Culinary habits have changed vastly during the last few decades, so much so, that there is practically no ingredient that has not been processed chemically. Why process at all? When did it begin to happen? And finally, why? The single biggest reason is population growth; it has almost doubled during the last fifty years.
Decades before, the cooking oil that our grandmas bought was produced by crushing oil seeds and was usually consumed in a matter of few days for example. Most of the other ingredients like grains, cereals and spices too were produced locally, and since they were all produced locally, not much of processing was required to keep them safe. But population growth changed all that for good. And urbanization was so fast that finding food locally became almost impossible and it vanished altogether.
Merchants were the first to see the big opportunities coming their way from the changes. If they can transport vast quantities of food to the urban areas, they realized, it can mean making a lot of money. But keeping the food in good condition was a major problem they encountered, and thus was born the food processing industry. Processing food also meant modifying agriculture produce for longer shelf life, and using chemicals therefore became rampant.
Most of the chemicals that go into processed food are harmful, and everyone will agree on that, but getting fresh ingredients like our grandmas did is not practical nowadays. Still, there is a lot of room to return back to nature if only you can make some changes to your lifestyle.
The first important change you can make to your culinary lifestyle is to start using whole grain flour in place of refined flour. They contain the fiber that is essential to avoid constipation, and retain a healthy moisture level inside the digestive system. Second, try not to use processed fruit juices, they contain additives like sugar and preservatives sans the natural fiber and trace nutrients, and even artificial coloring that is nothing but chemical. Chemicals you should remember can be highly carcinogenic and you may even never know that.
Include plenty of fresh vegetables, especially those that are produced with backyard manure. That way you will be protecting your family from harmful pesticides and insecticides that are so indiscriminately used in commercially produced vegetables. Having your own edible garden is a wonderful idea you may want to try. Lastly say no to fast foods whenever you can; they are made more for the taste buds, not for a healthy lifestyle.