Are all processed foods harmful to us?
The definition of processed food applies to any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way, either for safety reasons or convenience. Food processing techniques include freezing, canning, baking, drying and pasteurizing products. Some ingredients can undergo changes — like being frozen, fermented or sprouted — that makes them equally or more nutritious than they once were. Not all processes are detrimental.
Examples of Quality Processed Foods That You Want to Eat:
Frozen Veggies and Fruit
These processed foods are actually processed at their peak, in terms of freshness and nutrition. The produce is picked, quickly blanched, and immediately frozen and packaged. Nutrient levels are at their highest, so the vitamins and nutrients are preserved until the next time the package is open. According to The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the International Food Information Council (IFIC) nutrients in produce are generally NOT lost during freezing (and canning), and they provide the same essential nutrients and health benefits as fresh. Canned tomatoes, for example, are tomatoes that have been harvested at their peak season, and in the heating process, the powerful antioxidant, lycopene is released more so than fresh tomatoes.
Organic Nut and Seed Butter
Although healthy for us, these kinds of butter are considered processed food since they are altered from their natural state. Nut and seated butter are made by either roasting the nut or seed and then blending it until it is butter. Or, it can be made without roasting and just grinding the nut or seed until it turns to butter. Basically, when you take a nut or seed and blend it, oils are naturally released turning the original nut or seed into a creamy blend. Sometimes brands add a touch of salt.
Frozen Organic Chicken Breasts
Frozen chicken will have a nutritional profile similar to fresh chicken, as the process of freezing does not use any preservatives, although blast-chilled chicken may have more additives.
Canned Wild Salmon
Canned salmon is processed by a machine that cuts the fish into sections and fills it into the empty cans. Only salt is added to the empty cans prior to filling. Nothing else is added to the canned salmon. The liquid in the can is a natural liquid that cooks-out from the fish flesh. Immediately the cans are sealed and heated by a steam pressure vessel. The cans are then cooled, only until sufficient heat remains in the cans so that they will dry and not rust.
Examples of Processed Foods You Do Not Want to Eat:
- Frozen dinners
- Chicken tenders with fillers added
- Hot dogs
- Gummy candies
- Chips, crackers, cookies and other snack foods with long ingredient lists
- Artificially colored cheese
- Soda pop and juices that are not 100% juice
The simplest way to ensure you are avoiding bad processed foods is to stick to foods that are closest to their original form, or slightly modified, yet still healthy. Stay away from products that have more than five ingredients or ingredients that you cannot pronounce or define.