“Processed foods” include food that has been cooked, canned, dehydrated, frozen, packaged, or changed in nutritional composition. This is mainly done to preserve or increase the shelf-life of the food item. The type of processed food may fall in any of these categories-
1. Minimally processed foods- such as bagged spinach, cut vegetables, and roasted nuts
2. Foods processed to lock in nutritional quality and freshness include canned tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned fish.
3. Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors, and preservatives) include pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt, and cake mixes.
4. Ready-to-eat foods such as cereal, instant curry preparations- are heavily processed.
The most heavily processed foods often are pre-made meals, including frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners.
Why is processed food considered unhealthy?
During processing, unhealthy fats like trans fats may be added to food products. Also, sodium and sugar are added in higher quantities, which act as preservatives. Research has proved that food manufacturers make the foods as rewarding as possible to the brain, leading to overconsumption.
Most of the highly processed foods are loaded with artificial chemicals, including flavors, colorants, and preservatives. The carbohydrates present in processed foods are usually refined, simple carbs that rapidly increase blood sugar and insulin levels and cause adverse health effects.
Most processed foods are low in fiber as it is lost or intentionally removed during processing.
POSITIVES! Yes-there is a positive side to it!
Harvard University says that not all processed foods are not unhealthy. Processed food can help you eat more nutrient-dense foods.
Milk and juices sometimes are fortified with calcium and Vitamin D, and breakfast cereals may have added fiber.
Canned fruit is a good option when fresh fruit is not available; some minimally processed foods like pre-cut vegetables and pre-washed, bagged spinach are quality convenience foods for busy people.
Should we eat processed food or not?
Eating processed food in moderation is fine, however, check for these when you buy any such foods-
Sugar levels- added sugars are often used for more low-fat foods to improve taste and consistency. So, review the product’s ingredient list and look for added sugars among the first two or three ingredients.
Sodium levels- most canned vegetables, soups, and sauces have added salt. Choose foods labeled no-salt-added, low, or reduced-sodium.
As long as fatty, sugary, or salted processed foods are not accounting for more than 20% of daily food intake, it should be fine.
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