Here is Why Eating Processed Foods May Not Be Unhealthy

In Education

There is a growing trend from wellness gurus warning against taking processed foods as they are unhealthy but that may be far from the truth. The oversimplification is unnecessary and not all processed foods are unhealthy as some can be healthier alternatives than widely criticized options like Pringles or TV dinners.

Processed food is a broad category encompassing any food that has undergone some form of alteration, ranging from simple processes like freezing vegetables to more complex ones. It is important to note that the societal perception of processed food often associates it with items like chips, pies, and cakes.

Categories of processed foods

There are varying levels of processing in food and it is important of accurately distinguish between different types of processed foods. Usually the NOVA classification system is the most prominent method for categorizing processed foods.

The most common groups of foods can be categorized as follows: Group 1 consists of unprocessed and minimally processed foods, including edible parts of fruits, vegetables, and animal products like eggs. Group 2 comprises processed culinary ingredients such as oils, butter, lard, sugar, and salt, derived from Group 1 foods. Group 3 consists of processed foods, including canned beans, vegetables, sardines, fresh bread, bacon, and similar meats.

Additionally there is also Group 4 which comprises of ultra-processed foods, undergoes extensive processing, including items like sodas, high-fat snacks, and desserts commonly associated with the term “processed food.” The final products often utilize colors, emulsifiers, flavors, and various food additives to enhance taste and promote consumer appeal.

Are all processed foods bad?

Despite the common advice to avoid processed foods, not all are unhealthy. Even staples like milk and black beans fall under this category. Canned fish, packaged meats, rolled oats, and chopped vegetables are convenient and nutritious processed options. The blanket statement against all processed foods oversimplifies their nutritional value, making it unrealistic for most people to eliminate them from their diets.

The key message is that instead of advocating for complete elimination, it is more reasonable to emphasize the importance of restricting consumption of ultra-processed snacks, fast food, desserts, and sodas.

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