Packaged food has become an integral part of our daily life. They are very convenient with a greater shelf life and easily available. In our daily routine, we encounter so many packaged food options like chips, biscuits, bread, drinking beverages, breakfast cereals, ready-to-eat foods and many more.

Packaged foods keep the food safe, maintains freshness, provides information about the ingredients used, nutritional values and can be procured easily from any nearby store. But have you ever wondered, why fresh food is always preferred over packaged foods? This is because of the potentially harmful effects which packaged foods might cause on human health.

These days multiple packaging materials are used for packaging. But they may contain some harmful chemicals which might cause toxicity or may harm us in another way. For example, using glass containers is generally considered as safe but some bottles or jars made of glass may contain lead which may leach into our food. Plastic containers or bottles may contain a chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA), which has the tendency to cause endocrine changes in our body.

In this article, we will talk about some of the reasons why we should refrain from consuming packaged foods as much as possible.

Packaged foods have a higher shelf life as compare to fresh foods. This is due to the presence of preservatives that are added during the manufacturing of such foods. Artificial preservatives might prove harmful in the long run and can become the underlying cause of certain cancers, heart and neurological disorders. Other than preservatives, packaged foods are also loaded with artificial or synthetic colours, flavours, thickeners, stabilisers and texturants. These chemicals may also affect the normal functioning of our organs. Sometimes the effect can be external in the form of skin rashes or allergy.

One of the widely used materials for packaging is plastic. Plastic is available in various grades. A good grade plastic may also contain BPA which is a potent chemical that leaches into the food. Once BPA enters our body, it mimics the activity of the oestrogen hormone and increases the likelihood of hormonal imbalance. This imbalance may cause disorders like PCOS, thyroid and breast cancer.

Packaged foods may also be high in refined carbs, sugar, trans fats, salt and sodium. High levels of sugar make them addictive and make us crave more for such foods. Similarly, consumption of foods with high refined carbs and sugar content increases the tendency of obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus. Additionally, packaged foods are usually high in sodium salt and trans fats which are associated with hypertension, altered cholesterol profile and cardiovascular disorders.

Another reason why we should stay away from packaged foods is that they are nutritionally low. These foods contain high calories but low in other essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. Frequent consumption can lead to nutritional deficiencies and gastrointestinal disturbances.

Hence, we can see that packaged foods weigh more in terms of harmful effects, compared to benefits. They may be beneficial in terms of hygiene and sanitation but the risk of food contamination cannot be overlooked in packaged foods. In order to maximise profit, food companies may also choose cheap ingredients during manufacturing. By regular consumption of such foods, we put ourselves at risk of developing diseases and health issues. Therefore, related authorities should take relevant steps in order to address this major health concern of food contamination among packaged foods.

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