What is processed food? The term applies to any kind of food that has been altered from its natural state, for different reasons. A great deal of foods that you can buy in supermarkets are processed, and you are probably eating more of it than you know. Not all of it is unhealthy, but if it’s processed, it may contain sugar, salt and trans-fats. Food gets processed with techniques such as canning, freezing, dying, baking, and pasteurizing.
Why Is It Processed?
Cooking food by yourself has one major advantage: you know what you add into it, including the amount of sugar or salt. On the other hand, some home-cooked recipes requires the use of processed ingredients like cheese, meat products, or tinned vegetables. Some need to be processed to remove harmful bacteria (e.g. milk needs to be pasteurized) or to be suitable for use (pressing seeds to make oil). Frozen vegetables and fruits preserve vitamins despite freezing.
What’s In Processed Food?
The ways in which consuming processed food can affect us can be both positive and negative. Highly processed, unhealthy foods are:
- high in sugar and fructose syrup (large amount of energy, no essential nutrients);
- high in refined carbohydrates;
- hyper rewarding and can lead to overconsumption (manufacturers fight the competition by making it more “rewarding for the brain”);
- packed with other kinds of artificial ingredients (flavor, texturants, colorants, preservatives), and can be addictive;
- low in nutrients and fiber.
These foods are made to be hyper rewarding, leading to overconsumption and obesity. They contain a variety of additives that are not even listed on the label, while those listed have been tested for safety. More processed foods means less minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants which fresh, unprocessed foods are rich in.
What Food Culture Used To Be
What was the “food science” of our elders? They did not avoid fat. Nowadays, people go on low-fat diets because saturated fat raises the risk of various cardiovascular diseases. But the fact is that we need fat, and high-fat diets improve blood lipids, lower blood sugar, and reduce obesity. Traditional ways of eating are greatly undermined, with the food industry being co-opted by Western diet programs.
Our grandparents’ lifestyles were also very different. They spent more time outside, did manual work, and never got stuck all day sitting at a work desk or in front of a computer. There was no fear of carbs or fats, and no food deprivation. Fat from natural sources is not really the problem. Fast food fat is.
Can We Avoid Omnipresent Processed Foods?
Processed foods usually have a nutrition label on the packaging. Be sure to read it and choose between the healthy and unhealthy options. Pay attention to information on salt, sugars, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, protein, additives, and other artificial ingredients. Whenever you can, avoid boxed or canned food and buy fresh ingredients at a grocery or market.
Do not hesitate to choose natural freshness. Avoid white rice and white bread, commonly known as white foods. What they have in common is enriched or bleached wheat flour – some of the most highly processed foods around. Buy whole-grain products that contain un-enriched, unbleached grains. Purchase your dairy, eggs, meat, seafood and other nutrient-dense foods on the outside edge of the store.
What Happens When You Quit Junk Food
A junk food binge can have consequences far more serious than becoming overweight. If you decide to quit, your muscles’ ability to oxidize glucose will not be disrupted any more. This is important because muscles play a vital role in clearing glucose after a meal. Your nutrition will improve, and there is more room for foods packed with nutrients – protein, calcium, fiber, vitamins, and minerals – that support a healthy heart, digestive tract, brains, bones, and boost the immune system.
Also, a fast food diet rich in saturated fats will not get you thinner. After you quit junk food, your caloric intake is reduced. Finally, more calories are burned than consumed, and that is when the excess pounds start to melt off.
About the Author
Cristina Nika is a blogger from Sydney who likes to get lost in the world of fashion, beauty and healthy lifestyle. She is a frequent guest blogger as well as the regular author on High Style Life, has an insight in variety of subjects and strong interest in blogging about it. Constantly in search of love and beauty and finding it in different places every time.