Jackie McKool

Cardiovascular Disease – Our Reliance on Packaged & Processed Foods


The Reliance on Processed and Packaged Foods


This is the 2nd in a series of 9 blogs stemming from a recent Fox News article 1 about the rise in Cardiovascular Disease, and the driving forces behind it according to the American Heart Association. We will be taking a look at the contrasting wholistic approach to this information about cardiovascular disease – prevention and restoration using natural approaches.

Drilling Down to the Root Cause

We started off last week addressing obesity “A Holistic Approach to Heart Disease”. According to the article and the AHA, obesity was determined to be one of the major driving forces behind cardiovascular disease. And to quote Dr. Renato Apolito, the medical director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center: “Obesity is very commonly associated as a driver of hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea and hypertriglyceridemia,” he said. “Some of the greater causes of obesity are lack of exercise and a heavy reliance on processed and fast food” he noted.

Hypertension and diabetes were listed as the other risk factors contributing to heart disease. But obesity was the driver of these other two. Therefore, we started off with obesity. Today we will drill down a little further, continuing to explore the root causes, of obesity in particular, which is what we do in the functional, wholistic medicine world, drill down to uncover the root cause.

As a refresher from the blog last week and the Fox News article, Dr. Apolito said this:

“I suspect that as our standard of living goes up, our reliance on processed and pre-prepared food — in addition to lack of exercise and lack of sleep from our hectic work lives — will drive up obesity as the common denominator leading to all the other risk factors mentioned,” Apolito predicted.

“All of those factors put together would lead to an increase in coronary artery disease, heart failure and stroke.”

So today we will address the processed and prepared foods, and I will add the term “packaged” foods as well.

Packaged and Processed Foods, What Are They?

In my book “Are You Being Deceived About True Wellness” I address foods that are classified as inflammatory (harmful foods), and foods that are non-inflammatory (healing foods).  The list of inflammatory foods are:

  • Fast food (which can also be classified as prepared foods)
  • Fried foods
  • Packaged and Processed Foods
  • Sugar

I always tell people when teaching about this, that it’s the packaged and processed foods that trip most people up. We know that fast food and fried foods, and especially sugars are not good for us, in fact they are very harmful to our bodies. We know this. But we seem blinded to the concept of what is meant by “packaged and processed” foods. We have been lured in over the years by the next greatest and most convenient thing on the grocery store shelf – not to mention the addictive taste of it all!

In Michael Moss’ book “Salt, Sugar, Fat – how the Food Giants Hooked Us” he talks about the “bliss point” where the top of the top scientists determine the exact amount of salt, sugar, and/or fat to put in foods that will make our taste buds going back for more. These aren’t grandma’s secret recipes that were passed down from generation to generation, these food-like substances (they really are not real foods – they are void of true nutrition) have been created through a precise science. They are altering what started off as real, nutritious food, changing it into a food-like substance, to sell more manufactured product. Our taste buds and the neurotransmitters (the feel-good hormones in particular) in our brain are being manipulated by the food industry to eat more, to keep coming back for more, make no mistake about it. It’s called addiction. Follow the money at the expense of your health.

Food, Defined

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines food as: material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy. Also : such food together with supplementary substances (such as minerals, vitamins, and condiments). The most important part of this definition that I want you to absorb into your heart is: “used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy.” Manufactured food-like substances do not do this! They simply don’t have this ability because they are not real food.

We need to really grasp the reason we should be eating in the first place. The primary reason to eat is to nourish our bodies. (make this a pull quote)Once this is consistently taking place, and our bodies for the most part are healthy and whole, then and only then can we, on rare occasion, treat ourselves to packaged and processed food-like substances; fast foods and even dining out in general. Until then, we need to stay away from these food-like substances. Not only are they not contributing the vital nutrients our bodies need to sustain health and life, but they are also drawing vital nutrients away from the body to do the same – to sustain health and life. It’s a double whammy. These packaged and processed foods should never be consumed as our primary source of sustenance – because they are not. At best, these foods should be consumed as a treat. How often you may ask? Maybe, if you are not fighting some kind of chronic, degenerative disease like heart disease, diabetes, obesity etc. then maybe once a month? But if you are trying to heal the body, restore it back to good health, and trust me, it is doable, then do not eat these food-like substances at all – until your health has been restored. But beware, remember the word “addiction?” You don’t want to fall back into the place of disease, and it can happen quicker than you realize. I’ve seen it, too many times. I’m sure you have too.

The fact of the matter is, we are about as far away from the truth about our diet these days as “the east is from the west.” We have been on this wrong path for so long, I’m not sure we will ever get back on the path of reality, fact and truth. Truth about our health has been robbed from us in the name of “convenience.” Convenience for everything has become our god.

