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Irresistible, lab-engineered processed foods now dominate the standard American diet — and several recent studies reveal their health hazards.

These foods are composed of “food substances not commonly used in culinary preparations,” such as modified starches, hydrogenated oils, protein isolates, and classes of additives “whose purpose is to imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods . . . or to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product,” a BMJ study explains. These ingredients may also include synthetic colorings, flavorings, sweeteners, and emulsifiers, plus bulking and other texturizing agents.

These are some of the downsides of a processed diet:

Fewer vegetables

The average American gets just 2.5 percent of daily calories from veggies. Fewer phytonutrients makes it hard to combat the inflammation, damage from free radicals, and other health issues caused by all the processed food we consume.

More sugar

Meanwhile, 57.9 percent of our calories come from processed foods, which are also the main source of added sugar in our diets. More sugar means more inflammation, weight gain, and additional health risks.

Fewer nutrients

Processed food contains lower levels of protein, fiber, zinc, magnesium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, D, and E — plus more carbs and saturated fats.

More weight gain

A recent National Institutes of Health trial found that eating processed foods for just two weeks resulted in 2 pounds of weight gain. On a whole-foods diet, the same participants lost 2 pounds.

Less immunity

Sugars inhibit white blood cells’ ability to protect the body from infection and may also increase inflammatory cytokines in the blood, constraining the immune system.

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