Processed Food

The difference between processed food and real food are huge. Processed foods do not have enough fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, micronutrients and too much trans-fats and branched chain amino acids, omega-6 fatty acids, additives, emulsifiers, salt and sugar.

Research has shown that out of the 600,000 items in the American food supply, 74 percent have added sugar. 

Many of the substances in processed food drive hyperdopaminergic responses that hijack your brain.

Listen to learn more about processed food addiction and hypoglycemia. How can Dr.Joan Ifland and Roberta Ruggerio help you in your quest for better health? There are so many options for connecting to both of them! This conversation was recorded by Wolfram Alderson.

I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia about a year ago…I need to get away from the idea that candy and other sugary foods are the answer. 


Are we guinea pigs in a global experiment being conducted ten of the largest processed food companies on the planet? This lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig, HSF Medical Advisor, took place at the 2015 EAT Food Forum. 

There are numerous references and resources on Dr. Lustig’s website. Here are links with resources for Processed Food and Food Addiction.

In the USA, the food industry grosses $1 trillion per year – $450 billion is gross profit. In the USA, health care costs total $2.7 trillion/year – 75 percent of which is chronic metabolic diseases and 75 percent of which is preventable. Thus, $1.4 trillion/year is wasted.  We lose triple what the food industry makes. The processed food experiment has succeeded in getting the consumption of unhealthy food rising, and it has succeeded in cash flow for the companies, but it has failed dramatically when it comes to health. And there is only one answer: Real food.

Dr. Robert Lustig

Pediatric Neuroendocrinologist

Wolfram Alderson, CEO of the Hypoglycemia Support Foundation, interviews Joan Ifland, PhD, leading expert on the subject of Processed Food Addiction.

The short definition of “Real” Food is food that doesn’t have a Nutrition Facts label. If it has a label, something’s been done to the food. If it doesn’t, nothing’s been done, it’s “real”. The long definition of “Real” Food is food that’s NOT “Processed” food. So what’s processed food?

According to Dr. Robert Lustig, there are seven criteria for processed food:

  1. Has to be mass produced
  2. Has to be consistent batch to batch
  3. Has to be consistent country to country
  4. Specialized ingredients from specialized companies
  5. Virtually all macronutrients are pre-frozen, which means that the fiber is usually removed
  6. Has to stay emulsified (fat and water don’t separate)
  7. Has to have long shelf-life or freezer life

Ultimately processed food has three things too little (taken away), and seven things too much (added):

Too little:

  1. Fiber
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids (wild fish)
  3. Micronutrients

Too much:

  1. Trans-fats
  2. Branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine)
  3. Omega-6 fatty acids (plant oils, polyunsaturates)
  4. Additives
  5. Emulsifiers (polysorbate-80, carboxymethylcellulose)
  6. Salt
  7. And the big kahuna, sugar!

Processed Food Addiction: Foundations, Assessment, and Recovery describes PFA recovery concepts in detail. This monumental work by Dr. Joan Ifland brings together material that bridges the research with practical steps that health professionals can employ in their practices. It contains an evidence-based chapter on concepts of abstinence from processed foods. It rigorously describes PFA pathology according to the DSM 5 Addiction Diagnostic Criteria. It applies the Addiction Severity Index to PFA so that health practitioners can orient themselves to diagnosing and assessing PFA. It contains ground-breaking insight into how to approach PFA in children.

Obesity and eating disorders have stubbornly refused to respond to treatment since the 1990’s. This book organizes the evidence for a possible answer, i.e., that the problem could be one of addiction to processed foods. In a Processed Food Addiction (PFA) model, concepts of abstinence, cue-avoidance, acceptance of lapses, and consequences all play a role in long-term recovery. Application of these concepts could provide new tools to health professionals and significantly improve outcomes.

Because the book is evidence-based, practitioners can gain the confidence to put the controversy about food addiction to rest. Practitioners can begin to identify and effectively help their clients who are addicted to processed foods. This is a breakthrough volume in a field that could benefit from new approaches.

“Prioritizing real foods is, hands down, the most effective way to make lifestyle changes to help you reach your health goals. Forgo highly processed and minimally nutritious junk, no matter how seductive the health claims. Your tastebuds — and body — will thank you.”
-Andy Bellatti

“The short definition of ‘real’ food is food that doesn’t have a Nutrition Facts label. If it has a label, something’s been done to the food. If it doesn’t, nothing’s been done, it’s ‘real.”
-Robert Lustig, MD

“Eat the most flavorful, best-tasting whole foods you can find—amazing tomatoes, killer strawberries, sublime peaches, awesome grass-fed beef. You’ll soon discover that junk food just doesn’t stack up to the real thing. As your palate changes, your body will, too. Eating ‘real food’ won’t be a challenge anymore—it’ll be a way of life.”
-Mark Schatzker, Author of “The Dorito Effect”

“Real food is food that comes directly from the earth or is kept as close to that state as possible. Real food nourishes with the shortest, most pronounceable ingredients list—it’s safe to eat, but when left to its own devices, it can rot away.”
-Trinh Le, MPH, RD, MyFitnessPal Registered Dietitian


Beautiful poster art by Joe Wirtheim – Says it all!