I remember my mom commenting about someone we knew who ate healthy, exercised and was thin in stature. She said “oh, she is too skinny.” Even our eyes have been deceived by adapting to the site of the over-weight population as being “normal” or healthy, and someone who is truly at a healthy weight, living a healthy life-style as being too skinny and over-the-top with their healthy habits. We are calling good, evil; and evil, good.

First Step Towards Lowering Your Risk of Disease

Let’s go back to the big picture for a moment. If cardiovascular disease is still the #1 killer in America, and obesity is the primary driver of the other risk factors, and one of the top drivers for increased obesity is packaged and processed foods, then it should stand to reason that a good place to start is to totally eliminate packaged and processed foods, yes?

Oh, I can just hear the moans and groans from where I’m sitting here in North Carolina! Have I struck a nerve?! Then you better put your seat belts on because sugar is going to be next! In fact, if sugar is an easier place to start, then start there.

Top 10 Reasons to Eliminate Packaged & Processed Foods.

  1. They are NOT real food
  2. They contribute no nutritional value to sustain your life
  3. They rob your body of the nutrients it DOES have and need
  4. They are actually very toxic and inflammatory to the body
  5. They are stress to the body
  6. They are disease causing
  7. They lead to obesity
  8. Obesity leads to cardiovascular disease
  9. Cardiovascular disease leads to expedited death
  10. They are much costlier in the long run than real food

That’s it, that is step number 1, and only one thing you need to do to start. You don’t need to count calories, you don’t need to eat low fat, low carb, low sugar, high protein or whatever other fancy diet trend is out there right now. You don’t need to take supplements, drink fancy drinks, or eliminate anything else (for now!). Just totally eliminate packaged and processed foods. Can you commit to that?

How to Discern What Are Packaged and Processed Foods

We have been taught to read the wrong part of the label on packaged and processed foods.First of all, totally ignore what is written on the front of any package – this is the manufacturer’s marketing space. The only wording I would pay attention to that may be found on the front label are:

  • Organic
  • Gluten Free
  • Non-GMO
  • Any other sensitivities that are important to you i.e. Dairy free, Nut free, Kosher etc.</li

On the back of the package there are 2 primary areas of focus:

  1. Nutrition – top of package
  2. Ingredients – bottom of package

The ingredients section is the very first place you should look. The more ingredients, the more processed and removed from its natural state the “food” is. Also, the ingredients are listed in order of quantity – for example, the first ingredient listed is what the product is made up the most of, and so on. Quite often you will see the first ingredient as some type of sugar – beware here, “sugar” can be given all kinds of hidden names! As a side note, do you know that the baby formula Similac has as its first ingredient, sugar? But I digress…

Anything that is NOT fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains that you can hold in your hand in its grain form, good fats like avocado, flax seed, olive and coconut oil (yes, these are in a package and have a label, but they consist of only one or two ingredients), and water, are considered packaged and/or processed foods.

If it is in a package, the next best thing to look for is whether it is organic or not. If you feel the need to buy the packaged product, whenever possible, buy organic.

When in doubt as to whether it is a packaged or processed food, don’t eat it. Spices are okay, and are encouraged – for now. But be wise with these as well as condiments. If they are just supposed to be a spice, or a condiment, but it has more than several ingredients listed, put it back on the shelf.

So, while yes, it is just one step, it encompasses a lot of things to eliminate. But this is a huge first step and it truly will go a long way in creating a discipline for yourself in getting back to eating the foods that heal as opposed to the foods that kill.

To book Dr. Jackie for speaking engagements go to:

How This Differs from the Conventional Approach

Typically, your medical practitioner, if they take the time at all to suggest eating a healthy diet, they themselves don’t really know what that means. They are still recommending what the government is recommending, and what dieticians licensed under the medical profession are recommending. But how have their recommendations been working for us? They haven’t that’s how.

Remember, follow the money – in this case the corporate food industry who lobby the federal government very heavily – I know, I used to work for the Milk and Ice Cream Association who lobbied on behalf of some of these corporations. These 10 companies:

  • Nestlé
  • Pepsico
  • Coca-Cola
  • Unilever
  • Danone
  • General Mills
  • Kellogg’s
  • Mars
  • Associated British Foods
  • Mondelez (formerly Kraft Foods)

— each employ thousands of employees and make billions of dollars in revenue every year. (To read more on who owns what click here).

Look at the statistics, the numbers continue to rise for cardiovascular disease as well as other chronic degenerative diseases. You truly have to read between the lines of their recommendations “a little leaven spoils the bread.”

Their hands are also very tied when it comes to recommending anything outside of the medical box. My niece is a physician’s assistant for a group of cardiac doctors. First, she is limited to the amount of time she can even spend with a patient, therefore, time to educate is not a high priority. She is working with those who are already very sick. Have you ever heard the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” These folks simply have their hand out for the “free” prescription pill that is paid for by our tax funded insurance – whether Medicare or Medicaid, that will simply alter the lab values that seems to keep everyone happy (but not healthy) – but have no interest in making changes to their diet and lifestyle.

