A processed food is one that has been altered from its natural state to make it cheaper, more convenient, more appealing or to extend its shelf life – or even all four. Foods you eat should be clean, and by clean I mean as close to its natural state as possible. Processed foods are typically made in a factory, stripped of its natural goodness and usually injected with manmade preservatives.
A food that is natural and has not been tampered with is better for our health, mind, looks and waistline. It’s not to say that you should never have processed food – that would be extremely difficult. However you should make informed decisions when choosing which processed foods to buy. My typical rule of thumb is to go with the packaged food that has the least amount of ingredients, all of which I can pronounce and know what they are. For instance, organic natural yogurt has only a few ingredients and is much better for you because it has retained a lot of its natural goodness. White bread on the other hand, has been stripped of its natural goodness and injected with additives.
Here are the worst processed foods:
- Frozen meals
- Packaged cakes, cookies and muffins
- Chocolate, candy and chips
- White bread, pasta and rice
- Processed meats (chicken nuggets, hot dogs, lunch meats)
- Breakfast cereal (there are healthy options such as the Nature’s Path)
- Diet foods
Food additives and weight gain
Processed foods became big in the 1970s when food manufacturers realised that mass-produced foods that could last a long time would lead to more profits. It’s much cheaper for them to take poor quality food, add sugar (or sweeteners) for flavour and add additives for colour and to extend the shelve life, as opposed to using fresh, high-quality ingredients that spoil after a few days. But here’s the thing, during this process these packaged foods lose almost all of its nutrients – vitamins and minerals. The more nutrients a food contains, the more it nourishes your body and the less likely you are to feel hungry and crave sugar. The more processed foods you eat, the more toxic your body becomes. It becomes difficult to feel satisfied with what you eat; you’ll feel hungry and your body will cling to fat. Studies also show that preservatives slow down the metabolism and interfere with fat-burning hormones.
In addition to reducing the nutritional value of food, processed foods have other health implications. Colouring, flavouring and texture-enhancing agents are added to foods to make them more appealing. But some of these additives can be harmful. Trans fats, which is added to store-bought goods, such as cookies and muffins to extend their shelf life, is one of the more harmful. Trans fats have been linked to some cancers, infertility and heart disease. Although food manufacturers have started to remove trans fats from some packaged foods, it’s important to know which foods contain trans fats (there are still many of them out there!) Please avoid them at all costs.
Tips for avoiding trans fats
Always check food labels. Although trans fats are less widely used, they can still be found in the following:
- Anything that includes the words “hydrogenated" or “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients list
- Fried foods
- Doughnuts, cookies, muffins, crackers
- Processed meats
- Salad dressing
- Prepared meals
- Ice cream
What type of packaged foods do you turn to that are healthier than other packaged foods? In this day and age where life is hectic and we're often on the go, it's great to have a go to list of healthier packaged foods that we can pick up when we need to. Are there any processed foods that you know aren't healthy for you but you just can't seem to give them up?
Clean Nutrition - Toronto Nutrition & Weight Loss - www.CLEANnutrition.ca