How does real food compare to processed food?  Take a look at this infographic that compares equivalent items.
Click here: real food vs processed food poster for a larger PDF version.


The Hypoglycemia Support Foundation doesn’t promote any particular “diet”. We simply encourage everyone to consume real, whole, clean, unprocessed foods, rich in nutrients and high in fiber. You can’t go wrong avoiding food additives and ultra-processing.

We suggest shopping at farmers’ markets or focusing on the perimeter aisles of the grocery store (produce, meat, dairy, etc.) and to be scrupulous when purchasing foods with a label (most real foods usually do not have a label).


  1. A great online resource for finding sources of real food in your community is the USDA Local Food Directories – a gateway to locate local food retail and wholesale market outlets. You can search for markets and operations according to zip code, product availability, payment method and even whether the market participates in Federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Farmers Market, CSA, Food Hub and On-farm Market Directories are now available for public viewing.
  2. CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers) is an organization that promotes “family-scale agriculture that cares for the land, sustains local economies and promotes social justice.” CAFF compiles guides for eating locally in various regions of California. Here is The Eater’s Guide to Local Food: 4th Edition featuring the San Francisco Bay Area.
  3. Eat Well Guide is a search engine for finding sustainable (and local) foods.
  4. PCFMA (Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association) is a nonprofit in the San Francisco Bay Area that operates and promotes farmer’s markets; a major resource for Northern Californians.
  5. FarmRaiser is an “alternative to traditional fundraisers that have been lost in a sea of sugar and junk food. It is a powerful and innovative way to raise money for your project while helping to build a stronger, healthier community. We use technology and old fashioned organizing to create product-based fundraisers that allow students to sell healthy products from local businesses.”
  6. Edible Startups is a “blog dedicated to sharing innovative ideas and ventures in the food industry.”
  7. The Food Evolution is an organization that teaches people how to prepare delicious and nutritious meals.
  8. Collective School Garden Network is a foundation that plants gardens in schools all around Arizona and California.
  9. FamilyFarmed is a “non-profit organization committed to expanding the production, marketing and distribution of locally grown and responsibly produced food, in order to enhance the social, economic, and environmental health of our communities.” They host the annual Good Food Festival & Conference.
  10. Local Food Lab is “a startup academy and online community for food entrepreneurs.”
  11. CUESA offers farm tours, cooking demonstrations, seasonal tastings and other events to help the public learn more about their food.
  12. American Kale Association is a website that informs the public about kale and all of its health benefits.
  13. Meals To Heal is an organization “dedicated to making the lives of cancer patients and their caregivers easier and less stressful by providing services which relieve them of the significant time, energy and worry associated with ensuring proper nutrition for themselves and their loved ones.”
  14. From the Garden to the Table applies a “full-circle” approach to problems involving poor nutrition and food environments by involving students, parents, teachers, schools, and communities in creating better health and more supportive and greener environments.
  15. Amp Your Good reimagines a way to run food drives – a unique blend of crowdfeeding, social networking, gamification and curation all designed to help people and organizations raise food instead of funds.
  16. Farmers’ Market Finder – California. Just enter your address and find the markets nearest you that accept CalFresh EBTWIC and offer Market Match* incentives.
  17. Eating Real Food just got easier.  REAL certified is a certification program that promotes sustainable and healthful food and beverages. Check out More than 50% of U.S. consumers now eat out every day. Why not eat an establishment that cares about human health, the environment, and animal welfare?


Understand Processed Food and Processed Food Addiction from a Scientific Perspective

  1. Establishment of NOVA Food Classification framework, developed by team at University of San Paulo under the leadership of Professor Carlos Monteiro) 
    NOVA system identifies four categories of processed food: 1. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods, 2. Processed culinary ingredients, 3. Processed foods, 4. Ultra-processed food and drink products.
  2. A new classification of foods based on the extent and purpose of their processing, by Carlos Augusto Monteiro, Renata Bertazzi Levy, Rafael Moreira Claro, Inês Rugani Ribeiro de Castro, and Geoffrey Cannon
  3. Processed Food Addiction: Foundation, Assessment & Recovery by Joan Ifland, PhD
  4. Processed foods and food reward by Dana M. Small & Alexandra G. DiFeliceantonio
  5. Characterisation of UK diets according to degree of food processing and associations with socio-demographics and obesity: cross-sectional analysis of UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2008–12) by Jean Adams and Martin White 
    “This is the first study we are aware of to explore correlates of processed food consumption, using individual-level data from a large, national cross-sectional sample. Unprocessed and minimally processed foods, and diets relatively high in these foods, tended to have the most healthful nutritional profile.”
  6. Association Between Ultraprocessed Food Consumption and Risk of Mortality Among Middle-aged Adults in France by Laure Schnabel, Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot, and Benjamin Allès

Articles & Links



Food Addiction

Robert Lustig Presentations

Nutrition Education

References from the paper “Ultra-processed foods: what they are and how to identify them”

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