The Dorito Dilemma:
Processed Foods vs. Whole

Lighten Your Toxic Load: Avoid/Limit Processed Foods

doughnut apple cartoon

Can you name the following mystery food, based on its ingredients?

Corn, Vegetable Oil, Buttermilk Solids, Salt, Tomato Powder, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Corn Syrup Solids, Corn Starch, Whey, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Monosodium Glutamate, Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Nonfat Milk Solids, Sugar, Dextrose, Malic Acid, Sodium Caseinate, Sodium Acetate, Artificial Color (Including Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5), Spice, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sodium Citrate, Disodium Inosinate, and Disodium Guanylate.

If you guessed Ranch Flavored're right!

Why is it that the most wholesome, nutritious foods don't have food labels, while the chemical concoctions (a.k.a. packaged, processed foods) too many of us depend on to get through the day...

...require nutrition labels?!

We didn't evolve to eat Doritos. We evolved to eat carrots!!

Whatever happened to eating real, whole, unprocessed foods regularly? You know, the foods grown in orchards, gardens, or greenhouses. The ones that have naturally vibrant colors, flavors and textures.

Oh, I know...

...we forgot about them because they receive very little advertising. No big food processor is making a fortune on broccoli. Why?

Because broccoli doesn't need processing!

I know, I know...

...packaged foods are so much more convenient than whole foods.

No washing, no cutting, no slaving over a hot stove, no mess in the kitchen.

You can even shop less frequently if you eat packaged foods because they last an indefinite amount of time in your cupboard. Unfortunately, we can't say the same of whole foods.

Q: Why do food manufacturers process foods anyway?

A: Because they're interested in shelf, not health. Shelf life that is.

Processed, packaged foods have a longer shelf life than whole foods. They can be easier to transport and processing can increase seasonal availability of many foods. But this processing and convenience come with a price to pay...your health. Packaged foods often have added (unhealthful) ingredients. Things like:


  • partially hydrogenated oils
  • artificial flavors
  • artificial colors
  • preservatives (nitrites, sulphites, etc.)
  • fillers
  • artificial sweeteners
  • monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Not exactly an ingredient list necessary conducive to optimal health!

Processed foods also tend to have a higher "glycemic index" than whole foods. That means they digest and get into your bloodstream more quickly, causing your blood sugar to shoot up. The subsequent "crash" causes you to crave..

...more processed foods! And the vicious cycle goes on and on and on....

I know what you're thinking...

..."I don't care! I like processed foods. They taste so good!"

I know, I know. I like them too. So, if avoiding them completely is out of the question, why not consider improving your ratio.

If you currently eat an 85:15 ratio (processed foods:whole foods), consider reducing the processed stuff by 10% and increasing the good stuff by 10%. Your new ratio would be 75:25 (processed foods:whole foods).

If processed goods currently make up 100% of your diet (fast food for breakfast, cheeseburger, fries and coke for lunch, potato chips and soda for afternoon snack, pasta and garlic bread for dinner), start by reducing your consumption of processed foods to 90% and adding 10% whole foods.

Eat Food...Not Chemicals!

Looking for other ways
to lighten your toxic load?

Avoid mercury in fish
Consider organics when possible
Use this organic produce priority list
Improve Omega 3/Omega 6 ratio
Steer clear of food additives
Limit processed foods
Drink clean water
Know where toxins hide
Don't let label claims mislead you
Top 10 detox foods
Be scared of Frankenfoods!

It could be as simple as substituting whole foods for some of your processed snack foods. Try bringing 5 pieces of fruit to work on Monday morning so you have at least one piece of fruit for every day of the week (and don't have to remember on a daily basis to pack it)!

Get it? Eating more healthfully doesn't have to be all-or-nothing! Making small improvements is ok!! Actually, it's ideal. Small changes are easier to sustain than drastic ones. (And small changes can be built upon!)

Wanna get a better handle on your current ratio of processed foods to whole foods? Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. In the first column, list all of the whole foods you eat.

In the second column, list all the processed foods you eat. Foods that are:


  • wrapped in layers of plastic, cardboard, and/or foil
  • that didn't exist before 1903 (when hydrogenation was invented)
  • that your caveman ancestors wouldn't/couldn't have eaten
  • that are found outside the meat and produce sections of the grocery store

Now take a long hard look at the list. Then, for motivation, take a look at some up close and personal pictures of processed foods. Now...

...make some decisions about how to add more foods to the whole foods column while cutting out some foods from the processed foods column.

More on healthy eating.

More on detoxing your diet.

Back to Personal Nutrition Guide Home.