate-too-much” feeling arrive.

No nutritional value, harmful and fattening chemical additives, unidentifiable sources… sorry, give me a head of broccoli and I’ll make my own, anyday.