We are surrounded with things that are made to make our lives easier and faster but when it comes to processed food there is a huge cost associated with those small lifestyle gains.
Processed food first showed up as early as the 1910’s with brands such as Crisco, Oreo Cookies, Hellman’s Mayonnaise and a handful of other recognizable food products. For decades after it’s inception it has become a larger portion of our diets and we are recently starting to see the results of getting away from whole natural foods.
Ever since the early inception into our day to day lives, and from most people’s perspective, it has been a downhill nutritional slide for all of use that consume processed foods. Yes there are many inventive and time saving creations that have come from the processed food industry but are there any that are actually better job than a natural product?
Let’s take a look.
Processed Food And Nutrition
Processed foods can provide some nutrition, but often they are less nutritious than whole, unprocessed foods. This is because processing can remove or destroy some of the nutrients that are naturally found in foods. Yes processing can add various nutritional components back into the product but when those components are chemically or artificially derived are the good for you in the long term?
Processed Foods VS Natural Foods
Processed foods and natural foods differ in their nutritional value, ingredients, and processing methods. Natural foods are whole, unprocessed foods that are consumed in their original state, while processed foods have undergone some form, and usually an extensive form, of processing before consumption.
Natural foods are more nutritious than processed foods due to having naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other important nutrients that are beneficial to health. In contrast, processed foods are often high in calories, unhealthy fats, added sugars, and sodium, and may contain fewer nutrients overall. This can be due to the fact that processing can remove or destroy some of the nutrients that are naturally found in foods.
Natural foods are made up of simple, whole ingredients that are easy to recognize, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Processed foods, on the other hand, often contain a long list of ingredients, including artificial preservatives, colorings, and flavorings. These additives are often used to improve the taste, texture, and shelf life of processed foods. My rule of thumb is if I can’t pronounce it then I am nearly positive it isn’t good for me when it come to these additives.
Natural foods are typically consumed in their raw or minimally processed state, while processed foods have undergone some form of processing before consumption. Most of the time the processing is quite an undertaking and there is little to no resemblance to real food left in the product that is being made. Processing typically removes nutrients, add unhealthy ingredients, and change the taste, texture, and appearance of foods.
Natural foods are generally more nutritious than processed foods, as they contain fewer additives and are less likely to have lost important nutrients during processing.
Why Are We Hooked On Processed Foods
Yes, there are some benefits to processed foods but are they really benefits or are they a makeshift solution to a bigger “busy” problem that all of us deal with.
- Convenience: Processed foods are often convenient and quick to prepare, making them a popular choice for “busy people”.
- Shelf life: Many processed foods have a longer shelf life than fresh foods, which can make them a more practical choice for people who don’t have access to fresh foods or who don’t want to shop frequently. They are also handy when natural food sources are out of season or not available due to other circumstances.
- Fortification: Some processed foods are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals to make up for any loss of nutrients during processing.
How Do We Reduce Our Processed Food Intake
Reducing the amount of processed foods in your diet can be challenging, but it is an important step towards a healthier lifestyle. Here are some tips to help you reduce the amount of processed foods you eat:
- Choose whole, unprocessed foods: Base your meals around whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean proteins. These foods are naturally nutrient-dense and can provide your body with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber it needs.
- Cook at home: Cooking at home allows you to control the ingredients that go into your meals and avoid processed foods. Make a habit of preparing your meals in advance and taking them with you when you’re on the go.
- Read food labels: Check food labels carefully to identify processed foods and avoid products that contain added sugars, unhealthy fats, and other harmful ingredients. Look for products that are minimally processed, and have fewer ingredients.
- Limit your intake of convenience foods: Ready-to-eat meals, snack bars, and other convenience foods are often highly processed and can be high in calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats. Limit your intake of these foods and opt for healthier snacks like fresh fruits or nuts.
- Choose healthier substitutes: Replace processed foods with healthier alternatives, such as fresh fruit instead of candy, whole-grain bread instead of white bread, and natural peanut butter instead of processed spreads.
Reducing the amount of processed foods in your diet requires a conscious effort to choose whole, unprocessed foods, cook at home, read food labels, limit convenience foods, and choose healthier substitutes. By making these changes, you can improve your health and well-being in the long term.
While reducing your intake of processed foods is always the best decision it has to be recognized that sometimes that can be hard for many reasons. Give yourself grace in the transition to real foods if you decide to begin to work on this aspect of your diet. After all you are fighting against a lifetime of multi-million dollar ad campaigns and an industrial giant that puts more interest into your pocket book than you health.
What Do The Experts Say About Processed Food
Most health experts agree that a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods is by far the healthiest option. Consuming too much processed food can increase the risk of developing chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes amongst many other long term issues.
Processed foods are often high in calories, unhealthy fats, added sugars, and sodium, and may contain fewer nutrients overall. Additionally, many processed foods contain artificial preservatives, colorings, and flavorings that can be harmful to health in the long term.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting the intake of processed foods and choosing whole foods instead. They suggest filling at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, and choosing lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. They also advise consumers to read food labels carefully and choose products that are minimally processed and contain fewer additives.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also advises people to limit their intake of processed foods and choose whole, unprocessed foods instead. They suggest avoiding processed meats, which are classified as a Group 1 carcinogen due to their association with an increased risk of cancer.
Experts generally recommend limiting the consumption of processed foods and choosing whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible. By following a diet rich in whole foods, you can improve your overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Let’s listen to the experts on this one and go visit a local farmers market to get the ball rolling!