The term ‘processed food’ is spoken a lot lately, but what does it really mean? Simply put, processed foods are any food that has been altered from its original, raw state.
Now, with that being said, there are several different levels of processing. It can be as little as peeling the skin from a banana. Or it can be as extensive as white flour bread where wheat has been stripped of its natural outer layers and then ground into a substance that has additives, fillers, and other artificial chemicals combined with it to create something that definitely didn’t get plucked fresh from the ground.
What’s So Bad About Processed Food?
The more processing you have done to your food, the less healthy it is for you. While processed or manufactured foods are hygienically safer and have a longer shelf life, they also are missing key nutrients that keep your body healthy.
For example, fresh pineapple has an amazing amount of vitamin C. So does canned pineapple. But the fresh pineapple has active enzymes that, along with the vitamin C, provide a healthy array of benefits you can’t get from canned pineapple. The vitamins are absorbed more readily because there are in a more natural state. In canned pineapple, the fruit has been altered due to the high processing temperatures in canning cause nutrients to pass through the digestive system instead of being assimilated. And quite frankly, the taste of canned pineapple, while good, could never hold a candle to fresh pineapple. That sweet, fresh taste is your body telling you there’s good stuff in what you’re eating.
That being said, we live in a world where fresh food is not always possible. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, sometime the processed foods taste way better, even if they are not good for us. So what are we supposed to do in those circumstances?
You want to consistently strive for getting half of what you are eating at every meal to be as close to its natural state as possible. That means whole grains and raw or slightly cooked fruits and vegetables.
If it’s difficult to reach that level, the next step is to try and get that portion of your meal from frozen foods. Foods in this state still have nutrients because they have usually been flash frozen, a process which minimizes the loss of vitamins and minerals.
Last on the list of is refined grains and canned fruit and vegetables. While still a decent source of fiber and few vitamins, they have been processed to the point of being mostly unrecognizable by the body.