Processed Food: Just How Bad Is It? Not All, It Seems

With recent pushes for a healthier diet, most of us have been told to avoid processed food, but how bad is it for us really?

According to one dietitian we shouldn’t avoid all processed foods.

While the no-brainer types of processed foods like ready-prepared meals for the microwave are best to be avoided, according to Helen Bond, a dietitian with the BDA Association of UK Dietitians, some types of processed foods are possibly even healthier than their fresh counterparts.

When asked how bad is it to eat processed food, Bond told the Daily Mail, “Processed foods can be healthy.” For instance frozen vegetables and fruit can often be more nutritious than fresh.

Bond also pointed out that, for instance, canned tomatoes are much better, as they contain higher levels of lycopene. While this is yet to be thoroughly researched, preliminary testing has shown that people who consume tomatoes (the major source of lycopene in the food chain) may have a lower risk of suffering from cancer.

Just thinking of the term “processed food” brings up images of what used to be called TV dinners, ready to eat after just minutes in the microwave. But the actual act of processing the food, how bad is it really?

Consider milk, for instance. Dietitians have pointed out that it is the actual processing that makes milk safe for us to consume.

When talking fruit and vegetables, they say that relying on the word “fresh” doesn’t guarantee you are getting the best and most nutritious food. Frozen vegetables and fruit are just as nutritious and allow us to eat certain types of food we love, no matter what the season.

When the U.K.’s NHS defines “processed food” it says that this is food that has been altered from its natural state in some way. This can be from drying, pasteurizing, canning, baking or freezing the food. It doesn’t necessarily mean cramming a whole load of unhealthy chemicals and “E” labelled ingredients into the food.

Bond said, “Many people wrongly assume that the term processed foods only applies to microwave meals and other ready meals.”

“Yet, according to NHS Choices, “processed food” relates to any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way – either for safety reasons – such as milk, which needs to be pasteurized to remove harmful bacteria or convenience – such as pressing seeds to make oil.”

Due to this, Bond says we may all be eating more processed food than we actually realize and this is not always a bad thing.

“It’s important to remember that the term “processed” applies to a very broad range of foods, many of which can be eaten as part of a healthy, balanced diet.”

“Indeed, most shop-bought foods will have been processed in some way and therefore are considered processed foods.”

Bond then listed a variety of other common foods we buy that are actually processed, including breakfast cereals, bread, cheese, snacks and even meat products such as ham, sausages, bacon and the various deli meats. How bad is it to eat those? Could you actually do without them?

However, its probably best to be safe than sorry when purchasing food for the family each week. Look at the labels and read the ingredients. If you see a lot of “E” numbers, too much sugar or other notorious ingredients ask yourself, “How bad is it to eat this?”

While convenience and speed of preparation are key in this modern world, take the time to find out exactly what you are eating and try to stick with the best and healthiest food out there.

On top of this, if living in a country that actually labels food correctly to show this content, most nutrition experts out there are starting to tell you to avoid any GMO content in your food.

For instance, virtually all processed food contains some form of corn and a huge percentage of America’s corn is GMO. However, there’s no indication on the labels in the USA as Monsanto continues to fight GMO labeling.

How bad is it to consume GMO products? To get an idea, the Inquisitr recently reported on the “March Against Monsanto,” where hundreds of thousands of people marched in the streets of 400 cities all over the world to protest against Monsanto and its GMO products.

In closing, eat well and safely and bon appétit!

[Image: CC by 2.0 Miran Rijavec]