What makes processed food so bad for people with autoimmune disease?

51674809 - concerned woman looking at pre packaged meatWhat exactly are processed foods? Technically, anything that’s been altered mechanically or chemically could be considered processed. However, some processing can be helpful in preserving foods. Foods that are processed simply for convenience, like pre-cut fruit, aren’t really worth the concern, either. The concern lies in foods that are highly processed: foods like hot dogs, sausages, lunch meat, cereals, chips, cookies, frozen meals, etc. Highly processed foods can be a health concern for anyone, but especially for those with an autoimmune disease.

Highly processed foods are pretty easy to identify; just take a look at the label. If you see items on the list that you probably can’t pronounce or identify, this is a good sign that it’s been processed. What makes this so bad for people with autoimmune disease? Aren’t the manufacturers just preserving the shelf life and keeping the food stable longer? Can it really be harmful to people with autoimmune disease?

The truth about highly processed foods

The main issue with highly processed foods is everything that has to be added to the food to make it taste good. See, the processing isn’t just for preserving. Manufacturers add lots of ingredients to improve the taste and texture of the foods, too. This can lead to reduced nutrition and added addiction. Ever notice you get cravings for certain not-so-good for you foods? Some of the things that are added make the food more additive. On top of this, after all the processing, there is typically little soluble fiber in the food. This means you’ll end up eating more because you’re not filling up very fast. This isn’t good for anyone, including people with autoimmune disease. You’ll end up eating more than your recommended portion size, which can lead to obesity.

What else can you find in your highly processed food? Lots of added sugars, sodium, and fats. You might be surprised to learn that there are actually about 56 names for sugar. Don’t let labels fool you with other names, because they won’t always use “sugar” in their ingredient list. The problem is, we often get more than our recommended daily intake of sugars and sodium from highly processed foods. In addition, we consume too many fats that we should be avoiding, like trans fats. Many of these processed foods have oils in them that are hydrogenated. These oils should be avoided by everyone, including people with autoimmune disease.

Can this really be harmful to people with autoimmune disease?

Let’s put this into perspective. Think about sugars for a minute. While some sugar is okay, too much can contribute to a host of ailments including chronic diseases. Sugars are basically empty calories; they don’t offer anything of value. In processed foods, we’re getting way more than we should. According to “The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines of America,” we shouldn’t be consuming any more “than 10 percent of daily calories. This equals about 12 teaspoons of sugar per day, which sounds pretty generous until you put into perspective that the average can of soft drink contains about 10 teaspoons alone.”

Now, let’s turn our focus to sodium. According to the USDA, we shouldn’t be consuming any more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day. However, many of us are consuming way more than the recommended daily allowance. The average amount consumed is over 3,400 mg of sodium per day.

Between the added sugar, sodium, and fats, highly processed foods can be harmful to anyone’s health, and this is especially true for those with autoimmune disease. People with autoimmune disease often need to take extra steps to help themselves feel their best. Choosing good nutrition is an essential step in living with autoimmune disease. Consider limiting or avoiding highly processed foods as part of your dietary restrictions and see if you notice a difference in how you feel overall.



  1. Sarah Cummings says:

    I try not to eat any processed foods but this has proved really difficult when I’m on the go. Thanks for posting!

Speak Your Mind