Food processing is the process of converting the raw ingredients into food, or food into other forms. Processed food has bad reputation, they are blamed for causing obesity, hypertension, and type II diabetes etc.
Processed food is more than just potato chips, ham burgers. It may surprise you that even chopped apple is processed food. Every food has to undergo processing before being consumed.
But the extent of processing is what has to be determined. You can know the amount of processing a food item when through, from its ingredient list. The longer the ingredient list the more processed is the food.Traditional way of processing includes sun drying, fermentation, and preservation these methods increase the nutrient quality.
Now with growing technology, the methods of processing have changed. The foods we find in the centre aisle of a food store are filled either with sugars, salt or fats.
Foods which are minimally processed are bagged spinach, roasted nuts etc.,
The foods which have been designed for convenience are the centre of attraction, because these foods don’t require any cooking process and are ready to eat. Different types of foods are available with ingredients added to increase the texture or flavor for example yogurt
The most heavily processed foods are pre made meals like pizza and microwavable dinner.
So why do we have to avoid them?
They are loaded with sugars, salt or fats. And consuming them on regular bases will lead to lifestyle disorders.
Look for sugars either in the form of corn syrup, brown sugar, fruit juice concentrate, natural cane sugar.
Most canned vegetables, soups and sauces have added sodium which enhances taste and texture and acts as a preservative. We need sodium but we often consume more than the recommended allowance.
Added fats help make food shelf-stable. According to FDA a product can still claim it has zero Tran’s fat if each serving has less than half a gram of the fat, if a product has a small serving size and you eat three or four servings it means you add up trans fats.
So every food which has a higher shelf life and which has a bigger ingredient list, and which has ingredients which you cannot read or understand or which is usually not used in daily routine should be avoided.
Look for hidden fats and sugars, reading the label is very important.
Lastly eat fresh foods which are minimally processed. Eating right is the only key for health.