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Are All Processed Foods Unhealthy?


What are processed foods?

Very often, the term ‘Processed foods’ reminds us of energy-dense packaged food products made from multiple ingredients, even with added artificial additives, and it is generally thought to be inferior to whole foods. In fact, some processed foods may not be as bad as you think. Processed food refers to the food that has undergone changes to its natural state, which may involve procedures like cutting, drying, freezing, packaging, etc. That would mean, a lot of products you find in a supermarket are considered processed food. However, what matters more would be - to which extent the foods are processed and the ingredients they contain.

Understand the difference! 

Generally, you can divide them into whole foods (or minimally processed), processed and ultra-processed

 

 

Minimally processed foods will have more or less the same nutritional contents but before they are sold on the shelves, there will be some processings involved, mainly for preservation purposes. This should be the type of food you always go for. Many fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains belong to this category.

Processed foods would be the foods from the previous group but with added salt, sugar, or fats. They are made from a minimum of 2-3 ingredients and are usually ready to eat. Examples would be some frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, also cheeses. It can be a little tricky when it comes to frozen and canned foods. In some cases, frozen food may have more nutrients compared to foods stored at room temperature because of the freezing technique used. However, always check out their salt or sugar content to know if they are good for you. 

Ultra-processed foods would be the category you should avoid and they are the ones that contribute to a lot of health problems we have today. They can be very convenient and tasty, at the same time containing a lot of trans fat, refined carbohydrates, salt, also high in calories and poor in nutrients. Packaged chips, soft drinks, nuggets, ready-to-eat rice dishes...You name them all.

Healthy or Not?

It is hard to simply conclude which category of them are healthy or unhealthy, the most important thing you should be doing is to read food labels and check the ingredient list. A simple rule applies - the more ingredients with the name you do not recognize (Especially when you see codes), the more chemical additives are added into that product. Some may be of natural origins, or maybe less harmful than the others but bear in mind it is the safest to go for whole foods. Besides, there are many alternative names for ingredients like sugar - high-fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, dextrose, etc. While some may contain slightly more micronutrients than others, too many sugars are always not healthy for you.

Food processing can involve basic technologies such as milling, pasteurizing, and dehydrating to promote shelf stability. If you are familiar with what Love Earth sells, you will find a lot of our products fall under minimally processed or processed - like our beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and more. Some may require further preparations or cooking, but in that way you can control what you are actually putting into your mouth.

In Love Earth, we care for you and your loved ones, and we want you to be healthy so you can always be there for them! Let’s start your health journey with us!


Reference:
https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/processed-foods/
https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/01/29/processed-vs-ultra-processed-food-and-why-it-matters-to-your-health

 

Written By: Yong Ke Tian
BSc Hons Nutrition
University of Nottingham Malaysia

Reviewed by: Jasmine Lim
Love Earth Organic Nutritionist
Bachelor of Science Degree in
Dietetics (major) & Food Science (minor)
Iowa State University, USA