The Internet seems to be loaded with various diet plans and their possible health benefits. A shared philosophy amongst these diets is avoidance of processed foods to ensure health and fitness. However, the council as simple as it may be, requires a complete lifestyle change. In a time where quick-fixes and smoothies are an instant answer to all our dietary needs, it is quite a challenge to exclude all processed foods from our meals and revert to our ancient eating habits.
What Are Processed Foods?
Before considering adopting a particular diet plan, it is important for us to understand what exactly processed foods are.
Processed foods include:
- Addition of salt, sugar, vitamins, taste enhancers, colours or preservatives to alter the taste of foods, increase their shelf life or enhance their nutritional value.
- Altering the natural form of food, for example converting bran into bread, manufacturing syrups from different fruits.
- Food additives that are developed in a lab. These products have weird names and formulas and are totally unnatural.
In light of above definition, almost everything in your fridge or kitchen is processed. From morning cereal to your midday’s coffee, each food item has undergone some changes. And since processing includes heating, your slightly cooked veggies are technically processed too. So, if processing is about adding heat, why is it so bad?
Are All Processed Foods Bad For Health?
Processed foods have been embedded into our lifestyles. We cannot completely eliminate processed foods from our lives for traditional cooking methods. In order to do so, it would require major changes in the ways we live, grow foods, store and cook them. While the thought seems encouraging, adhering to such a lifestyle for most is not possible.
In reality, processed foods with minimal changes are not bad for health. Food processing removes the bacteria by heating them or freezing these items so that they can be consumed when they are not available in other seasons. Sometimes foods are processed to improve their consistency or flavour. Minimally processed foods are not as unhealthy as sugary, calorie-packed options such as a doughnut. So if you are thinking of dumping all your canned foods in your kitchen, think again. The key to achieving optimal health is to avoid ultra-processed foods that are packed with empty calories and have almost zero nutritious value.
Health Hazards Of Ultra Processed Foods
Ultra-Processed foods can lead to numerous health hazards. Consuming highly processed items can lead to cancer and infertility. These products are devoid of nutrients that contribute to overall wellbeing of any individual. Often highly processed foods come with dopamine that ignites a vicious circle of junk food cravings. Sometimes the manufacturers market these products with misleading captions betraying the consumers to believe them to be better food options. Captions like “less sodium,” or “zero fats” are actually damaging to our perception of healthy eating. Therefore, before purchasing a product because of its added health benefits, you should purchase items that are natural or minimally processed.
Choosing Healthier Food Options
The term “processed” includes a wide range of food items – from slightly heated to highly altered food variations. Since most of these items have become an integral part of our lives, we should choose wholesome foods along with processed options which have been minimally modified to attain a healthy body.