We often hear processed food being closely associated with bad health. However, are all processed foods unhealthy? Let us find out in this article.
What Is Food Processing?
Any food that has undergone alteration in any way while being prepared is referred to as processed food. Food processing may include very basic processes like:
It is wrong to say that all processed foods are unhealthy. However, some processed foods come with high levels of sugar, salt, and fat; thereby increasing the chances of some health consequences.
What Foods Are Regarded As Processed Foods?
Several foods that you get in the market may have undergone varying levels of processing. Here are some examples of common processed foods:
- Breakfast cereals
- Microwave meals or ready meals
- Tinned vegetables
- Cakes and biscuits
- Savory snacks, such as crisps, sausage rolls, pies, and pasties
- Meat products, such as bacon, sausage, salami ham, and paté
- Drinks, such as milk or soft drinks
For some foods, the processing is necessary to make them safe. Take milk as an example; for removing harmful bacteria, it mandatorily needs to be pasteurized. There are also other foods that are made to undergo processing as a part of them being made ready for use.
What Makes Processed Foods Unhealthy?
Some processed foods contain ingredients like sugar, fat, and salt to enhance their flavor and increase their shelf lives. In some cases, the ingredients contribute to the structure of the foods, such as salt in bread and sugar in cakes. Such foods normally are calorie-dense due to the high amounts of fats or added sugar.
How Can Processed Foods Be Included In A Healthy Diet?
Indeed, you cannot control the amount of sugar, fat, and salt contained in the processed foods you buy. That said, the decision regarding ‘What to buy?’ is entirely yours! You can choose processed foods by studying their nutrition labels and keeping a check on fat, salt, and sugar content in your food. Foods that are pre-packed are often attached with the nutrition information. You can either find it on the front, back or on the side of the packaging. If the nutrition label of processed foods uses color coding, it is going to be a mixture of amber, green, and red. If a healthy choice is what you want to make, go for more greens and ambers while choosing fewer reds.
Finding the right balance between processed and healthy foods is important to maintain your well-being.