What Is Processed Food?
I have had couple of discussions about what is processed food and I have received different answers as to what it is, and if it is good or bad for us. Simply put, processed food is food that has been altered from its natural state.
Processed food is made for convenience, safety reasons, to prolong the life of the food, or to alter the appearance or taste of the food. The methods range from simple refrigeration, freezing, dehydration, canning, chemical processing, meat processing, and genetically modifying food.
Is Processed Food Good Or Bad?
It depends on what type of processed food you eat. Growing and picking your own whole food daily is the best way to eat your food. This does become problematic in industrialized places or places where growing food is problematic, so methods of food storage were developed to keep food for a prolonged period of time.
Refrigeration and Freezing – Processed Food – Not Bad
Refrigeration and freezing food can be considered of form of processing because it alters the natural deterioration of food. Food deteriorates because of bacteria, fungus, and mold microbes that live on food gradually grow and consume the food.
Using this definition for food deterioration, refrigeration and freezing doesn’t actually change the food but actually changes the way the bacteria, fungus and mold interacts with food. Refrigeration and freezing slows the growth of these microbes which enables food to stay fresher longer. Refrigeration isn’t harmful to food nutrients, and bacteria, fungus and mold will eventually beak down the food.
Shorter periods of freezing is minimally harmful to food, but freezing food for more than six months does degrade food. Under shorter periods of freezing most of the nutrients stay intact. Enzymes are not destroyed but their interaction with food is only greatly slowed. Some phytonutrients/flavonoids might be destroyed but generally they are well preserved during the freezing process. Some research suggests that thawing does result in vitamin C loss.
Canning – Processed Food – Lost And Damaged Nutrients
The reason why food in cans last a long time is because the food is sterilized under high temperatures to kill bacteria and fungus, and then the food is sealed in an airtight cans to keep contaminants out.
Food with low acidity (pH more than 4.6) need sterilization in pressure cookers at temperatures of 240° F or 130° C. Foods with high acidity (fruits) can be canned using regular boiling water. Either way, some nutrients are lost.
Enzymes are destroyed around 115° F. Water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B-complex are leeched out of food. At 240° F, these vitamins are also destroyed. Nutrients like protein and fiber are less effected by the process.
Additives and Preservatives – Processed Food – Bad
Food that grows naturally are recognized and assimilated into the body more easily. I address this concept in more detail in the article “You are what you eat.” Life grows in a natural and synergistic balance, and this balance supports the balance of our bodies. Chemical processing of food throws this balance out of sync and unbalances the body.
Foreign substances introduced into the body are not assimilated properly and throw the natural operation of our bodies of of sync. There is a long list of negative effects associated with additives like aspartame and food coloring, like Parkinson’s Disease and ADHD to name a few.
Convenience Foods – Processed Food – Bad
Convenience foods come in many different shapes and sizes and are unhealthy for various reasons. Processed food is processed to enhance the taste of the food, make it more appealing, or give it a longer shelf life. Unhealthy amounts of processed salt, sugar, unhealthy trans fat, bleaching, and harmful chemical additives and preservatives are adding to preserve the food and enhance the taste.
You may think you are not eating processed food, but they are all around us. Processed food is not only junk food but include food that you may typically find in your refrigerator. Types of processed food include food you may not think is processed.
List Of Processed Foods:
- Canned Tuna
- Canned Sardines
- Canned Salmon
- Canned Fruit
- Canned Vegetables
- Canned Meat
- Fruit Juice
- Energy Bars
- Peanut Butter
You can get some of the above in more of a whole-food form without the chemical additives and preservatives, but you will need to check the labels carefully. Basically it should only contain natural ingredients and no chemical additives.
More familiar processed are:
- Refined Sugar
- Energy Drinks
- Corn Syrup
- Canned Vegetables
- French Fries
- Hot Dogs
Mass Produced Meat – Processed Food – Bad
If you were to see how animals are mass produced for consumption, you would be sickened. Animals are kept in unnatural conditions, fed food unnatural to their diets, given hormones to make the grow faster and fatter, and these conditions make them sick. To combat the sickness, they are pumped with antibiotics and over time the disease they are fighting become resistant to the antibiotics. The meat is then processed with chemicals and sent off for us to consume.
Though I no longer eat meat, I do need to say that grass fed animals are more healthy to the eat than meat from massed produced animals. This type of meat is sometimes called organic because the animals are raised naturally.
Whether the source is mass produced meat or grass fed meat, sandwich meat and fast food meat are processed food. This processed food undergoes chemical processing to change its texture and taste and can contain a wide variety of additives and preservatives.
Genetically Modified Organism (Food) – GMO – Processed Food – BAD!
This type of processed food is changed on the genetic level. Life grows naturally and in a synergistic way with the natural environment. GMOs interfere and corrupt that natural process. GMOs are pushed because they make food production less costly. But at what cost? Long term studies show that processed food that contains GMOs are harmful to our health and cause cancer.
It is important to have a clear understanding about what is processed food, so we can make better decisions about the food we eat and purchase. Whole foods contain a wide variety of health sustaining nutrients that act in a synergistic way to support healthy living, while processed foods are unbalanced and contain artificial compounds that through the body out of sync and compromise the immune system.