Do you love fast food burgers, baked goods, and delivery pizza? If so, you are eating processed foods. When you take a bite out of an apple or eat a banana, you are enjoying a food that is free of processing (as long as the apple is not dipped in caramel, and the banana is not found in a banana cream pie). As far as your health is concerned, you should limit the amount of processed foods you eat.
What Is a Processed Food?
The International Food Information Council Foundation defines processed food as:
“Any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s
available for us to eat.”
In that definition, simply chopping up vegetables before you eat them qualifies for the processed definition. In most cases, however, processed food means “any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration, or milling.”
That is the definition from the United States Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. So simply by cooking your food, you are technically processing it. The more processes your food goes through before it gets into your body, the less nutrition it provides.
What Makes Processed Food so Bad?
Looking at the above definitions, you can see that foods you eat at restaurants, baked goods, sodas and many of the “ready-to-eat” meals you purchase at your grocer are heavily processed. Food manufacturers use refined sugar, salt, monosodium glutamate, preservatives, steroids, trans fats and other unhealthy additives to extend the shelf life of the products they sell.
Unfortunately, most heavily processed foods deliver little nutritional value.
The more things you do to a natural ingredient like a fruit or vegetable, the further you strip it of its nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. When all the nutritionally poor ingredients mentioned above are added to that product, it becomes even unhealthier still.
This leads to what are called “empty calories”. That is why you can eat an overabundance of processed foods, and your brain will still send a hunger signal. It notices you have received little or no nutrition, so it tells you to eat more. Since processed food in many cases is extremely addictive, you reach out for the nutrient-poor food you just ate, and create an unhealthy eating cycle.
Chemicals like sugar and salt, found in extremely high quantities in processed foods, lead to heart conditions, overweight and obesity, diabetes and other health problems. This is the danger of addictive processed foods. They deliver next to no nutrition, and trade naturally healthy ingredients with unhealthy chemicals and compounds. Eat more raw foods, fruits, and vegetables with little processing and you can avoid the unhealthy negative side effects of processed food.