Are All Processed Foods Bad for You?

healthy food vs unhealthy food

Processed Foods

Any food that has been altered in some way during preparation is considered processed.

Processing food can be as simple as:

  • Freezing
  • Canning
  • Baking
  • Drying

Although not all processed foods are bad, some do include excessive amounts of salt, sugar, and fat.

Examples of processed foods

  • Cereals for breakfast
  • Cheese
  • Vegetables in a can
  • Bread
  • Crisps, sausage rolls, pies, and pasties are examples of savoury treats.
  • Bacon, sausage, ham, salami, and paté are examples of meat products.
  • Ready-to-eat meals or microwave meals
  • Biscuits and cakes
  • Milk and soft drinks are examples of beverages.
  • Not all processed foods are unhealthy. Some foods, such as milk, require processing to make them safe, such as pasteurization to kill hazardous bacteria.
  • Other foods, such as seeds, require processing to make them usable, such as pressing seeds to generate oil.

Foods that have been processed have a poor rep. Chemicals, additives, and unusual cooking methods, as well as saturated fat and extra sugar or sodium, are frequently associated with the word. As a result, processed foods are frequently blamed for contributing to public health issues like obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. This is partially correct, but only in the case of certain processed meals. Because, while the term "processed" has come to be associated with "unhealthy," it actually refers to any deliberate alteration to a product before it is ready to consume. 

Healthy processed foods

  1. Pasteurized milk has been homogenized to prevent fat separation and destroy microorganisms.
  2. Extra nutrients are added to fortified grain products like bread and morning cereal. However, keep an eye out for extra sugar and sodium. Any processed-food package should have a Nutrition Facts label on it.
  3. Fresh-squeezed orange juice is nutritionally superior to calcium-fortified orange juice. Flavour, on the other hand, is a matter of personal preference.
  4. Fruits and vegetables, both frozen and tinned Frozen or canned produce retain more vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and other nutrients than fresh produce that sits in the produce area of a grocery store for days on end because it is processed as soon as it is gathered.
  5. Fruits that have been dried have more fiber which is essential for preventing heart disease, obesity, and certain types of cancer and phenols or an antioxidant per ounce than fresh fruit. Keep an eye out for added sugars, just like you would with other processed meals.

Processed foods to limit

Because they are likely to contain extra sodium and added sugar, the foods described below may have a negative influence on your health if consumed on a regular basis. Excess sodium intake, for example, has been connected to high blood pressure, increasing consumption of processed meats has been linked to cancer, and excessive sugar consumption has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity also known as weight gain. 

  1. Foods in cans that have a lot of sodium or fat
  2. Meals made with refined white flour rather than whole grains for pasta
  3. Chips and candy are packaged high-calorie snack foods.
  4. High-sodium frozen fish sticks and frozen meals
  5. Cakes and biscuits in a box
  6. High-fat, high-sodium meal mixes in a box
  7. Breakfast cereals high in sugar
  8. Sausage, bacon, and deli meats are examples of processed or cured meats.
  9. Oily foods 

While indulging in these meals once in a while shouldn't harm you, eating them on a regular basis is likely to have a negative impact on your general health. It's simple to get the most nutritious bang for your buck by sticking to whole, fresh, and minimally processed meals. Also, keep in mind that food firms nowadays are attempting to make foods more convenient while maintaining high quality. 

Frozen fish sticks, for example, may not be a bad choice if they're created with wild fish and few ingredients. The easiest approach to locate high-quality foods is to read labels and check for sodium, fiber, and components.

How to avoid consuming processed foods?

  • Keep healthy snacks at reach

If you're short on time, it could be tempting to grab a pre-packaged snack on your way out the door. Keeping your kitchen stocked with a variety of portable, nutritious snacks, on the other hand, can make making healthy choices on the move much easier.

  • Swap refined grains for whole grains

Starting to substitute healthier whole foods for processed meals is one of the simplest strategies to lower your intake of processed foods. Whole grain alternatives, such as brown rice and whole-grain pasta, bread, and tortillas, can be substituted for refined grains like white pasta, rice, bread, and tortillas.

  • Drink more water

Soda, sweet tea, fruit juice, and sports drinks are heavy in sugar and calories but deficient in critical nutrients. Gradually substituting water for these drinks throughout the day is a terrific approach to reduce your processed food intake and increase the quality of your diet. If plain water isn't your thing, sparkling or flavoured water are fantastic alternatives. Alternatively, for an extra taste boost, consider infusing water with fresh fruit or herbs.

  • Eat more vegetables

Include at least one serving of veggies in your home-cooked meals to increase your consumption of healthful, unprocessed foods. Adding spinach to scrambled eggs, sautéing broccoli for a simple side dish, or putting carrots or cauliflower into soups or casseroles are all examples of this. Vegetables are nutrient-dense and high in fibre, which helps you feel full between meals, reducing your appetite and curbing cravings.

Take Away

Any food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, or packed is considered processed. Although many processed foods can be included in a healthy diet, those that are heavy in sodium, sugar, chemicals, and preservatives should be avoided.

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