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Top 10 Reasons
to Avoid Processed Foods

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by guest blogger Tyler Graham, coauthor of The Happiness Diet

1: Deciphering food label ingredients leads to unappetizing results. Take the innocuous-sounding castoreum, which is used to enhance the flavor of puddings, candies, and some frozen dairy desserts. You might be surprised to know that it's derived from beavers--beaver anal glands, specifically.

2: Many foods get their red coloring--"carmine"--from ground-up insect shells that can cause severe allergic reactions in some people.

3: The greater the number of cheap cuts of meat ground into a single patty, the greater the risk of contamination with E. coli. A standard fast-food burger contains the trimmings of dozens of cows raised around the globe.

4: According to research from UCLA, it takes only two months to lower levels of brain chemicals responsible for learning and memory (like BDNF) on a steady diet of processed foods.

5: Processed food is only as good as its packaging: In the summer of last year, Kellogg's recalled 28 million boxes of cereal because a compound in the box lining (the company wouldn't say what) was giving off a foul smell and tainting the taste of the boxed food.

6: The same company that makes metal detectors for airports also sells them to food manufacturers, who use the devices to test processed meats for stray wires, metal shards, and hypodermic needles.

7: The ingredients list for Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups doesn't include...strawberries.

8: Animal feed given to factory-farmed cows contains rendered roadkill and euthanized cats and dogs, as well as plastic pellets as a cheap form of "roughage."

9: There are more than 80 ingredients in one Oscar Mayer Lunchables Breaded Chicken and Mozzarella sandwich.

10: The FDA allows 19 maggots and 74 mites in a three-and-a-half-ounce can of mushrooms.

Tyler Graham is the coauthor of The Happiness Diet. Previously, he served as the health and environment editor of O, The Oprah Magazine, the nutrition editor atPrevention, and the environment editor atBest Life. He recently launched a men's health section at Details magazine.

For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com