What You Should Know about Processed Foods

Supermarket processed foods

When thinking of processed foods, you might believe that they are all unhealthy – but processing a food doesn’t automatically make it not good for you!

There are plenty of healthy foods that have been processed in some way – such as freezing, canning or chopping. When you buy a veggie platter or add frozen fruit to a smoothie, you are eating a processed food. So, a processed food is any food that has been altered from its natural state. However, what you’ll want to focus on is how much processing a food underwent, and what effect it’s made on the nutritional quality of the food. 

Frozen fruits and veggies are often a great way to enjoy the nutritional benefits of these foods, yet a food that has been heavily processed typically has fat, sugar, sodium and chemicals added to it, and often the fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants have been removed from it.

What’s Added to Processed Foods:
  • Fat: Fat is typically added to give bulk to a food item or extend the shelf life.
  • Sugar: Check the ingredient list for words like: sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, malt syrup and maltose. All of these are types of sugar.
  • Sodium: Typically canned foods (soup, vegetables, beans, etc.) will have added sodium, which is needed to extend the shelf life.
  • Chemicals: A wide range of chemicals are added to food items in order to enhance the food’s appearance, extend the shelf life or add texture to preserve and enhance the flavor of the food.
What’s Removed from Processed Foods:
  • Fiber: A crucial nutrient that promotes a healthy gastrointestinal tract and is found in whole foods such as, beans, nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables and minimally processed whole grains.
  • Phytonutrients: Small nutrients that help protect the body’s immune system, fight infection and promote growth and healing on a cellular level.
  • Antioxidants: Nutrients that protect the body from the negative effects of free radicals (damaged cells that can cause health problems for the body).

For best nutritional value, stick with foods that are minimally processed. Check the ingredient list to determine the processing: if the list is lengthy and filled with ingredients you would have difficulty pronouncing, this is a heavily processed item.

Want more tips for finding best nutrition in the foods you eat? CLICK HERE to read, “Nutrition Tune-up – More than Numbers,” an article from Your Weight Matters Magazine!

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