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Processed Food: A Convenient Menace

23 Jun, 2015

Side Effects of Processed Food

Processed, packaged foods have almost taken over the diet these days. Food processing is any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat. These foods are packaged in boxes, cans or bags. It can be as simple as freezing or drying food to preserve nutrients and freshness, or as complex as formulating a frozen meal with the right balance of nutrients and ingredients. It ranges from minimally processed items to more complex preparations that combine ingredients such as additives, sweeteners, spices, oils, artificial and natural flavors, colors, preservatives, and other chemical ingredients with many variations in between.

Virtually all foods undergo some form of processing before they are ready to eat. Some foods are even dangerous if eaten without proper processing.  Without food processing it would not be possible to sustain the needs of modern urban populations, and the choice of foods would be limited by seasonality. It enables us to enjoy a varied diet that fits with the fast pace and pressures of our modern day society.

Food processing is done to make raw plant and animal material safe, edible and more enjoyable, palatable foodstuffs. Food processing is done for fortification of foods to enhance nutritional value and quality of food.  Processing of foods can be determined by looking at the ingredient list. The longer the ingredient list, the more processed a food is likely to be.

Food processing can lead to improvements in, or damage to, the nutritional value of foods, sometimes both at the same time, and it can help to preserve nutrients that would otherwise be lost during storage. Unfortunately, most processed foods are laden with sweeteners, salts, artificial flavors, factory-created fats, colorings, chemicals that alter texture, and preservatives.

Processed foods are often stripped of nutrients designed by nature to protect your heart, such as soluble fiber, antioxidants, and “good” fats combine that with additives. Moderation is the key. Sticking to unprocessed, natural foods, mostly found on the periphery of the grocery store, such as vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat and other single-ingredient foods is a better idea. So avoid more of processed foods in daily diet and base your diet on whole food to get the most nutrition and maximize your health.   Image courtesy: