What Are Processed Foods?
Cookies, chips, and frozen meals are several things that come to mind when you think of processed foods. It doesn’t stop there though. In fact, most of the food that you eat is processed. Processing is any change that is done to food before we eat it. This includes, cooking, freezing or drying to preserve nutrients. The following are processed foods that you might not even know are processed:
- Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables
- Packaged foods labeled “natural” or “organic”
- Any fortified food that claims additional dietary benefits
- Food served in any restaurant, including fine dining.
There Are Different Types of Food Processing
The processing of food started when our ancestors first used fire to cook their food. There are different types of processing that occurs, including:
- Washing and packaging food to be sold
- Grinding nuts and coffee beans down
- Combining ingredients (added sweeteners, oils, flavors, colors, preservatives) into one package. Examples include cake mixes, sauces, salad dressings, rice, and spices
- Anything that is “ready-to-eat”, such as cereal, oatmeal, crackers, bread, lunch meats, and cheese
- Anything that is packaged to be eaten later
Processed Foods Aren’t Inherently Bad For You
As stated above, processed foods are just anything that undergoes a change before being eaten. Many people get caught up on the word “processed” because it sounds like it means that that food isn’t real. This is just a false reputation that has tainted the word “processed”. Instead, think of the word “prepared”, because that is all that it really is. When you start to think of processed food as prepared food, you can ditch the negative connotations and start to reap the benefits.
In Fact, Processed Foods Can Be BETTER For You
Yes, you read that correctly. How can this be, you ask? Many processed foods have been fortified with extra vitamins and nutrients that you might not otherwise be getting enough of. It’s the extra calcium in your milk. It’s the vitamin B-12 added to your cereal. Processed foods also include those that have also undergone treatments to remove harmful bacteria that would make you sick, such as pasteurized milk. As well as, foods that have to be cooked before being safe to consume, such as chicken. As you can see, processing food actually has many benefits!
Prepared, Not Processed
Processed foods are really just prepared foods. Don’t get caught up by media trends and fads that are trying to say that processing is bad. All it is is preparing foods to be eaten. While there are some food items that aren’t necessarily the best choice, it is because they don’t equate to a balanced diet, not because they are processed. Once you get past this, you can enjoy eating the foods that you enjoy eating.