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Processed Foods: To eat, or not to eat?

What are processed foods?

Processed foods are foods that have gone through long processes of manufacturing. Just by looking at the list of ingredients you can tell whether or not a certain food is processed or not. The longer the ingredient list, the more processed a food is likely to be.

Now we’ve all heard the term “processed foods” in a very unhealthy context. But what is it about these that make them so frowned upon?

1. Nutrient Deficiency

When foods undergo excessive processes of manufacturing such as cooling, heating, thawing, etc to increase their shelf life, the vital nutrients present in these are often destroyed. Processed foods provide the body with null calories- calories that have a few or no nutrients at all. Which means consuming processed foods is like consuming huge amount of calories but receiving minimal number of nutrients through these. So obviously it would be wiser to eat non-processed foods that will provide maximum nutrients just by consuming a few calories instead of consuming nutrient deficit calories through processed foods.

2. Added chemicals

When foods undergo all this processing, the natural flavor of these foods is lost during the process. To retain these flavors back to the foods chemicals are added. Also coloring agents to give foods a better appearance and preservatives to improve their shelf life are mixed with these foods. One commonly used chemical used for preventing bacteria growth in meat is nitrites. Nitrites prevent the growth of bacteria on salamis, sausages and other meat products but at the same time these have been known to cause cancer. The same goes for coloring agents, they are responsible for making the food look more appetizing in appearance, but many of these agents are known to cause cancer in both humans and animals. Processed foods also contain copious amounts sodium which causes high blood pressure. So avoiding processed foods can be very beneficial for someone who suffers from high blood pressure.

There’s a lot more to it that’s added to these foods. And around 60% of our diets revolve around processed foods. So you can imagine the amount of bad stuff we end up consuming every single day.

What can be done?

One extreme approach we can adopt is to rely on a complete vegan or Paleo diet which may be suitable for a few people. But for those who cannot rely on such a diet should be more careful about the food products they’re consuming. It should be made sure that the food products that you’re buying are fresh and are later being prepared in your kitchen. Even though home prepared meals are also going under sautéing, de-glazing, braising, cooling, wrapping, pressing, cutting which are considered to be methods of food processing, it’s always easier to consume such foods instead of consuming clumsy ‘natural foods’ foods are, of course, crappy when they undergo all those processes. But they’re only harmful if consumed in extreme amounts. Moderation is what we’re looking for to have a fit and healthy lifestyle. So don’t starve yourself and be smart enough to consume right for your body.

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