But even if a patient were motivated enough to follow the doctor’s recommendations, they are lame recommendations at best. Remember, we as a society have come so far off course that the correct course of action seems extremely unrealistic these days, no matter how truthful it is. Therefore, the medical profession is forced to coddle the patient and “meet them where they are” and “take baby steps” towards health – which they never really seem to do – at least not for very long. Hence the continued rise in cardiovascular disease.

Let’s break down some of the conventional medicines recommendations (written in red from Mayo Clinic’s website – and my contrasting thoughts and comments are in black):

  • Control portion sizes. Included in this recommendation is this: “Eat smaller amounts of high-calorie, high-sodium foods. These include refined, processed and fast foods.” (why even include these foods at all? Why not just say “do not consume any refined, processed and fast foods” as opposed to “smaller amounts?”)
  • Eat more vegetables and fruit. Included in this recommendation is this: Low-sodium canned vegetables. Canned fruit packed in 100% juice or water. (why suggest canned at all? And 100% juice is very high in sugar. Didn’t the AHA say that diabetes was one of the driving factors for heart disease? Once again, coddling – canned is easy, preparing fresh fruits & vegetables may take a little more work. They also say to avoid coconut. Why? First of all, who of those with health problems eats just plain coconut anyway? And second of all, all things coconut – at least real coconut, have so many healing properties to them – anti-microbial for one).
  • Whole Grains: Grain products to choose – Whole-wheat flour, whole-grain bread, high fiber cereal, whole grain pasta, are some of the recommendations they classify as “grains.” The problem is each of these suggestions first of all are a packaged and processed food, having had the life processed out of them – there is no nutritional value in any of these recommendations, in fact these recommendations are contrary to what Dr. Apolito says contribute to obesity. And just what are they implying is “whole wheat or whole grain?” The only reason they give for consuming these foods is for the fiber content. Fresh fruits and vegetables are your best sources of real fiber. Beans and legumes are another. The grain products they suggest avoiding I agree with, they are all processed, sugary breads and pastas. Not to mention their recommendations contain gluten (the majority of people have some degree of gluten sensitivity leading to a whole host of health problems) and are genetically modified which is a discussion for a whole other day!
  • Limit Unhealthy Fats: Their view on fats has always been skewed. They say to avoid butter but eat margarine. Margarine’s molecular structure is one step removed from plastic. There could not be a more unhealthy fat out there – well except for their other strong recommendation to consume, canola oil. For more on canola oils see the Westin Price Foundations website. They also say to avoid coconut – once again, I love anything coconut, including coconut yogurt. Butter on the other hand is real food, especially if it is organic. They do suggest olive oil, nuts & seeds and avocados as does functional medicine.
  • Choose low-fat protein chooses. There recommendations here are not bad, except they suggest cow’s milk. Cow’s milk is the #1 hidden food sensitivity, very mucous forming, very inflammatory. Cow’s milk will never come off of conventional medicines food list, because it won’t ever come off the government food list as long as the dairy industry continues to lobby them like they have been for decades. Why do you think milk is in every school – even though it’s the #1 hidden food sensitivity, very mucous forming, very inflammatory? They also say to avoid organ meats, where organ meats are some of the best sources for our greatly needed B vitamins. Again, see Westin Price Foundation website for more on this.

For a full reading on the conventional medicine/government dietary recommendations, and where I was getting this information from you can go to the Mayo Clinic article.

In Summary

According to the American Heart Association hypertension, diabetes and obesity are the three main causes of cardiovascular disease. Obesity is the driver of the other two. According to Dr. Renato Apolito, “Some of the greater causes of obesity are lack of exercise and a heavy reliance on processed and fast food.” All of this being true, and I believe it is, then it should stand to reason to eliminate processed and fast foods from the diet in order to prevent, or even reverse cardiovascular diseases, as well as all chronic degenerative diseases, including auto-immune conditions, cancers and childhood degenerative diseases. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the medical profession is putting enough emphasis on this solution. But that shouldn’t stop you from doing so.

So, Step #1 to overcome obesity – totally eliminate all packaged and processed foods as well as fast foods from yours and your children’s diets. This won’t cost you one red dime.

Next week we will address Step #2 – exercise. Dust off your tennis shoes, because here we come!

Looking for a great beach read this summer? How about digging your toes in the sand, or swinging in the hammock with a copy of “Are You Being Deceived About Truth Wellness?”

Did you miss some of these earlier blogs? These could give you some great insight — especially as you pursue your health journey:
“A Holistic Approach to Heart Disease”
“The Hidden Demise of Children’s Health – in Plain Site”
“How Committed Are You to Your Wholistic Health?”

(1)To reference the Fox News article go here
As a side note, here is another observation of semantics and how we are led to believe one thing, when the opposite is actually true – the title of their article says “Major Health Organization…” referring to the American Heart Association.  They are not about “health” they are about disease management.

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